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.
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.
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).  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.
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.
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.
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.
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,  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. 
- 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.
- Mio in college, still shy as ever.
- 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
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