Review for K-On! - Volume 3
Next on my whistle stop tour of the K-On! Blu-rays, I quite logically and sequentially come to Volume 3, where the episode count diminishes, but it’s made up for by an increase in the moe quotient with the addition of 1st year Azusa Nakano into the group.
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, while as the second year of school starts, they get a new recruit in the form of guitarist Azusa Nakano, and together the girls aim to hit the big time.
The next three 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.
9. New Club Member!
10. Training Camp Again!
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.
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. One error actually, with the word ‘playing’ instead of ‘played’ in one caption.
Volume 3 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 framed in a partially consumed cake product.
The show gets an animated menu screen, and the extras on disc comprise a 6:26 interview with the English voice of Ritsu, Cassandra Lee 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 My Love is a Stapler lasting 1:43 and in HD
There are also Madman trailers for Summer Wars, Evangelion 2.22 and FLCL.
I dread to think what I look like when I’m watching K-On!, sat in front of the TV with a dopey grin plastered on my face for the duration, apt to chuckle at the slightest cute antics of the main cast. Yes, I am a grown man, battling against the unwelcome onslaught of middle age. But for these 25 minute chunks of K-On! that battle comes to a ceasefire, and all my mental inhibitions, my sense of propriety as a grown man are lost and I thoroughly enjoy this light, frothy, charming, inconsequential comedy about high school girls like a... well, like a K-On! fan.
Once more I’m happy squee-ing about the show on Blu-ray, as it looks better than ever, and I can revel in the cuteness of the animation to a greater degree. Of course it doesn’t sound any better than the DVD, well it does if you take into account PAL speed-up and pitch correction, and the subtitles are the same, but it really does strike home that Manga dropped the ball when they cancelled the K-On! Blu-rays, as I bet everyone was waiting for them, not the DVDs. They are that much better. The cover art too is better than the Manga release.
Blu-ray moment of the disc... Azusa putting on the cat-ears and becoming Azu-nyan!