Review for K-On! - Volume 2
I’d forgotten what a production line it was to review single volume releases, especially in close order as I used to do with bundled anime series bargains; two nights to watch a disc and then peel out a review. Fortunately I don’t have to completely relearn a lost skill-set, as for K-On!, I’ve already reviewed the DVDs, and this time around I’m really just looking at the Australian Blu-ray release to see whether it’s worth the double dip. With Volume 1 of K-On!, it certainly seemed that way, and now it’s time to see if Volume 2 also cuts the mustard.
Yui Hirasawa has spaced out her way through elementary and middle school, and history looks set to repeat itself when she starts high school. Even though she is eager and excited about her new life as a high school student, after a few weeks pass, and after every extra-curricular club in school has courted her, she still hasn't decided on which one to join. It's when her friend Nodoka gently informs her that she's on her way to becoming a NEET that she finally picks a promising flyer and fills in the form. She chooses the Light Music Club, inspired by some happy memories of playing the castanets in nursery school. She isn't quite ready for what membership entails.
Now she's lead guitarist in a rock band, although learning to play, after she has bought a guitar comes surprisingly easy. On bass is the seriously minded, and seriously shy and easily spooked Mio Akiyama, while Mio's best friend, the brash and outgoing Ritsu Tainaka is the drummer. On keyboards is fellow surprise recruit and warm-hearted rich kid Tsumugi Kotobuki, and together the girls aim to hit the big time.
The next four episodes of K-On! are presented on this Blu-ray disc from Madman Entertainment. Once again, this is just a quick overview of the Blu-ray, the DVD review goes into more depth about the show.
6. School Festival!
8. Freshman Reception!
K-On! gets a 1.78:1 widescreen transfer at 1080p resolution, and it is exquisite. What we have here is a faithful rendering of the source material, with gorgeous colours and all the detail that you could hope for from the show. The line art is spot-on, the rich backgrounds are warm and inviting, to the point of occasional photo-realism, and the animation is smooth and fluid. The thing is that it’s all crystal clear, making Bandai’s releasing of the show in four single volumes more forgivable in an era of complete season releases. There is no visible compression at all, there’s none of that softness that you might see on Funimation and Sentai Blu-rays, and there is no sign of digital banding whatsoever. The image quality of Bandai’s K-On! masters, used for the Australian release by Madman are on a par with the finest work done by companies like NISA and Aniplex US, and All the Anime in the UK. It gives one more reason to lament Bandai Entertainment’s passing from the western anime-sphere.
Actually, it’s a little less exquisite this time, as I noticed a minor glitch in the image in episode 6, noticeable on Sawa-chan’s mouth at 32:50 into the disc. Actually it’s a problem with the source, not the Blu-ray, as the glitch is also apparent on the DVD at the same point (after compensating for PAL speed-up).
That nostalgic goodwill fades when it comes to the audio. Bandai Entertainment US were essentially an arm of the Japanese Bandai, and that meant that they had even less wiggle room for negotiation than Funimation and Sentai. They basically had to take what the Japanese offered, and when it came to K-On! Season 1, that meant the archaic release format of single volumes, and lossy audio for the US, and consequently Australian Blu-rays. A Blu-ray with lossy audio isn’t great, but K-On!’s DD 2.0 English and Japanese encoded at 196kbps is pretty much DVD quality.
When it comes down to it, I didn’t care that the frequency response was inferior, that the resolution of the audio was such that it would be muddy and less vibrant in comparison. For me, the dialogue was clear enough, and the all important music sounded great, and above all, it was all at the intended 24 frames per second, without that egregious pitch correction that marred the PAL DVDs.
Bandai offer optional English translated subtitles for the Japanese audio, and a signs and songs track for the English, and it’s all done in a nice, discrete, but legible yellow font. The subtitles are free of typographical error and accurately timed, and this time the signs translations were in sync with the onscreen text.
Volume 2 comes in a Blu-ray Amaray and once again the interior sleeve offers poster art. The disc label art is pretty nifty too, this time with Ritsu and Mio framed in a partially consumed cake product.
The show gets an animated menu screen, and the extras on disc comprise a 7:36 interview with the English voice of Mio, Cristina Vee presented in 1080i. She discusses the character and the show, and also talks about how the show relates to her own experiences of high school. There’s also an English dub music video for Fuwa Fuwa Time lasting 1:20 and in HD
There are also Madman trailers for Summer Wars, Evangelion 2.22 and FLCL.
You’re going to see a trend develop with these K-On! reviews when it comes to the grade. I love the show and it can do no wrong in my book. I cherish every frame, and appreciate the characters and the light, inconsequential story more and more each time I watch it. I thought I might have a legitimate, if slight whinge about this volume when I noticed what I thought was a glitch in the image. It turned out to be a fault in the source material, as animators can make glitches too, as well as DVD and Blu-ray encoders. Even better, this time around I didn’t notice any errors in the subtitles, and all of the subs and signs were timed accurately.
I’m more critical of the show in my review of the DVD, back when I didn’t know exactly what I was getting, and I was expecting something a little different from K-On! But now that I know that this show really is about cute girls doing cute things, and that the whole point of the series is to give the viewer a warm glow, and a general good feeling about the world, albeit vicariously, and that it does it better than any other title out there, I’m not in a position to criticise the Blu-ray. It perfectly plugs a gap in my anime viewing needs. The best thing is that it’s in the native frame rate, not PAL sped-up. That means I get 4 extra minutes of K-On! on this disc to enjoy!
Blu-ray moment of the disc... Sawa-chan’s desperate race to retrieve the incriminating blackmail material.