It’s been a week now since the second live event featuring the cast of K-On!(!) was released on DVD and Blu-Ray, and it has already found its place in the number one spot on the Japanese Blu-Ray sales chart. And rightfully so – if “Let’s Go!” was a grand celebration of all things K-On!, “Come with Me!!” is nothing short of epic. Having taken place this February in Saitama Super Arena which has a spectator capacity of 37,000 people, it is bigger, it is better, and it is long enough to warrant a 2-disc release; a first for the K-On! franchise.
Note that this review, as well as the content being reviewed, makes references to specific story points in K-On!!, so new fans who have yet to watch season 2 should probably skip this for now.
The show is presented in glorious 1080i, and looking better than “Let’s Go!”. Audio selections are Linear PCM 5.1 and Linear PCM 2.0, with the 5.1 track being the default selection. The pop-up menu is tasteful and non-intrusive, occupying only a little bit of the bottom-left corner.
Starting up disc 1, it begins with the usual string of non-skippable company logos, before the main feature starts. The show actually has two different beginnings, accomplished with seamless branching. The default beginning starts with a title screen, then transitions to the beginning of the show, the other – which can be selected from the menu – starts with a fade in to an establishing shot of the audience, and continues with various shots of the stage and the crowd for close to five minutes before the school bell sounds and the show opens. It’s a smart little add-on that gives the viewer a better sense of the atmosphere and anticipation, but some viewers might not want to add another five minutes on to an already long feature – the event already lasts for more than three and a half hours(!).
It starts, like “Let’s Go!”, with a video on a big screen above the stage introducing the names of the cast members and their characters. And like with the first event, it is set to a piece of music that’s a variation of Hajime Hyakkoku’s “Tea Time” theme – but this is a brand new arrangement, not heard in the TV anime or on any OST CD. As I mentioned in my review of “Let’s Go!”, the version used at that event was new at the time as well, and would later turn out to be from the season 2 OST. Could it be that this new arrangement is actually from the upcoming K-On! movie?
Probably not. The “Come with Me!!” event took place on February 20th, almost ten months before the movie premiere, and the score is typically one of the last things added to a feature film. Still, you never know…
After that, the stage lights up, and the five main cast members appear. As they prepare, an energetic instrumental remix of “GO!GO!MANIAC” is played over the speakers, which eventually transitions into the first song of the night, which is – surprise, surprise – “GO!GO!MANIAC”.
Without further ado, they continue with the next song; “Listen!!”. Then it’s time to greet the audience, introduce themselves and make some small-talk. They leave, the lights fade, and it’s time for the character songs.
After a looooong duel between the two guitarists, Aki Toyosaki takes the stage with “Oh My Giita!!”. I disliked this song when the single was first released last year, but it’s been growing on me and Aki’s charisma and stage presence will not be denied.
All the backing band members from “Let’s Go!” are back this time, with a couple of new additions. Before Yoko Hikasa enters the stage to perform her character song, we are treated to a little performance by the two bass players.
Mio’s character single was always my favorite out of the season 2 batch, but somehow it doesn’t stand out that much compared to the others when performed live. That’s not to say Hikasa disappoints with her performance, she’s as spirited and entertaining here as ever, and even pulls out the old “moe moe kyun!” once again.
Next up is a solo by the drummer, and… the second drummer? Yeah, that’s right. Not only do we have two guitarists, like on the first event, but two bassists and two drummers. Didn’t see that coming.
When the intro is a double drummer performance, it’s not hard to guess which cast member is up next: It’s Satomi Sato, of course, Ritsu herself. She puts on a better show this time – although her singing has not really improved, she compensates with copious amounts of energy and spunk. And it works for her, very well.
Before the next song starts, there’s the obligatory solo by… two keyboard players? Nope! Just good old Shigeo Komori playing two keyboards by himself. For those who don’t know, Shigeo Komori is the music producer for the K-On! TV anime. He is also the composer for all the Death Devil songs, and responsible for the arrangement on many other K-On! tracks.
A short appearance by the two guitarists, and Ayana Taketatsu appears to perform Azusa’s character song; “Over the Starlight”. She appears confident and secure in her performance this time, a step up from her appearance in “Let’s Go!”.
With the HTT members’ character songs out of the way, it’s time to introduce the supporting cast: Asami Sanada (Sawako), Madoka Yonezawa (Ui), Chika Fujito (Nodoka) and newcomer Yoriko Nagata (Jun).
As soon as the cast has introduced themselves, Toyosaki announces a “special guest”: None other than the director of the K-On! TV anime and feature film; Naoko Yamada. This is when the first snippets of information regarding the K-On! movie are revealed, along with the release date: December 3rd.
After some chit-chat, it’s time for the supporting cast’s character songs. First is Yonezawa with Ui’s “Uki Uki New! My Way”. Personally, I didn’t care much for her first character single, so this song is a step up in my opinion and Yonezawa’s performance here is quite good.
Next up is Yoriko Nagata with Jun’s “Junjou Bomber!!”. It’s a pretty good song, but unfortunately Nagata’s performance is not quite up to par with the others. She does pretty good for the most part, but on occasion she starts to yell the words instead of singing and it just doesn’t work, coming across as rather awkward.
By far the best performer of the three is Chika Fujito with Nodoka’s “Jump”, which is also the best of the three songs. It’s a shame, and puzzling, that Fujito hasn’t seen more success as a voice actress after K-On! – she’s clearly talented, and with K-On!’s popularity, you’d think she would have no difficulty finding more work even if her character is not one of the most popular ones.
The stage goes dark again, and we are presented with a character skit played over the speakers while the screen shows still pictures of the characters. It ends with them opening a door, and then – the five main cast members appear in the middle of the arena and situate themselves on a small square stage right in the middle of the audience. It’s time for some Ho-kago Tea Time songs, and we’re treated to “Ichigo Parfait ga Tomaranai”, “Tokimeki Sugar”, “Honey Sweet Tea Time” and “Gohan wa Okazu”.
It’s a fun and eventful session and I won’t go into too much detail about it – I can’t spoil everything now, can I? I’ll say this, though – I was glad to have a 5.1 surround setup when they started dividing the crowd into different “teams”.
Eventually, the five of them leave and disappear backstage – allegedly to drink tea. We hear some rumbling, and a mini-stage of sorts gets rolled out on the main stage. It’s none other than Death Devil, this time presented as a complete band – Katherine (Sawako/Asami Sanada) and Christina (Norimi/Yuu Asakawa) on vocals and guitar, Della on bass and Jane on drums (the latter two characters represented by two professional musicians for the occasion).
As with the Ho-kago Tea Time songs, the music is pre-recorded with the “band” miming with their instruments. Some might consider this a step back from the live performance of “Maddy Candy” on the first show, but the trade-off, of course, is that we get a complete “Death Devil” on stage this time, and hey – they look the part.
Surprisingly, they open with the season 1 single; “Maddy Candy”. After Katherine introduces the band members, they move on to “Love” from season 2 and it’s quite a spectacle with pyrotechnics and dramatic lighting.
Once the Devils retreat, the rest of the cast are seated at a table, and proceed to read a scene in-character. Much like with the first event, the reading is accompanied by still pictures on the big screen. They are joined by Sanada and Asakawa partway through, and the complete cast is gathered on stage for the first time. It’s worth noting that the script portrays Norimi's first meeting with the other secondary cast members.
At this point, the main five are wearing shirts featuring the HTT design from the T-shirts their characters wore during their legendary final school concert in episode 20. Maybe this is because the live performance – the actual live live performance is drawing close? But before that happens, it’s time to switch discs – disc 1 ends at the 2:03 mark (or 2:07, if you’ve chosen to watch the extended beginning).
Disc 2 doesn’t force any copyright warnings or company logos on you, and jumps right back into the event, fading in to the same birds-eye view disc 1 ended on. It’s time for the HTT voice cast to do their “for-reals” performance, where they actually play their characters’ instruments rather than just mime and sing.
While you can still obviously tell they aren’t professional musicians, they have certainly improved. Although the songs they play here – “Pure Pure Heart” and “U & I” – have been slightly modified to fit the abilities of the performers, they still sound like the songs you know from the album and singles. It is clear that once again, significant effort has been put into this.
Next, the stage goes dark and the screens show stills from memorable and important scenes from the anime – while the backing band plays an atmospheric instrumental version of “U & I”. This is a new arrangement, not a version previously heard in any episode or on any CD.
The pictures on the screens fade away, the music ends. And then it hits – the song. The stage still in darkness, each singer is illuminated by a spotlight during their part. They aren’t holding any instruments, the backing band is playing the music. It’s for the best. There is no pretend-playing or stumbling ones way through the song. The performance is exactly as emotional as one would expect, and when the four singers are re-joined by Taketatsu afterwards, she is wiping tears from her face.
The five then do one last “for-real” live performance: “Fuwa Fuwa Time”. The arrangement is the same as on the “Let’s Go!” event, minus the encore chorus and with Hikasa doing the lead vocals on the second verse. They bow, and leave the stage.
There’s an encore, of course. First off is probably my favorite K-On!(!) song; “NO, Thank You!”. Not surprisingly, it’s followed by “Utayo!!MIRACLE”, which is a great hit with the crowd – the enthusiastic audience sing-along during the “daisuki!” part moves certain cast members to tears. They then leave the stage again.
Double encore! The group re-appear, and break out some season 1 classics: “Cagayake!GIRLS” and, of course; “Don’t say “lazy””. They say their thanks, bow, and leave, again, but does anybody actually believe it will end like this?
It doesn’t, of course. But what follows isn’t another HTT song – this time, the five are joined by Yonezawa, Nagata and Fujito to sing the Sakuragaoka school anthem, with Asami Sanada “pretend-playing” the piano. After the song, they are joined by Asakawa, and the full cast is once again present. Everyone gets a turn to deliver a short speech, thanking people and crediting members of the backing band. Toyosaki takes a moment to point out that guitarist Tom-H@ck is the esteemed composer of “Cagayake!GIRLS” (as well as a number of other songs).
Finally, everyone contributes to the grand finale – “Come with Me!!”. I’m not a fan of the song, but honestly, it’s the perfect ender to the evening and when the cast leave the stage for the final time, once again to the tones of “Ii Yume Mite ne”, I can’t imagine anyone watching has not had a great, fun time.
Of course, three hours and forty minutes worth of footage from the actual event is not all you get on this Blu-Ray set! In addition to the last 1 hour and 33 minutes of the main feature, disc 2 holds a whopping 50 minutes of bonus material – quite a step up from the 16 provided on the “Let’s Go!” Blu.
|"It's me and Yui!"|
First off, a series of interviews – one for every cast member – from about a month before the event. It appears to be during a photo shoot, and we see each cast member draw themselves a little poster with their name on it to hold for the photo session, much like their characters do in the last K-On!! opening sequence. (16 minutes, 51 seconds)
|I can has cake?|
Next up is footage of the main cast being presented with their instruments for the first time way back in February of 2009, before K-On! even began to air. Fun to see, although one can’t help but wonder why this was saved for this release rather than included on the “Let’s Go!” Blu-Ray. Also; this footage was clearly not shot in HD and has very noticeably lower quality than the other video on the disc. (3 minutes, 56 seconds)
Following that is a video showing the cast rehearsing their live performance in a studio. It’s quite interesting to watch, for a few moments anyway, as they work to prepare for the big night. It ends with a shot of a (again) moved-to-tears Ayana Taketatsu watching her cast mates perform the song. (4 minutes, 13 seconds)
Next is a longer featurette shot the day before the event. It begins with time-lapse footage of the stage being built and readied, and moves on to footage (much of it shot by the cast members themselves) of the cast exploring the empty arena. We get some good up-close views of areas that weren’t heavily featured in the actual event footage, such as the design of the stair case on the stage which is modeled after the stars leading up to the club room in the anime – complete with turtle and hare figures. (11 minutes, 47 seconds)
Lastly, there’s the footage taken on the actual day. This is similar to the backstage featurette on the “Let’s Go!” Blu-Ray, beginning with cast members talking about their outfits (there’s a funny moment where Sato chases Hikasa and Taketatsu out of the room when they interfere during her segment), getting ready to go on stage, and finally, arriving backstage after having finished the show. (14 minutes, 10 seconds)
This whole thing, as usual, comes packaged in a pink Blu-Ray case. This one is a little thicker than the ones for the anime episodes or “Let’s Go!”, which is only natural considering it has to hold an extra disc.
The inside of the cover features the same picture used as the menu background on disc 1 as well as the opening title screen.
The case contains, in addition to the discs, a 24 page booklet featuring color photos from the events as well as credits. It follows the same style as the one that came with the “Let’s Go!” Blu-Ray.
Disc 1 features the same artwork as the cover, with all ten cast members standing in a circle around the center of the disc.
Disc 2 has different art work of the five main characters looking out at the audience. The same art work is used for the menu background on the disc.
If you get the Limited Editon – and why the heck wouldn’t you? – you also get a 124 page book full of beautiful color photos chronicling the event from start to finish, as well as – apparently hand written – notes from the cast. The cover features the HTT emblem as seen on the jackets the cast wore during their session on the smaller stage in the middle of the arena.
The book comes in a clear plastic sleeve, but is not attached to the actual Blu-Ray cover in any way once you remove the shrink wrap. It’s more like two items that come bundled together.
The list price for the standard edition Blu-Ray is 9,345 yen and the LE is 10,290 (The DVD is 8,295 but who gives a crap?). The price may seem kind of steep, but it shouldn’t be too hard to find it (at least slightly) cheaper – and in any case, I can honestly say that as far as I am concerned it is completely worth it. Casual fans may want to pass on this, but for any true K-On! devotee, or a collector; “K-On!! Live Event – Come with Me!!” is an absolute must-have.