Having spent most of my summer engulfed in the world of engineering, I figured a series based on music would be a great distraction. Tack on some hyper-energetic high school girls and a slice-of-life setting, and K-On’s light-hearted charm naturally piqued my interest.
This premise is undoubtedly what makes K-On so captivating. As a whole, the show never attempts to step beyond its means; it sets itself out to be simple fun and undoubtedly succeeds. Despite operating off a number of base gags and jokes that find themselves revisited from episode to episode, the series never seems to drag. Ultimately, the musical aspect of the show, while central, pales in comparison to the harmonious play of the characters, and serves primarily as a catalyst to move the story along – the music does not shape the girls, but rather the girls shape the music. I admit this might disappoint some viewers, but it provides K-On with more universal appeal; though it refrains from excelling in any one genre, it dabbles in several quite well, and manages to juggle humor, drama, and music without any sign of awkwardness.
From air-headed Yui to feisty Ritsu to feminine Mio to whimsical Tsumugi, the cast certainly can’t make any claims to originality. In fact, the series sticks so hard to the tried-and-true formula of slice-of-life comedy that its sole claim to uniqueness stems from its inclusion of music as a focal point. While the characters feel like largely recycled archetypes, great lengths are taken to flesh them out to be as endearing as possible. In this way, the series seems – in a strange manner – both fresh and vivacious, and manages to fill its thirteen episode span without much tedium. Just as the antics begin to slip into monotony, the anime comes to a close, wrapping up its finale with an expected, but very fitting, encore.
K-On certainly branches out from Kyoto Animation’s standard fare, as although the animation works well for a “cutesy” feel, the level of detail is noticeably poorer. A number of menially important scenes feel washed over in quality, and make the visual production seem rushed. Still, as a whole, the animation generally works well in that it aptly captures the girls’ cheery enthusiasm. Motion and framerates are as crisp as ever, so where the show lacks detail, it makes up for it with raw energy.
Japanese bands should really stop writing English lyrics into their songs. Sure “lazy” and “crazy” might rhyme, but rhyming does not a coherent sentence make. Anyway, aside from that little quip, I can’t think of anything much to say about the music other than that it’s catchy. All the band’s insert songs make you bob your head along with the beat, and the opening theme delivers the free-spirited feel that pervades the entire series. With solid voice acting to boot, the audible aspects of the show play out in much the same way as the visuals: they don’t break any new ground, but they do their job well.
As I mentioned in the story section, K-On’s cast is remarkably unremarkable. Though they all do a fantastic job at connecting with the viewer, they fit the archetypal mold too snugly for my liking. While I found their interplay fun and amusing to watch, I could never shake the sensation that I’d seen this material before but with different faces. Unlike the truly successful comedies such as Fumoffu! and Minami-ke their characters flaunt no memorable twists, which leaves them simply as good. Still, the musical premise gives the series enough edge to allow much of this to be overlooked, as the band environment adds sufficient flavor story-wise to draw the viewer into their experience. In the end, the characters are little more than a bunch of ordinary high school girls getting together to do what they enjoy, and perhaps their largely generic feel is what gives them such overarching charm.
Though K-On is certainly not Kyoto Animation’s best work, it passes the acceptability test by a wide margin. While lacking the originality and flair that have defined the studio’s previous works, the series manages to be entertaining regardless and avoids making any glaring faults. At thirteen episodes in length, K-On makes a point not to overstay its welcome; it’s fun, amusing, and enjoyable for its span, and can easily find its way onto the shelves of fans of many different genres.
K-ON! is an incredibly endearing anime, while it isn't particularly earth shattering, it is probably one of the best of its genre.
Story: The story isn't an amazing display of intricate story telling, but the anime is well paced, each episode has something going on and there aren't really any episodes where you feel like it was a waste of 24 minutes, nor does it become difficult to follow because of too much going on.
Animation: Kyoto Animation did a great job animating the series. The style is cute and captures the feeling of the series. And all the details, from the instruments to the backgrounds are captured well.
Sound: K-ON! was very well cast, the seiyuus do a great job capturing the characters. Even the supporting cast is terrific and The music cute and catchy, which fits the series wonderfully.
Characters: The characters are very endearing and memorable, and you will grow to love them throughout the series.
Overall: K-ON! is funny, cute, and endearing, it does a great job capturing the 4-koma it's based on, and probably exceeds it to some degree. It's not for everyone, but for those of us who love a good slice of life anime, it's certainly well worth watching.
I been away from my guitar for 2 years, I gave k-on a try to see if I'd like it and it got me back into playing guitar. Very motivated anime if u want to learn to play guitar or want to get back into playing guitar
The way I look at things, getting children into music is never a bad thing, it gives them something to focus on, enhances the brain and can be a future for some, be it as a musician or any of the jobs with a musical need. Well at least thats before starting K-On, some ways should't be used to get kids into music, especially when it dumbs it down to the lowest level.
Story - 2/10
Even though the show sells itself as a music/band show, a majority of the time it's a slice of life/school show, with just a bit of musical talk in-between.
It's not a complicated story. Girls enter their freshman year of high school, start a music club and become a band, yeah kinda sums up the who first season. The reason you can sum up the whole season in few words is the lack of detail or story put into it. In twelve episodes two full years pass, most series don't get a full year done in a full twenty four episode run. Because of this they never dwell on much besides the same repeated gags, heck they apparently had so little content they pretty much repeated two episodes and had a semi-recap episode at the end. The only time I felt they cared about the story was the winter break bonus episode.
More than anything the reason I just had to give the series such a low score is the unrealistic take they have on music. Within a few weeks of getting her guitar, Yui can't really play chords, but she can shred like the best metal musicians, not to mention she has no idea of the other basic components of playing or keeping a guitar. Well maybe there can be one genius who picks up the hardest art that quickly (outside the fact it takes time just to build dexterity to allow you to move so fast) but later in the series her sister Ui mention's holding Yui's guitar a couple times and that alone was enough for her to be a great guitarist. It sets a terrible standard for people who watch the show and want to pick up an instrument. If they feel it was supposed to be so easy, but now they can't play after months, they'll just give up, not realizing it can take years to just be decent. Instead of plowing through two years, shorten the time span but add Yui taking lessons, learning different things or at least just make a her an average player until later in the series.
Animation - 4/10
The pilot episode's animation was all over the place. There was a joke, and a liberal attitude towards, the animation in FLCL and I think these guys took it as a serious way of doing things. There's points when within a scene the animation style would change rapidly, not even waiting for a change or a transition of changing rooms. Could be attributed to using many different key animators in order to get the episode finished, but it was just very jarring and throws you off right at the start.
Things settled down in future episodes and everything started to flow much better, so theres a plus in them getting their act together. But throughout you can see an inspiration by shows like FLCL and Excel Saga, but it just didn't work. The two shows mentioned are comedies, but they are created for a wide audience with elements of actions, drama and comedy. K-On is a comedy but it seems singularly focused on one demographic, particularly ten to fourteen year old females, so the already cutesy look doesn't need to be enhanced with the chibi looks and wacky faces, or at least not to the degree they did.
As a musician I was always going to nitpick the equipment used, but after that train wreck of a first episode I would have been happy with proper shapes for the instruments, boy was i wrong. When they walked in the music store I was shocked how they got so many instruments correct and to a degree that was amazing. Between the guitars, amps and drum sets seen in the show, you can see they spent months researching and drawing these items alone.
Sound - 5/10
The music for the show is both decent and terrible at the same time. While the music itself isn't take bad, the lyrics to the opening and closing are horrible. They'd probably make anyone who listened to it a feminist, because the lyrics just make girls out to be morons who want to shop and chase boys. I can understand the lyrics to band's songs being this way, as they are suppose to be from the perspective of the young girls, but the opening and closing songs aren't, heck those two songs even the music itself is terrible. The songs the girls are suppose to write have a pretty good sound to them, but again terrible lyrics, but I can let that pass as it seems intentional. One shining star in their song catalog is Fuwa Fuwa Time (think it's the one i'm thinking of) which sounds like an Andrew W.K. song but with females singing it.
The voices aren't so bad either. They're cutesy, but they match the girls pretty well and never get to the point you want to shut the show off because of them. Out of all the girls I'd have to say the best voice was that of Tsumugi, they picked a voice that sounded very authentic for the character, but somewhat out of the norm for Anime shows, where every voice is so stylized. The actors did a really good job with the range of emotions they had to put in for each character, would have just been cool to see if they could do the song lyrics in english too, as they did with the show Beck.
There are very few minor characters or even one off characters to rate, but the fact they were able to keep each girl distinctive might have been helped by that, limiting the doubling up on voice actors and leaving out many other characters in an all girls school that would have to sound somewhat similar.
Characters - 5/10
The characters are pretty run of the mill and due to the speed in which the series passes at we don't learn much, but still there's room to grow and that counts for something.
For the whole series there are only eight characters and two or three minor characters. The band consists of Yui, the previously mentioned solo prodigy who can't play simple things on the guitar, who's also a bit of an imbecile. They try to cover her playing and out of the blue perfect test by saying "once she sets her mind to it she'll do anything" but it's a cop out. Ritsu plays drums and is also a bit of moron. Her (Ritsu's) friend from grammar school, Mio, plays bass and is afraid of basically everything. Tsumugi shares the spotlight as the pretty girl (along with Mio) who also comes from an enormously rich family, she's oblivious to the real world and a complete stereotype of dumb rich people. Later in the season underclassman Azusa joins the band as a second guitarist, she's pretty normal and just wants to play her best.
Rounding out the main characters are Nodoka, Yui's childhood friend and member of the student council, she's everything Yui isn't. Yui's sister Ui, who is basically the same character as Nodoka but bubble, she acts like the mother at home and takes care of Yui. FInally theres Ms. Yamanaka, possibly the most fully developed character in the series, we actually learn about her past, her likes and other little things about her life.
Again I would have loved for them to just develop the characters over a year's time instead of two, but instead we just got many many copies of things we've seen before.
Overall - 5/10
I came in having high hopes for the series, I love being a musician and as I said I think shows geared towards kids that push music are great for growing the art form. But instead we got a fourth rate school show with a little bit of the life here and there. I wouldn't have been as disappointed if it was just marketed as a school show, but they pushed the music angle then ran from it. After each episode I did want to get on to the next, but part of me thinks it was in hopes it would be different.
It's a cute show, just not a rewatch type of show.
With a second season and movie still here for the viewing I hope the series gets back to it's intended path, the bonus episode was a good start, but this show easily strays.
It's not really complex which is a good thing to have once in a while. It's simply a bunch of high school kids enjoying themselves with the help of music. It's short, simple, and to the point. There's no deep hidden subplot to dig up which is good if you just want to be entertained.
I really like the art style. The colors are kind of weird. There's some pastel colors but then there's some really defined colors that pop. I love how the characters look as well.
Sound<div>Since this is an anime about music, I expected that they'd put a lot of time and energy into this department. Not really into Japanese music because they just don't translate well but it sounds great and catchy.</div> <div> </div> <div>Characters</div> <div>