Wednesday, September 28, 2011

CD review: “Fuwa Fuwa Time” Chorus Husky Yui version

In my review of the “Fuwa Fuwa Time” CD single, I mentioned that another version of it exists on disc. This is it; the “Chorus Husky Yui” version. The disc contains only one track; “Fuwa Fuwa Time” as played by the Light Music Club in episode #6 “School Festival!”. Meaning that unlike the regular version, which sounds like a normal professional studio recording, this one has been mixed to sound like a live performance in the school auditorium (the main difference from the actual episode being that this is a full length four minute version) – and, like the title suggests, includes Yui’s husky-voiced background vocals which makes the track pretty funny. Pretty much a novelty CD, in other words.
The disc comes in a clear transparent jewel case, with a four page cover inlay. The included lyrics are printed in the same style as in the regular “Fuwa Fuwa Time” single, yet not completely identical.
The backside of the cover is clear, so that you’re looking straight at the actual CD. The disc itself is facing down inside the cover, leaving the label – which is almost identical to the regular “Fuwa Fuwa Time” CD, but with the text “Chorus Husky Yui” added on the right side – visible through the backside of the jewel case.
It probably goes without saying that this novelty version of the Light Music Club’s signature song is by no means a must-have for most fans. What makes it frustrating for completists, though, is the fact that it was never made available for purchase – instead, a total of 10,000 copies were given away as prizes in a mail-in contest in 2009. So with a finite amount of copies in existence, it’s not going to be the easiest K-On! CD to come by. It’s definitely out there – as evidenced by the fact that I managed to get my grubby hands on it – but don’t expect to find tons of it going for reasonable prices on eBay or anything.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Live Album details

The official TBS website of K-On! has revealed a few details about the previously announced CD release of the “Let’s Go!” and “Come With Me!!” live events. Each show, previously released on DVD and Blu-Ray, will be getting a multiple-disc set containing the full set list. Each album will be available in a regular and a limited edition, and both are set for release on November 16th.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Fan stuff! Azunyan…

With the release of K-On! volume 3 on Blu-Ray and DVD, Azusa has now been properly introduced to American audiences (yes, yes, I realize everyone knew about her already. Just play along). To celebrate the arrival of the new Light Music Club member, let’s watch some old YouTube clips about her, shall we? First, a bit of silliness…
Next, a bit of silliness…
And finally, a bit of silliness bordering on creepy.
Speaking of Azunyan, I think it’s time to have a look at that K-On! movie app again to see how much time is left until the movie premiere.
Wait – what…?

Friday, September 16, 2011

K-On! Blu-Ray US vs. JP review and comparison (vol 3)

The third volume of Bandai Entertainment’s North American K-On! release is here, which means it’s time to have a look and see how it fares in comparison to the original Japanese Blu-Ray discs. The episodes on this volume are culled from two of the Japanese discs, so I’ll be looking at both of those before moving on to the Bandai version.
The fifth Japanese volume comes in the usual pink Blu-Ray case and contains two episodes, #9 “New Club Member!” and #10 “Training Camp Again!”. These episodes concern themselves primarily with the introduction and gradual integration into the Light Music Club of new member Azusa Nakano, or “Azu-nyan” as she is soon nicknamed by Yui. The opening sequence has been updated to include footage of the newcomer, and a second guitar has been subtly added to “Cagayake!GIRLS” to indicate her part in the band. Nice touch.
At this point, I’d like to bring up the fact that the textless version of the first opening (sans Azusa) was included as a bonus feature on the Japanese volume 4 BD, something I neglected to mention in my review. Just another feature missing from the US release…
Speaking of bonus features, though – what does this volume have to offer? Well, for starters; there’s another four page character bio, this time about Mio. The Mio theme continues with this volume’s guitar pick (Mio depicted on one side, the K-On! logo on the other), another piece of “Fuwa Fuwa Time” sheet music with Mio’s scribbles on it, and the cover reverse features her as well.
Breaking with the Mio theme, however, is the Azusa paper doll (which makes sense, as Mio’s paper doll was included in volume 3), the cat ear sticker and the disc art, which features Mugi feasting on a delicious snack.
In terms of on-disc extras, there are the usual two audio commentaries per episode, this time with Ayana Taketatsu permanently joining the cast commentary. The Uraon! short this time is called “Deserted Island” and has the Light Music Club stranded on a… deserted island, apparently for real.
Moving on to volume 6; this volume again features two episodes, but only one of them – #11 “Crisis!” is included on Bandai’s volume 3, leaving episode 12 for the future fourth and final volume.
The cover reverse this time features Mugi, but the physical extras otherwise don’t have a specific character theme. The bio this time is for Azusa, the guitar pick features Ui and the “Fuwa Fuwa Time” sheet is Mugi’s. There is no new paper doll, but maid outfits for each of the five paper dolls included in previous volumes (does anyone actually use those for anything?). Finally, in honor of the Light Music Club’s band finally being named in this volume, there’s a sticker with that name on it.
Oddly, it is spelled “Houkago Tea Time” here, which – while not technically incorrect – is not how the name is usually romanized on official merchandise. On CD singles and other relevant products, the name has always been spelled “Ho-kago Tea Time”, which is why I will be using that name (and not the other spelling, or any variation of “After School Tea Time” as the English versions call it – although the original manga occasionally references that name), or just HTT.
Moving on, the disc art features Azusa enjoying a snack with her new “name” on it. Bonus materials include cast commentary and staff commentary, as usual, and an Uraon! short in which the club members imagine each other as animals. Yeah.
As always, the Japanese Blu-Ray discs feature each episode in glorious looking AVC encoded 1080p with lossless linear PCM stereo audio. No complaints there.
Now then – let’s look at the Bandai release, which contains three episodes instead of the usual four and comes at a slightly reduced price because of it.
The cover is taken from the Japanese volume 6, which is fine, although I personally would have preferred it if they had gone with the volume 5 cover (if only because that back-reference in a later episode will now be lost on American viewers if and when season 2 eventually gets a US release). That’s a minor point, though, and not a legitimate complaint.
As usual, there is nothing in terms of physical extras, nor is there anything else inside the cover besides the Blu-Ray disc itself. The disc art continues the instruments trend from previous US volumes, with Ritsu’s drum kit on display this time.
The main menu screen features clips from the three episodes contained on the disc, accompanied by the usual piece of music. The episodes themselves are presented in glorious looking AVC encoded 1080p, but with lossy Dolby Digital 192 kbps audio for both the original Japanese track and the English dub. Speaking of which; some may feel relieved to know that the English dialogue – both in the dub and in the subtitles – retain the name “Azu-nyan” rather than change it to “Azu-meow” as the English version of the manga did.
Bonus features include a six minute interview with the Cassandra Lee, the English voice of Ritsu, in which she is asked those typical boring questions to which no interesting answers exist (I don’t mean to be a jerk, but honestly; why do they think I have any interest in knowing the name of Cassandra Lee’s best friend?!) as well as a frankly terrible English version of “My Love is a Stapler” (aka. “Watashi no Koi wa Hotchkiss”).
There’s also the usual trailers for other Bandai releases, the same ones as on previous volumes. Normally I’d say these don’t count as bonus features but in all honesty I’d rather watch the trailer for “The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya” for the umpteenth time than Bandai’s original K-On! extras. If only they’d include at least some of the bonus features from the Japanese discs… Something, anything. Oh well…
On the other hand, extra features are just that; extra. The episodes themselves are obviously the reason to buy this Blu-Ray, and the episodes themselves look great and sound decent. With three out of four volumes out now, there is only the fourth and final volume to wait for before the first season of K-On! is complete.
Finally; here are some screenshot comparisons between the Japanese Blu-Ray and the US version (Japanese screens first, US screens under). Can you see a difference?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

CD review: “Maddy Candy” single

While the CD single for Sawako’s High School band Death Devil was among the last CD releases to come out of K-On!’s first season, the title track “Maddy Candy” was actually the anime’s first insert song.
Well, kind of. You only ever hear a fragment of the song in the series itself – specifically in episode 4 “Training Camp!”, when Mio plays it back from an old cassette tape (including of course the guitar solo that Yui imitates).
The B-side “Hell The World” isn’t heard in the anime per se, but Sawako’s trademark yell opens the track. Both songs are composed and arranged by K-On!’s music producer Shigeo Komori, with words by KANATA. The usual instrumental versions are also included.
Is the music any good? Honestly, I’m not qualified to give an informed opinion. This isn't the type of music I’d normally listen to, although I don’t find it too hard on the ears either. Still, I have a feeling that the type of music aficionado who would think “Death Devil” is an awesome name for a band rather than an over-the-top parody band name would probably not be too impressed.

Ah, that adorable K-On! charm...
The CD comes in a standard jewel case, one of those old-fashioned ones that don’t have a clear spine. The disc features a rather unique design involving a skull and a scythe, and the cover inlay consists of two four-page foldouts – one containing the credits (all in English) and one containing the song lyrics.
No, that is not a black & white photo.

Death Devil’s “Maddy Candy” is probably the least interesting K-On! CD for most fans, except of course for those whose taste in music happen to be closer to this kind of style. For the rest of us, this single is of interest primarily for completion purposes, or for some, I’m sure; not at all.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

CD review: “Fuwa Fuwa Time” single

The first song written and performed by the Light Music Club, “Fuwa Fuwa Time” has become more or less the signature song of the band and to some extent the K-On! anime itself. With lyrics “by Mio”, taken directly from Kakifly’s manga (and expanded upon for the anime) and the music composition credited in the anime to Tsumugi Kotobuki (but really by Hiroyuki Maezawa, composer of “Don’t Say “Lazy””) the song can be considered the classic K-On! song.
This CD single includes a full-length version of the song, based on the performance in episode 6 “School Festival!” with Mio (Yoko Hikasa) doing lead vocals, but with a more polished sound and with Yui (Aki Toyosaki)’s background vocals done straight rather than with the husky voice (a full length version of the “Husky voiced Yui” mix exists, but that CD was never commercially released and can be a little tricky to come by).
The single’s B-side track is “Tsubasa wo Kudasai”. Not the short instrumental version played in the first anime episode (Remember that? Well, no, if you’ve only seen Bandai’s US version, you wouldn’t… Okay, okay, moving on!) but a full three minute version in an original K-On!-style “rock” arrangement with all four club members taking turns doing the vocals.
Following that is the usual instrumental mix of both songs, followed by four additional instrumental versions of “Fuwa Fuwa Time”, each one subtracting one of the main four instruments.
The CD single comes in a standard clear jewel case. The regular kind, not the thinner ones often used for singles.
The cover insert is a simple four-page booklet, with the song lyrics and the credits found inside. The lyrics are done in a hand written style. One may wonder whose hand writing this is supposed to be.
The CD itself is blank and shiny like CD’s tend to be, with no artwork aside from the cutesy “hand writing” style titles.
There isn’t a whole lot more to say about this, I guess. The CD doesn’t come with a whole lot of bells and whistles, but the content is what’s important here. It’s “Fuwa Fuwa Time”. That in itself should be enough information for any K-On! fan to decide if this CD is worth getting or not.

Monday, September 5, 2011

News: K-On! movie trailer and song titles released!

Broadcaster TBS’ official K-On! website has been updated with streaming video of the new trailer for the upcoming K-On! movie. Unlike the previous two teasers, this is a full-on trailer that shows actual footage from the film.
In addition, the website has revealed the titles of the new songs that are to appear in the film (and are briefly previewed in the trailer): An opening song named “Ichiban Ippai”, a theme song named “UnmeiwaEndless!” and an ending song named “Singing!”. Tom-H@ck (“Cagayake!GIRLS”) composed the opening and theme songs, while Hiroyuki Maezawa (“Don’t Say “Lazy””) is responsible for the ending song. Shoko Omori wrote the lyrics for all three.
Three months to go…

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Fan stuff! Drummer Girl!

Something you’ll find a lot of on YouTube is videos of people playing along to K-On! songs with their instruments – some successfully, others less so. One who has caught the attention of many K-On! fans is the (currently) 14 year old drummer Senri Kawaguchi, who has done numerous such recordings. Her K-On! covers aren’t necessarily her most impressive performance (check out this video from when she was nine years old!) but hey, this is a K-On! fan blog.
These three videos were all done back in 2009, not too long after the anime first started.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Upcoming releases

So, I figured it’s time to post an updated list of upcoming K-On! media. Only Japanese and English language versions listed.
September 13th“K-On! Vol. 3” anime DVD/Blu-Ray (US)
September 14th“K-On! Vol. 2” anime DVD/Blu-Ray (AUS)
September 27th“K-On! Anthology Comic Vol. 5” manga (JP)
November 14th“K-On! Vol. 2” anime DVD (UK)
November 16th“K-On! Vol. 3” anime DVD/Blu-Ray (AUS)
December 3rd“K-On!” movie theatrical release (JP)
December 5th“K-On! Vol. 3” anime DVD (UK)
December 13th“K-On! Vol. 4” manga (US)
January 9th“K-On! Vol. 4” anime DVD (UK)