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K-On! Review

by: Sheex
July 23, 2009

story 7/10

K-On! screenshot

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.

animation 7.5/10

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.

sound 7/10

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.    

characters 7/10

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.

overall 7.2/10

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.

Anime Info

It's the first day of high school, and plenty of school clubs are doing their best to recruit new members. However, for ditzy Yui, none of them seem to fit the bill. However, when she accidentally signs up to join the light music club, Yui begins a hilarious adventure to become a world class guitarist! There's just one problem: she's never played the guitar before in her life! Joined by bassist Mio, drummer Ritsu and keyboardist Tsugumi, Yui and the gang will juggle their studies with buying instruments, learning how to read music and even performing in the school festival, all in the hopes of someday becoming a successful band!

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About the Author

Sheex's avatar


Though I'm a big fan of slice of life and romance, I'll watch just about anything that catches my interest. My opinions tend to be pretty level-headed, but I have been known to be controversial from time to time! Feel free to lay into me if you so desire, as I always appreciate feedback - positive or negative. I hope you enjoy reading!

More Reviews


Utomneian avatar Utomneian
Feb 22, 2013

considering my tastes, i am not extremely keen on K-ON!, though it is a cute and occasionally funny show, but i feel like the brand of story it is, it is just not enough, and it's not like i can do or say anything that could change it, so i have no choice but to accept it as is, a simple light hearted slice of life comedy where no males exist.  i mean, even if there is no romance, it seems kind of odd there isn't at least 1 platonic male friend or a brother or something?  i guess it's an all girls school, and all-girl focus, and it's not like i can't say there isn't plenty of male dominant shows, so this is a win on girl power and women's equality and such, but at the same time it's somewhat boring to me. though the yuri tease with that obviously bisexual perverted teacher of theirs was quite entertaining, hehe xD  this review is pretty close to how i feel about the anime though, KyoAni has done better, and the story and characters are fairly plain.  i'd say i still like it though, i am not big on the music, but it isn't bad, and i like how they mention heavy metal \m/, so i am hanging in there, i might get into the second season (you know, even though by college time i hear that there still isn't any romance at all, because in real life humans have no desire for relationship ever, right?)  :p  i have a prefference for romance and drama (obviously since some of my fave animes are Love Hina, Clannad, Kanon, and Eureka seveN), so K-ON! is like i have to pretend that i like non-romantic light hearted situations, and i really don't, so, K-ON! has been an interest bend for me. 

Lofy avatar Lofy
Feb 22, 2012

Ilove k-On!

Ebhen avatar Ebhen
Jan 25, 2012

I've read a lot of references to K-on! in several discussions on the forum and deciced to give it a go. And that was a good decision! I find myself glued to the show even though it shouldn't appeal to me. I thought it would be to easy-going and "girlish" but still I sat there facinated. When you get to know the characters you start to like them more and more and soon you can't get enough of them. :)

Season 2 just made it worse... I really love this series and I don't care that it have flaws (name a perfect series), it stole my heart. Can't wait for the movie!

default avatar PunchingCthulhu
Jul 10, 2011

I completely agree with this review: Personally, I feel that I liked K-On! more than it feels like I objectively should, for the reasons this review explains. It doesn't strive to do more than be a nice fluff show, and it excels at that. Honestly, I think you're a bit too nice regarding the visuals. I feel like the expressions and reaction animations are often too over-the-top "Stereotypical Anime", and if you give the details any bit of scrutiny, they fall apart.

The other thing I think should be mentioned is that in my opinion, a couple of the episodes drag a bit. Primarily Episode 2, where Yui gets a guitar. I think part of the joke IS that things could have been resolved so much more quickly, but it just made me feel like I wasted a good 10-15 minutes watching it.

The show definitely relies on its upbeat energy and tried-and-true methods to succeed, and it just works. Unlike many shows that try to just shove cliches together, this whole ended up much greater than the sum of its parts, in my opinion.

I'm a tad concerned regarding a sequel and movie though- simply because I feel like eventually, the archetypes, even with the quirks added on, will simply stop being entertaining for me. But I really didn't think this show would end up entertaining me as much as it did, so I'll definitely give them a shot.

default avatar kheidz
Jun 13, 2011

I Love Tainaka Ritsu!!!

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