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!
StoryHaving 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.AnimationK-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.SoundJapanese 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. CharactersAs 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.OverallThough 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 a 13 episode slice-of-life comedy anime with a core theme of music, giving off a vibe of a shoujo anime. But don’t let my words fool you, this is relaxing and chilled-out type of anime and is a fair bit like Lucky Star in animation, it might seem off-putting, but the proof is in the pudding. It’s an anime about a high-school music club that forms a band and the things they get up to. I chose to watch this in my breakfast chill-out slot, having just finished Minami-ke. Please note that this review is for both the first season of K-On and the DVD extra K-On - Live House, which I watched alongside. Animation This anime oozes quality. I watched it in 720p, including the DVD special and even there it looked great, the lines were well defined and the movement was fluid. Colour was vibrant, but that was in part due to style. I think this may be available in 1080p Blu-ray quality, at least in Japanese. The animation quality here exceeds that of the middle seasons of Minami-ke and other anime made around the same time, it’s excellent for a 2009 anime. The animation style is another thing I can give praise too. It’s not an all too common style, it seems to remind me a lot of the anime Lucky Star, where the characters are all almost chibi and petite. This exceptional style ties in with the quality, it’s beautiful and vibrant in colour. It appears so very family friendly and all of the characters look cute and adorable. This style is not built for things like action and more mature content. Unfortunately it’s also a double-edged sword, the style can and will put people off from watching this anime, much like Lucky Star. I say give it a go and also look out for the second intro, it gets a bit artsy and post-modern, especially with the costumes. There’s good use of facial expressions, one can easily figure out how a character is feeling by their expression and there is also good use of camera angles. I will also have to praise the music video sections, buy they are so dang realistic. Not only is this present in the outro, but also during any song of the anime itself, the characters have cool costumes and it almost feels like the songs tell a story. I will also quickly mention that, if it isn’t obvious, that there’s little weirdness in this anime. I.e. not much pervy BS, even though the characters take a beach trip and the start of the ending is just a creative decision, think like how the Elfen Lied intro was artistic. There’s a small dig at the pervyness of other anime as they make a dig at one of the characters having bigger boobs, even though it doesn’t seem like anything out of the ordinary. There’s also just a reference to panty shots, even though it wasn’t an actual panty shot, I still feel let down by its existence (how it occurred didn’t even make sense). Sound Right off the bat, the sound was good. It had to be, after all it is an anime all about music and rock bands in particular, thus I must disclose my bias towards rock, my favourite blanket genre (sub-genres: classic, metal, punk, etc) in music. Granted the vocals were a bit strange, but they were reminiscent of other peaceful slice-of-life anime I’ve watched like Hanasaku Iroha, so the overall tone was positive. The outro made me get the soundtrack for this anime. Upon hearing more of the music, it’s let down by that high-pitched singing that I don’t like. It’s reminiscent of the Super Sonico soundtrack, good instrumental rock let down by vocals I don’t like. Thankfully a few of these songs have non-vocal versions for the pure unadulterated rock. Once again, that’s just my opinion, Super Sonico had perfect sound, so does this. But it’s not all just exciting rock music, the soundtrack of the anime itself uses a mixture of musical genres. Rock doesn’t actually appear too much in the soundtrack and instead there’s peaceful and simple instrumentals in a light-hearted style, like that found in the likes of Lucky Star. There’s even some beautiful piano moments. Not only did this stand out, but of course it contributed greatly to the overall feel of each scene, the sound design here was immaculate and I realise that going forward, I’m going to need an alternative standard to judge this by, since many of these anime have excelled on this front. This anime is available in both English and Japanese, I watched in English and in my opinion, the voice acting was up to par and casted well, there weren’t too many overused or common voices here (usually plagues most English dubs). None of the voices were too high-pitched, they suited the characters very well and contributed to the charm of each role. I will mention that according to Anime Planet, there’s no English dub (listed English VAs) for the DVD special, when in fact there is. Some of these VAs also did voices in Lucky Star, an anime of the same genre and similar vibe which I’ve referred to much in this review so far. And almost all of the main characters voiced in Squid Girl, possibly one of the most family friendly anime I’ve ever watched, which sadly didn’t get a dub for the second season. Yui Hirasawa is voiced by Stephanie Sheh, the voice behind Kaguya Sumeragi/Anya Alstreim in Code Geass, Eureka in Eureka Seven, Illya von Einzberg in the Fate series, Akira Kogami in Lucky Star, Mikuru Asahina in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Yui in Sword Art Online and Kinon Bachika in Gurren Lagann. Ritsu Tainaka is voiced by Cassandra Morris, her few roles include Amy in Gargantia: The Verdurous Planet and Suguha Kirigaya/Leafa in Sword Art Online. Mio Akiyama is voiced by Christina Valenzuela, also voicing Sakura Matou in the Fate series, Nagisa Saitou in Squid Girl and … no I’m not even going to mention that anime (one I very much dislike and am currently reading the novels for). Tsumugi Kotobuki is voiced by Shelby Lindley, her only other notable role being Chizuru Aizawa in Squid Girl. Azusa Nakano has the recognisable voice of Christine Marie Cabanos, known for the roles of Squid Girl in Squid Girl, Silica in Sword Art Online and Minori Kushieda in Toradora (the last anime I happened to watch before this one). Sawako Yamanako is voiced by Karen Strassman, the voice of Kallen Stadtfeld in Code Geass, Rider in Fate Stay Night, Striker in Gargantia: The Verdurous Planet, Miyuki Takara in Lucky Star, Kiyoh Bachika in Gurren Lagann and Yasuko Takasu/Nanako Kashii in Toradora (there it goes again). Nodoka Manabe is voiced by Laura Bailey, she has voiced Nagisa Chiba in Code Geass, Amber in Darker than Black, Lust in FMA, Maka Albarn in Soul Eater, Leite Jokin in Gurren Lagann and Xing Huo in Tsubasa Chronicle. Finally Ui Hirasawa is voiced by Xanthe Huin, the few roles including Sanae Nagasuki in Squid Girl and a character in that anime I won’t mention. Characters All 4 of the original band (light music club) members start off in their first year of high school. Yui Hirasawa is the lead guitarist of the band, a girl with short brown hair with a clip to keep it under control. The story starts off following her, who has no idea what club she should join and starts off having never played the guitar before. She’s an adorable clumsy airhead and unfortunately, that cute head of hers can’t hold much. When she learns one thing, she forgets another. She also has a sweet tooth and tends to slack off. She is kind and gentle and wouldn’t harm a fly. She gets excited very easily by things and has even nicknamed her guitar to be ‘Gita.’ Though honestly, who doesn’t name their guitar? …Probably just me :s If compared to the cast of Lucky Star, she would be the equivalent of Tsukasa, though not as shy. Ritsu Tainaka is the drummer of the band, a girl with short light brown hair, whose long fringe is held back by a headband. She is one of the very founding members and is essentially designated as the light music club’s president. She was the biggest driving force behind the formation of the band. Ritsu is the mischievous and hyperactive member of the group, often teasing Mio and the other characters. Like Yui she likes to slack off and while she means well, she often plays pranks and might be seen as one to get into arguments. She is a very out-going and free-spirited. Her Lucky Star equivalent would be Konata, but Ritsu has more brains, is a bit more sensible and is nowhere near being an Otaku. Mio Akiyama is the bassist of the band, a girl with beautiful long black hair. Also one of the founding members, Mio is the sensible one, trying to speak sense into the other characters. She happens to be left-handed (same as me!), so she actually uses a left-handed guitar (maybe I’m ambidextrous since I played my guitar normally/right-handed). She’s also shy, which is why she chose to play bass, instead of lead guitar, because she is scared of everybody paying attention to her. She hates pervy nonsense (much like myself) and fears that people leering at her will make her unsuitable for marriage. How adorable! The funny thing is, she is the band’s vocalist and becomes the school idol, AKA the most popular girl in school. She doesn’t like scary thing, thus is frightened easily and is the biggest target for Ritsu’s pranks. She often shouts back and is the one to always punish Ritsu by whacking her on the head. For the most part she is a sensible gentle girl, she likes to do things properly and put in effort where it’s due, she is the type of girl who does well in her exams and school life. She is often trying to get the other characters to be serious and pull themselves together for band practice, she’s almost a bit tsundere as deep inside she’s the one who likes to mess about and have fun. Her lucky star equivalent would be Kagami, of course being hotter (therefore the popularity) and less tsundere and error-prone as Kagami. Tsumugi Kotobuki is the keyboard player/pianist of the band, she has beach blonde hair and ‘epic eyebrows.’ Mugi-chan, as she is affectionately called by her friends, is the trope gentle rich girl of the anime. No doubt her piano skills were a result of her upbringing and her initial intention was to join the choir club, which fits in more with her upbringing and style. She is always bringing in cakes and sweet treats for her friends and is essentially the designated caterer of the club, she’ll always make tea. She is very sensible and smart, as her character trope suggests, she is good at most things and gets along well with everyone. She’s often the one trying to gently convince Mio that it’s okay to let the other band members mess about and is often reassuring Mio not to worry. Her Lucky Star equivalent would be Miyuki, except without being an airhead and the fear of dentists. Azusa Nakano is the rhythm guitarist of the band, with her black hair tied into cute pigtails. She’s one year junior to Yui and the others and in the same class as Ui, eventually becomes good friends. She’s very modest as she claims that she’s an amateur at guitar, but really she’s been playing for a long time and is obviously better at it than Yui who hasn’t been playing for very long. That said, Yui loves feeling like a senpai and wants to be superior if only to confirm her senpai status. While she looks adorable and is the youngest member of the band, she is conversely the most serious member of the band. She’s a bit tsundere when it comes to slacking off, she doesn’t mind but would prefer to actually practice. Due to her seriousness, her favourite other band member is obviously Mio, who she wouldn’t mind having as an older sister. She even wonders about moonlighting for another band at one point. Her cuteness means that Mio gets a break when the other members of the band dote over her and treat her like a pet cat, especially after Miss Yamanaka buys her cat-ears as a welcome present, which of course she looks adorable in (as does Mio). Most of all, the music that the band plays draws her to them for some reason, even though the band isn’t as good as other bands, she has an attachment to them. Ui Hirasawa is Yiu’s younger sister and a completely different individual. While she is adorable like her older sister, she ties her hair back and has a more mature look about her, funny considering she’s the younger one. This is backed up by her sensible and mature personality, she’s almost a bit motherly as she looks after her older sister and does all the housework while Yui lazes around (shame on you Yui!). Especially since their parents are always running off together on holidays and such, leaving them alone. As one of Yui’s friends say, they must be a very lovey-dovey couple. Ui never gets mad at Yui and does her best to stick up for her sister, the two get along very well, it’s so adorable! Sawako Yamanaka is a 20-something music teacher and the advisor of the light music club. This woman may just be the coolest teacher in all of anime, she’s a lovable nutcase type of person. On the outside she looks like a gentle and sensible woman, who is so pretty that she is popular with both students and staff alike. But deep inside, Sawako is a rebellious rock star, she was the head of the death metal band ‘Death Devil’ with the stage name ‘Maddy Candy’ when she was in the same club in the same school. It’s like she has a split personality, one being the wonderful teacher and the other being a crazed metal-head. She still loves metal and has mad guitar skills, much to the surprise of the girls. She likes to tease her students, almost as is she was one of their friends, and it’s nice to see a teacher get along so well with the students. The one down-side to this character is that she sucks when it comes down to relationships, she got into metal in order to catch the attention of a guy she liked. She’s single and recently got dumped by her boyfriend (what!?!? What dude wouldn’t like her?!?), so she doesn’t take kindly to romantic drivel. She also loves the way the girls slack off, she even joins in on the lazing around and makes them (mainly Mio/Azusa) wear cosplay, she’s obsessed with making costumes for the girls! Nodoka Manabe is Yui’s classmate and best-friend, one who isn’t in the light music club surprisingly. She’s not quite the trope glasses girl, but she is very smart and well-behaved, she’s always the voice of reason for Yui and trying to help her out. She is the student council president and thus has a central role in helping to arrange events for the light music club. She may not seem like one of the gang, since she may be busy with student council work, but really she is. Among the extra characters, I must mention Kawakami, the manager of the live house in the DVD special episode. She turns out to be Miss Yamanaka’s old band mates and is very welcoming and helpful to the girls for their first live gig outside of school. She even likes the band name. Story The anime starts with the very creation of the light music club. And that’s about it, Yui picks up learning Guitar as she joins the light music club and ends up making new friends. This is slice-of-life after all, so there is no overall plot or end-goal in sight. This is despite the bands desires to go big and play at Budokan, a big well-known concert. I’d normally complain about this lack of story, but the time goes by fairly fast, this 13 episode season covers 2 entire years and most of all, it was relaxing to watch. This is one of those chilled out slice-of-life anime that made me feel warm and fuzzy while watching it. The DVD extra Live-House episode just shows the band at their first live performance outside of school, an almost professional gig. They come across other bands and get along well. This makes no sense to me… I usually loathe anime that have no plot. But perhaps it’s the additional lack of nonsense that chilled me out to the extent where I’d enjoy it. The comedy is somewhat lacking, but still existent. Though I didn’t mind and the events were rather predictable at times. But then again, this isn’t a narrative based anime, so that doesn’t matter as much. There are a few impossibilities and things that don’t make sense, like how the completely inept Yui is able to tune her guitar by ear, she has perfect pitch. I tended not to notice most of these though. It goes without saying that this could have been an even better anime had they actually set up a proper story and end-goal to strive for. They could still give off the same relaxed atmosphere and try for the same not-so-funny jokes. A missed opportunity here. No story means no conclusion required, so you know what to expect in the last few episodes. There is a sequel, I don’t know how that’ll go since there’s only a year left of the band, the main cast of characters would be finishing high-school so they can’t keep the same pacing unless they follow the characters into their adult lives. Conclusion There’s no plot, it’s just entirely driven by the occasionally funny interactions of the characters. The adorable characters who are capable of melting one’s heart. It’s a shame that the plot is lacking, but there’s a second season for a chance at redemption. Off the bat, I only recommend this for folks who can tolerate and enjoy slice-of-life, the chilled out sort. Those who enjoyed the likes of Tari Tari and Lucky Star, will likely find this to their taste. I wouldn’t recommend this as a comedy anime, mainly because it wasn’t as funny as other anime like Minami-ke or Lucky Star. But it did fill me with positivity and warm fuzziness, due to how cutesy and gentle this anime is. Not an anime for everyone, but those who can tolerate it will find this to be a positive, chilled out anime to watch. Heck there’s even a song called ‘fluffy time’ (Fuwa Fuwa Time)! *explosion of rainbows and kittens* See ya in season 2! Family-friendliness Rating: 2/5 References to ecchi (lower is better) Overall Rating: 7/10 (higher is better)
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 whole 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. It 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 there is a plus in them getting their act together. Throughout you can see an inspiration from shows like FLCL and Excel Saga, but it just didn't work here. 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 high detail 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 that 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 unlike the songs within the series these two songs even have terrible melodies. 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 (I believe that'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, it 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 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 bubbly, 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.
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