Friday, November 25, 2011

K-On! Blu-Ray US vs. JP review and comparison (vol 4)

The fourth and final volume of K-On! on Blu-Ray (and DVD) arrives in North America on November 29th (delayed a week from the original release date – an odd choice, since several online stores have already had it in stock for a while). Containing the “final” episode “Light Music!” as well as the two “bonus” episodes “Winter Days!” and “Live House!”, this release finishes up the first season much as one would expect after having seen the previous three volumes – but before I get to that, I’ll have a look at the final Japanese volume.
Volume 7 of the Japanese Blu-Ray release contains the two “bonus episodes” (episode 12, or the “final episode”, was included on the previously discussed sixth volume) and follows the standard set by the series so far. As usual, the disc comes with a number of physical extras, the biggest this time being the big art box intended to hold all seven volumes.
When first opened, it comes with a sort of cardboard wrap-around which extends from inside the box, keeping the Blu-Ray case in place. The part that wraps around the outside of the box displays the cover image of the seventh volume. When this is removed, the remaining six volumes fit nicely inside.
I can’t truthfully say that I think this art box is a thing of beauty, exactly, but hey – at least you get a box in which to keep the BDs, which is more than I can say for the US release. Disappointing, really, considering most markets in which K-On! was released – be it on Blu-Ray or DVD, or both – got one or more nice boxes to house the collection.
Inside the actual Blu-Ray cover this time are some printed promo materials for K-On! related goods, another four page bio (this time with Ui and Nodoka sharing the spotlight), yet more outfits for the paper dolls that came with previous volumes, another version of the “Fuwa Fuwa Time” sheet music, a Ho-kago Tea Time sticker with the newly designed logo on it (see episode 14) and an Azusa guitar pick. The disc art features Mio, and the cover reverse features Azusa.
Disc specs are more or less the same as usual – 51 seconds’ worth of forced, unskippable company logos on startup, a static background menu screen, AVC encoded 1080p video and uncompressed PCM stereo audio, Japanese subtitles. Bonus features include the expected two audio commentaries per episode – one featuring members of the production staff and the other featuring the cast, another Uraon! short (this one about the HTT girls’ winter days) as well as creditless versions of the ending animation sequence and the second opening sequence.
With that out of the way, it’s time to check out Bandai’s US version and see how it fares in comparison. First of all, the cover art is the same as that of the final Japanese volume, fittingly enough.
As before, the US edition comes with absolutely nothing in terms of physical extras. The disc art this time features – as one might guess – Mugi’s keyboard. The company logos on the disc are, mercifully, skippable and the menu follows the established style with clips from the episodes contained on this volume playing in the background.
The episodes themselves are presented again with lossy Dolby Digital audio at 192 kbps which, again, is not at all surprising at this point although it’s still unfortunate. Video looks good for the most part, although there is the occasional ugly banding (in fairness, this is also present on the Japanese disc). The subtitles are good, although there are a couple of oddities – for one thing, during the flashback scene in episode 12 where young Nodoka is seen watching a kids show on TV, the dialogue from the TV is subtitled but at one point they stop translating and say “Kid’s show continues until cut, but it’s ad-libbed”. That’s fine, but why even bother to explain that in the subtitles? The dialogue is inaudible anyway, no one would have noticed. My guess is, this line was never meant to make it into the final disc and someone made a mistake. The second oddity is a little inconsistency in regards to how the title and the phrase “Fuwa Fuwa Time” is handled. In previous volumes, and in episode 12 here; it is left untranslated. In episode 14, however, it’s subtitled as “Fluffy Time”. Now, I have no problem with the fact that they give the song an English name – after all, they did the same with the other HTT songs so it’s actually rather strange that they didn’t do it for this one until now – it’s just puzzling that, well, they did it at this point.
As before, the disc contains absolutely none of the bonus features from the Japanese Blu-Ray. Bandai confirmed on Twitter recently that they “weren’t allowed to” include the textless opening and ending sequence, and it stands to reason that the same is true for the other extras as well. This is very unfortunate indeed, as it ensures that the only bonus features on here are the ones produced by Bandai themselves and thus only of (possible) interest to dub fans. In other words, there is nothing here for fans of the original version, like myself.
As for what is here – well, I won’t criticize it too harshly because it’s better than nothing, and I know there are some people who do enjoy this stuff though I can not for my dear life understand how. We get a “music video” (read: a senseless montage of random clips from the episodes on this volume) of an English version of “Brush Pen, Ballpoint Pen”. Oddly, the song is not performed by Cristina Vee even though it’s Mio who sings this song in the anime. I can’t quite place the voice that is singing – if it’s Stephanie Sheh, which is the most likely candidate, then I have to say she fails pretty hard at singing with Yui’s voice, if she is even attempting to do so. She sounds absolutely nothing like Yui, even American!Yui, here. Next we get an interview with Shelby Lindley, the American dub voice for Mugi, in which she is asked the same boring questions as the other three cast members were asked in their interviews. Finally, there’s the same trailers for other anime DVD releases as the first three volumes contained.
Screenshot comparisons: (Japanese BD first, US BD second)
This marks the end of Bandai Entertainment’s American release of K-On!’s first season, and although it has been disappointing in some regards it’s still nice to finally have it complete. And I, for one, hope that a license of the second season won’t be too far behind.


  1. Hmm... the america blu-ray look a bit faded:(

  2. In the Australian version they still have the original artwork on the disc of them eating donuts

    1. they also had artwork on the inside cover and released a collector's box with the first volume

    2. Yeah, I've seen videos of it on YouTube and it looks pretty nice. I know the disc contents are exactly the same, but it's a shame Bandai couldn't at least go the extra mile with the packaging and design like Madman did.