The Infinite Zenith

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Tag Archives: Mio Akiyama

Houkago Tea Time’s Encore: Considering a third season for K-On!

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” —Seneca

It’s been four years to the day that the K-On! Movie was premièred in Japanese cinema, and since then, aside from the pair of manga volumes released to conclude the series, plus the movie’s home release, interest in the K-On! franchise has diminished. At present, Kyoto Animation has directed its attention towards other projects, and despite the presence of unverified rumours, there appear to be no indicators that K-On! could continue, making use of the University K-On! and Wakaba Girls’ stories to form the basis for a third season. Officially, however, there are no plans to continue K-On! into a third season: Naoko Yamada, K-On!‘s director, is presently working on a film for the manga, A Silent Voice, and will be involved in a range of projects beyond K-On!. Moreover, from a marketing perspective, a lack of K-On! is logical, given that the anime and related merchandise saturated the market at the height of K-On!‘s popularity. With the novelty gone, a continuation of K-On! is unlikely to be viable from a financial viewpoint, and consequently, Kyoto Animation probably will not be adapting the final two manga volumes into an anime. Moreover, from a plot perspective, the K-On! movie, which dealt with how “Tenshi ni Fureta Yo!” came into being, acted as a final swan song that reinforced the idea that the seniors in Houkago Tea Time are immensely grateful that Azusa decided to stick with their club. This forms the core element for K-On! as the girls near graduation and begin to realise the full extent of Azusa’s contributions to their club. In choosing to reinforce this message twice (once in the second season and again with the movie), K-On! emphasises the importance of appreciation amongst friends, suggesting that a continuation would probably diminish the strength of K-On!‘s central theme.

  • All of this post’s screenshots were taken from the K-On! Movie‘s bonus features, where Aki Toyosaki and the others visit Universal Studios Japan, finding a dedicated K-On! exhibit there. It’s rare that there’s an opportunity to see the voice actors themselves, as most often, I merely watch the anime and then review it based on its merits.

  • Thus, it’s quite refreshing to see the people behind the characters; the voice actors bring life to each of the characters, and in K-On!, each character’s iconic voice is ingrained with the show. Thus, when we’re discussing continuations, it is almost mandatory that the voice actors of old be brought back to provide the voices. This was the case for The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan, and allowed the anime to feel quite similar to The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi despite being animated by a different studio.

  • The life-sized characters with their instruments are really something else, and the voice-actors find themselves impressed at the level of details that went into each model. K-On!, though not quite as widely-discussed now, was the true forerunner to most of the modern moé anime genre, as opposed to Haruhi: the latter made use of moé for comedy, but the high school club setting and using moé as a form of character interaction is more appropriately attributed to K-On!.

  • When the K-On! Movie was screening in Japanese theatres four years ago, I was just finishing the first term of my third undergraduate year, and busied myself with exam preparation. My excitement for the movie did not really begin until the home release was announced, and I was somewhat disappointed that it would be in the middle of MCAT season once the date was provided.

  • There was a seven month gap between the movie’s première and the home release, so I’m hoping that the wait for Girls und Panzer Der Film will be shorter, especially considering that the latter was a limited theatrical release.

Now that these practical elements have been considered, there remains the question: is K-On! meritorious of a third season, given the content present in these two manga volumes? The answer is a resounding “yes”, and there does exist a good justification that K-On! does deserve a third season, even if the number of practical constraints against it are numerous and well-reasoned. Before these justifications are explored, a short review of the history will be useful. The two manga volumes depicting events after Yui and the others graduate were published separately between April 2011 and June 2012: the segments of Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Mugi’s experiences in university were published in Manga Times Kirara, while Azusa’s time as the light music club’s new president was published in Manga Time Kirara Carat. Both manga volumes became available in English in 2013: the University volume was released in July 2013, and Azusa’s Wakaba Girls volume was released in October 2013. Both volumes are the size of one standard volume, and are structured in the same manner. Consequently, from a content perspective, there is enough material to occupy twenty-four episodes’ worth of time (twelve episodes per volume). Moreover, the animated adaptation could explore avenues inaccessible to the print medium, featuring new songs and concerts, and capture the feel for the new characters in ways that even the manga could not, giving audiences a glimpse into what’s happened to everyone following high school.

  • The new K-On! manga volumes following the fourth depict life for Yui et al. at university, as well as Azusa’s new role as the light music club’s president. She gains new members and manages the band in her own way, finding that Ritsu’s methods do influence her own approaches.

  • Logistically, the biggest challenge with adapting the new manga volumes and bringing their stories to life will be finding voice actors for Akira, Ayame, Chiyo, Megumi, Nao, Sachi and Sumire, as well as writing new songs for everyone to perform.

  • Beyond logistical difficulties associated with production and the anime’s theme, the manga definitely deserves an adaptation, as there’s definitely enough good material to make for at least 12 episodes (six for each volume). With that being said, I don’t have too high of an expectations that such a project will become a reality.

  • While it would be quite nice to swing by Universal Studios Japan and check out the K-On! exhibits should I ever be in that region, I imagine that the exhibits are temporary and consequently, this bonus feature will probably be the one place where I do see the exhibits.

  • All in all, just because a series merits a continuation does not mean it is likely to gain one: this is presumably the likely case for K-On!, so for the present, we will set aside the topic of K-On!. Regular programming resumes on Saturday with the release of Gochuumon wa Usage Desu Ka??‘s ninth episode.

Ultimately, K-On! has enough material for a third season, and furthermore, has enough good material to make a third season worth watching. However, the ramifications of continuing an anime that’s clearly finished must be considered, and consequently, it is unlikely that K-On! will see a third season on the basis that Naoko Yamada has concluded the series on a high note with the movie. My rationale aside, whether or not a third season of K-On! will become a reality will be left to the future. A continuation would likely deviate from the themes seen in the TV series and movie, especially given that Houkago Tea Time is no longer together, and that Azusa is now leading her own light music band in her own manner. While a third season would definitely be fun to watch, it would also be quite difficult to write for: whereas the K-On! Movie never really faced challenges about its story (as some purport), a third season would definitely will face challenges in weaving a consistent narrative. If done as a single season with twenty-something episodes, the challenge lies in picking points to stop one story and resume the other, while two separate seasons would introduce logistical difficulties. Unless a reasonable solution can be reached, the unusual format for the final remaining volumes of K-On! represents the main barrier towards adapting K-On! for its third season. If these problems can be overcome, K-On!‘s third season could prove to be quite successful, enchanting old and new viewers alike with its combination of music, comedy and an ever-present message about how the people one is with, rather than their activities, makes all the difference in the world.

Investigating Unacceptable Academic Practises in Dani Cavallaro’s “Kyoto Animation: A Critical Study and Filmography”, with a case study on the K-On! Movie

“Taking something from one man and making it worse is plagiarism.” —George A. Moore

  • This post is a little lengthy and formatted differently to ensure that the message in the paragraphs below are not lost: the take-away message is that as an academic author, one must ensure that their sources are credible and reliable. Blogs do not qualify as a reasonable resource, and so, when an author makes extensive use of them, the possibility exists that the opinion expressed by blog’s author winds up being considered to be “credible” as an academic source. Thus, this post will aim to offer insight as to why Kyoto Animation: A Critical Study and Filmography should not be regarded as a serious, much less as a correct, source for K-On! analysis.

On the first lecture for my health research literacy course five years ago, the topic of what constituted as acceptable sources for academic writing was presented. The lecturers stressed the importance of using peer-reviewed primary literature, which process ensures that a source’s contents are accurate, correct and meaningful, making them useful as the grounds for future research. The message from lecture has since guided all of the research and papers that I partake in, and while this process is far from perfect in academia, it does prevent poor articles from being used as sources. Undergraduates are encouraged to stick to peer-reviewed articles, and informed that online resources, such as websites, are typically discouraged (unless they are authoritative in their field, such as the Protein Data Bank). Blogs happen to fall under this latter category, and students who cite blogs in their coursework will likely receive a failing grade for that submission. Similarly, a paper submitted to a conference or a journal may be rejected for citing blogs, given that blogs are not peer-reviewed and therefore do not follow any standards outlined by journals or conferences. However, at least one text out there appears to have quietly slipped by these standards: Dani Cavallaro’s Kyoto Animation: A Critical Study and Filmography is purportedly intended as an academic reference on Kyoto Animation. While it sounds exciting, a closer inspection of the text will prove disappointing: Kyoto Animation: A Critical Study and Filmography is poorly-written and convoluted, making use of archaic jargon that demands a dictionary for comprehensibility. More significantly, Cavallaro’s passage contains assessments of the K-On! Movie that are completely incorrect, and additionally, appear to be plagiarised from anime blogs and personal reviews. These are red flags in academia, signalling that the source is not going to be meaningful.

The entirity of Kyoto Animation: A Critical Study and Filmography is filled with errors, but for this discussion, the focus will be on a few of the errors concerning the K-On! Movie for brevity’s sake; the list of grievances with Cavallaro’s take on the K-On! Movie is sufficiently large to comfortably fill a separate volume . It is necessary to reinforce the idea that the K-On! Movie has two main goals: to convey the story of how Tenshi ni fureta yo! came about, and to emphasise the fact that Houkago Teatime is Houkago Tea time regardless of where they are in the world. These are the factors that are driven home by the movie. However, in the lengthy passage introducing the movie, Cavallaro erroneously claims that the K-On! Movie faced two challenges pre-production. The first of these is that supposedly, Yamada and the others had to somehow “conjure a drama [that] could be deemed sufficiently engrossing to stand the test of the big screen”. This is false, given that the movie would have lost the very elements that made it appealing to begin with, had drama been the focus. Instead, the K-On! Movie is able to convey its message by means of an overarching story to show how the girls’ graduation gift for Azusa leads them on this journey, and that, true to Yui’s words, the girls retain their carefree approach even in a city like London. Thus, the challenge Yamada et al. faced was deciding on the appropriate story to tell that could make the film memorable for the viewers. Cavallaro cites the second challenge to be making the film stand out from The Disappearance of Suzumiya Haruhi, which had been a critical and commercial success following its release in 2010. The second challenge directly contradicts the first: K-On! stands out from Haruhi precisely because of its laid-back atmosphere, which allows for each of the characters’ personalities to be developed and differentiated from one another. K-On! was already intrinsically accessible, which means that Yamada et al. would simply needed to retain these attributes if their film were to be enjoyed by both existing fans and a more general audience. Neither of the listed factors affect the artistic decisions in the film to the extent that Cavallaro is conveying: at one point, Cavallaro mentions that the artistic details in the movie were specifically adjusted to appeal to the general audience. If the film was meant for a general audience, and the art shows this, does this not already make the film unique from The Disappearance of Suzumiya Haruhi? It is clear that Yamada et al. were aware of the film’s intended audience, so their goal could not have been (and is not) to create a film that could outshine The Disappearance of Suzumiya Haruhi. Aside from the pair of contradictory challenges, Cavallaro also misidentifies the performances in the film, claiming that “the girls never played for a nameless crowd but[sic] always somebody important to them”. Within the film, Yui and the others put on an impromptu concert for the patrons of a newly-opened sushi bar, and later, agree to a performance at a culture festival in London. It is only the final two performances in the film that are performed for familiar faces (classmates, and Azusa, respectively). When taken together, the intent of these performances is to highlight the fact that the Yui, Ritsu, Mio, Tsumugi and Azusa retains their unique approaches to doing things that is independent of where they are; as noted earlier, this serves as the major theme to the movie that Cavallaro somehow misses.

As one might intuitively proceed, after encountering these serious errors in Kyoto Animation: A Critical Study and Filmography, the first thing to do was to follow the citations, which are provided in-text. One might reasonably expect that when a paper with flawed information arises, tracing through the citations to the source of that information may find that the source was incorrect. When reading through Kyoto Animation: A Critical Study and Filmography’s bibliography, a large number of personal blogs are found. Upon closer inspection, it turns out Cavallaro subsequently (and crudely) paraphrases from these, using them for her book’s passages. These behaviours toe the line for what is considered to be plagiarism and should have warranted the removal of the books from distributors. These are serious faults, meaning that what was intended as an academic reference for Kyoto Animation is in fact meaningless for any serious discussion. Aside from the obvious issue of plagiarism, Cavallaro’s extensive use of blogs for information, as observed in Kyoto Animation: A Critical Study and Filmography, gives rise to several problems. The most notable of these is that blogs are not peer-reviewed and therefore, follow no set standard (as would peer-reviewed literature) that ensures the writing’s quality and value are acceptable. In the case of the anime blogs Cavallaro cites, the blog passages were written from a strictly personal perspective and offer insights into how the blog’s author viewed the K-On! Movie: they are not meant to inform the reader of what Kyoto Animation intended to do with the K-On! Movie and therefore, would be meaningless for any sort of analysis. Moreover, by citing blogs for the purposes of academic writing, Cavallaro potentially allows a single blog writer to dictate the discourse for the K-On! Movie and its interpretations within an academic setting. With this singular perspective now in a book (considered to be an acceptable resource for academic research), this means that bloggers can potentially influence how scholars ought to look at anime. After the blogger’s interpretation is published, other individuals may unknowingly accept this view as true even if it contradicts with the author’s view of the work. In this case, while a blog’s author is (and should be) free to express their opinions on the K-On! Movie, any one interpretation cannot be accepted as fact suited for academia because there is no evidence to show that they are in fact consistent with Naoko Yamada and Yoshihisa Nakayama’s view points on the movie. Through these actions, Cavallaro potentially enables bloggers to displace Naoko Yamada and Yoshihisa Nakayama’s intents for the K-On! Movie. Another problem that arises from citing blogs is that blogs are non-permanent: should the author choose to modify the post, delete the post or even the entire blog, the record disappears, and it will be as if the source never existed to begin with.

For all the damage that Kyoto Animation: A Critical Study and Filmography has the potential to do towards any scholarly publication concerning Kyoto Animation, the fact remains is that such a book has been published, fraudulently taking what bloggers intend to be a personal reflection and transmuting that into a purported fact. When everything is said and done, there are two things that scholars should be mindful of. The first is that as an academic writer, one should not depend on personal blogs as reliable sources of information. The second is that Kyoto Animation: A Critical Study and Filmography should not be regarded as a meaningful or serious resource for scholars looking publishing papers about Kyoto Animation (and especially not on K-On!); there is no indicator that Cavallaro possesses the academic background and qualifications to be writing about Japanese animation (from the sound of things, Cavallaro has not even seen the K-On! Movie). The validity of the book’s contents are of questionable value, merely regurgitating what bloggers are saying rather than coming up with any novel or meaningful interpretations of Kyoto Animation’s works. As it stands, one hopes that no scholar will use the book as a means of corroborating their own points and only apply it towards pointing out flaws with Cavallaro’s passages. A little bit of background reading shows Cavallaro as a reasonably well-known author who has applied similar techniques towards talking about other anime genres. Given my experience with Kyoto Animation: A Critical Study and Filmography and Dani Cavallaro’s background (or lack thereof), I find that this author gives readers little reason to trust her credibility as a scholar. The claims in her books are fraudulent, and therefore are not meritorious of being used as a reliable resource for those who aim to conduct research of any kind surrounding Kyoto Animation.

  • Am I more qualified than Dani Cavallaro to talk about K-On!? I wonder if the real Dani Cavallaro will stand up to contest my assertion that the short answer is “yes”: the full answer is long and uninteresting, but I do have the advantage of having seen the movie for myself.

A Closer Look At the Spoiler-free K-On! Movie Review: Is the Film Still Relevant After Two Years?

Two years have now elapsed since the K-On! Movie was released on DVD and Blu-ray, making it accessible for the first time to viewers. When the movie was originally screened in Japan, it was December 3, 2011, and at the time, the date for a home release was completely unknown. It was not until April 29, 2012, that the DVD/BD release would be announced, finally providing a concrete release date. Prior to this announcement, three reviews were published to the internet, and at the time, curious parties who felt that spoilers were not much of a concern would read these articles to gain a rough idea of what the K-On! Movie would be like. All of these early reviews take on a slightly different approach towards discussing the film, touching upon various parts of the film that made it worthwhile for the respective authors. These reviews were the sole sources of information about the K-On! Movie for nearly eight months, until the depths of summer 2012 arrived. The K-On! Movie was finally released, allowing viewers to watch the movie for themselves. I myself produced two different reviews of the movie, noting that the movie’s core message was that “everything is special if the group of individuals one is with is special, regardless of what one is doing“. When it was released, discussions were quickly ignited by excited fans. However, discussions became increasingly infrequent as time wore on, and by Winter 2014, it seemed that K-On! has fallen from all thought and knowledge. However, the K-On! Movie illustrates that, even if two years have indeed passed since the movie’s home release, there still are things that merit further discussion.

  • It’s the two-year anniversary of the K-On! Movie‘s home release now, although strictly speaking, the movie released on December 3, 2011 in Japanese theatres. This talk will be slightly different than my previous reviews: whereas the figure captions previously dealt with the movie itself, this time, I’ll do short commentaries of some things surrounding the K-On! Movie rather than talk about specific scenes in the movie.

  • The first thing that comes to mind is how viable it would be to travel to Japan to watch an anime movie. Shortly after the K-On! Movie was released, I read about how some individuals made a trip to Japan solely to watch the movie, or even moved there to get access to movies earlier.

  • The question that is subsequently raised would be whether or not would I have visited Japan to watch the movie on its premier. The answer to that is no: December is exam and term paper season, during which I need all of my time to finish things. I was just completing my Fall term for my third year at the time, and was busy with an agent-based Na+/K+-ATPase pump simulation, an introductory Japanese course, reporting on the effects of introducing point mutations into E. coli and several exams. Some may consider my priorities to be skewed, but work comes before anime without fail.

  • I am slightly disapproving about going to Japan for the sole purpose of watching an anime movie, as it would be tantamount to shelling out for a ticket equivalent to the total cost of transportation, accommodations and food in addition to the movie ticket itself (so, a movie ticket costing between one and two thousand dollars). Conversely, if I were to be in Japan for a vacation or visit when an anime movie releases, I might take the time to watch it, provided that it does not disrupt too much from time otherwise spent sightseeing or enjoying Japanese cuisine.

  • Given the popularity of K-On!, I am surprised that cinemas in Canada did not even consider screening the movie, but as of late, they are doing screenings for more anime. As mentioned in earlier discussions, I missed all of them, but if they decide to do what is right and screen the Girls und Panzer movie, I will make every effort possible to see it, even if it means sacrificing myself!

The general lack of interest in K-On! stems from several factors: after the movie was released, Kakifly’s final installments of the manga were published and closed off the story. It was clear that K-On! had reached its conclusion, and that Houkago Tea Time’s journeys into the future, whatever they may entail, are left as an exercise for the audience. However, there is no challenging the impact that K-On!‘s animated adaptation has had on the slice-of-life genre, and anime in general. While the “cute girls do cute things” sub-genre has existed since the early 2000s, and Kyoto Animation itself adapted Lucky Star, which had a similar atmosphere, K-On! held an appeal to the audience well beyond the typical demographics associated with anime. Through its presentation of a slow-paced, carefree lifestyle for its central characters, K-On! captured the viewers who wished to simply relax and be entertained. In both seasons, the central story is loosely coordinated by Yui Hirasawa’s half-hearted desire to join her high school’s light music club, and in the process, eventually discovers her own passion for music, as well as making a group of inseparable friends. The first season aired in 2009 and was so popular that a second season aired a year later with twice the episodes. When the second season drew to a close, several OVAs were released, showcasing Houkago Tea-Time’s desire to go abroad. They go through the passport application process and think of places to go, but as OVAs, nothing more came out of it until the K-On! Movie was announced.

  • The music in  K-On! is something I previously did not choose to discuss in great depth because, while adding to the show’s light and fluffy atmosphere, it wasn’t something that I originally felt as standing out as to deserve unique mention. It’s standard fare that’s pretty upbeat and fluffy (depending on the song’s origins), but upon closer inspection, the music speaks volumes about what K-On! is.

  • The movie soundtrack and vocals are a mix of old and new, reminding viewers that even though this is a movie, it’s still a movie about Houkago Tea-time. Of course, one could take things differently: there are old songs, so this is a movie about Houkago Tea-time, but there are also new songs that remind viewers that this is a movie that’s going to do something a little bit differently than the TV series.

  • There are a grand total of four major performances in the K-On! Movie, starting with an unexpected, hastily prepared-for presentation at the Sushi bar, a performance at the London Japanese Culture Fair with Yamanaka-sensei looking on, followed by a performance for their classmates back home, and lastly, an emotionally charged song for Azusa. Every subsequent performance becomes more intimate and personal in nature.

  • In general, opening songs in K-On! are performed by Aki Toyosaki, while ending songs are performed by Youko Hisaka. The latter produces songs that are more intense and passionate, reflecting on Mio’s desire to make music, while Toyosaki’s songs are fluffy and full of life, mirroring Yui’s easy-go-lucky approach to life. I particularly love the opening song, Ichiban no Ippai!, which has a light, springy feel to it that evokes Christmas morning. The inset song, Unmei wa Endless!, is set in the middle of the movie to a montage of the girls exploring London their own way. Fast-paced, this song gives the girls’ adventures a quick, fleeting feeling to it. While they have a great deal of fun, these moments also happen very quickly.

  • Much praise was voiced about the ending song, Singing!, for how well the sequences were animated, and for the song’s lyrical composition. With Hisaka’s passionate performance and lyrics that speak volumes about the Houkago Tea-Time’s adventures, the song also mentions how this act is coming to a close, and that Houkago Tea-Time will continue to forge into the future together. Singing! is said to summarise Houkago Tea-Time’s entire story quite nicely and act as the franchise’s main theme.

A feature film presents a unique set of challenges to its writers if said writers are moving from a TV series to the movie format. In an interview with director Naoko Yamada and producer Yoshihisa Nakayama, it turns out that “[they had] to make it special for a film, and more dynamic on a bigger scale” (Yoshihisa). When it comes to K-On!, a series characterised by its languid pacing and lack of significant conflict, it seems logical that the movie would likely have a similar pacing. In the end, the movie winds up with the same feel as the TV series. Yamada must therefore answer the question of coming up with something to give the movie a special feeling to it: this answer turns out to be illustrating the emotional journey the girls take towards finding and making a suitable graduation gift for Azusa, who has shared two years’ worth of memories with the older girls. It follows that, though it may be contrary to the promotional materials, London winds up being a secondary element in the film that forms one of the stepping stones towards the end-goal to make a memorable farewell. Viewers find that, in the movie, the girls disregard convention for travel and wind up having a good time in their own way, quite differently than the images typically conjured by mention of travel. This is precisely because the trip to London was, in actuality, a fabrication made to conceal the girls’ preparations towards Azusa’s gift: even as the girls travel London, their thoughts do not stray far from the gift. When Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Mugi actually see the trip through with Azusa, it is a reminder of the strength of their friendship, and together, planned or not, the girls have a good time, reflecting on their propensity towards ad hoc decisions and making the most of anything that happens. Azusa’s gift thus forms the movie’s entire focus, and it is this aspect that lends itself to how the movie was executed, including the pacing and artistic style.

  • I’ll now take a few moments to consider the post’s title: there is no doubting that K-On! left a large impression on anime, and in fact, after K-On!, several anime (most notably, Kokoro Connect and Tamako Market) have drawn inspiration from the character designs in K-On!. There are also a greater number of anime that now place an emphasis on the idea of “cute girls doing cute things”. K-On! has been criticised for dragging down the industry before, but while “dragging down” or even “damage and harm” might be a little excessive, the fact is that K-On! does have at least some impact and therefore, still is relevant as an anime.

  • As of late, two anime I’ve watched come to mind whenever I think of something that evokes the K-On!-esque feel to it, including GochiUsa and SoniAni, both of which can warm the heart on the right day as K-On! does, and are similar in composition, mood and pacing, lacking a centralised story and trading that off for glimpses into the character’s everyday lives.

  • Besides the “cute girls doing cute things” premise, another aspect from K-On! that have permeated other anime include a preference towards music. Following K-On!‘s success with in-show performances from the voice actors, other series began following suit and included musical performances to capitalise on what was hot. Angel Beats! is the first example that comes off the top of my head: here, the concerts act as little more than distractions to allow the SSS to conduct their missions, although strictly speaking, there are a host of other methods to allow a successful “Operation Tornado”. However, producers reason that fans sufficiently entertained by the music in the concerts are likely to buy the albums, which would improve profits, accounting for their inclusion.

  • As time wears on, while K-On!‘s role in all of this will be forgotten, the fact is that some of the trends in K-On!, whether it be the moé artistic style, plot and pacing or music, have made their way into other anime and shaped them into what they are. The reason for this is because this is the style that’s presently popular, although one cannot say that moé is “harming” the industry or “pandering” to viewers of a certain demographic.

  • Changes to an industry happen over a very long time, and whether or not moé is in the equation, the fact is that as long as there is a demand for anime of different kinds, anime of different kinds will be produced. There may come a day, far out there, when moé becomes less popular, and a lack of plot becomes a shackle, slowing down the story and reducing viewership. On such a day, I know there will be other anime willing to step up to the plate and entertain, and when that happens, I’m pretty sure that people will be entertained as long as they hold an open mind.

Besides making use of Azusa’s graduation gift as the catalyst to hold the film together and achieve the scale the producers were seeking, the K-On! Movie is also able to succeed in making the film “work as a stand-alone film, so you could enjoy it if you’ve never seen the TV series. But at the same time, it had to appeal to the fans of the series as well, so that’s the discussion that we had, and the direction we decided on” (Yoshihisa). Far from being a challenge the producers would have fought to maintain, accessibility was improved precisely because the movie’s dynamics and scale was handled by the graduation gift. This focus meant that the film could be of a much greater scope than anything from the TV series, and with a large scale achieved, the film is free to proceed as the TV series did in terms of pacing. This slower pace means that the girls’ personalities can be fleshed out, allowing newer viewers to get a feel for each of Yui, Ritsu, Mio, Mugi and Azusa’s personalities. Fans of the series, already familiar with the pacing, will be reminded of the elements that makes each character unique. In the end, one might go so far as to say that, in maintaining the pace from the TV series, the movie provides the writers with the liberty of depicting the characters going about their business. In doing so, they have allowed for enough time to be allocated towards showing off personalities for each character such that viewers get a sense of who everyone is, while simultaneously advancing the girls’ adventures in Japan and London without compromising the pacing. Consequently, the movie reinforces Yui’s notion that “Houkago Tea Time is Houkago Tea Time, regardless of where they are in the world.”

  • Admittedly it was remarkably difficult to come up with figure captions for the images in this post, as I exhausted all of my commentary in last year’s re-visitation. In the final five images that decorate this post, I’ll briefly compare and contrast the differences between watching a movie in the theatre, and watching a movie at home, as well as the merits of each.

  • I’ll begin with the theatre-going experience, which yields a significantly larger screen and better sound quality, as well as that advantage of being able to watch it without much of a wait. Moreover, with few spoiler materials floating about, any impact the movie has will be amplified, making the experience even more memorable. Lastly, from a budget consideration, the average cost of watching a movie is roughly sixteen dollars, which is half that of a DVD.

  • Watching a movie at home at 1080p confers the benefits of not requiring a trip to the local cinema. For those with a sufficiently large screen and sound system, movies can be enjoyed in a reasonably high quality, while adding additional benefits of being able to pause the movie to go get snacks. While a home release is more expensive than a movie ticket, if a movie is worth purchasing, it’s probably worth watching several times, so the cost eventually pays for itself.

  • From a personal perspective, I prefer the theatre experience because it offers a considerably greater degree of immersion. For the duration of the movie’s running time, it feels as if I’m right there to watch things go down (doubly so since the advent of 3D movies), and there is a thrill about not knowing what happens next. However, solely for anime, all of my experiences have been home releases: besides the small matter of the impracticality to fly over the Pacific to watch an anime movie, it’s also nice to be able to pause and rewind to check out some details for any reviews I plan on drafting out.

  • Thus ends yet another K-On! post, which after two years, acts as an excellent and satisfying conclusion to the K-On! franchise in addition to bringing back a lot of memories for me around summer 2012. As it stands now, although the contents in this post was fun to think about and write, and the film retains all of its charm, K-On! discussions have lost their magic. I do not imagine that I will make another talk in a year’s time, so for the present, this will be the last K-On! post for the Infinite Mirai.

At the end of the day, the K-On! Movie makes the step up to the silver screen not by doing something grand from a visual or story perspective, but instead, focuses on genuine, honest feelings as the girls prepare their gift for Azusa. By allowing the pacing to remain as it was for the TV series, the film makes itself open to new viewers and long-time fans alike. It follows that every artistic and stylistic choice in the film would not stem from the challenges the production team faced, but rather, result from building the film around the idea of a heart-felt graduation gift. Moreover, the themes of friendships, adventure and memories are timeless; as such, the K-On! Movie is a film that will age well and continue entertaining future audiences for years to come with its light-hearted, gentle moods as the franchise’s pièce de résistance, representing a masterful balance between preserving the spirit of K-On! and scaling it up to create a worthy feature presentation for the silver screen. Things like these ultimately mean that, even if the K-On! Movie is not widely discussed, it has not lost any of its relevance as the pinnacle of both the K-On! franchise and as a standalone film.

An Interview With the Director and Producer of the K-On! Movie

Back in 2012, K-On!‘s director, Naoko Yamada, and one of the producers, Yoshihisa Nakayama, attended one of the screenings of the K-On! Movie in Glasgow, Scotland to introduce the film to its audience, and subsequently, participate in an interview session with the audience. As the series’ director (for both the TV series and film), Naoko has also been involved in storyboarding and animation. Through the interview, a thirty-minute session, key decisions and moments in the movie are elaborated upon, providing a greater understanding of the movie’s conception and design. The interview follows, just below the image.

  • The questions below are an approximate reconstruction of what the original questions were. For one reason or another, I could only find the text file that held the answers that Naoko and Yoshihisa gave during the course of the question and answer session on my local drive. I suspect that I had another version of it, but failed to copy it over last year when I was migrating computers a year ago. However, the questions themselves are less relevant than the answers Naoko and Yoshihisa provide: approximate reconstructions are more than sufficient for the purposes of this discussion.

Question One

Question: Was the decision to go to London inspired by an actual discussion at Kyoto Animation?

Answer (Naoko): No, that was Houkago Tea Time; they made every decision.

Question Two

Question: Two separate trips to London were made to do research for the film. What was done during these two different sessions?

Answer (Naoko): The first time we went, we were scenario hunting. So, we went to find out what the five girls from HTT would want to see, what they want to think, and what they’d want to do in London; and the second time, we went there to find the places where they would be put.

Question: Is it reasonable to say the staff were exploring London at a casual pace, and their experiences were transcribed into what is seen in the movie?

Answer (Naoko): I think that Yoshihisa-san and myself were trying to see things through the eyes of the girls of the band, so it wasn’t so much a case of going “Yoshihisa-san, write this down”, but I think we both knew what we were looking for, and that we were on the same wavelength.

Question Three

Question: Were there any experiences that you had in London that could not be included in the movie?

Answer (Naoko): Yeah, I tried Marmite thinking it was Nutela, it was in this cute little heart shaped tub, and thought it looked delicious…

Question Four

Question: Films generally have different considerations compared to TV series. What was handled differently for the K-On! movie compared to the TV series?

Answer (Yoshihisa): So much in terms of direction and instruction, but, I said to them that TV – anyone can watch it. But, for a film you have to go to the cinema and you have to pay money, so it has to be special – you have to make it special for a film, and more dynamic on a bigger scale.

Question Five

Question: Was the K-On! Movie intended for fans of the series, or for a more general audience?

Answer (Yoshihisa): K-On! was screened in Japan in the middle of the night, so we didn’t just want those to come: we wanted other people to come as well. But we wanted it to work as a stand-alone film, so you could enjoy it if you’ve never seen the TV series. But at the same time, it had to appeal to the fans of the series as well, so that’s the discussion that we had, and the direction we decided on.

Question Six

Question:  What are the demographics for K-On!‘s audience in Japan like?

Answer (Yoshihisa): For the timeslot that K-ON screens at, for normal core audience is age 20-35 females. But we with K-ON were aiming for a broader audience so younger people – teenagers, and also 20-35 female viewers, and I think we succeeded in making it appeal to a wider audience than just the people that usually watch that time slot.

Question Seven

Question:  How reflective are the movie’s events of reality? Specifically, are graduation trips common amongst female high school students in Japan?

Answer (Yoshihisa): It’s kinda half and half. I didn’t go on a graduation trip after high school, I went to Europe for the first time when I graduated from University. So I think they’re quite confident to leave from their home.

Question Eight

Question: With the characters graduating, K-On! looks like it’s approaching a conclusion of sorts. However, it feels like there would be hints of something more in the future, Have you considered whether or not the series would be continued, or is this the end for K-On!?

Answer (Naoko): We don’t have anything in mind at the moment for K-On!; this is quite a K-On!-like ending, and this is something you might have to ask Yoshihisa-san because it’s to do with the direction. But it doesn’t tend to end in a bang, it sort-of trails off as it did with the TV series, as well.

  • This post is intended to supplement my following talk on whether or not the K-On! Movie (and franchise as a whole) is still relevant two years after the movie’s been released. The short answer is yes, given that artistic elements ranging from character appearances, to pacing and atmosphere, and even the inclusion of music have carried forward, spurred on by their success in K-On!. While K-On! cannot be said to be the sole influence behind these trends, there is no doubt that K-On! has had at least some influence in shaping the trends we see in present-day anime.

With two years having elapsed since the movie’s home release (and some twenty months since the original screening), the Glasgow interview also provides a tangible citations for those seeking to understand more about the artistic designs within the K-On! Movie: a handful of discussions that came out within weeks of the film’s premier in Japan mention minor statements from Naoko in newspapers and Newtype magazine. Accessing either of these sources represent a substantial challenge, and as such, to help with my upcoming post, I have provided a copy of the interview on-site to simplify things and allow for near-immediate access to the relevant points in the interview.

A Jockey is riding Mio: Left 4 Dead 2 and K-On! mods

Six months ago, I got Left 4 Dead 2 on a sale for five dollars on Steam on March 20. That turned out to be quite an eventful day, as spring was beginning, and my copy of Aimer’s RE:I AM had arrived. I had also received an NSERC for the then upcoming summer. At the time, I was up to my eyeballs in software engineering projects, databases assignments and an honours thesis, so I resolved not to play my new acquisition until my semester had ended. While that turned out to be a wise decision (as my GPA for the year attests), once the summer began, I was occupied with Crysis and Battlefield: Bad Company 2; paired with my research work, I did not have time to play Left 4 Dead 2, save an introductory game I played with a friend. This would change, however, on June 13; it was the day of my convocation, and I was taking the morning off from research. I decided to give Left 4 Dead 2 a try, and was immediately enthralled by the game. The premise is simple enough: shoot one’s way with a team through hordes of infected using a combination of strats and teamwork to reach a safe room and reach the extraction point.

  • The addition of K-On! concert posters adds a very nice touch to the game, suggesting that the Houkago Tea Time girls were set for a glorious concert before the zombie apocalypse happened. It would be possible to write an entirely custom story to accommodate this, but maybe now is not the time.

  • One of the absolute most amusing aspects of the K-On! mods is that, if using the skin mods and name change mod, it is possible to have a jockey riding Mio, which, of course, has hilarious implications. Aside from the fact that I’d like to ride Mio, this phrase was sufficiently humorous as to lend its name to this post’s title.

  • My preferred play-style in L4D2 is to play as the sniper, hanging back and clearing up large groups of infected from a safe distance to give my squad a chance to take down any high-value targets, such as the spitters, jockeys, chargers, smokers, boomers and tanks. As for witches, that is something I ask my team to handle, since the scoped rifles aren’t suited for taking down witches quickly.

  • There is nothing quite like tearing apart tanks and chargers while rocking out to the absolute best of K-On!. The fact that electric guitars are in fact usable weapons in the native game is icing on the cake.

  • Azu-nyan! Azusa replaces Zoey in this mod and makes several appearances during the game, providing sniper fire for the other survivors at some points in the game. My L4D2 experience will be complete once I find an M60 in the campaign.

The game is incredibly entertaining, but I eventually recalled one thing that would make the game even more entertaining. I had seen mods for the game that added substance to it, and recalling that K-On! mods were avaliable, I went about installing the mods that replaced the survivors with Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Mugi. Another mod changed the UI’s names to accurately reflect the new character skins. Lastly, I added on a special mod that changed the music during the concert sequence to classic K-On! hits such as U & I and No Thank You!. Taken together, one of the most acclaimed games around had just gotten even more amusing to play: now, I was fighting through endless zombies with a high school band who desired nothing more than to make music and enjoy sweets after their classes had ended. It adds a certain twist to Left 4 Dead 2: while the unmodded game was fun, the modded game simply becomes a riot. Naturally, K-On! haters are using the three dozer build and can be ignored, and I should probably get around to formally explain what the three dozer build itself is.