It was only a matter of time before K-ON! got a UK release and Manga Entertainment have given us the opportunity to witness for ourselves this series that has taken the world by storm. As a franchise K-ON! has become hugely successful, very much in the same kind of way that The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya did, sporting a wide range of merchandise and accessories ranging from figurines and plushies to keychains and just about anything else you can imagine, it’s almost like a form a K-ONism. The only downside to the UK release is that the series is being released in volumes rather than larger collections we have grown accustomed to in recent years, also there is a lack of a Blu-ray release, of course it’s possible these will be released at a later date.
This first volume contains the first four episodes of the series thirteen episodes and they do a very good job of introducing you to the characters and forming the relationships between them. There is little in the way of story development but this is a series with very rich characters so this is where the emphasis is in these early episodes. The main protagonist of the series is Yui Hirasawa (Guitar), a cute, if not slightly drippy girl, who doesn’t really know what she wants to do with her life, that is until she joins the Lite Music Club. By joining the club she finds something to aspire to, however balancing her role of being the bands guitarist and keeping up with her studies is not an easy task and with the help of her new friends she must learn to balance her duties. Yui’s cluelessness is certainly one of her charms making her all the more lovable. Old friends Mio Akiyama (Bass) and Ritsu Tainaka (Drums) are the founding members of the Lite Music Club and their personalities are polar opposites. Mio is very mature and fairly quiet, she is very sensitive and doe’s not like trying new things while Ritsu on the other hand is lively and energetic and doesn’t hold back, she says and does what she thinks. Tsumugi Kotobuki (Keyboard) or Mugi for short is the posh girl of the club, although she is very modest and polite and always wants to please her friends, she does have a tendency to space out every now and again.
Each of the characters get their chance to shine in the four episodes and each one has their own charm that gives the series a warm familiar feeling, there is little in the way of caricatures, each character is believable and easy to relate to. It is the interaction between these characters and how they want to reach their dreams and ambitions to form a band that is the focus of the show.
The animation in K-ON! is another particular treat, it’s a great example of modern animation. The characters all have their own appearance and style that has been captured very well and the quality of the animation remains consistently high throughout this volume. The character animation is on the sketchier side than a lot of anime but this really helps create a great sense of movement and more lifelike movement certainly helps create realistic and believable characters. The background artwork is also of a very high quality, you wouldn’t be blamed for thinking that the production team had just painted over photo’s of real locations, there is also great use of lighting effects to create a nice atmosphere such as the glow off skin in the warm summer sun.
K-ON! is a series about a band so it goes without saying that the series is going to have great music, although there is not a lot of music being performed in this volume. That said there is a great soundtrack on show here with plenty of little melodies and references to popular music and artists. The end credits that is in the form of the K-ON! cast performing a stylish music video is also a very nice touch. The english dub is also extremely good, each actress has done a great job of capturing the character and personality of their role, in a similar manner to the characters traits there is none of the exaggerated overly high pitch voices you find in many comedy anime.
Considering this volume is just the first four episodes of the series it does a fantastic job of establishing the main characters and the direction the series is going in, it’s a fun, charming and lovable slice of life that is going to be one of the highlights of the year for sure, and I’m sure we will be seeing plenty more of these girls over the coming years.
K-ON! Volume 1 is due out on DVD on 29th August and is available to order now.
K-On! Volume 1 [DVD] – £9.99 (£2.49/episode)