K-On! (Movie) Review – The Denouement of Two Seasons

akiyama mio hirasawa yui horiguchi yukiko k-on kotobuki tsumugi nakano azusa tainaka ritsu

On  a quiet afternoon a fortnight or two ago, I watched the once much anticipated K-On! movie; once anticipated, because it has been over a year—ages for fans with fickle memories—since I last saw its parent series. Still, the watch is comfortable, and perhaps even a bit too comfortable. The movie, devoid of heavy emotive impact, prefers relaxing blandness to poignancy.

akiyama mio hirasawa yui horiguchi yukiko k-on kotobuki tsumugi nakano azusa tainaka ritsu London

The unremarkable everyday is not boring per se. Indeed, I have always loved the lazy atmosphere K-On! evokes. A cup of tea, a few jokes, some cuteness—these are enough effort to put into these tough days. The subdued pacing is perfect the type of slice-of-life series K-On! is. The film version—Yui, Ritsu, Mio, and Mugi go on a pre-graduation trip to London—portrays this easiness of life beautifully. That the pristine animation and details are flawless help as well.

akiyama mio hirasawa yui k-on kotobuki tsumugi nakano azusa tainaka ritsu second season ending

What K-On! (movie) misses, however, from the series are the powerful emotions brewing under the quiet, slow high school lives. I remember vividly the bittersweet, yet inspirational climax the end of the K-On!! (second season). [1] The regular series has slowly and carefully built up a very resonant experience. Little by little, we come to identify with the girls’ growing fondness for each other and for their passion. Furthermore, we can all relate to that dread for the inevitable, but necessary eventual moment when they must part with a precious part of their lives, move on, and mature. The overall hopeful tone, delivered with a calming touch, is more than enough to shed tears.

akiyama mio hirasawa yui k-on kotobuki tsumugi nakano azusa tainaka ritsu second season hoodie

The structure of the series facilitates this dramatic undertone. The episodic nature relates us to glimpses of the girls’ lives. The digestible half-hour format prevents the mundane from being stale, and each new daily event is seen with fresh minds. At the same time, the length of the series in total allows for enough room to build the intricate feelings and depth to the otherwise plot-less story.

akiyama mio hirasawa yui k-on kotobuki tsumugi maruki nobuaki nakano azusa tainaka ritsu

By contrast, the film version lacks the structural support the series enjoyed. On one hand, K-On! (movie) feels too long. Two hours straight of do-nothing—true, they went to London and had an adventure with fun surprises and coincidences here and there, but the core plot is small and aimless—becomes dull past the first hour. On the other hand, with its pace, two hours are too short to build that emotional climb to parallel the success of the series.

akiyama mio hirasawa yui k-on kotobuki tsumugi nakano azusa tainak ritsu punk rock

Perhaps the other reason that K-On! (movie) feels less sentimental is because of the timing of its release. Besides being simply being so far removed from the end of the series—and thus minimizing our attachments to the characters and their cares—the movie’s release also follows the climax of the entire franchise: the graduation. We all know from our literature or creative writing or somewhere the simplified Freytag’s dramatic arc: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and denouement. Applying those to the K-On! franchise, disregarding the chronology of Yui’s and the light music club’s events, we could loosely attribute each arc to a work. The first season is the exposition; the first half of the second season, the rising action—as we start to get hints of their eventual separation; and the latter half, the climax—the graduation. K-On! (movie) then acts as the denouement. Indeed, while watching the movie, I feel as though I have already spent my emotions on the series.

akiyama mio hirasawa yui k-on kotobuki tsumugi nakano azusa tainaka ritsu fairytale

Still, the film provides and important sentiment. It is the little piece in this long franchise that tones the dramatic high note down. The film shows the girls right before graduation, where they have their usual fun together—enjoying cake, tea, music, and fooling around. We temporarily forget that they have already graduated and moved on to college, that Mio now wears her hair in a bun to school, [2] that the light music club has new members. Still, the premise of the film reminds us of the graduation. It is this juxtaposition that makes the movie especially easy to watch. The reminiscence of a nostalgic past as well as the hints of a new normality is quite cathartic in a sense, and is a warm conclusion to one of the best anime in its time. [3]


  1. K-On!! (second season) is one of the best anime released that year. It is also one of my favorite slice-of-life anime to date.
  2. Mio in college, still shy as ever.
    K-On Mio in college
  3. My attachment to a series is often loosely reflected in how much I talk about it. I talk about K-On! a lot. Here are a few further readings that may be interesting:
    K-On!! Going Retro – Fashion in Listen!! and No, Thank You!
    K-On!! Fashion – What Casual Fans Like
    Lovely Himeko from K-On! – Pygmalion of Minor Characters

More anime and manga reviews

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47 Responses to K-On! (Movie) Review – The Denouement of Two Seasons

  1. Overlord-G says:

    While it didn’t accomplish much storyline wise, it delivered in what it promised, more K-ON goodness for those who have missed it. Was I expecting a conclusion as complete as the Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya? Yes, but what we got was good enough. Hey, I’m still waiting for their Budokan debut and will continue waiting because K-ON is that awesome. I am personally hoping for either a K-ON 2nd class spin-off or College Days anime. Will we get either? Who knows.

    So little progress plot-wise but seeing Azu-Nyan flustered by Yui’s “advances” was so worth it.

    • Yi says:

      Yea, well put, OG. ^ ^ I think this is a nice little conclusion and continuation of what K-On! usually is (although not the exact same, since K-On!! series has a little more oomph). Good enough. Fun. Relaxing. I can’t complain too much, just a little.

      I would like to see college K-On!, and I feel like we might get one. This is too big of a franchise to give up.

      Yui x Azunyan is ♥.

  2. chikorita157 says:

    It’s definitely a long time since I watched the second season of episode, but I think the reason why the movie doesn’t have the same exact feeling compared to the episodic feeling of the girl’s lives is that it just expanded upon the story. I think this is mostly due to the movie just being girls having fun in London while the girls having a hard time understanding the English people since they only know English. Even so, besides the memories they created on the graduation trip, it also shows behind the scenes on how they created the special song for Azusa, which is kind of heartwarming at the end on how much effort and feeling they put into that song… Even with it’s flaws, I think it did a good job on wrapping up the loose ends and I hope they adapt the college years, someday.

    • Yi says:

      Yep yep. I agree. This is simply a final little nostalgic look to wrap up two seasons.

      I actually didn’t really care for the Azusa song subplot. That just seems so predictable in a boring way. It’s heartwarming, cute, and everything, but nothing that makes me go gooey. Then again, I didn’t pay much attention to any plot; I simply relaxed to the ambiance of K-On.

      College K-On! anime. So much yes!

  3. Smithy says:

    For fans of the series the movie is pure bliss, watching the light music club girls as if they had never been gone. The movie seamlessly fits into the series which is a strong suit, but also a weakness.as it makes the movie not enough of a stand-alone feature when watched so long after the regular series.

    The main plot of Yui and the graduating girls writing a song for Azusa held so much promise to have enough impact in this movie format and time limit but ultimately falls just a bit short, especially to those people that aren’t big fans of the main series because it does lack that long paced build up.

    In that aspect, such slice-of-life shows, like “Aria” or “Tamayura” also are are hard to bring in movie format because a large part of their magic is their reliance on taking the viewer along this leisurely voyage for so many weeks, making the viewer fall in love with the characters and their world.

    For me, the movie is amazing, but it has the best effect if watched during or right after the second season, and not as a stand-alone feature too far apart from the series.

    • Yi says:

      The movie does fit into the series pretty seamlessly, at least tonally. Plot-wise, the timing is a little awkward, since it is pre-graduation and everything, but I don’t think this minor detail detracts too much from the merits of the movie.

      I agree with you on the Yui/ Azusa subplot. I thought it was both a little forced and a little predictable. I would have been fine without it, and have the main focus simply be on the girls’ experience in London. Sometimes, less is more.

      Also completely agreed with Aria and Tamayura. For a truly strong slice-of-life movie, it has to come with an equally interesting story as well (think Indie films). K-On! type anime tend to forego a intricate plot or story with depth for a leisure, beautiful atmosphere. But it doesn’t quite translate well to movies.

      Still, with that said, I liked the movie. I feel though, as you do, that I would’ve liked it not a year removed from the end of the series.

      Cheers, Smithy!

  4. Cratex says:

    Mio now wears her hair in a bun?! No!

    I felt the movie was a great end cap to the second season. I didn’t much care for the first season, but for some reason I followed the second and ended up liking it. I was moved by the song they wrote for Azusa. Maybe it was because I was more than anything watching Yui fuss over the song that it worked for me. Or, maybe it was just something else that I can’t identify. Did I think it was amazing? No. But, I had fun watching it.

    • Yi says:

      I found the second season to be the strongest of the entire franchise. K-On!! remains one of my favorite anime to date. And I’m glad you ended up liking K-On! because of it. ^ ^

      I was not so interested in the whole Azusa song subplot. I think for one, I just didn’t find anything fresh about it. It seems like such a predictable, boring thing to happen in anime. Further, Yui’s attitude and stupidity throughout the ordeal annoyed me a bit. As an aside, I was not a fan of Yui in the movie. I found her overly… ignorant, dense, and uneducated.

      Still, I had fun too!

      p.s. Mio doesn’t always wear her hair up like that~
      p.p.s. I like that look on Mio. ^ ^

  5. bladezer says:

    Overall I did enjoy the movie. Although did find a problem from a line, this could just me reading it wrong, but the way the subs had a line of Azusa saying ‘I’m not into that kind of stuff’ mainly because throughout the series and especially in the manga that she may actually be acting like Tsundere towards Yui because she does have a crush on her, and her whole clearly being attracted to Mugi, I was really annoyed that scene wasn’t adapted to the anime.

    Still I did highly enjoy hearing Yui and Mio seiyuu’s singing again, especially with the new songs interacrated into the movie.

    • Yi says:

      I remember that scene pretty vividly as well, and I suspect I interpreted it the same way as you did. However, I’m not as averse to it as you are.

      “because throughout the series and especially in the manga that she may actually be acting like Tsundere towards Yui because she does have a crush on her, and her whole clearly being attracted to Mugi,”

      Yea, we disagree here. I don’t feel as though Azusa’s tsundere behaviors necessarily come from a crush for Yui, nor do I think she is attracted to Mugi. At least, it doesn’t seem “clear.” I would think any interpretation of infatuation is mostly wishful thinking and yuri goggles.

      I enjoyed the songs as well! They were wonderful. ^ ^

      • bladezer says:

        Actually what I was trying to say that I wished that they hadn’t put that line in when there is quite a bit of subtext between Azusa with Yui and Mugi suggesting somehting a bit more then feelings for friendship. Really wish I could edit it and make my point more clear.

        Although I just find kinda of annoying that KyoAni had a tendency to remove subtext that was present in the manga, but still that’s just me.

  6. jreding says:

    „What K-On! (movie) misses, however, from the series are the powerful emotions brewing under the quiet, slow high school lives.” Oh, I know so well what you mean! How could a series which has no further plot than the passing of time get me so hooked? The less happened in an episode the more I liked it!

    The last episodes of K-ON!!, I think, were meant and worked as some sort of catharsis. After such a long time spent with the girls us viewers were offered an outlet for all the affection we grew for the girls. For me, the movie was basically the continuation of this climax. It worked for me as the second season was still fresh in my mind (thanks to frequent rewatching ). The London trip for me just was a respite of sorts to the final graduation scenes and their sentimental songs. Admittedly someone not familiar with the series would have a somewhat different experience.

    As a sidenote, I loved how the classroom concert was the same concert as in the second season’s OP – series and movie fit so well together! And even Tachibana Himeko got so say a few words!

    • Yi says:

      Yep yep. I’m glad we both see the value of K-On! series. As easy going it is, it is not missing in inspiring emotions, especially as time went on and we build that connection.

      I agree about the last episodes, and it was a cathartic experience to shed those tears at their graduation. With that said, I believe the movie does that even more so—or perhaps in a different way—when it takes us back. It’s a more subtle, toned down cathartic release… More of a closure.

      I guess I like the analogy of a break up. The last episodes of K-On!! second season is like burning all your ex’s stuff, and the movie is like re-finding something of hers years later when you’re in a new relationship, and you laugh about it. Both cathartic experiences, but in a vastly different way, with the latter offering a more complete closure.

      I also agree that this is a continuation of that climax, and even more so that someone who is not familiar with the series may find the movie lacking. Then again, the movie is targeted for K-On! fans.

      “As a sidenote, I loved how the classroom concert was the same concert as in the second season’s OP – series and movie fit so well together!”

      Ooh, I didn’t notice this! That is super neat. ^ ^

      “And even Tachibana Himeko got so say a few words!”

      Yes!! And not just a few words, but those words for Yui. ^ ^ She has a soft spot in my heart: https://listlessink.wordpress.com/2011/02/21/lovely-himeko-from-k-on-pygmalion-of-minor-characters/

      Thanks for the wonderful comment, jreding. ^ ^

      • Justin says:

        I think there is going to b ab third season because a new manga is coming out I cannot wait

        • Yi says:

          I hope so. College K-On! manga is lovely~

        • Justin says:

          Someone told me about someoen said that in the interveiw (alos the third movie makes it seem VERY possible) Saw the trailer at the movies.

        • Yi says:

          Ahh I see. Be careful of rumors~ ^ ^

        • Justin says:

          In the movie(trailer) It showed Madoka TALKING to Horuma (which she shouldn’t be able to) So I can see them making a 2nd season easily, if they can make the movie about it why not another season? You see how popular the show is right?

        • Yi says:

          Okok. I’d rather not get into a big debate about this right now. It certainly is possible, but popularity isn’t everything. Also, I’d like to note that the movie is a retelling, whereas a sequel would imply a continuation of the story.

        • Justin says:

          Um mind telling me what your talking about? There is 3 movies? 2 are RETELLING the third movie is a sequal?

        • Yi says:

          Yes, indeed. We’ll see. ^ ^

  7. Aruto-kun says:

    OMG K-ON! I think this movie is best enjoyed watching it between episodes. I don’t know between which ones, though. Anyone have any suggestions?

    • Yi says:

      That’s a curious thing to say. If you’re unsure where you should watch it, why the claim that it’s best enjoyed between episodes?

      In any case, I could see watching this in the order that it’s supposed to appear in (within K-On! time flow that is). So somewhere before graduation. I’m not sure how effective it will be though. Perhaps better, perhaps worse, or perhaps simply different.

  8. Kai says:

    I agree that K-ON’s second season create a very satisfying climax towards the end, ending the series with a high note and a very emotional impact. I never minded that the movie doesn’t really achieve what the second season did, since it was never meant to do so, it was meant to “strengthen” the impact, which I think it did fairly well, and make an even greater closure to the high school saga.

    • Yi says:

      Yep yep. I think we have a similar view regarding the movie’s role. ^ ^

      I would add, too, that rather than “strengthen” the emotional impact directly, the movie softens it. It is a winding down from the climax. In a sense, this helps to further highlight the climatic tension experienced at the end of the second season–at graduation–and thereby strengthening it.

      Thanks for the comment, Kai~

  9. ~xxx says:

    K-on! the movie was indeed a movie for those who had already watched the first two seasons for this movie alone can’t comprehend on how successful the first two series came to be.

    And probably, since I knew it was a good way to kill time and yes indeed a good way to kill time, I guess K-on! the movie was good on that aspect and also since it showed us something different(not really)… I guess it fine for me. But I think the greatest plot that K-on! the movie has was how do they thank Azusa for joining the club. the whole England thing was for the sake of realization that they don’t need grand lyrics to thank someone.

    But I guess no matter how flawed the movie was… it’s probably one of my favorite movies since Spirited Away.

    • Yi says:

      Yep yep. The movie really caters to its huge fan base, and operates under the assumption that the audience already knows the characters really well. I think the Azusa lyrics plot is decent. It feels a bit cliche, but at least it’s something. In any case, it does feel very Yui and very K-On! if that makes any sense. ^ ^

      Anyways, agreed. It’s a good movie despite the flaws~

  10. Yuriko says:

    I argree the end was less emotional. Maybe it was because you already know the end and what kind of song they will write for Azusa. Maybe it was because they didn’y show this moment when girls slept in the music room while crying and holding hands. It was a very emotional moment and I cried myself. Anyway, I find the movie very enjoyable.

    • Yi says:

      I found the movie to be less emotional but at the same time, more relaxing. So I guess it’s a fine trade-off. Perhaps, the cliche plot does take away a little bit of the poignancy, or the lack of a climatic, tear-jerking scene. Still, I enjoyed it~

      Thanks for the visit and the comment, Yuriko. ^ ^

  11. Justin says:

    Season 2 (ending) definatly made me cry (because of the graduating) I WANT COLLEGE K-ON!!!!!!

  12. wieselhead says:

    I always had a hard time with movies based on a tv show, there is barely a handful of titles I like at least. I think I don’t like the compressed story compared to a whole season an anime offers.

    The K-on movie was one I really enjoyed, even though it wasn’t very special nor did it tell me anything new. As being set before the graduation it couldn’t be helped of course. I guess what I enjoyed the most was to see all the characters again after the little sad ending of the last season *don’t cry… don’t cry* ^^

    The Movie didn’t had much emotional impact, but I really liked the funny scenes with Ritsu, Yui and the rest of the girls. Well, Mio didn’t has much screentime from my impression.

    • Yi says:

      Yea definitely. It’s pretty hard for movie adapted from a TV show to do well, and I think few are successful. There are mostly two ways these go about it: a side story like K-On! or a compressed summary story. Neither really can showcase everything enjoyable from the series however.

      Still, with that said, I think K-On! movie did do a wonderful job. It was delightful to re-visit the girls again, and that alone is enough for a fan like me. So yea, it was a good watch!

      p.s. Mio did lose a bit of screen time. The movie feels very Azusa Yui centric. It’s a bit of a shame, but oh well~

  13. Justin says:

    Hey I saw there making ANOTHER manga for K-on! That means……….. A SEASON 3???????????????????????????????? Im going to shit myself if that happens.

    • Yi says:

      Hm… I don’t know if that alone is enough to definitively say there will be another season, but we can hope. ^ ^

      • Justin says:

        Yes, I heard they proably will make another Madoka season to. I don’t see why they wouldn’t the show was super popular.

        • Yi says:

          That I am not so sure about. Madoka’s story is pretty self-contained within the series. I’m not sure what another season will offer that the first did not already do.

  14. hoshiko says:

    I like that the movie pieces together some of the things from the second season, like how much effort the older girls went through to write a song for Azusa. The movie isn’t outstanding, nor did it provide justice to the original series, but I think it did a good job in giving me my dose of K-ON.

    • Yi says:

      Ooh, good point. I enjoyed that about the movie as well. It integrates itself into second season seamlessly. I could see it—if broken up into episodes—as an additional arc within second season.

      I enjoyed as well. A good dose of K-On! for nostalgia. ^ ^

      Cheers, hoshiko!

  15. Metal says:

    Thank you for the review. This movie looks great to watch and the character looks very cute. Just added on my list to watch. Thanks a lot!! =D

  16. Guy says:

    Dearest Yi, I’ve actually just finished watching K-On!! three days ago. The whole series is focused on the “Comfortable” over the poignant. So I think the movie being more of the same is not surprising.

    It really is a show about the every-day comfort, not the everyday with the ups and lows. It’s a very laid-back show, it’s the mental state of napping in the shade on a warm spring day.

    • Yi says:

      Hey Guy, it’s been a long time since I heard from you! It’s really good to see you again. I agree that the whole franchise is focused on the comfortable more than anything else, and for that, I love it! Although, I did enjoy the little bit more of drama and emotions in the series, I would not give up any of the relaxing atmosphere to get that. I enjoyed the movie a lot.

      “mental state of napping in the shade on a warm spring day”

      I like that!

  17. Pingback: K-On! Like Laying in the Sun on a Warm Afternoon [TIL] | Geekorner-Geekulture.

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