In 2008, TBS producer Yoshihisa Nakayama took on a risk when deciding to make a TV anime series adaptation of a manga right after the first volume was published! In the end, his risk paid off immensely for TBS as K-On! became one of the big hit shows of 2009 (really only behind Bakemonogatari in popularity). The series was the first Kyoto Animation production to be released on Blu-ray (back in 2009), so it took 5 years (and a necessity of additional revenue to shore up the fiscal year) for TBS to greenlight a BD-Box in March 2014. This is a review of that box set.
TBS paid for 14 episodes of K-On! to be made, planning to broadcast at least the first 12 of them and maybe having a “bonus” episode air with another episode to encourage people to buy at least the 7th BD/DVD volume (conveniently packaged with a storage box for all 7, encouraging people to buy the other 6 to fill it up!). This box was planned similarly. TBS decided for 5 discs to have each of the main 5 girls on their own disc and not to leave anyone out. That necessitated the main 12 episodes to be split into 4 episode portions on discs 1-3 and the bonus episodes + bonus features on the 4th disc. (the 5th would be a CD). And so that’s how this 5 disc set was designed.
TBS also made a decision to have it be an “album” type package with a cut-open front cover and various images to be highlighted. There’s the center of the newly drawn digipak (showing the opposite side from volume 7’s cover art), the back of the box (also newly drawn), and postcards featuring the key visuals and cover art from the singles. The digipak itself has a nice continuous image that fits the mood of the first season.
Pony Canyon used the same video masters from the singles, just encoded onto a new disc with new menus (that are still images with BGM played over). Additionally, the same audio masters are used, including the main feature audio, audio commentary from the cast, and audio commentary from the staff for each episode. Newly recorded commentary was performed for the episodes on disc 3 with Yamada and the main cast members. The “Ura-On!” shorts, textless OPs/ED, commercials and Toyosaki Aki interview are all on disc 4. All episodes and bonus content (except OP/ED/CMs) have both Japanese and English subtitles.
Since this was at the beginning of BD encoding/mastering, Pony’s masters have some banding issues at times. It’s not the worst video I’ve ever seen, nor is it as good as later releases. It’s serviceable for this show while continuing to highlight the impressive visual cuts. Similarly, the audio is a good stereo mix and the commentaries range from okay (mostly cast) to enjoyable (staff).
Also included (and another possible album cover) is a book containing the information from the cards included in the singles as well as design materials such as Yui’s room and her path to school, anniversary messages from the cast/staff, and a summary of the credits shown for each episode (minus each episode’s animators, painters, & photographers). Finally, included in the package is a flip calendar that can be used for many years to come.
Overall, it’s a great set if you’re interested in K-On! and/or want the “Ura-On!” shorts with subtitles. As usual, TBS doesn’t include any English dubs, so those looking for one will have to go domestic. I’d argue this one is almost better than the original (if you don’t want doll cutouts, sheet music, or picks). I’m certainly glad it’s in my collection.