My impressions of the first volume of K-ON! were positive in regard to its approach to providing an entertaining and light-hearted Slice-Of-Life show, yet I felt it had some flaws in the music department and English dub – and while this volume makes some improvements to these gripes, more problems start to surface.
The summer holidays are over and the girls of the light music club are continuing their usual duties of relaxing in the club room, when a book is discovered. It shows past bands of previous music clubs and includes a picture of a familiar face in what looks like a KISS tribute band (although the unimaginative band name “Death Devil” tells me otherwise.) The current members are having a problem of not being recognized as a proper club and it’s Ritsu’s fault for not handing in the club papers. Thankfully, they are given a chance to amend this, but only if they can find a student adviser. Enter Sawako Yamanaka, who comes across at first as a kind and mature teacher, until the club girls find out that she was part of the “Death Devil” band group in the past. It is then that she reveals her true personality: a crazy, over-the-top guitar player.
Sawako certainly fits the immature attitude of the group musicians and also has an interesting reason why she was so focused on becoming a guitar player, yet I find I can’t really relate to her character. It’s down to the fact that’s she’s embarrassed to reveal to the school the truth about her talents, the crazy outfits she used to wear, and the music she loves. I can’t relate to this since my teachers were very open when we talked about music and what they did at gigs. As the episodes progress, Sawako starts to get less interesting and more annoying as she makes costumes (such as the usual anime “maid outfit”) and has a very over-the-top attitude that began to irritate me rather than make laugh.
As the school festival approaches, we get to see a very human side of the group; most members are nervous about their first band performance and Mio, being the most shy, has the worst of it, especially since she is the one who got caught up in writing the lyrics and now has to perform them. This part was well realized. The festival band performance of “Fuwa Fuwa Time” provides us with a unexpected music video that pays tribute to older music videos and reminded me of the ones that used to air on MTV.
However, I still have a problem over the band’s musical progression. When we see the musicians practising, they’re always playing an end snippet of “Fuwa Fuwa Time”, yet by the next performance they have unexpectedly created four songs! This just feels unrealistic; also (although it’s become one of the band’s charm’s) the lyrics sound too cheesy at times, the best example being “I hold my favourite stuffed bunny tight and go to sleep again tonight.”
Unfortunately, I also have some issues with the English dub. One of the worst mistakes comes from Mio’s voice actor, who reacts too early in the festival haunted house scene in Episode 6 – something I noticed right away. The other voice actor performances are best described as underwhelming, although they raised a few laughs. I would imagine Bandai Entertainment rushed the recordings and they don’t really have an excuse.
Still, if you discount these gripes, K-ON! remains as charming and light-heated as ever. Some scenes focus on Yui’s younger sister Ui, showing a very sweet relationship between them both which makes their scenes instantly watchable. And as the club members enter their second year, a new first year student appears to be interested in joining which could provide some refreshing opportunities. It just shows what you can do without plot or drama.
Two extras are provided: a Fuwa Fuwa Time music video (which just shows episode highlights of the series, a lazy extra) and a interview with the English voice actor for Mio (Cristina Valenzuela) talking about the character and how she got the part in the audition, which should interest fans.
K-ON! is still a very entertaining and relaxing show to watch, although the second volume has some problems; luckily this doesn’t detract from the fact that so far it’s proving to be a good Slice-Of-Life series.