You may have noticed recently, I’m soliciting more Guest Reviews. There is one very serious reason why – I love Guest Reviews. ^_^ I’m not being facetious, I really do love having the pleasure of reading your thoughts, and deciding for myself whether I agree with you. As I always say, Okazu readers are really smart, interesting people. I may not agree with you – but I love hearing what you have to say. ^_^
In the case of blockbuster series K-ON!, you may remember that I heard rumors about the Blu-ray…and I don’t watch dubs, so returning Guest Reviewer Marc M. is here to cover these two very important issues. But before I do, I just want to tell you, in case you wondered, common wisdom says that Yui is playing a Cherry Sunburst Epiphone Les Paul Special 100 and, because otaku are easily influenced, TBS actually sells a Hirasawa Yui model.
For those of you who missed it, here is my review of the regular DVD (and subtitles, rather than dub.)
And now, I will turn it over to Marc!
The story is about Yui Hirasawa (Aki Toyosaki/Stephanie Sheh) a new high school student who ends up joining the light music club because she thinks it plays easy music. There she meets Ritsu Tainaka (Satomi Satō/Cassandra Lee), Mio Akiyama (Yōko Hikasa/Cristina Valenzuela), and Tsumugi Kotobuki (Minako Kotobuki/Shelby Lindley). They become fast friends, and Yui becomes the guitarist in the band the other girls have put together. The episodes are slice-of-life stories about their daily lives and adventures (such as helping Yui buy a guitar). It’s fun, light storytelling. So if you like that sort of thing, this anime is for you.
But I’m here to specifically look at the Blu-ray and to review the English dubbed version.So let’s get down to it.
The visual: I’m a big visual kind of guy. For me, how the picture looks is a big part of whether or not I’m going to enjoy an anime. The quality of the picture on the Blu-ray is superb. It is crisp and clear and shows off the artists’ work. You can see the work that went into designing the landscapes, backgrounds, and buildings. The characters stand out beautifully. I’ve been spoiled by HD, and this anime didn’t disappoint me.
The voice acting: Stephanie Sheh, Cassandra Lee, and Laura Bailey (who play Yui, Ritsu, and Yui’s childhood friend Nodoka Manabe respectively) are well chosen for their characters. Each actress brings their own take on their characters that aren’t exactly like their Japanese counterparts, but still feel like the right fit. You can hear Yui’s ditzyness, Ritsu’s rashness, and Nodoka’s competence. I usually like listening to the original Japanese, but they won me over with their acting.
The Sad (no, that’s not a typo):
The sound: The biggest complaint from the detractors is that the sound quality is poor. Well, it’s not. It’s just not great, and that’s almost worse. Blu-ray technology is supposed to enable companies to add to the quality of their work. There is great potential with Blu-ray technology, and to not use it to that full potential is a waste. With this anime, Bandai wasted that potential. The sound is in plain old 2.0 Dolby stereo. That means you can hear everything: the dialogue is understandable and the background music never overpowers the dialogue (believe me, it’s happened in other DVDs I’ve had). Unfortunately, you’re never immersed in the sound. When you’re immersed in the sound you get more out of the experience of watching an anime. But Bandai decided it wasn’t worth using 5.1 or 7.1 surround. And that’s just sad.
The Voice Acting :Wait, you’re saying to yourself, didn’t he just put voice acting in the good category? You’re right, but there are some problems with the voice acting as well. Cristina Valenzuela and Shelby Lindley (who play Mio and Mugi respectively) both both play their characters as softspoken and shy, which is how they are supposed to be portrayed. However, unlike in the Japanese track where Mugi and Mio are very distinctive, here the two actresses sounded too much alike. At times during the show, if I couldn’t actually see whose mouth was moving when they spoke, I couldn’t always tell which of the two was talking. That was a little distracting.
Only 4 episodes: That’s right, only four. Blu-ray can hold large amounts of data, but they only put 4 of the 12 episodes on this disk. That’s like binding a 500-page book, but only having writing on 200 of the pages and leaving the last 300 pages blank. What was the point? Bandai pays a lot of money for the Blu-ray technology and then does nothing with it that they can’t do with regular DVDs. I don’t get it.
The extras: Really, I don’t understand some companies. There’s all this space to put stuff on the Blu-ray and they give us one lousy interview with Stephanie Sheh. Don’t get me wrong; I love interviews with the voice actors (Japanese or English), but why only one? Why not all four of the main actresses? It’s not like you couldn’t squeeze them on there. In this day and age, it just feels miserly to not add a few more extras on Blu-ray. It feels like Bandai is trying to milk as much money out of this as possible. And that’s just ugly.
So on to the scores.
The anime: A great big 9. I love this anime. It’s fun, the characters are interesting, and the stories are light and amusing. A terrific anime about friends going through high school.
The Blu-ray: Now things get a little complicated. If you’re big on visual quality, 8.5. If you’re big on sound quality, 7.5 (maybe 7), and if you’re big on all the extra potential, 6.
That averages out roughly to 7 for the Blu-ray as a whole.
But that won’t stop me from buying the Blu-ray of volume 2. Like I said, I’m more of a visual guy.
Erica here: Thanks, Marc, for clearing up the issues. It sounds like Bandai doesn’t quite get the point of high-quality disk recording yet. Sort of like burning a scratched LP recording onto a CD. Okay if your requirement is archiving a dying technology….totally uncool for new music.