It's the end of K-On!. Well, sort of. It sprawls across a fair amount of the TV show's second season, showing us stuff we hadn't previously known was happening. This includes a trip to London. This means you can't slot it neatly in any one place if you're rewatching everything in order, but "at the end" is clearly where it belongs.
It's also very, very K-On!. Girls hanging out and being friends together? Check. Not much happening? Well, yes and no. They go to London! They'll also soon be graduating. Our heroines have a lot to organise and do, but even so they're never too busy to tease each other, be mental and/or drink tea. (They like tea.) The London trip is actually less of the film than you'd think, being just the middle third between (a) the girls being themselves, and (b) the girls being themselves.
This show is observational. It's not about plot. It's about us watching these charming, goofy, terribly likeable people, as realised by Kyoto Animation and some rather good voice actors. This film made me realise just how distinctive Aki Toyosaki and Satomi Satou are being as Yui and Ritsu respectively, for instance. They're creating voices completely unlike anyone else's and making lots of extreme choices, but without tipping over the edge into cartoonishness. The girls feel real. Silly, but real. Above all, this show's always been about just letting us spend time with them and share their friendship... and that's been done so well that I kept rewinding this film to rewatch particularly well done bits. The animation's so precise with body language that I'd find my eyes drawn to how someone's hands moved just now, or to a few seconds of them walking backwards while looking as if they might topple over.
To me, it feels unique. There's something about these girls' thought processes and how they bounce off each other that doesn't feel like other shows. Most fiction tends to resemble other fiction. K-On!, in its delicate, goofball way, feels as if the only thing it's being is itself. It's liable to feel slightly improvised, in a good way.
Anyway, it's good. As relaxed as you'd expect, so don't expect a fast-paced adventure, but it's good. The way the girls choose London is glorious, while London itself is absolutely perfect. The English-speakers' accents are all plausible, while the visual recreation of London is so accurate that I think you could identify every single location. Those aren't just generic streets. They're specific. I usually recognised them and knew where they were. I live in London and it all felt right to me... well, except for the bit where the girls play a gig on the South Bank at 4 o'clock despite having a Heathrow check-in at 5 o'clock. (It's Jubilee Gardens, in Lambeth.) That's challenging. Could you do it if you only played for ten minutes and then jumped in a taxi? Maybe, if you were lucky with the traffic, but I'd be nervous. Well, I suppose it's characterisation for our scatterbrained heroines (ask the organisers to swap it for a 3 o'clock slot!) and in any case it's possible to be late and still catch your plane.
The girls' attempts at speaking English are, surprisingly, funny rather than cringeworthy. Ritsu's grip on language is particularly flexible. However apparently this gets surreal in the English dub, which has its English-speaking dub actresses worrying in perfect English about being unable to speak English, after which they have trouble making themselves understood in English when talking to English-speakers in England. I'm glad I watched in Japanese.
If you buy the DVD or Blu-ray, incidentally, it's got far more extras than the bare-bones TV series discs. I want to watch them, which is unusual for me. What I saw included a huge live concert by the K-On! voice actresses, who were playing their characters' instruments. Respect.
It's a good anime spin-off movie from a TV series. Treasure it. Those are rare. It was also the highest-grossing movie based on a late night anime TV series until it was beaten by Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Rebellion. I enjoyed it a lot and I'd happily rewatch it. Recommended.