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Graduation is on the horizon for four of the members of the light music club, so Yui, Mio, Tsumugi, Ritsu and Azusa decide to celebrate the event with a trip to London...
K-On!: The Movie (2011 - 1 hr, 46 min, 17 sec) is a school drama, an offshoot of the series, directed by Naoko Yamada from a Reiko Yoshida script. The music was provided by Hajime Hyakkoku.
For those of you who have not seen the television anime, the show was based on a manga by Kakifly and tells the story of the two year friendship that the girls find when they form a music club. The film, like the show, details the girls lives, unusually focusing on their friendships. The film does have a subplot involving the four girls trying to write a song for Azusa, who because she is in the year below them, will be left behind when they go to university.
This, like the series, is a soft and pleasant world in which the girls live, although they have adventures on their trip there is no chance of anything really unpleasant happening to them. Watching the film for a second time I’m still not sure that the multiple endings work that well and overall the film seemed longer than its actual running time.
There are some issues with the character designs of the girls as, in the film they are supposed to be seventeen. We can excuse their continuous girlish glee, as this behaviour had been set down in the series, but it becomes obvious, at different parts of the film, the girls are portrayed as having different heights, especially when comparing their heights to any adult. At its most extreme the five girls look to be about seven years old and not seventeen.
There are further problems with the English dub. Apart from one English character all the rest appear to have attended the Dick Van Dyke school of English and for any actual British person listening to these vocal vignettes, the sound will be akin to scraping your nails down a blackboard. There are a few things which were not checked; we say "underground", not "subway".
There are other sequences which do not work because the joke is that the girls are trying to make themselves understood in English, when the dub is in English the joke just doesn’t work. There is also the last song they sing in London when the other girls exclaim that Yui is singing in English when the vocal track is clearly in Japanese.
That’s a lot of criticism for a film I thought was a little too long, but generally enjoyed as bright and breezy. The animation has a soft feel to it that perfectly matches the tone of the film. The vocal acting in both the Japanese original and the English dub work well. I had thought that the pitch of the girls voices were a little too high until I saw the actresses on the extras only to discover that they act and sound like older versions of their characters.
The film requires almost no prior knowledge of either the manga or the anime series as it works extremely well as a stand-alone tale. The level of animation is high and the depictions of London accurate, artists having been despatched to the capital to make reference drawings.
The film is presented on a two DVD set. The first DVD holds the film, which comes with both an English and Japanese 5.1 track with subtitles. The film is presented with a clean and detailed 1.78:1 aspect ratio.
The second disc holds all the extras, although in truth most of it is promotional material, rather than any in-depth look at the show or its themes. Minami Tanaka’s Dubbing Investigation Report (22 min, 39 sec, Japanese with subs) has a reporter interviewing the five main leads, or not really. The depth of the questions never get further than: "Why are there so many seats in the recording booth?" before they inexplicably embark on a tongue twister competition.
London Bus and Press Conference at TBS (19 min, 01 sec, Japanese with subs) and the girls, like their characters, arrive in London to promote the film, dressed as slightly sexualised versions of their characters. They talk about how much they enjoyed the project and how everything was wonderful, well it is a promotion so you get what you expect. Navi Show 1 2 3 IS K-ON! (24 min. Japanese with subs) is a feature with two TBS presenters enthusiastically discussing the show as well as its characters and history, although when they interview the actresses it becomes pretty much a repeat of the first extra.
Movie Premier Event (21 min, 41 sec. Japanese with subs), wherein the cast and director does a Q&A with the audience prior to the first showing of the film. Director Naoko Yamada in London (29 min. Japanese with subs). Here he takes the girls to some of the locations that will be used in the film and they take us along for the ride.
Good Luck Music Hall - K-On! Music Hall (14 min, 45 sec. Japanese with subs) Although it’s another TBS show promoting the franchise, it is notable for having sections where the voice actors actually performing the songs live in an arena concert, now the whole of that would have made a cool extra.
The extras are wrapped up with a collection of trailers, teasers and the textless opening and closing sequences.
I might have seemed harsh on the film's shortcomings, but this is a sweet tale which is guaranteed to grow on you.