「番外編 訪問！」 (Bangai-hen – Houmon!)
“Extra Chapter – Visit!”
The second bonus episode of K-ON takes place some time after the girls get accepted into the same university but before their graduation ceremony. Focusing on the yearbook photos and the vast majority’s discontent over their picture — particularly Yui — this final showing brought both sweet and funny moments to help tie-in the actual ending. Oh yeah, a surprise announcement about a K-ON movie was made at the very end too. Exactly what the movie will entail and when it will be released is anyone’s guess at the moment, but the official site has been already updated to indicate that one’s in production. As for the episode itself, the sweet moments came from Azusa reminiscing about a photo she took with her seniors upon joining the club, which had goofy-looking eyes thanks to our ever-so-reliable club leader but sentimental meaning nonetheless. The other one was during a house visit to Sawako’s apartment, where the photograph she envisioned for the light music club didn’t quite turn out the way she had hoped. Both were nice trips down memory lane and showed us a bit of the club’s past that we’ve never seen before, so that was nice touch for a bonus episode. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t strike any emotional chords with Azusa nor Sawako, since we all know that happened after the graduation ceremony.
As for the more lighthearted side of things, there was Yui’s floating oranges with her amateurish slight of hand, her dismay over seeing her grad photo and how it will be immortalized, Ritsu and Mugi faking out Azusa by making it sound like something happened to Sawako, everyone hiding from Sawako for no particular reason when they went to visit her, Mio suspecting that Sawako might have a secret boyfriend, Sawako shooting down Yui’s request to have her photograph retaken, and everybody freaking out at the mysterious hand on Yui’s shoulder in their class photo. Quite honestly, I can’t even remember the last time I laughed this much in a K-ON episode, with the last bit being one of the funniest moments since Ritsu even forgot that it was her doing. Sawako’s reaction in particular was absolutely priceless, but Mio coercing Ritsu to fess up on hands and knees was right up there. For whatever reason, I also got a good chuckle out of Sawako hoping and praying that Mugi would win rock-paper-scissors and be the one to cook dinner, likely because it showed how much little faith she had in the others’ cooking. Last I recall, Ritsu’s actually pretty good at it.
Given how this episode suggested that the light music club will live on with Azusa, Ui, and Jun trying to recruit one more member, I can see the justification behind leaving it off as a bonus episode at the very end. Having a bit of confirmation on that would’ve probably taken away from Azusa’s eventual emotional breakdown, especially when Yui and the others were aware that they were practicing for a live performance for new members. It was kind of cute how Azusa tried to keep it a secret, even though there was really no reason she had to. Somehow, it felt befitting that they ended off with the new club’s version of “Fuwa Fuwa Time” as Yui, Mio, Ritsu, and Mugi ran through the hallways and outside for a simultaneous jump, which Mio was overconfident about once before and was late when it counted. Things just had to end on Mio slip-up in one form or another, but at least this time she stayed on her feet! 🙂
It was the best of times, it was the cutest of times. K-ON was never be about the worst of times, as the high school days of the light music club simply don’t allow for it. All the time spent drinking tea and eating snacks in their clubroom was slice of life at its finest and had an almost inexplicable charm that extended well beyond the cute characters. At times it was the way Yui and the others lazed away without a care in the world, while at others it was Mio getting her uniform ruffled up and showing us some of her innocent yet-not-so-innocent neckline. More often than not it was the former case, where the extent of their problems involved career choices and entrance exams. None of them could ever be considered dire by any stretch of the imagination, but that’s the beauty of this genre and what K-ON took to ARIA-like levels with a comedic spin. Then there’s the actual music of Houkago Tea Time on top of the cast’s career-defining performances, which made me as entertained listening to it as it probably did Kyoto Animation, Pony Canyon, and TBS rich. It says a lot when an anime that airs 1:25am in the morning does as well as K-ON did in both Blu-ray and CD single sales, and even more so when they can sell out Yokohama Arena for a live concert event. More so than having a faithful following, the unsuspecting 4-koma manga by Kakifly has been transformed into a sort of cultural phenomenon among anime fans both in Japan and worldwide. People can call it “moe” and not like it for that reason, but the series’ popularity among all types of audiences both young and old is pretty undeniable.
I don’t think I’ll ever be able to properly trace the steps that took the series to what it is today (nor would I want to try), but I can explain why I personally enjoyed it. As alluded to above, the music will always be one of the big K-ON things to me. Their cutesy songs are probably not the coolest thing to be listening to while one’s cruising around in their car, but whenever a song is performed for the first time in the actual show, it almost always becomes a memorable one due to the immediate association wth the series. The songs themselves aren’t bad by any means either, seeing as Pony Canyon specializes in composing music for anime and Toyosaki Aki and Hikasa Youko have proven themselves as capable seiyuu who can sing. Incidentally, I’ve been a fan of Youko’s singing ever since I heard “Don’t say ‘lazy'” back in season one, and have nothing but utmost respect for Aki’s seemingly limitless talent in everything whether it be singing, acting, or even hosting concerts. With those two, Houkago Tea Time’s live performance at the school festival was always one of the big highlights in both the first season and this sequel. As for the absolute best part of the music in K-ON? It’s not even the main focus of the series.
With all that going for it as merely “bonus”, the amiable cast of characters and all their various nuances are the real appeal of the series and make it really easy to get into. It didn’t really matter what they were up to as long as they were in it together, because their everyday interactions and fairly laid-back outlook on life were always relaxing to watch and would often put a smile on my face. It was never really about making the viewer laugh until they cry (even though it was close at times) since the innocent type of humor was usually played up more. However, that seemingly uneventful depiction quickly became the series’ defining aspect to me and what I loved watching. Even when an episode was about nothing more than looking for a place to practice, there were all the little things going on that made it much more than it appeared on the surface. I never really knew exactly what I was in store for each week, but I almost always chuckled my way through it. On top of the lighthearted laughs, there were also times when the unsuspecting story would go for the more sentimental side of things, which provided an unexpected yet much appreciated depth to the characters and the series as a whole.
Admittedly, I’m not as sad as some viewers probably are about this series ending, as its 26-episode long run already provided much more than I was expecting after the first season’s 13-episode one. It ended on a high note with the live performance at the school festival and provided closure with the girls graduating and getting into the same school together, so I didn’t feel like there was a need to drag it out. Production-wise, Kyoto Animation upped the bar this time around with all the funding they likely got, whereas TBS’s recent changeover to 16:9 widescreen broadcasts right from the get-go saved me from watching this in butchered 4:3. At this point, I wouldn’t mind seeing some sort of sequel down the stretch should Kakifly get enough money thrown his way to make one, whether it centers around Azusa and the new light music club with Ui and Jun in their senior year of high school, or Yui and the others in their first year of university and reforming the club there. To tide me over until that or the movie rolls around, I think a re-watch is in order in the near future. The six month period that this series aired over made the earlier episodes but a distant memory, so it’s going to be fun going through the first half again. Keion daisuki!