Graduation looms for the founding members of the Light Music Club. With only a few precious weeks of school left, the girls decide to make the most of it and plan a trip abroad. Hawaii, New York, Dubai—many destinations are suggested, but after a little help from the club's precious pet turtle, Ton-chan, London is chosen as the host of their next misadventure!
Yui Hirasawa, Mio Akiyama, Tsumugi Kotobuki, Ritsu Tainaka, and Azusa Nakano will visit famous landmarks, perform live music for Londoners, and eat all sorts of delicious food, all while stumbling clumsily from place to place. But the fun won't last forever, as heartfelt songs and goodbyes will be made as their high school days together come to a close. One thing is for certain though: the undeniable friendships these girls have formed is something that will carry on long after the final scene rolls.
Many people have found themselves wondering what truly qualifies as something exemplary. For some, this kind of quality is attributed to titles with deep themes and complex storytelling, and for others it may be something as subjective as what's "fun". What can be agreed by everybody though, is that no matter what the nature of a title is, when the inherent quality is up there it’s going to shine through in the story. It’s going to make the audience feel something of significance and it’s going to leave them awed and speechless when the credits roll.
And when the credits roll in the K-ON movie, you
know that you just witnessed something great.
After over a year since the second season of the anime finished its airing, KyoAni has released their final work for their famed K-ON adaptation. A movie with anime-original content or "filler" is something that normally carries a very negative connotation. For a person who doesn't see themselves as a large fan of the series, this may appear to be something pointless, or, in the most severe form, a cash grab for the series. Though KyoAni has always prided themselves in selling based on the quality of their products, it's safe to say that these worries have absolutely no basis in the movie.
This is in many ways the true ending to the series. It’s something that takes the expectations from the brilliant second season and goes above and beyond with what the series is truly capable of. Cute girls, comedy, and other important traits of the series remain prominent here, but it's also something that shows itself to be much more than that.
K-ON is a series that needs no introduction. It’s always had a simple premise – young girls playing in a music club and growing up and having fun along the way. Yui is as ditzy as ever and Azusa is still her strict and mature self, though not without the character growth that came towards the end of the TV series. Taking place a few weeks before their graduation, the girls of the series make one last trip together as a full group in London to end things off with a smile. And just as you would expect, seeing the characters in a completely foreign environment and in a variety of strange and unique situations is a very delightful and amusing thing.
Surprisingly, there's a large amount of exposition and build-up in the beginning as well as a lengthy goodbye at the end when they come back home. This isn't a movie that starts and ends with their trip in London – it begins with a full 30-minutes of introduction and deliberation leading towards the trip. After finally boarding the plane and dealing with Yui’s silly shenanigans along the way, we see them in London making their way around the city sightseeing, having fun, and unfortunately for them, stumbling around and getting into several misunderstandings from their lack of knowledge with the English language.
They travel to many locations within the city that are based on and modeled after the actual locations, which is something that KyoAni has shown themselves to put a lot of work into. For somebody that lives in London or has been there frequently, there’s a lot of familiar sights in the movie which reminds the audience that this isn't a story that takes place in a fictional setting, but our own living and breathing world. Even for people that aren't familiar with the city, it gives a great glimpse at what the life and culture there is like and what the city has to offer. This is the real London, the hotel they stay at and all the locations they visit are very much real and lifelike places. And for a large part of the movie, you will feel like you’re traveling alongside the girls and witnessing all the silly and interesting things that they experience.
A lot of complaints towards K-ON can be directed towards a perceived lack of music which was established as the theme at the very beginning of the series. And while that does carry a small sense of validity in the TV anime, the movie is definitely something that will alleviate those complaints immensely with the amount of music the girls play and the amount of new tracks implemented here. A large portion of the screentime is spent by the girls performing music, both in London and back at home at their school. There aren’t just one or two new songs added in for the movie, but five in total, all performed and sang by the girls and their seiyuu. Two of these songs include a unique opening and ending while two of them are performed by the girls on-stage, and another exists as an insert song while they’re exploring the sights of London.
Background music is also much more varied and includes classical music reminiscent of the England from centuries past while others are more contemporary and involve catchy guitar riffs. While the background music in the TV anime wasn’t something that stood out most of the time, it is quite impossible to deny its presence here in the movie. Each track adds heavily to the emotional value and they also had me close to tearing up just from the music alone during a couple of the more serious scenes. This is a soundtrack that will be found incredibly hard to forget, especially with repeated and future seeings of the movie.
Another thing in particular that KyoAni should be commended for here is the quality of animation and the detail of the scenery. It's honestly breathtaking at times and the characters and environments move so fluidly that it puts even the TV series to shame, which is saying a hell of a lot. Thankfully, many unique outfits are given to each and every character in the movie, rather than falling to the trope of a single outfit for the entire trip like many anime do. It's very evident here that KyoAni put all their efforts into making sure the production quality is high up there, and it's a very pretty anime as a result of that.
A large part of the emotion stems from the audience’s attachment to the characters, but with the direction of the movie itself and especially in the last thirty minutes, it finds a perfect way to end the series and tie it together with the ending of the second season. The story behind the song performed for Azusa during their graduation is easily the largest theme next to the seniors themselves moving on, and the movie goes into full detail with the creative process and emotion put behind that song. It’s what makes their final performance in the clubroom so meaningful and even more emotional than it was in the second season. With all the build-up and cues set before that point, it’s quite difficult to resist shedding a few tears or feeling impacted as the story of the five girls finally reaches its conclusion.
Many people praise previous KyoAni works like "The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya" and "Clannad After Story" as being some of the best of anime, but now it’s quite safe to say that KyoAni has opened this spot for a third title.
This is our final goodbye to the series, and what a beautiful goodbye it is.
“But, O, how bitter a thing it is to look into happiness through another man’s eyes!”
– Shakespeare, As You Like It
By the end of this humble review, the case may be that I will find myself skewered by countless pitchforks and torched at the stake by those who bear disdain towards K-ON! for forging what is igniting the burning passion in my heart for all to see. In spite of this inevitable dreary destiny, I shall boldly write on and write on I shall ‘till kingdom come for friend or foe to witness. So without further ado, before I enrage the angry mob
which desires my public evisceration and execution to the point where they can no longer withhold their murderous intent, I shall grace your eyes with the weaving of this golden yarn of mine.
Infamous for its intricate, innovative and inspiring PLOT, or rather a lack thereof, K-ON! has garnered a reputation for being an inane and unproductive moefest after two seasons of moe madness featuring the endless antics of the musical moeblob members of the Houkago Tea Time Club.
But that is what it is.
And it will stay true to itself regardless of how irrational it may be. Because the story of the hectic daily lives of these high school girls aiming for the Budokan, and their various shenanigans along the way, is the quintessence of why we love them, or hate them, depending on which side of the spectrum that you may be.
This iconic image remains unaltered in its motion picture premiere. Indeed, there is never a dull moment in the world of K-ON! as it flawlessly maintains its ditsy eccentricity from Japan to England and back. That’s right. In this chapter of their high school adventures, the K-ON! girls travel to London, the birthplace of many talented musical prodigies, for their much awaited graduation trip. As with each episode of K-ON!, one cannot help but imagine in anticipation and in expectation of what lies in each installment, however it is usually the case that we are often wrong in our predictions of the coalescence of the events.
The same concept is applicable to the movie, which welcomes its audience with an explosive heavy metal opening that stands in stark contrast to the light and fluffy music that we are accustomed to. However, after a period of violent and erratic headbanging, I came to revisit the overwhelmingly nostalgic innocent and happy-go-lucky atmosphere which characteristically defines K-ON! We are immediately reminded that this chapter in the K-ON! girls’ lives takes place in the period before their graduation, after the senior girls receive confirmation of their acceptance into university. As such, they are presented with the dilemmas of how to celebrate their graduating year and final high school days as well as what will pose as the more uncertain and difficult challenge of expressing their gratitude to Azusa.
With these elements of PLOT presented, KyoAni does a splendid job of executing this duality by not only making the graduation trip an exciting and memorable experience for both the K-ON! girls and their spectators, but also succeeds in weaving the narrative fabric to incorporate the latter aspect throughout the film. And thus, we are once again thrust into the wild wacky absurdity of K-ON! From silliness on the airport conveyor belts which are undoubtedly amusing to tread on, to getting lost in a foreign land resulting in an unintended musical performance via a case of mistaken identity and Engrish gibberish, K-ON! and their fans embark on a misadventure with more destinations than what was planned on the trip itinerary. All of which was expertly animated by the talent at the KyoAni Studio, which never fails to dish out perfection with a side dish of K-ON! The addition of CGI that complimented the meticulously drawn conventional animation was a great welcome and generated eyegasms aplenty.
The movie also serves as a fast-track tourist trip to London city as we travel with the K-ON! girls to famous landmarks such as the London Underground, the Borough Market and the banks of the River Thames where the Tower Bridge, the London Eye and the Elizabeth Tower containing Big Ben all lie in their gloriously animated state. For those who have been to the massive metropolitan city, it is a refreshing sight to view its beautiful landscape in animated form. By the same token, it stirs a desire to retrace the steps of the K-ON! girls in those who have yet to travel to the hallmark destination.
Moving on, the audience is once again graced with the excitement that a typical K-ON! musical gig provides. KyoAni doesn’t disappoint its fans with the animation of the gigs, which leave me jumping and pumping my fist in the air in tandem with the song. I’m just kidding, I don’t do that. As we approach the film’s conclusion, we re-experience the nostalgic bliss of the end of the senior girls’ high school days and their final gift of gratitude to Azusa that they worked so hard throughout the movie to have come to fruition, which takes form in the performance that is depicted in Episode 24 of the second season. Witnessing the penultimate events which led to the pinnacle of that emotional scene was the most masterfully executed moment of heartfelt nostalgia that I had the privilege of experiencing and I felt the full brunt of the bittersweet joy that I basked in once before.
One would like to believe that after three years have passed since the debut of their high school years, the K-ON! girls would experience some sort of progressive change as they nurtured each other’s growth. However, that is far from the case as the only thing that has probably altered is the fact that they have become complacent to each other’s idiocy, and therefore have become increasingly idiotic. Hirasawa Yui returns as your friendly neighborhood airhead guitarist and stars in all of the crazy acts of hilarity which we all know and love. Tainaka Ritsu’s erratic hard-headed large-forheaded rash irrationality compliments Yui and completes their comedic duo in their plethora of stunts. Akiyama Mio. Ahem. Wait a moment please, I must compose myself. So Mio flawlessly and triumphantly makes her stunning comeback as our adorable and lovable cute and pure maiden. Bubbly Kotobuki Tsumugi and her eyebrows of awesome return to be Mugi and bubbly. Nakano Azusa, also affectionately known as Azunyan, becomes translated into Engrish as Azu-Cat and remains the most sane and levelheaded member of K-ON! Even side-characters make their respective cameos to remind the viewers of all of the individuals with which the K-ON! girls have met in their high school journey. Oh and Sawa-chan looks damn delectably delicious in black. In essence, KyoAni manages to preserve the iconic identities of all of their characters and work their magic by making the vast array of personalities interact and mingle in new ways.
Now how could I possibly forget about the musical score of a series centered around a group of girls who are characterized by their identity as band members? The soundtrack recycles some of the K-ON! series background music pieces to retain its iconic happy-go-lucky feel, but we are introduced to new music as we enter the realm of the English homeland K-ON! style. This is welcomed with open arms as it adds to consolidate the foreign setting of the film. In addition, the OP songs “Unmei wa Endless!” and “Ichiban Ippai” are sure to satisfy the listeners who are yearning for more K-ON! fluff. On the other hand, ED song “Singing” which bears the angelic –singing- voice of Hikasa Youko emanates the same feel as her previous K-ON!! ED piece, “NO, Thank You!” However, the film returns to showcase hallmark tracks which have defined its musical prowess such as “Fuwa Fuwa Time,” “U&I,” “Gohan wa Okazu,” and “Tenshi ni Fureta Yo.” All in all, the film’s soundtrack features some new spectacular tracks and reintroduces their predecessors to keep K-ON! music and nostalgia fresh.
Watching the K-ON! Movie has been the most exhilarating anime entertainment experience that I have witnessed and I am eternally grateful for seeing this legendary series meet its conclusion with such sparkling splendor. Bravo KyoAni for creating a beautiful masterpiece.
And in the end, Yui still got to go to Europe.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I am being carried against my will by this legion of pissed off K-ON! haters to be burned at the stake. I guess I have to visit the hospital after to treat this multitude of pitchfork punctures too. Well don’t worry, it’s just a flesh wound.
I watched it while a tourist vacation in Japan last December. I've been a great fan of the series since it came out (thanks to the fansubbers), and my friends convinced me to go and watch it despite we didn't understand almost any japanese.
It was a great experience and a nice way to say goodbye to Kyoto. It's funny, heartwarming and matches perfectly with the final episodes of the series. Can't wait to watch it again. ^^
K-ON may be a controversial series, and some may think anything to do with K-ON is nothing but overrated. Subjectively, I love the series. The daily school lives of the light music club and the live gigs, are never tiring to watch. Throughout season one and two, the series had shown us a simple, fun, relaxing and heart-warming ambiance through and through. As soon as the movie’s subs was out, it doesn’t take long for me to pop up my video player, and enjoy another near two hours of cuteness and fluffiness.
The school year is drawing to a close at Sakuragaoka Girls' High School, and
with it will come the graduation of four of the five girls in the school's light music club. The girls have already spent plenty of time together during and after school having fun, making music, and drinking tea, but what better way to cap it all off than with a graduation trip? After some serious deliberation and a little outside help, the five girls decide to go to London, guitars and bass in tow. Between visiting Abbey Road, seeing palace guards, drinking afternoon tea, and more, they've got plenty to do on their schedules, but how much of the trip will go as planned? While these sorts of questions have a tendency to sort themselves out, one more question is weighing heavily on the minds of the four seniors, Yui's in particular: what kind of song will the four write as their goodbye to Azusa, the one junior they'll be leaving behind?
Fans may insist that it is impossible to grasp all the qualities of K-ON! without being intimately familiar with the franchise, and to a degree, they would not be wrong in saying this. However, the film still succeeds in its attempt to please fans across the spectrum, drawing even the most unfamiliar viewers into its world through its minutely detailed characters and fun, thoughtful story while also providing more than enough to keep hardcore fans happy.
Our heroines do arrive in the promised land, but much of the stereotypical sightseeing the girls do is summarized fairly quickly in a montage of short moments at famous locations. The speed at which this all goes by may be a let down to some, but on the converse, this approach does an excellent job of capturing how a highly-planned overseas vacation in an unfamiliar land might feel, as rather than actively engaging in their sightseeing, the girls' experience seems to passively happen to them as they whisk themselves off from one spot to the next.
While the film's first two acts are well-paced and easy to follow, the third and final act may prove to be the most divisive between hardcore fans of the K-ON! franchise and those who aren't. Not only have the girls returned from a lengthy and conclusive trip by this point, but viewers will also have grown accustomed to the film's technical aspects, meaning that the significantly lengthy end segment hinges around the emotional drama between the girls as all but one of them spends their final days in high school.
The production quality for the movie is insanely high. I love KyoAni’s realistic rendition of the city of London, which looks exotically breathtaking. The detailed and vibrant background is noteworthy, and it exactly highlights London’s busy streets and beautiful scenery. The animations and some of the carefully chosen angles make them as comparable as most of K-ON’s high-quality ending sequences. Also, the several number of food scenes expressed and reinforced the cultural opposites of the girls’ usual obsessions; teas and cakes, which was pretty refreshing.
As for the music in the film, all of the girls' catchy, fluffy power-pop songs heard in the various performance scenes will be familiar to those who have seen the television series, as the three new songs by the K-ON! girls are used are all heard outside of the context of the story.
While this probably goes without saying, you're looking for a theatrical anime experience that will blow you out of your seat, K-ON! is probably not the movie for you. What it is, however, is a very well-crafted and whimsical look into the lives of the movie's five heroines, with each of its constituent parts supporting and creating a polished final product. Its story might just be about a group of girls who go on a school trip, but they're are quickly made into characters who you develop emotional connections with and naturally want to watch as they go about their lives. While it may seem like a light message delivered in a sugar-coated package, K-ON! does a brilliant job of reminding us that sometimes who you choose to spend your time with is more important than what you do with that time.
All in all, the movie shows us the five good friends doing what they do best; messing and playing around, relaxing, trying to come up with new songs and procrastinating; all the way in London.