DVD Review – K-ON! Volume 1

K-ON! follows a group of new high school students adapting to their surroundings by participating in after school clubs. Whereas it’s not essential or necessarily encouraged as much in UK schooling, in many institutions abroad they’re quite serious about them as has been documented and demonstrated in many TV and film projects.

I began watching this DVD knowing very, very little about the franchise other than the fact that music was somehow integral to the overall plot. When the opening scene shows one of the main protagonists Yui waking up late for her first day at high school only to discover when she arrives there she is in fact early because she read the time incorrectly on her clock, you instantly know her character might the irregular one of the bunch or a clutz to be quite blunt. The other main protagonists are very well established within the episodes included on this release in part due to the common goal they share namely the further development and stability of the club they are in.

At the conclusion of the first episode there were so many possibilities for how the story could develop in my mind it actually got me very excited and encouraged me to watch more. Given I generally prefer action based stories I was surprised I felt this way but that shows how good the story telling is in a setting like this.

As I progressed through the DVD the creators did a great job of bringing characters backgrounds to light and how certain aspects would affect the overall demeanour of others. Yui, who as I mentioned earlier is one of those people who despite being a very warm hearted and outgoing person can’t seem to get anywhere on time, is very easily distracted and could annoy people by her actions which are by no means intentional.

Tsumugi, who seems to be from a wealthy background given the many hints, is a very kind hearted person who doesn’t appear to have a bad bone on her body.

Ritsu, the more outgoing of the bunch has a lot of energy and determination but just needs the right motivation to lead her on the correct path.

Mio is the one who is very down to earth and seems to have the most vested interest in the progression of the club. In the later episodes of this DVD she is the one leading the charge for the group to take the next step and work towards a goal that will no doubt play a pivotal role at a later point in the narrative.

The very light hearted feel of the series as a whole combined with the excellent production and soundtrack that compliment it so well is a real pleasure to witness. There is always a fun vibe about the series despite some of the minor trials and tribulations that the group encounter within these first four episodes.

I mentioned the soundtrack. With the series being very musically driven in the plot the soundtrack always features melodies and rhythms that you could envisage a band playing. An excellent example being a bass guitar riff that generated the exact feeling any soundtrack trying to encapsulate the same moment should be able to do. But because it had the vibe of a bass guitarist playing it and the focus was on the bass guitarist of the group, Mio, it added to the moment tenfold.

While I have tried to be as spoiler free as possible in this review, and that’s not say that’s going to change before I conclude, I do want to point out how the series doesn’t seem to take place within a set time frame of a few days, but is driven more by particular situations. It is a refreshing change to watch a series like this and not feeling tied a particular plot line that could drive the overall tempo of a story arc. These first four episodes take you completely on different scenarios that all fit into a clearly defined timeline but don’t lock you in one short time period. These episodes alone take you across a whole school year by the look of things but because it’s more about the situations with the characters it doesn’t have any negative affect on your viewing. If anything it enhanced mine knowing it could take me on different twists and turns each episode.

K-ON! Volume 1 has blown me away with what it has offered. My few expectations and pre-conceived notions were instantly removed and replaced with a very enjoyable 90 minutes or so light hearted fun that has left me wanting more. The DVD comes with both the English and the original Japanese audio track for all the episodes. The standalone extra is worth watching as it is an interview with Stephanie Sheh, the English voice of Yui, where she answers questions about playing the role and being involved in the project.

This DVD is available to purchase now thanks to the good folks at Manga Entertainment UK from all good retailers.

– Jeremy Graves

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