Have you ever wondered what strange shapes Guitar Hero and Rock Band based their controllers around? Do you have an interest in making music, or just watching other people make music? How about a love for all things moe? Well, then I have an anime for you to watch; K-ON!.
K-On! is about four (later on five) Japanese high school girls who join their school’s light music club (light music in Japan meaning contemporary or pop music) to try to save it from being abolished. However, Yui Hirasawa, the lead guitarist, has no experience playing musical instruments or reading sheet music in the beginning, but is blessed with perfect pitch. Eventually, she becomes a competant guitar player and background singer. The rest of the club helps her to buy a Gibson Les Paul, and they perform at the school festival twice, despite the fact that they drink tea and eat sweets most of the time and practice very little when together.
Sakuragaoka High School’s light music club consists of:
Sawako “Sawa-chan” Yamanaka – the polite advisor who used to be in the light music club as part of a heavy metal band called Death Devil. When with the light music club, she’s rebellious, lazy, and has a panche for making the girls cosplay.
Yui Hirasawa – the clumsy but obliviously talented lead guitar player as well as backing singer. She had no previous musical experience before joining the club (except for playing castanets in elementary school), but managed to become suitable to the band’s style of music shortly after joining.
Ritsu “Ricchan” Tainaka – the energetic drummer who’s also the club’s official leader. She was the one who wanted to join the light music club and managed to convince everyone else to join, sometimes using underhanded tactics to do so.
Mio Akiyama – the reluctantly popular bassist, lead vocalist, and main songwriter as well as the only leftie of the group. She’s usually shy and responsible, but tends to freak out when it comes to scary stuff.
Tsumugi “Mugi-chan” Kotobuki – the wealthy and gentle keyboardist who has been playing piano since she was four and has won several competitions. Her father is the president of a large but unknown company that seems to own the music store where Yui got her guitar and a maid cafe where all of the club’s sweets come from.
Azusa “Azu-nyan” Nakano – the younger rhythm guitarist who joins the group a year after it was saved by the original four members. She’s much more technically proficient than Yui and takes practicing seriously, but learns to loosen up as she is with the club.
Being in the slice-of-life genre, which is one of my favorite genres, as well as having a severe case of the moe, the story for K-ON! can get downright muddled at times. It’s not that it’s random ala Azumanga Daioh or Lucky Star; there is a storyline in each episode, but the focus likes to shift a lot. This sounds interesting in theory, but doesn’t quite pan out in practice.
Now, I’m by no means an anime snob. I absolutely detest elitist attitudes towards anything in life. When it comes to anime, I don’t really care if I’m watching something critically acclaimed like Cowboy Bebop or severely panned like Green Green, as long as I enjoy what I’m watching.
The amount of in-show fan-service has also been modestly and smartly placed, despite the zillions…and zillions…of mostly suggestive fan art of Mio and Azusa creeping around the Interwebz.
I give it a 5/10 for an at-times jerky ride of a storyline with smart fan-service placement.
Animation: 6/10 & Music: 8/10
Anime critics be damned, I thought the animation quality was mostly good! However, the instruments, especially Yui’s poor Les Paul named Gitah, seemed to be on the wrong side of the budget cuts. Her guitar’s appearance ranges from very well drawn to a blobby mess, with seemingly no good middle ground.
Since K-ON! revolves around music, it’s only natural that the music be nicely done. The club’s signature tune, Fuwa Fuwa Time, which translates to Light and Fluffy Time, reminds me a lot of Party Hard by Andrew W.K., but lighter and fluffier haha! The song I like the most from the soundtrack is a slow bluesy number called Hold On Your Love. It’s a very moving 2 minutes of music.
I give the animation a 6/10 for sometimes butchering Gitah and the music an 8/10 for a well put-together soundtrack.
The one thing that bugged the crap outta me when watching this series is that I sometimes visually confused Yui and Ritsu. Yes, they have slightly different hair color. And yes, Ritsu’s hair is pulled back while Yui’s hangs down. However, it’s their hair length and texture as well as their closely matched hair color that mix me up sometimes.
Looks aside, although each girl has their own personality unique among the group, I feel that they don’t evolve much as characters as the show progresses. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt since this is only a 13-episode series, which should see another 13 episodes considering the immense popularity of the series.
I’ll give ’em a 7/10 since they’re unique among themselves, but still have a ways to go to develop their characters.
Although the recession has put the kibosh on producing as many anime series as before, of the recent anime that I’ve been watching, K-ON! is only seconded by Toradora!. Would I watch it again? Sure. In fact, I’m rewatching the series this week to gain a better prospective on the characters after I know what’s going to be going down in the series.
As I said before, K-ON! should be getting a second season since it was especially weIl-received by moe-hungry fans looking to whet their appetites while waiting for Season 2 of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, which was finally released near the end of K-ON!’s first season, after three years of impatient waiting and broken promises aka marketing strategies. But that’s another story altogether…
I give them an 8/10 for a fun, light-hearted musical romp through Moeville.
K-ON! took a beating in its overall rating mostly because of its oddly structured storylines, occasionally awful instrument illustration, and little to no character development. Despite these shortcomings, it was quite an enjoyable anime to watch. Its immense online popularity also makes it relatively easy to talk about amongst other otaku without having to explain what the series is about.
I would suggest that the next season focus on drawing the instruments clearly on a consistent basis and give the characters some backstory to help us the audience gain a better prospective of them.
I give K-ON! an overall rating of 6.8/10.