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?


  1. In the comparison screens, the US version seems to have a slightly lighter shade overall.

  2. Maybe. More apparent to my eyes is the (slightly) heavier color banding in the US screens.