For those of you who have yet to taste the Kool-Aid of K-On!, now's your chance to finally take a sip. Bandai has just released the first 4-episode disc of this series, and it's your chance to finally join the rest of us in the cult that is K-On!. While only this first portion of the series is available, the review will tackle the entirety of K-On! -- including K-ON!!, which Bandai hasn't yet announced a license for. The show moves at a slow enough pace that a single-disc review wouldn't amount to much.
Watching the community throughout the airing of the show, I've come to learn that K-On! is a love it or hate it mentality -- and it's something you'll know almost instantaneously once you start watching the show. But that's the issue: you have to watch it in order to see.
This review will be useful if you've been on the fence for a while, or if you just want to see what the dub is like. Hit the jump!
K-On! Disc 1 [DVD]
It's hard to fluff up the K-On! story beyond what it really is: a show about a bunch of girls in a high school band who mostly eat cake and drink tea. Occasionally they play "Fuwa Fuwa Time." They go on summer vacation trips in order to practice to be the best girl band ever. But mostly it's about these girls just sitting and talking. And eating cake.
It lies far on the extreme of the slice of life and moe genre. If you were looking for something along the lines of Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad, where the girls learn to discover themselves through music and ultimately achieve their dreams after fighting tooth-and-nail for them, then you are sadly mistaken.
The show is mostly about showing off these relationships between the girls, and the music takes a very strong backseat to the show. There are times when the music is put on stage to shine, such as at the school festival and other live performances, but those times are rare compared to the overwhelming majority of the show.
But that doesn't mean this show isn't totally worthless. Over the course of all three seasons, K-On! proves itself to be a show about friendship and growing up in life, and by the end proves itself to be quite touching. The only issue is, these themes aren't particularly explored until the third season, with the impending threat of graduation looms over their head and the character perspectives shift some.
Until then, it's mostly just tea and cake.
As I mentioned earlier, the love/hate aspect of the show really manages to skew your perspective on things. For some, such as myself when I first watched it, it was an interesting show to kick back and relax to. Watching K-On! was a chance to watch cute girls do cute things without feeling guilty for watching a fluffy show -- unlike Ladies vs. Butlers!, for example. If you're on the other side, though, as I am now after having watched K-On! once through already, the show feels like a slow and laborious half hour without any payout at the end. It can be truly frustrating to watch.
I've hemmed and hawed over which way to go with this review, because I have those conflicted feelings of jaded emotion versus the nostalgia of my first time watching it. Ultimately, I suggest watching K-On!. The show is a fun romp in the park the first time around, the music is catchy, and if you manage to make it to the third season, you might even cry a bit.
But watch it in Japanese.
While I can't judge the singing all that much (the first concert would take place on the second DVD), Cristina Valenzuela didn't do a bad job at the live performance at Otakon last year wasn't bad. She sang as a reasonable facsimile of Mio, and I enjoyed it. But the regular banter between all the characters on the DVD just felt…plain. It's extremely difficult to cast voice actresses for high school girls, because they either come off as too high-pitched and peppy (as Stephanie Sheh does for Yui) or far too old (as Laura Bailey did for Nodoka). It's not that they do a bad job, it's just that the characters don't have that same spark of life to them as the Japanese cast did. If you're a die-hard dub fan, you won't be suffering in pain to watch this show, it's just not my recommended viewing method.
K-On! was a good show in its specific medium -- as a week-to-week broadcast show that gave us a little bit of insight into these characters' lives, almost as a chunk of our own. We were able to catch up with a group of friends and see what they had been up to. But watching it in a different medium, where you can watch multiple episodes back-to-back, is like having those friends stay for too long. The cute antics start to get on your nerves, and the time that they're there just seems to drag on.
Certainly, the show has its merits and I'm glad to have watched it when I did, but I don't think it will stay as a show to rewatch.
Score: 6.0 – Okay. 6s are just okay. These series usually have many flaws, didn’t try to do anything special, or were poorly executed. Some will still love 6s, but most prefer to just skip them. Read more reviews before you decide.
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