What better way to kick off my second “season” (if you will) of reviews than an anime I admittedly have been violently opposed to and always hated with a passion. About a year ago I sat down to watch K-On!, expecting nothing less than an entertaining anime, especially considering the hype. What I came away with was two episodes watched, the series dropped, and a total disdain for the seemingly pointless, musically deficient anime. Ever since then I have fought about how it is the bane of the Earth and how it is nothing less than a “cutesy” series with nothing to it.
So how come I came back a year later? Well, admittedly, it came about as a joke. I was going to see how much “cute” I could handle, doing a marathon of K-On! on top of a marathon of PreCure. Well, thank God I didn’t get very far into PreCure and thank God I got through K-On! Because I’ve been very, very wrong about it for a long time.
K-On! is the simple story of a girl named Yui, who has no special talents and is a complete klutz. As she enters high school she’s intent on finding a place where she belongs and may excel. What she comes across is the light music club, a tiny group who barely have enough members for the school to allow them to conduct business. She gets to be the guitarist for their band, and from there the series takes us through the lives of these four (later five) girls as they love life and enjoy friendship and occasionally get around to playing music.
Of course, none of this is groundbreaking (Kyoto Animation also did the Haruhi Suzumiya series, which has pretty much the same basic plot behind it, though it is completely different in the character and execution department). In fact, the school club thing is a go-to for high school based anime and K-On! is not the first, nor the last to ever use this plot. But it is one of the best examples.
What K-On! doesn’t have is much of a story. It’s a slice of life that goes through a year and a half of these girl’s lives in twelve episodes. Of course there’s not much cohesiveness. But each episode is fun as hell to watch.
What makes the series so entertaining is the cast. Very rarely do I commend the character department, but I found not a single bad character in K-On!. I enjoyed every character’s company; some more than others of course, but that’s beside the point.
Yui’s journey to learn the guitar and discover herself is fairly compelling, though not what makes K-On! what it is. It’s her interactions with the other members. Mio, the bassist, is a scaredy-cat though very mature and the voice of reason. Ritsu, the drummer, is a wild child and always messing with everyone. Tsumugi on keyboard is the rich and motherly character who also seems to be a fan of yuri. And Azusa, who joins the club as Yui and pals become second years, is the one who actually has ambitions and wants to practice. Put them together, and they are a fun cast of characters who play off of each other really well and never annoy.
My major problem with K-On! lies in the fact that there is very little music. It’s why I loved Azusa so much, she came into the club and wondered where the hell the music was at and why the hell the girls only seemed to drink tea and eat cake (which, by the way, takes up about two thirds of the show). The very little music that is played is okay, though nothing really catchy. Which is weird considering the song from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (which, by the way, was not a music anime) is a lot more memorable and catchy than anything from K-On! Not even the theme song is all that great. The best song in the entire show is the ending, which is fairly catchy. Even then, the lyrics for these songs are God-awful painful. Then again, these are fifteen year old girls, so I guess I can give it a pass.
High production values show through in the animation. Vibrant and colorful, the show is a pleasure to look at. The characters are all adorable. The attention to details during the musical sections is amazing (it’s like you’re watching a real person play guitar or play the drums, it’s quite remarkable). Aside from the characters, K-On! definitely has great animation going for it.
So let’s recap: K-On has fantastic characters, is surprisingly funny and occasionally heartfelt, has some decent music, and has great animation. It’s truly a treat and a fantastic slice-of-life as long as you don’t mind spending more time drinking tea then actually playing music.
BEST CHARACTERS: 1. Azusa 2. Mio 3. Ritsu
DON'T LIKE IT? TOUGH CRAP!