Wednesday, August 29, 2012

K-On!! Season 2 Blu-Ray US vs. JP review and comparison (vol 2)

Sentai Filmworks released the first half of K-ON!! (retitled “K-ON! Season 2” for the North American market) earlier this summer, and two months later, the second release featuring the remaining 14 episodes is here. In other words, one third of the overall TV anime is contained on these two Blu-Ray discs, and in my personal opinion the best part of the series, making it very important that Sentai have treated it right. So – have they?

In a word – yes. If you own the first volume, containing the first 13 episodes of the season, or if you read my review of it, you know what to expect from this set. The discs are presented in a standard blue case, displaying the cover art from the sixth of the Japanese volumes. Not surprisingly, there are no extra physical goodies here besides the actual discs, but with a list price of $69.68, it wouldn’t be fair to expect.

Disc 1, featuring label artwork of Ritsu taken from the Japanese volume 5, opens with the typical FBI warning (not skippable), a trailer for (skippable) and finally the Sentai Filmworks logo before presenting us with the main menu. The menu screen consists of the disc’s pop-up meny displayed over a colorful background with the English K-ON! logo on it. From here, you can enter the language selection menu, or choose from which episode you want to begin your viewing session. On this disc, we find:
  • 14 – Summer Training!
  • 15 – Marathon Tournament!
  • 16 – Upperclassmen!
  • 17 – No Club Room!
  • 18 – Leading Role!
  • 19 – Romeo & Juliet!
  • 20 – Yet Another School Festval!
  • 21 – Graduation Yearbook!
  • 22 – Entrance Exam!

Disc 2 features label artwork of Mio taken from the Japanese volume 8. It opens with the FBI warning and Sentai logo, then presents us with a main menu similar to that of the first disc, but with a submenu for special features. Episodes on disc 2 include:
  • 23 – After School!
  • 24 – Graduation Ceremony!
  • 25 – Planning Discussion!
  • 26 – Visiting!
  • 27 – Plan!
In the special features menu, we find clean (textless) versions of the opening and closing sequences (“NO, Thank You!” for the win!), disc credits, as well as trailers for “The World God Only Knows 2”, “This Boy Can Fight Aliens”, “No. 6”, “Intrigue in the Bakumatsu – Irohanihoteto”, “CLANNAD After Story” and “ef – a tale of memories”.

As always, language options are English dubbed audio (default setting) and original Japanese audio with English subtitles. Both audio options are presented in 2.0 stereo 24-bit lossless DTS-HD Master Audio, and sounds… just as it should. It’s not the most flashy sound mix to begin with, but with a show like K-ON!! that’s not particularly surprising. I must confess I haven’t really watched the English dub – being the card carrying dub hater that I am – but after sampling a few scenes throughout, I have to say it seems like a relatively good dub. My viewing method of choice, however, is original audio with subtitles. The subtitles here are yellow and rather sizeable – a little too much so, in my opinion, but they get the job done.

Video is presented in AVC-compressed 1080p. There are some slight occurrences of banding, but it’s not too intrusive and certainly not as bad as the worst instances in season 1. Overall, I don’t think the K-ON! TV anime has ever or will ever look better than it does here.

Sentai’s release of K-ON!! Season 2 may be low on extras, but as far as quality is concerned it definitely gets a passing grade from me. But what of those collectors who want those extras, even if they cost an arm and a leg and come without any translation? There is one version to turn to for that, of course, so here’s the obligatory look at the Japanese editions containing roughly the same episodes as Sentai’s final volume.

I wrote about the first four Japanese volumes in my review of the first half of the season, which leaves volume 5 through 9 to look at now. The basic specs are the same as before – three episodes per volume, still image featuring background art from the series used as main menu background with “Have some tea?” from the season 1 OST played over it, with one “Uraon!!” short per volume and two audio commentaries per episode (cast commentary/staff commentary) being the main on-disc bonus features. Additionally, the season’s second set of clean opening and ending sequences is included on volume 7.


Video is, as with the US release, AVC encoded 1080p. All audio, including that of the commentaries and bonus features, is presented in Linear PCM. Since both US and JP versions feature lossless audio, I can’t really say one sounds better than the other.

Each volume comes with a life-sized cloth poster of one of the nine regular characters, that all combine to make one huge, continuous picture with which you can scare off your friends. Each poster comes folded inside a cardboard box that comes bundled with its corresponding Blu-Ray volume. The fifth volume comes with a poster depicting Mio just finishing taking her skirt off to reveal the school swimsuit she’s wearing under it.

Every volume also features character artwork on the reverse side of the cover, and on the disc label. For volume 5, both the reverse and the disc art features your favorite drummer or else!, Ritsu Tainaka.

And of course – the stuff. Each of the Japanese volumes comes with a few additional physical goodies included in the Blu-Ray case. In volume 5 we get a “filmstrip” style bookmark featuring Mugi, a black guitar pick with a picture on Nodoka on one side and the K-ON!! logo on the other, a set of six stickers of the silly photos Ritsu and Mugi took in “Summer Training!”, and a little bio on two of their classmates, including fan favorite Ichigo.

For volume 6, the cover reverse and the disc label both feature Nodoka. In keeping with the established theme for the disc art, she is holding up an audio cassette with her name on it.

As for the stuff that comes with it: Mio guitar pick, filmstrip bookmark of the Sawako group glomp from the opening sequence, another bio card of three more classmates and a set of cutesy stickers like the ones Yui likes to put on everything. This volume’s cloth poster is of Azusa.

The cover reverse of volume 7 features Azusa, as does the disc label. The cloth poster that comes with it, meanwhile, depicts a sly Sawako.

Included with this volume are an Ui guitar pick, a sticker with the HTT emblem as seen on their t-shirts in “Yet Another School Festval!”, filmstrip bookmark of Nodoka being glomped, and two more classmate bios.

The volume 8 disc label features Mio – the same artwork used for disc 2 of the the US set. The cover reverse also features Mio, perhaps not surprising at this point.

The stuff for volume 8 includes: Azusa guitar pick, five more classmate bios, a filmstrip bookmark showing Ui and Jun getting stereo glomped by the group, and a sticker version of the farewell card presented to Sawako by the class in the finale. The bundled cloth poster depicts a cheerful Ui.

The ninth and final volume does things a little bit differently. The cover reverse features Ton-chan and Jun, but the disc label is a group shot of the five Ho-kago Tea Time girls, holding up “that” cassette tape.

Included with volume 9 we find: The final filmstrip bookmark, featuring the HTT five laughing together, a guitar pick with the HTT logo on it, three classmate bios and a sticker that looks like the cover of the year book seen in “Visiting!”. The accompanying poster, the last piece of the “puzzle”, if you will, depicts an embarrassed-looking Nodoka.

But that’s not quite all. The final volume also comes with a box to hold all nine volumes of season 2, much like the final volume of season 1 came with a box for those seven volumes. It can be debated whether these boxes are particularly pretty to look at, but at least they match.

The Uraon!! shorts on these five volumes see the HTT girls holding an emcee contest among themselves (volume 5), do three minute cooking (volume 6), ponder the possibilities of adapting their song lyrics into plays (volume 7), tell their own versions of famous fairy tales (volume 8) and finally, imagine Yui as a superhero, kind of, before trying to do a Light Music Club rap (volume 9).

If you’re looking to buy K-ON!! on Blu-Ray, I’ll happily recommend the US release from Sentai. If you’re happy just getting the actual episodes themselves, or are dependent on English translation, it serves its purpose as well as can be expected. If, however, you want some extra bells and whistles, don’t mind the lack of any translation from Japanese and can afford to spend significantly more money – well, I don’t suppose there’s any reason not to get the Japanese editions.

Finally – the obligatory screenshot comparisons! Japanese Blu-Ray on top, US Blu-Ray below. Is there a difference in quality? You be the judge!







  1. For some weird reason, Season 2 doesn't seem right in the dubbed form. The voices are good but I get the feeling that it probably should have never been dubbed. I can watch Season 1 dubbed but for some reason I always end up switching the language track when I watch Season 2. The dub is kind of awkward sounding. Luckily the issue with the subtitle size has been fixed for the Australian release.

    1. So the Australian release is not just a duplicate of the Sentai discs? Interesting.

  2. They just changed the size of the subtitles and got rid of the English credits. Other than that, I think it's pretty much identical. Right down to the annoying sound issue with episode 11. Although unlike Sentai's release, we get this monstrosity.

    Apparently there's also going to be some goodies that come with it like character profiles and postcards.

    1. They removed the English credits? That's odd.