This is a review about both seasons. They are the same thing to the most part.
K-On belongs to the after effects Haruhi had on the industry and it’s the next big moe title to hit the streets after Lucky Star. It is hard not to compare these shows, since they are made by the same people, chronologically very close to one another, and even have the same target audience. At the same time, there is no other way to show how even such a genre can slowly evolve its mold and slowly become an entirely different experience.
Compared to Lucky Star, K-On is more elaborate and less of a farce. It focuses more on moe and less on product placement, which automatically makes it superior. Otaku references and Haruhi advertisements were only managing to turn that show into an in-joke that couldn’t stand on its own two feet. Unlike Lucky Star, K-On is NOT making anime promotions and is still successful without being directly related to an older superior source. I mean, ok, it is not the first moe show with schoolgirls (that title goes to Azumanga Daioh) but it definitely is not using titles to make itself seem better than it is with cheap tricks. It is still of course a show running on fan service of the cute type but it does it with its own strength.
Not that it’s completely innocent. It still does some indirect product placement with the type of guitars the girls use in their band (they are an existing brand) and thanks to its success that firm had a huge raise in sales. In fact, thanks to its success all of a sudden the world was filled with boy and girl bands, all inspired by the anime to have a shot at music; which is another indirect thing that makes it better. While Lucky Star was practically whispering in your ear to go buy Haruhi merchandise and other not-so-proud-to-admit-in-public anime affiliated material, K-On told you to get a few friends, buy some music instruments, and start making your own music, leave your own mark in the world, have fun with friends in public places. Get out of your room and do something dammit! That is a very positive influence a show can have on you, compared to the other one, which is basically telling you to shut yourself in a room and stare ronery at the screen. It is also ironic how other strictly-about-music anime like Beck, had far less influence on the community for being not-moe. Man, the power of cuteness is frightening!
Many would of course claim that the above trait was a result of Haruhi and not K-On (it had a band too) but that show was too many things at once and thus too blurry to draw a line at WHAT its influence exactly was. I mean, it even created its own pseudo-religion for God’s sake! Being motivated is one thing but turning to an ass who worships a 2D moe chick is plain lame. YOU ARE MAKING AN ASS OF YOURSELVES YOU E8 FREAKS! K-on is hardly like that; it is far more subtle in the way it affects you, calmer and more sophisticated.
If I stretch it a bit, there is another trend it promoted, which is none other than the love for sweets. WE HAVE CAKE! Sure, the other moe shows had that too but it was all mingled along with otaku jokes and pseudo-religions and the feeling of love for sugar was lost in all that. Being free of all those extras, the show made it far more clear how they LOOOOVE sweets. In fact, I have a sweet tooth for pastries as well and seeing that along with cute girls (another sweet tooth for those, hehe) had all the feeling of joy one would ever want from such a series. No otaku jokes, no aliens and espers and time travellers and WHO CARES WHAT OTHER UNNECESSARY STUFF. This is moe in its “almost” purest form. And I say almost because guitars and sweets (accompanied by tea) are still elements that are dressing the show in a rather overkill way. Azumanga Daioh didn’t have all that and was still fine for its time, thus even more successful at being purely about moe without promoting anything else. Of course, many would rush to say that for the same reason it doesn’t inspire you to do anything meta-series and that makes it inferior. I on the other hand say WHY WOULD IT??? Do you so much want to pick up a hobby that you need an anime show to choose? Find it yourself damn you! Geez, people love being manipulated so much, it is disturbing…
Anyways, mishaps aside K-On is still successful at what it was made to be. Its production values are great for being rather simple in artwork yet very successful in aesthetics. True brilliance is to show as much as possible with less as possible, and this is a good example where simply drawn characters and stories can make you feel a lot more than most other, more complicating and elaborate shows. I consider them almost perfect, not because of their detail but because of their effect on the audience.
The story part is still unimportant as ever but at least here you feel like there is a simple objective of sorts. The girls want to have a concert. And that’s all of it… Better than nothing but still not something you would be looking forward to or be anxious to see what will happen next; it is still just some simple girls eating cake, drinking tea, and playing guitars, as cute as possible.
The characters don’t develop in any significant way but at least the second season changed the way they interact with each other, based on the experiences they had before. So you are given a vague impression that they remember what happened before and won’t fall for the same tricks. They also added an extra girl to the party for flavour which meant a shift in behaviours, as means to adjust to her. Other than that they are archetypes with simple but vivid personality but the idea of acting a bit differently sounds like a lot for a genre that is not in favour of change and progress.
The value of the show is definitely high, as it is yet another cornerstone in moe history. Kyoto Animation managed to once again win this round as none of the various other moe shows that popped up to get a piece of the pie managed to fare as well. It also has a lot of meta-value, since it also affected the very lives of so many people to the point they bought guitars and created their own music bands. I don’t fancy that sort of influence but it’s a fact that further proves its importance.
My enjoyment of the series used to be high for awhile but after a point on started to lower more and more to the point I now don’t exactly love it anymore. It is still a mostly aimless show about cute girls eating cake and drinking tea and I am in favour of action and mystery. Some alteration in the second season helped to get some of the excitement back but even that was eventually not working out very well. But besides me, it definitely feels nice if each new season has something different to show as it prevents the boredom from the repetitive structure of moe to kick in. I hear if they ever make a third season, it will be about the girls going to university. That will again be a nice way to keep things fresh for awhile and possibly making their challenges a bit hard for a change. Anyways, as long as the creators are willing to experiment on the formula instead of going for one of the same is enough to keep this moe franchise at the top.
It is still not the best moe; especially after the same company made Hyouka later on, which has far more elaborate character interactions. But it still deserves a good pat in the back and it’s a good recommendation for moe fans.
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 8/10
General Artwork 2/2 (good looking)
Character Figures 1/2 (generic)
Backgrounds 1/2 (basic)
Animation 2/2 (smooth)
Visual Effects 2/2 (nice)
SOUND SECTION: 7/10
Voice Acting 2/3 (silly but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Music Themes 3/4 (not great but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Sound Effects 2/3 (ok I guess)
STORY SECTION: 2/10
Premise 0/2 (doesn’t have one)
Pacing 0/2 (loose)
Complexity 0/2 (none)
Plausibility 1/2 (easy going)
Conclusion 1/2 (simple)
CHARACTER SECTION: 6/10
Presence 2/2 (super cute)
Personality 2/2 (simple but well founded)
Backdrop 0/2 (what is that?)
Development 1/2 (subtle but it’s there)
Catharsis 1/2 (subtle but it’s there)
VALUE SECTION: 8/10
Historical Value 3/3 (all-famous)
Rewatchability 2/3 (high if you dig its style)
Memorability 3/4 (cute enough to bother remembering it)
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 4/10
Art 1/1 (looks nice)
Sound 1/2 (sounds ok)
Story 0/3 (what story?)
Characters 2/4 (cute but that is all)