“Sometimes we should express our gratitude for the small and simple things like the scent of the rain, the taste of your favourite food, or the sound of a loved one’s voice.” –Joseph B. Wirthlin
After Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Tsumugi leave for their class trip to Kyoto, Ui notices that Yui had left her camera behind. At school, she speaks with Azusa, who wishes that like Jun’s Jazz Club, the Light Music Club would take things a little more seriously. Jun is thrilled that a large chocolate bun is available for purchase, and later, Azusa and Jun decide to spend the night with Ui. Since there’s no Light Music Club, Ui and Azusa accompany Jun to the Jazz Club, where Azusa helps two junior students to improve their technique. During the evening, Jun and Azusa arrive at Ui’s place, and they share a scrumptious dinner. Jun falls asleep almost immediately, leaving Azusa and Ui to chat. They decide to visit the zoo in the morning, but the next day, showers blanket the area, forcing the three to cancel their plans. Although Jun and Azusa grow bored (Jun had been hoping Yui might have the volume of the manga she’d been reading), they end up swinging by the batting centre, where Ui wins a large stuffed turtle for hitting a grand slam. Seeing the turtle reminds Azusa of how she had promised to feed Ton-chan, and the three head back to school. Here, Jun finds the missing manga volume, and the three play a song together as the day draws to a close. When Yui and the others return, they give her a keychain souvenir, a part of a set that spells out “けいおんぶ”. This fifth episode to K-On!! is an anime original: the manga focused on Yui and the others’ trip to Kyoto, omitting what Azusa and the others were up to. Conversely, in K-On!!, director Naoko Yamada took the time to flesh things out – the fifth episode is, even by K-On!! standards, exceptionally laid-back and easygoing. Ordinarily, such a direction is frowned upon, and series are often criticised for filling episodes with content that has not occurred in the manga. In the case of K-On!!, Yamada masterfully uses the additional time during the second season’s extended, twenty-four episode run to create a deeper connection among the characters. An additional sense of depth behind Ui, Azusa and Jun’s friendship is conveyed, indicating that even after Yui and the others graduate, Azusa still has friends in her corner. This particular aspect actually becomes a vital bit of foreshadowing for what would eventually unfold in K-On! – when Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Tsumugi graduate, Azusa takes the reigns and ends up running the Light Music Club as its president.
Although Azusa had initially been hesitant about the role and strove to run the club as how she envisioned a president should act, she would quickly fall back on old habits, consistent with how she saw Ritsu running things. Her journey is eased by the fact that she has Jun and Ui in her corner; K-On!!‘s fifth episode had shown that there is enough chemistry between Azusa, Ui and Jun to continue driving the show. As a rainy afternoon progresses, the three end up playing their first song together – Jun and Azusa already have some experience, while Ui is a quick study and has actually helped Yui practise, too. In this way, this episode indicates that among her friends, Azusa already knows of two people who have a modicum of skill as musicians. Indeed, when Azusa does take over the Light Music Club, Ui and Jun immediately join. Having familiar faces gives Azusa the drive and encouragement she needs to continue running the show, and in time, Azusa does end up successfully rebuilding the Light Music Club in K-On! High School – she picks up Sumire Saitō, Tsumugi’s cousin, who ends up taking on drums, and Nao Okuda becomes their songwriter. Azusa’s Light Music Club is a little more dedicated than she’d known it under Ritsu and Yui, but she quickly finds that there are merits to Yui and Ritsu’s approach, too. In this side story in K-On!!, the sort of dynamics between Azusa, Ui and Jun are closer to Azusa’s ideal: things are a bit more focused, but there is still plenty of time to take things at one’s own pace and live in the moment. Indeed, the atmosphere and tone of this episode closely mirrors that of K-On! High School; this manga sequel shows Azusa’s side of the story and was released in 2012, a full two years after the fifth K-On!! episode aired. It is possible that author Kakifly drew some inspiration from Yamada’s interpretation of K-On!, taking this concept and applying it to create a full-fledged story that underlies how in time, people tend to take after their predecessors and apply their own unique spin to things to result in a novel experience that ends up creating the precedence for the next generation to build upon.
Besides foreshadowing the events of K-On! High School long before there had been any news of a sequel to the manga, K-On!!‘s fifth episode also provided hints as to how Yamada would handle K-On! The Movie. In the manga, Yui and the others buy a guitar pick from Kyoto for Azusa. However, the anime chose to portray the girls as picking up keychains in a set that, when put together, spell “けいおんぶ”. These matching keychains become a symbol of how everyone’s unique, but when together, they’re part of a greater whole. Although it’s not a gift that’s unique to Kyoto, it comes to show that for Yui, Mio, Ritsu, Tsumugi and Azusa, where they go is irrelevant – everything is meaningful and memorable when together. In this way, Yamada takes what Kakifly had created and adds to it another dimension. Although the second season follows in its predecessor’s footsteps, it is easy to spot that Yamada had become genuinely invested in showing a side of K-On! that the manga did not convey. The movie would be born as a result of this, being a heartfelt journey from the senior girls say thank to their youngest and most determined member for everything she’d contributed to their friendship and the Light Music Club. Giving Yamada the creative freedom to write in the moments between the larger, more boisterous experiences represents an opportunity to show how K-On! can be introspective and thoughtful, and as a result, Yamada spotted that, while K-On! might’ve originally been a comedy that Kakifly had written to present a topic he was familiar with (pop music) in a high school setting, there had been considerable depth that otherwise wouldn’t be explored in the printed medium. Through the anime, K-On! became more, and these aspects is why the series achieved the success that it did: K-On!‘s anime adaptation is respectful of the original manga, while at the same time, adding more to the story and accentuating Kakifly’s themes of friendship, gratitude and appreciation in a compelling, meaningful manner. It is therefore fair to say that allowing Yamada a degree of freedom in adding her own interpretation to K-On! eventually resulted in K-On! The Movie being produced, finally providing Yamada a space in which to really express what K-On! and its characters would mean to her, over time. The end result speaks for itself: K-On! The Movie is touching, sincere and moving, acting as a swan song to a series that had meant so much, to so many, and in retrospect, it is impressive to see that even early in K-On!!‘s run, bits and pieces of what would appear in both K-On! High School and K-On! The Movie would appear.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Ten years ago to this day, I was sitting at my desk in the cool of the lower floor, absent-mindedly reviewing verbal reasoning drills. It’d been a sunny day, and ordinarily, I’d be hard at work doing revisions for the MCAT. However, on this day, I had been quite distracted because K-On! The Movie was set to release, and I’d been waiting for my copy to arrive. By this point in the summer, I’d become a little more confident about the exam: I was consistently scoring above 30 in practise drills, and every week, I would do full-length exams by morning before taking the afternoon off.
- By the morning of the 19th, my copy of the film had arrived, and I decided to take a rare day off from MCAT revisions so I could sit down and enjoy the movie. Right out of the gates, I was impressed: the film had felt like the TV series had, but as Yui and the others began discussing how to be proper seniors for Azusa, and their discussions ended up transforming into a graduation trip, the film really began to shine on the silver screen. After the film ended, I ended up writing a series of posts about my initial impressions on my old website and here.
- What had stood out about K-On! The Movie had been a lingering sense of melancholy that permeated the entire movie, and it wasn’t until a decade later that I ended up putting into words what this was: it’s Mono no Aware, wistfulness that results from being aware of transience. The movie had conveyed this because even though the characters are living in the moment, we viewers would know that this time was finite. These thoughts would lead me to revisit K-On! and K-On!! again, and in doing so, I would revisit the second season’s fifth episode anew.
- This episode, titled “Staying Behind!”, prima facie appears to be little more than a glimpse of the two days in which Yui and the others are out on their class trip, leaving Azusa, Jun and Ui to go about things without their rowdy seniors to liven things up. However, in showing how things are in Yui et al.’s absence, K-On!! suggests that things could still be quite lively in their own right. After Azusa begins contemplating what her ideal senpai is like, the scene changes over to the lunch line, where Jun is able to pick up a chocolate baguette.
- One unintentional side effect of this episode was that it made me fonder of Jun – a bassist in the Jazz Club, Jun is friends with Azusa and Ui from middle school, but after entering high school, joined the Jazz Club after being inspired by one of their performers, and had found the Light Music Club a little off-putting. Boisterous and easygoing, Jun ends up joining the Light Music Club in her final year, and while she’d previously been jealous of the adventures Azusa gets to embark on, she will have a chance to experience remarkable things for herself, too.
- This episode thus shows that, even without Yui or Mio, K-On! was more than capable of carrying the show with its secondary characters – Ui and Azusa are full-fledged characters, and Jun begins to get increasing screentime as she becomes more important. The K-On! High School manga would ultimately show that Azusa and her leadership of the Light Music Club is just as successful as the times she would come to cherish, and considering that the manga sequels were published after K-On!! aired, this is especially impressive; it is plain that some things in the TV series would go back and inspire the manga.
- I am only afforded this bit of insight because I am writing about K-On! after everything was released; the English-language translations of K-On! College and K-On! High School was available in October 2013. I ended up buying all of the volumes, and recall how of all the volumes, the second had given me the most trouble since none of the local stores had it in stock. I would finally order it online to complete the collection, and since then, all six K-On! volumes have graced my shelves. Here, after Ui and the others head to Yui’s classroom to retrieve something, Ui becomes visibly saddened by the prospect of Yui being absent, and she begins tearing up, leading Azusa and Jun to suggest a sleepover to keep her company.
- Subtle hints in this episode foreshadow Azusa’s initial troubles with running the Light Music Club – while a skilled musician surpassing Yui in technical skill, Azusa is more by-the-book and would prefer to run a tight ship, but at the same time, she’s also a little shy and unaccustomed to leading. When waiting for Jun to fetch her bass, Azusa and Ui run into a pair of first-years. Ui is immediately able to take the initiative and helps introduce the two, suggesting how even though Azusa’s task of rebuilding the Light Music Club is a daunting one, she has excellent people in her corner.
- Once the initial hurdles are overcome, Azusa becomes more comfortable in providing knowledge to the first years. This exact same set up is seen in K-On! High School – Ui and Jun both accompany Azusa, and while the Light Music Club initially comes under risk of being abolished a second time, they manage to pick up Sumire Saitō and Nao Okuda to make the minimum number of members. Azusa stumbles initially, but support from her fellow club members and Sawako gives Azusa the confidence she needs to run the Light Music Club. Ironically, when she’s in the moment, Azusa tends to act like Yui does; during one concert, she lapses and forgets that the Light Music Club has never played Fuwa Fuwa Time before.
- K-On!! shows nothing quite so dramatic, but once Azusa warms up, she’s able to offer pointers to the first-years, who are struggling with a passage in their performance: the stretching exercise she does is a familiar one, and some folks had found similarities between the exercise and the iconic Vulcan salute, which was popularised by Star Trek and has its origins in Jewish traditions. While I’m not too versed with Star Trek, I’ve long found the fanbase surrounding the series fascinating: Star Trek fans have learnt Klingon as a language, cosplay extensively and even travel to Vulcan, Alberta, to visit their Star Trek convention (called Spock Days).
- As amusing as it might be to bring up the Vulcan salute in a K-On! talk, the tendency of the old K-On! fanbase to focus on these small details and repeat them ad nauseum, until they became memes, may have contributed to the disapproval that some segments of the community expressed towards the series. Looking at some of the contemporary discussions surrounding K-On!, I’ve not found anything quite like my own talks about the series, in that many reviewers focused on reactions rather than implications. There’s only so many times one can say K-On! is cute or adorable before it gets wearing, and this may have given the impression that K-On! was a shallow and superficial series even to fans.
- Although on the surface, K-On! is a “cute girls doing cute things” series, there is a significant amount of depth that goes into each moment. Those who had greatly disliked the series or only reacted to things were unlikely to have noticed these elements. For instance, earlier, I had mentioned that K-On! The Movie conveys a sense of Mono no Aware through its runtime. While I hit the points that this speaks to a part of life, I realised that I forgot to account for why Yamada would add such a theme. T turns out that K-On! The Movie represents a swan song, a send-off to the series. This is a franchise that has been with the staff for four years, and it is understandable they’d be sad to see it conclude.
- To this end, Yamada decided to allow the entire staff’s feelings to permeate the movie, so viewers could also feel what the staff were feeling. In this, they’ve succeeded, and K-On! The Movie ends up surprising viewers with depth that is much greater than what is initially visible. All of the episodes in K-On!! similarly possesses minor nuances that extend what is initially visible, but Staying Behind especially stands out because it was able to foreshadow both K-On! High School and K-On! The Movie so well. However, this is masterfully presented, being a subtle part of the episode, and the end result is an episode that is relaxing and cathartic, even more so than the other episodes. If I had to draw a comparison, this is equivalent to a Rin-centric episode of Yuru Camp△.
- I imagine that Ui tends to cook a large amount because she’s basing portions on Yui’s appetite, and so, when Azusa and Jun show up, they immediately comment on how much food has been made. Between this, plus the sushi Azusa’s brought, and Jun’s donuts, dinner is a hearty affair. On the topic of epic meals, my summer food quest continued during the weekend when I returned to a local katsu joint with family and friends. I’ve been yearning for a good fried shrimp dish for a while, and while a mix-up resulted in my ebi curry losing all of its garnishes, the ebi curry turned out to be quite tasty (and my iPhone Xʀ graciously captured the deliciously fluffy and crispy fried shrimp with superb clarity).
- I subsequently drove down to the local IKEA to help pick up a new shelf, and then dropped by a BestBuy. Originally, I had intended on picking up a Lightning-to-aux cable, but after a store attendant helped me to find them, I immediately spotted BlueTooth FM transmitters going for the same price. After thinking it over, I determined that not every car I drive will have an aux cable port, but every car will have an FM receiver. Throughout the day, things remained extremely hot, and this made me doubly appreciative of the fact that the new place has air conditioning. I would then spend the Sunday tending to housework and helping to put the new shelf together.
- Although dinner is hearty, Azusa has a second wind and decides to try one of the donuts Jun’s brought with the Super All Star package. Azusa notices that all of the donuts have a third taken out of them, and Jun says it’s her way of trying all of them out, by way of explanation. One imagines that had Jun probably cut all of them with a knife, and this action is a very subtle indicator of Jun’s personality: she can be quite creative in how she goes about trying new things out, and while she may have joined the Jazz Club, being open to new experiences (as the donuts indicate) means she has no trouble joining Azusa and Ui later on.
- Throughout this fifth episode, which occurs in parallel with the fourth episode’s events, Azusa and Ui gain glimpses into the Kyoto class trip. When K-On!‘s manga was published, Japan had been well ahead of the Western world in terms of feature phones; although only limited to grainy, low-resolution cameras, one could still take and send photos with them. It is by this means that Yui relays photos back to Azusa and the others despite having forgotten her camera. Here, Azusa and Ui smile at a photo of the pillow fight that had happened while Yui and the others were in Kyoto.
- Unlike the rowdy Ritsu and Yui, Jun immediately hits the hay, leaving Azusa and Ui to stay up a little. Perhaps speaking to the influence the Light Music Club has had on her, Azusa wonders why Jun isn’t staying up more, but the ever-accommodating Ui decides to remain with Azusa and chat for a bit. Subtle things like these simultaneously show the similarities and differences in atmosphere between Houkago Tea Time and Wakaba Girls, and while things would not have been apparent when K-On!! was airing, it is only returning to the series later that really allows one to appreciate these details.
- It suddenly hits me that, a decade earlier, the MCAT had been so consuming that I missed the “Light Up The City” Centennial Fireworks, which I’m told was the fireworks show of the century in Calgary, far surpassing even GlobalFest’s fireworks shows. However, in subsequent years, I would have the opportunity to see Hong Kong’s legendary New Year’s Eve fireworks in person, and after watching footage of the Light Up The City event, I can conclude that the fireworks shows here are miniscule compared to the world’s most impressive showings.
- The Stampede’s Grandstand Show fireworks are more modest by comparison, but a major part of the enjoyment lies in heading out into the night and then enjoying the view at Scotsman’s Hill before the fireworks finale starts at the Grandstand. It suddenly hits me that cameras have advanced significantly since I began watching these shows, and using my iPhone, I had no trouble with either the night photography of the Stampede Grounds, or the fireworks themselves. More so than the fireworks show, these evenings are fun simply because they represent a break from routine, and it was nice to attend my first fireworks show in over three years.
- The next morning, Azusa, Jun and Ui awaken to rain, and Jun reveals that her hair becomes unruly on humid days. The rain immediately puts a stopper to the girls’ plans to go to the zoo, something that Azusa had wised to do on account of seeing how much fun Yui and the others are having. Rain has long been associated with boredom, and many a work of fiction have portrayed rainy days as being impediments to adventure, I actually love rainy days because they’re cool and comfortable. When it rains heavily, the sound of rainfall is comforting, while when it’s raining lightly, it is refreshing to be out and about.
- Longtime readers will be familiar with my shifting weather preferences – I love perfectly sunny days, and enjoy completely overcast (and cool), or rainy days. However, I am not fond of days with cirrus or stratus clouds covering a majority of the sky because they scatter light and causes my photos to be washed out if I’m out and about. An experienced photographer might be able to make such days appear pleasant, but I lack that skill set and would prefer my outdoor adventures to take place under clear days. Similarly, smokey days completely defeat the purpose of going out and about, obscuring the landscape and sky alike.
- On a rainy day, I tend to stay in and read books, or game if there’s no housework to tend to. There are a few things to do in Calgary on rainy days, with favourite suggestions being to hit the local malls, visit the Glenbow Museum or check out the recreation centres. Seeing this episode of K-On!! reminds me of the fact that there are many places in the city that are worth revisiting, and in the knowledge that I have a large number of vacation days left in the year, I would probably find it enjoyable to take a few days off here and there; depending on the weather, checking out local attractions or visiting trails just a short ways outside of town would be nice.
- While we do have a batting centre here at home, I’ve never been a talented athlete in ball sorts, and therefore, would probably not perform particularly well. Jun promptly gives up after expending her quota of balls, but to everyone’s surprise, Ui is able to hit a home run after overhearing a father giving his son some pointers on how to nail the ball. Ui has been presented as being uncommonly talented at picking up new skills, and this makes her ideally suited for joining the Light Music Club. She spends two of her three years of high school without any club activities because she greatly enjoys looking after Yui.
- With Yui at university, Ui suddenly found herself with an abundance of free time, and is able to pick up the guitar as Yui did. Ui proves to be a ways more competent, remembering all of her chords without sacrificing her studies, and while this might be seen as unrealistic, Ui’s competence becomes important in allowing Azusa the assurance that her peers are solidly dependable, allowing K-On! High School to focus almost entirely on the two new members.
- For her troubles, Ui wins a massive stuffed turtle, and this reminds Azusa that she’s forgotten something important. Early on, Yui sends Azusa a message reminding her to feed Ton-chan, and while Azusa sees herself as being similar to Mio, being dependable and mature, she also has moments where she becomes forgetful. However, it is thanks to Ui and Jun that Azusa is able to grow, and here, upon spotting her original promise, Azusa and the others immediately return to school.
- K-On! is now over ten years old, but the story itself is timeless, and even today, Toyosato Elementary School continues to host K-On! related events; birthday parties for the characters have been held here each and every year for the past decade. However, I was a little surprised that there hasn’t been more news surrounding K-On! The Movie‘s ten year anniversary. Ano Natsu de Matteru and AnoHana both received new key visuals to commemorate ten years, and considering how successful K-On!‘s been, it seemed reasonable to suppose that there would be some sort of recognition of this milestone.
- However, the quiet coming and going of K-On! The Movie‘s tenth anniversary does have its merit – while K-On! was nearly universally acclaimed during its run, there had been a handful of vocal detractors who made it their mission to dissuade people from enjoying this show. Among some subsets of the community, it was in vogue to hate the series, but despite a full decade having elapsed since then, many of the detractors have continued to cling onto the belief that the series is not worth consideration. I’ve never really understood this mode of thinking, as I’ve long held people should always feel free to watch and enjoy whatever they choose without worrying about what’s popular or what the consensus is. K-On! was never “harming the industry” as some have claimed, and those who felt otherwise never provided sufficient the evidence to back up this statement.
- As it stands, being able to revisit K-On! The Movie (and K-On! in general) in an unostentatious manner has proven to be most relaxing – a decade earlier, I made the mistake of involving myself in trying to refute claims from Behind the Nihon Review’s Reckoner that K-On! The Movie was “disingenuous” and “false advertising” at AnimeSuki after others began agreeing with these claims. In those days, the AnimeSuki community placed a great deal of emphasis on their reputation system, and for challenging opinions held by Reckoner, who’d been a well-regarded member, Reckoner used his considerable influence to neg-rep me into oblivion. This is equivalent to today’s downvotes, having the effect of getting me shadow-banned for a time. After I voiced concerns about the reputation system’s abuses to the administrators, the system was scrapped a few months later.
- In the years following the reputation system’s removal, I would go on to enjoy productive and constructive conversation with members like Ernietheracefan, WildGoose and Flower. However, I’d long wished that I was able to continue refuting Reckoner more fully, and made a larger effort towards convincing those who had agreed with Reckoner to at least reconsider (or provide a justification of why they were willing to redact their own enjoyment of the movie in deference to Reckoner). I ended up standing down because I felt Reckoner wasn’t so important that he was worth losing the MCAT for, but in retrospect, I’d already been more than ready to take the exam on, so I do regret not taking the fight to Reckoner. In later years, I would learn that Reckoner hadn’t posted contrarian opinions of K-On! to create discussion, but rather, to cause discord and enmity, driving traffic to Behind the Nihon Review and elevate their status.
- In the end, while no disciplinary action was taken against Reckoner despite his obvious violation of forum rules (i.e. abusing the reputation system), in an act of providence, Behind the Nihon Review’s domain was suspended after the owner failed to pay the hosting fees back in 2020. The fact that I’m still here, and that Behind the Nihon Review is gone, speaks volumes to whose approach to anime is more appropriate – although I normally don’t criticise other blogs for their approach, Behind the Nihon Review is one of the rare exceptions, and I’m glad that they’re no longer around to create artificial conflict. Back in K-On!!, after Azusa feeds Ton-chan, Jun finds the volume of the manga she’d been looking for, but with the rain persisting into the afternoon, everyone finds themselves bored, at least until Jun suggests they play music together. No one else is around, and there are no classes or students to disturb.
- This moment thus marks the first time Jun, Azusa and Ui have played together. It’s a pivotal moment in K-On!!, and it sets the stage for what happens in K-On! High School. As the girls play through a simpler but still enjoyable song, a golden warmth fills the music room, and when they finish, the sun finally breaks through the clouds, almost as though the heavens had heard the girls’ performance and decided applaud their efforts. Moments like these really highlight how peaceful the world of K-On! really is, and while excitement and humour had come to define K-On!, in retrospect, a quieter and more reflective series, akin to Tamayura, would also work.
- Thus, what had otherwise been a dull, unremarkable day turns into something superbly memorable. This is significant because it shows how even without Yui and the others, Azusa is able to carry things on her own, and moreover, it is with Jun and Ui that things become magical. K-On! High School deals precisely with this matter, and with due respect, K-On! High School is actually the stronger of the two sequels. As fun as Yui and her group are, there’s a certain magic and inspiration in seeing Azusa continuing things on in her senpai‘s steed, as this shows how there’s something wonderful each and every generation.
- The sun’s return is coincident with Azusa, Ui and Jun recieving a message from Yui and the others; the juniors and seniors might be separated physically, but their hearts remain connected. This approach is utilised to great effect in Yuru Camp△ , where Nadeshiko and Rin share an experience together on several occasions despite being apart. This is something that helps Rin to warm up to Nadeshiko, and their respective applications in K-On! and Yuru Camp△ parallel the sophistication of mobile technology. In K-On!‘s time, feature phones were relatively limited, so communications were more infrequent. By Yuru Camp△ , smartphones have become ubiquitous, and this allows Rin and Nadeshiko to communicate both more frequently, and in a more visual means.
- In K-On!!, an episode without Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Tsumugi did come across as being extremely quiet, and in this way, the episode stands out from other episodes. In particular, Yui et al.’s time in Kyoto is extremely rowdy and rambunctious – the sharp contrast between the two is meant to highlight the differences between Yui and Azusa. The contemplative pacing in this episode is reminiscent of Rin’s solo adventures in Yuru Camp△, whereas the noisier, fun-filled time Yui and the others spends in Kyoto would be equivalent to Nadeshiko and the Outdoor Activities Club’s group excursions. With the day at an end, Jun, Ui and Azusa prepare to part ways – Jun’s still engrossed with her manga, and Azusa reminds her not to miss her stop.
- Seeing the precise moments where Azusa and Yui’s days intersect was an especially clever touch on Yamada’s part: here, Azusa receives a call from Yui, whose entire group had become lost. Mio’s voice can be heard in the background, asking what calling Azusa would accomplish. It’s a bit of a surprise for Azusa, but Ui is glad to hear Yui’s choice. With the technology available in 2010, Azusa is unlikely to have been able to do anything, but today, it’s possible to send one’s location to a trusted contrast and then utilise a map to help the others navigate back (assuming that Yui and the others didn’t already have a good map app). The comparatively primitive technology of the era lends itself to a much slower pacing consistent with what K-On! is about, and it is not lost on me that today, sophisticated smartphones and apps mean problems of a decade earlier could now be trivially solved.
- The next day, classes resume, and Azusa braces herself for her senior’s return. Azusa had thought that, with how carefree her seniors are, they might forget a souvenir for her. At this point in the episode, the atmosphere returns to the high-energy tenour that K-On! is known for; unlike Jun and Ui’s presence, which exudes a cathartic feeling, Yui, Mio, Ritsu and Tsumugi bring with them spirit and comedy. Kakifly’s manga focuses entirely on Yui and her crew, so seeing another side of K-On! in this fifth episode provides a unique, memorable experience.
- Yui hauls Azusa back to the Light Music Club, where she and the others have a surprise for her. This surprise turns out to be matching keychains of a set – it’s about as far removed from Kyoto as one can imagine, but in retrospect, the keychains are well-chosen and represent how the Light Music Club operates. As the me of a decade earlier stated, “everything is special if the group of individuals one is with is special, regardless of what one is doing“. The keychains represent this; the gift might not represent Kyoto, but it represents Houkago Tea Time in full.
- Seeing the girls together in the Light Music Club’s clubroom is an iconic part of K-On!, and K-On! The Movie opens in this manner. The choice to have the film spend so much time in Japan was a reminder that this movie was never about London; the class trip had come about as a happy accident, and the entire focus of the film was showing the sorts of adventures that followed during a journey to say thank you. Of course, once the girls do hit London, they approach their travels as they did in Kyoto – everything is at their own pace, in iconic Houkago Tea Time style.
- A great deal of time has passed between when K-On! The Movie‘s home released became available and the present day. In these past ten years, I’ve wrapped up two degrees, accrued six years of industry experience, and bought a house. I’ve travelled to Japan for myself, presented at academic conferences, attended a tech conference and became a nidan. Even after all this, K-On! still holds a special place in my heart, and this speaks to how enduring the series has been in my heart – this is a series that helped me to stave off probation in my second year, and during 2012, the film’s release gave me something else to look forward to as I hurtled towards the MCAT. For me, K-On! is a masterpiece because it was able to change my life in such a tangible manner, and this is why even now, I continue to revisit the series – writing about K-On! allows me to reflect on a series that has given me so much, and also share this experience with readers.
A full decade has now elapsed since K-On! The Movie‘s home release became available. I vividly recall the summer of 2012 well – at this point in July, my MCAT preparation course was rapidly drawing to a close, and I admit that excitement over being able to watch K-On! The Movie had left me quite unable to focus on anything else. Within two days of the film’s release, I was able to watch and get a review of the movie written out. However, these early reviews do not capture everything there is to say about the film, and over the years, I would come to revisit the movie annually. Each time I re-watched the film, I ended up with a far richer and more comprehensive experience than I had before. Having long approached the film as a thank you gift for Azusa, I would soon come to appreciate that the film was also conveying the sense of melancholy that arises as one milestone draws to a close, but it is precisely because things are transient that gives it value. Spotting that K-On! The Movie captures the Japanese concept of Mono no Aware speaks volumes to how much thought went into its writing. Things like this meant that for me, watching K-On! The Movie has become an annual tradition, and the film impresses regardless of how many times I revisit it, speaking to its excellent quality. Having now seen what K-On! The Movie‘s achievements are, revisiting the whole of K-On!, K-On!! and the manga become especially enjoyable, knowing that they possess all of these elements which would subsequently be extracted and utilised to create one final, immeasurably moving swan song for a series that has continued to impact and influence people well into the present. Slice-of-life series focused on everyday messages of appreciation and gratitude continue to be produced, and some musicians have attributed K-On! as being an influence in their choice of career. The town of Toyosato in Shiga Prefecture still enjoys visitors who’ve come to check out the former Toyosato Elementary School, which influenced the school in K-On!. K-On!‘s legacy cannot be understated, and it speaks to the series’ excellence that some of K-On!‘s greatest achievements when, even something as seemingly inconsequential as an episode dedicated purely to Azusa, Ui and Jun’s experiences while Yui and the others are on their class trip is able to foreshadow and hint at the directions K-On! was headed.