K-ON Movie! (Naoko Yamada, 2011)

Today is the last day to catch 16th Japanese Film Festival in Melbourne, – so hurry! Here’s another film to (hopefully) whet your appetite:

K-ON Movie! (2011) has a pretty self-explanatory title. Following five spritely high school girls from the wildly popular Japanese anime series K-ON, K-ON Movie! goes to great heights as the girls embark on their first London adventure together. However, K-ON Movie! still keeps itself firmly rooted to the ground by primarily focusing on the endearingly strong bond between five friends.

Before I begin, I’d just like to admit that I have never read the manga series or watched a single episode the K-ON anime. So, these characters were pretty unfamiliar to me, and some might argue that watching K-ON Movie! would be rather redundant now. (It’d be like watching the future Arrested Development movie with no clue about the Bluths, perhaps.) But, I shall try to persevere and just address the movie solely  (please excuse any severe mistakes I’ve made about the K-ON canon!).

K-On-Movie-16K-ON Movie! revolves around five teenagers who belong to an after-school high school music club. As the Ho-Kago Tea Time girl band, they probably drink tea more than actually rehearse. However, four out of five of the girls would be graduating, leaving the youngest member Azusa to fend for herself alone in the high school. The band have decided to embark on a graduation trip to London instead and also, write a surprise song for Azusa.

We’ve seen a Western interpretation of an Asian country countless of times in Hollywood films. Now, K-ON Movie! had its turn in presenting their version of London. Well, the British characters had pretty er, phoney British accents. Also, perhaps as an emphasis on multiculturalism in Europe, or Japan’s global presence – the girls stumble upon a sushi restaurant on their very first night in London.

Like Bushido Sixteen, the tale of female friendship is deeply enriching here. The film is, of course, not about their London adventure at all, and it is the friendship that propels K-ON Movie! forwards. The unity between the five teenagers is immensely sweet, as they always stand by each other. Their bickering and interactions between each other are entertaining too (it reminded me of my own girlfriends, whom I miss very much). As an avid tea drinker myself, their teatime rituals are pretty hilarious and just plain lovely. On the last day of school, the girls performed a guerrilla gig of sorts – in a classroom, on desks – a scene that would make Jack Black from School of Rock proud, I think.

Another feature of K-ON is evidently, its music as well. The girls write their own songs (also sung by the five voices themselves), primarily ones about food – from spicy curry to rice as a carbohydrate. They’re pretty rock ‘n roll, which still maintaining a teen girl edge. My favourite song was the one penned by the four graduating girls for Azusa. As they performed the song for her, I couldn’t help feeling incredibly touched and it was an absolutely heartwarming scene.

As an adorable portrayal of friendship, K-ON! Movie is a well-executed anime film that would satisfy any K-ON fan, or like in my case, even delight any regular viewer.

My rating: ***

Japanese Film FestivalThe 16th Japanese Film Festival will be running in Melbourne till 9 Dec, and also in Brisbane from 7-16 Dec. Check out my coverage of the festival.

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