The student band "After School Tea Time" (lead guitarist Yui Hirasawa, bassist Mio Akiyama, drummer Ritsu Tanaika, and keyboardist Tsumugi Kotobuki) are ready to graduate and take their band to new heights. But before they can do that, they must recruit new members to ensure the survival of the light music club!
Between band practice, club recruitment, and studying, the girls stumble through daily teenager life: concerts, college applications, holidays, and vacations. Along with junior club member Azusa Nakano, the girls of K-On!! are ready to make their senior year of high school a great one!
Over the few years or so, it’s been increasingly apparent that watching anything associated with moe is to be treated with the same sort of caution as doing yoga, or making origami. Generally you’d do all three in the privacy of your own room, preferably with the lights dimed down and curtains tightly shut. (I am speaking of course, mainly for guys).
Yes there is much shame to be had in admitting you enjoy watching K-On!!, because who in their right mind would enjoy a plotless moeblob slice-of-life show over say… the testosterone filled battle epic TTGL? Certainly no one would admit to such an atrocious act to their friends face to face, (or anything less than a distance of 100 miles and 2 computer screens for that matter). Hence it becomes extremely hard to be objective when posed with the question, ‘Is K-On!! a good anime?’, because all of our social preservation instincts scream “run away!”, while somewhere deep in the soft side of our hearts, something keeps us rooted to our chair and our eyes on our displays.
(Unless you factor in the anonymity of the internet of course, in which case, proudly declaring that K-On!! is awesome and giving it a 9/10 is A-O-K.)
Jokes aside though, in recent times I feel that too much anime are being categorized based on if they have any moe elements in them. While there’s nothing wrong with giving labeling an anime as containing moe, it unfairly depicts certain anime as catering towards the niche otaku audience and suggests it’s lack of depth and unoriginality, which in many cases simply isn’t true. Take Lucky Star for example. Who’s to say that it was just a mindless moeblob?
Anyway I had a review here somewhere… I would go as far as to say that I love the slice-of-life genre. Honey & Clover (which I maintain is more slice-of-life than romance) and Aria remain firmly at my number 1 and 2 spot. For a great slice-of-life, there are a number of criteria that one needs to fill, but the simplest and most important is that every episode should end with you feeling relaxed and contented with a smile on your face. Does K-On!! achieve this? Yes, absolutely 100% yes.
K-On!! follows a relatively frugal format in terms of storyline. You wouldn’t go into each episode expecting anything dramatic or exhilarating, and for some this may be what they like to call boring. But then again, you wouldn’t open a bag of chips expecting M&Ms and chocolate fudge, so why you go into K-On!! expecting anything even resembling a continuous plot? K-On!!’s style single episodic scenarios work greatly in it’s favor, viewers are never startled with annoying cliffhangers or feel an obligation to keep up with it in fear of missing out on some important plot element. If watching K-On!! becomes a chore (I’m looking at you Bleach manga), then it’s missed the point completely, and in this regard, I give K-On!!’s ‘plot’ two thumbs up.
Despite this though, K-On!! deals with some surprisingly deep themes that would go right over the heads of most casual viewers. One definite improvement from it’s first season is the branching out of the limited focus of club practice (eating cake) to wider array of activities. Granted, most of them are still obvious and predictable, the sort of been-there done-that stories we’ve all seen before, but the shift allowed K-On!! to focus on many different aspects and resort less to what I like to call ‘moe-moments’ in order to fill up the 24 minutes. Lets face it, how many different ways can you eat, drink and procrastinate before it starts getting old? Instead though, from the summer trips to school plays to the air conditioning campaigns, K-On!! moves away from the same-ness of cake/tea/practice/more cake in the first season and closer to true slice-of-life.
K-On!!’s real brilliance shines in the final 6-7 episodes or so, as the girls neared the finale of their school life, the realization that their after school tea times can’t last forever hits them quietly and their are faced with the challenges of change and the future. Though not exactly compelling and dramatic, it nevertheless teaches us that our beloved peaceful times cannot always last forever, which only makes them more precious, not unlike Aria the Origination, but on a smaller scale. K-On!’s main idea was a carefree life of daily cake, tea and music with not a worry in the world, but K-On!!’s step away from that ultimately paid off and turned what would have been just a mediocre moeblob into a great slice-of-life.
I supposed I’d better tackle the moe problem, as it seems to be the main issue dragging K-On!! down. Yes, there is a lot of it. Yes, it gets annoying. Yes, it is overused and detracts from the overall effect. Would K-On!! be better without it? Probably. But then it wouldn’t be K-On!!. Yes you can all come and egg my house afterwards for using such a cliche argument, but there is some wisdom in my words, ladies and gentlemen. As much as we all hate to admit it, moe has become an integral part of the characterization of the K-On!! girls. Yui simply wouldn’t believe the same if she didn’t drool over Azu-nyan or cake, Azu-nyan wouldn’t be the same if she didn’t get embarrassed over every little thing and Mugi simply can’t exist without her air-headed-ness and cheerfulness. Sure, they could do without it, but then they’d be different characters completely. Big Macs would probably taste better with tomato sauce instead of mayo, but then they wouldn’t be Big Macs anymore, if you get what I mean. Even though I make better tasting burgers myself, I wouldn’t want to have Big Macs any other way.
And to be fair, a lot of the moe-hate stem from people who watch 3-4 episodes, drop it, and then go complain about it on forums. As I followed K-On!! throughout it’s season, I was quietly surprised as the moe-moments gradually thinned out little by little. It was as if as the girls grew older, the show slowly matured along with them. Don’t believe me? Well, don’t my word for it, see for yourself. Right now. Open up say episode 2 or 3, count how many moe-moments there are, and then compare them to a later episode, say, 21 or something. Don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere so take your time… Ok… done? See? Good. Anyway as I was saying, the gradual fade of moe was was subtle and barely noticeable, but for those paying attention it was a nice touch, and went along well with the tone of bittersweetness of the end of their high school lives.
I guess it’ll be wrong to not comment on the music of K-On!! seeing as how that was kinda the whole theme that they were going for. Honestly speaking, it really isn’t half bad. Toyosaki Aki (Yui)’s cute but horrendous out of tune vocals aside, the OP, ED and insert songs generally maintain the high standard of the first season. They’re catchy, and well… very K-On!!-ish. What caught me out though was the meaning they seem to embody. Rather than the lyrics simply being a spontaneous creation (I mean Curry Nochi Rice, what was that all about) they represented something, like Yui’s realization of all the things she took for granted in portrayed in U&I and the girl’s close friendship exemplified through their song for Azusa. In short, K-On!!’s music is great, and that’s all there really is to say about that. (Unless you hate poppy rock, in which case allow me to direct you to the mute button. Seriously, no one’s making you listen to this, get over yourself.)
Guess I better get on to the boring stuff now.
Animation: Nothing to write home about, but the smoothness and crispness is certainly pleasing and relaxing to look at, a very good style for a slice-of-life. Animation during the live performances have definitely improved since the first season, which is a definite plus.
Sound: Insert songs aside, more often than not there’s always some cutesy background music playing to accompany the scene. While this can easily backfire, KyoAni does a very good job of timing, and fitting the mood with the right music, so this section is also a plus.
Voice Acting: I was surprised in the first season how such a amateurish band of seiyuu could bring the characters to life. Another season’s gone by and I’m pleased that the quality of VA as remained consistent. Toyosaki Aki’s performance as Yui deserves a special mention, with interchanging voices between cutesy and hoarse, and the constant (if a bit too frequent) “ehhh?”s, it was really a joy to listen to. I still maintain that she needs singing lessons though.
So ultimately, is K-On!! a good anime? Well let me be perfectly honest. I actually wrote this review as a bet against a friend who maintained that it was impossible to write a review for, and I quote, “a cliched intangible blob of moe”. Now to be fair, he may have been right. Maybe I would have found it much easier to just simply cast K-On!! aside as a generic moe-cash in by KyoAni with half decent characterization, no good plot and overall mediocre anime. But as I instead set out to do the impossible task, I was pleasantly surprised when I realized that it was not as impossible as I originally thought. K-On!! is good. Heck, it’s great. It knew exactly what it wanted to be, and set out to achieve it brilliantly (which is more than I can say for Angel Beats). I’d probably go as far as to say it is the best slice-of-life/moe anime of the year. Sure, it probably couldn’t hold a candle to say… Durarara or FMA:Brotherhood, but you wouldn’t compare K-On!! to those anime for the same reason you wouldn’t ride a goat to an equestrian event or wear a miniskirt to a basketball game. Is K-On!! a good slice-of-life/moe? Yes. Then… did I enjoy K-On!!? Yes, immensely. Then… Is K-On!! a good anime? Obvious answer is obvious. So much for generic and mediocrity huh?
I will conclude with this afterthought. I could probably very easily write a long rant about the negatives of vanilla ice cream. I could talk about how bad it is for your health, how expensive and nutrition lacking ice-cream is, or how it is an overrated flavor and too many people eat just because they don’t have the guts to try new and better flavors, or how the ice-cream companies continue to make vanilla ice-cream to cater for those idiotic people, cashing in instead of nobly taking the first step in revolutionizing ice cream flavors. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t change the fact that I like vanilla ice-cream, and that I enjoy having it every Friday night after dinner as I tune in to watch the weekly action flick on television. If I didn’t enjoy vanilla ice-cream, would that change the fact that it’s a good ice-cream? Of course not. You’d be a magnificent retard for declaring vanilla ice-cream is bad just because you don’t like it, so why do some people do it so much for anime like K-On!!? Vanilla ice-cream exists for people who like vanilla ice-cream, just like K-On!! exists for people who like a good slice-of-life with a bit of (or quite a bit of, whatever floats your boat) moe. If there are people who enjoy it, then that should be all that matters, and I think sometimes we’re too easily forgetful of that fact.
For any individual, there always are surprises to be found in the long walk of life. Things that initially appear flavorless and dull, but reveal themselves to be something much more colorful. These are the kinds of experiences that impact a person and make them feel something of significance. They may make them laugh or cry, but in the end these are the kinds of stories that hold a special place in one's heart. The second season of K-ON is, for me (and for many), this very experience.
K-ON has always been a very polarizing series, one which has a dedicated fanbase and a vocal group of people staunchly asserting their hatred of the anime. Regardless of any personal feelings one might hold towards the massive franchise, it's impossible to deny the influence that it's enjoyed these past few years. But unlike so many titles that are successful simply by chance or for manipulating its viewers, KyoAni has painstakingly focused on quality to ensure that K-ON deserves every bit of its fame.
Clearly, this is not a complex story.
This will not challenge your beliefs or ideals, nor give you something to analyze and mull over. It's first and foremost a character-based slice of life revolving around five young girls and their daily lives within their highschool music club. Though reluctant fans and critics of the genre may find themselves irritated by the idealized and cute nature of the series, there is much more value to be found than a cursory glance at the artwork or synopsis might suggest. K-ON is an anime which all groups of people can enjoy- provided that the notion of 'cute girls drinking tea' doesn't make you want to go outside and blow stuff up.
While comedy plays the most extensive role in the entertainment of this series, a good portion of the fun comes from the characters and their basic interaction with each other. There's a very interesting dynamic between the main cast and they contrast and play off each other in both comedic and dramatic scenes. The most noteworthy example of this is the relationship between Yui and Azusa: a lazy, ditzy girl alongside her extremely hardworking and strict junior. While there isn't anything especially unique or complex to be found at first, it's a relationship that eventually develops into one that feels genuinely endearing. There are no melodramatic arguments between the two, nor is there only a single moment where their feelings come to light.
Surprisingly, the resulting character development does not subvert this dynamic but instead expands upon it. Azusa still finds herself feeling out-of-place and anxious in regards to the silly behavior of her seniors, while Yui also struggles to take her musicianship more seriously and come across as a figure that Azusa can rely on. A heavy contrast between the two exists as a result, which allows them to gain insight and grow from each other in a way that feels meaningful, while still retaining the inherent nature of their personalities. It's a dynamic that the series focuses on and highlights, and thankfully this aspect is treated with the care that it truly deserves.
Of course, K-ON focuses heavily on the other members of the club as well – five girls of very different lifestyles and backgrounds coming together and becoming close and inseparable friends. Unlike many slice of life series, this isn't an immediate growth between the cast (sans the long friendship between Ritsu and Mio), but rather a gradual one that builds from each episode. Rather than focus on one specific character each episode, the series is often focused more on their time together as a group. The girls all feel like human beings with personality and purpose, rather than the faceless archetypes that have become a staple of many anime titles. As a result, it becomes very easy to grow attached to the characters and feel like you're along with them for the ride, rather than simply being a mere spectator.
For an anime to immerse its viewers to such a level – to allow them to feel like they are there with the cast, is a very special thing. It serves not only to make each moment more meaningful, but to make the experience feel very personal as well. When the tale of the five girls is over, you may find yourself feeling like something important inside of you is now missing. If all the tea and cake leaves you in doubt, this will be the sign of something more.
The most prevalent theme within the series is that of growing up. They change, they adapt, and they learn to accept their new situation. As graduation draws closer for four of the five girls they deal with the complications of college entrance exams, career choices, and leaving their highschool life behind. Surprisingly, this has the biggest impact not on these characters themselves, but on their junior, Azusa, who feels discontent and uneasy about her friends moving on before her. She struggles with the prospect of managing the club by herself and recruiting new members for after the other girls graduate, an issue that is touched upon many times and eventually resolved towards the end of the series.
It's this theme which leads to a wide variety of emotional and heartwarming moments in the story. Two preeminent examples include the girls performing in front of the school for a final time and having a tearful realization after, and a final scene where the four girls graduate and play a bittersweet farewell song in the club room for a crying Azusa. I am not ashamed to admit that these two scenes made me tear up.
Which brings up an interesting point, because if the series were so focused on the girls eating cake and doing nothing each episode, would these kinds of scenes exist in the first place? No. It almost feels like a direct contradiction to the claims of the anime being focused on nothing more than the cuteness of the characters, and while it's impossible to deny its presence in the story, it's quite clear that this is not what the anime is defined by. This is what sets K-ON apart from many of its competitors: being an anime that is not only cute and entertaining, but one that carries emotional impact as well.
It should also be noted that while the manga is not by any means bad, KyoAni took Kakifly’s very simplistic 4-koma and added an enormous amount of detail to it, taking important plot elements that only existed in a passing line or panel from the manga. The vast majority of the character development and emotional scenes are the work of KyoAni and the talented staff behind the anime, and for taking liberties and improving upon the manga in so many ways they deserve to be applauded and commended. There's an adage about how adaptations are always inferior to the source material, but this is one example that proves it's not always so.
But then, where would the series be without the stunning production values that KyoAni is so well known for?
This is luckily an aspect that is not glanced over or given second thought, and the visuals in K-ON are something that stand out as being absolutely stellar as a result. Almost everything about the characters is fluid and detailed, with movements looking and feeling very much lifelike. Not only do the mouth and limbs move like in most anime, but the hair will move along with the body, the clothes will furrow and crease realistically to the character’s movements, and their eyebrows and facial shape will accentuate their expression. While the girls seldom practice or play music, the scenes where they do play are beautifully animated and show detail that musicians and general viewers will appreciate. It’s a gorgeous anime to look at and it really reflects the effort that KyoAni put into the series.
Music itself is much more varied than in the first season, with several times more unique songs that the girls perform together as a band and during the opening and ending sequences. These songs are all performed by the actors behind each character, and, while they certainly aren't amazing pieces of music, they fit perfectly with the tone of the anime and with the musical talent of the girls. They are not professional musicians but rather highschool girls that play and practice for fun, which makes the silly songs that they perform seem all the more realistic and fitting. Of further note is the background music, which is simplistic and sets the atmosphere for each scene very well.
The second season is a bit of a departure from its predecessor, though, in the sense that the music is not highlighted or given nearly as much focus as it had before. This isn't an anime about music but an anime about a group of friends that happen to play music. They practice and play, discuss musical terminology, and shop for new gear, but this serves more as an aspect of their daily lives rather than something they are invariably focusing on and thinking about. There's definitely enough here to satisfy accomplished and aspiring musicians alike, but it is not the focal point. However, when the series does focus on its musical performances it does a fantastic job, hitting on both the entertainment and emotional level. "U & I" is a great example of this, a song written by Yui to show thanks for her sister in a way that she could never express without music.
In the end, K-ON is not some form of "masterpiece" or its synonyms. It would be very difficult to find any anime that can genuinely meet that criteria. Rather, K-ON is an exemplary title that showcases what the best of anime really has to offer, both within its genre and universally. It's a title which shows us that a complex plot and deep themes are not required for an anime to truly resonate.
K-ON may not be everybody's cup of tea, but for the girls of Sakuragaoka High School, it is their tea party. read more
I'm not a huge fan of the "moe wave," if you want to call it, that has over-saturated the anime market for good part of the last five years. Personally, I don't really wish to encourage a lack of creativity in Japanese studios to continue with the on-going "cute girls going cute things" mentality, but I have to admit as much as I' might dislike or completely forgo these moe series, something about K-ON!! (and its prequel) keep me entertained.
There's one thing you're going to get from K-ON!! and that is: cute high school girls doing cute things. Its not in any way groundbreaking or will go down in history as Gundam or Cowboy Bebop (unless the anime industry take a nose dive) but if you take it for what it is, it's surprisingly very entertaining for 20 minutes of your life.
It starts back up with the Yui and the rest of the Light Music Club on their senior year of high school (save for Azusa) with the same charm we're used to. Though its very noticeable that there's a much greater lack of focus on the band playing music this season, with the first new song of the season "Pure Pure Heart" not featured in the series until episode 7. We've been teased with a possible Mugi solo in episode 3, but that's yet to be mentioned again.
But all the music is cute and fluffy as always, the new opening and ending songs take some time to grow on you after season 1, but I find myself maybe even liking them more in the end. The animation in the OP & ED has taking a noticeable improvement, which I find much better than S1.
The animation in this season is actually much better than the first. Its fluid and there are very little shortcuts in the quality. KyoAni makes up for lack of storytelling in K-ON!! with its top-notch animation which might easily be one of the best animated series of the Spring 2010 season.
Aside from the animation and the music, the story of K-ON!! is nothing complicated. The girls deal with everyday random things, there are not deep profound things going on here. This is a series you watch without thinking too hard; but I think that's slightly part of the charm. Its just an easy, enjoyable series.
The same character archetypes are still around, (Mio's scaredy cat ways are as prevalent at ever) and for some viewers this can get very old quickly. (I myself have gotten slightly irritated with the typical reactions from the girls) but there's one thing that keeps me watching K-ON! into its second season and sets it apart from the rest of these "otaku pandering moe series," its not turned into explicit fanservice.
There's not one panty shot, breast grope or sexual theme in the whole series and I think this is key. You don't feel guilty after watching a K-ON (unless you're a 20-something guy who is embarrassed watching cute girls in an anime). It could be a show you pull out and watch with your little sister. It stays innocent and sweet and the characters are never once sexualized by the creators. Its a very refreshing take on this very obviously, otaku focused genre.
Even so, K-ON!! is still probably a series only seasoned anime viewers would probably be able to watch and fully enjoy because of its simple, slice of life feel.read more
What do you get when you add four cute girlfriends with the desire to form a music band, situational comedy, and every style of moe an otaku can think of? You get K-On! (or kei-on-bu). Just of a group of girls trying to follow their dreams... sounds very cliche' doesn't it? Well it is and this show oozes cliche'. The setting to the sitcom all the way down to the catch phrase onomatopoeia's like kyuun and hyaan. It's very obvious from the start of episode 1, that the story isn't trying to mess with the success of current trends and tries its very best to run with whats popular with the anime crowd.
Don't get me wrong, the set of stories set through each episode are not terrible by any stretch. Its just very "same old same old." If you watch this you'll quickly recognize if you love it hate it after about two episodes. As for me, I love it but can't really feel attached to the storyline considering the amount of parts that are skipped. It almost feels like the show has a bad case of A.D.D. when it skips the important stuff. Trust me, they do it ALOT.
It skips the important stuff but as they say, the Devil is in the Details. Small things like putting a tongue sideways on a mascot pig azu-nyan, or little piggy sounds from yui, and even the graceful and light footed walking posture of Mugi in that cat costume as she walks in the club room. The icing on the cake is how Azu's buddy gives her a sip of her juice box without even thinking twice. That's what makes this show K-On.
The art direction has its high points and its low points, but overall the art can't go a little higher than mediocre. Just observe the op/ed theme songs for the show. Typically, the theme songs have higher production values than the actual show itself. They are indeed better artistically, but it still looks very low quality. Another areas that i could not help but notice in the artwork would be the disproportionate loli scenes and the spaces between their hands. Just look at their feed and you'll see what I'm talking about.
I can't turn down the entire art direction down though, as the style does reflect the manga quite accurately most of the time. But I believe most of the time and effort (and probably money) went in to replicating the girls instruments with their real life counterparts. Mio's vintage lefty Fender-Japan JB62/3TS, Ritsu's Yamaha Hipgig JK6F46MK, Tsumugi's Korg TR76 (which is ~$1300), and Yui's VINTAGE Gibson Les Paul Standard Guitar, are all represented with great painstaking detail. The honey burst colors of the bass and standard guitars, the indentations on the Zildjan cymbals, even the correct amount of knobs and switches on the various Marshall amps (usually the JCM900 is shown the most). They even go far as to showcase even more instrument types throughout various locations like the Sonor Delite Stage 1 drum set in one of the girls summer home. Sadly, the instruments are just mere props that aren't shown in action very often as one would hope in a music-themed anime. But when they are in display, everything else, including the girls, pale in comparison to their details.
As usual, sound is the toughest to score, since its either really good or really bad. But typically its really good, so my standards are set much higher than what most would probably do. The voice acting is above average considering today's standards. Any female seiyuu these days can pull off moe moe voices very easily. As like all the other music anime before it, its main selling point is the music and how its integrated into the series. Now if you cant stand J-Pop/Rock then I'm sure you will probably drop this series. Unless you're a moe otaku and in that case, you'll watch this show religiously. But for a 13 episode series, they play just the right amount of songs, and they manage not to keep playing the same song over and over to the point of insanity like Kirarin Revolution did with Bararaika, although they ALMOST do.
The characters are, of course, cute and lovable. Their actions and reactions are all spot on scenes of cute humor. And all the jokes about each other are always sure to bring out a chuckle or two. The chemistry is also a very good mix which proves that the standard 4 B's of personalities (brash, bashful, boorish, and benevolent) can never falter for great story telling.
Everything they see, say, and do is just insanely cute. It might not be of that loli persuasion but its all moe that gradually increases its moe powers even more with every episode. Be that as it may, they are great characters, but they are by no means very original in the character designs. Sadly, I too (as millions of other people have fallen under Mio Akiyama's spell and forced me to give it an 8 out of 10...
Sure the characters are cookie cutter moe blobs but beauty is definitely in the details. People who hate this show usually dont sweat the small stuff like that. They just see a group of girls chatting about BS and having fun. Thats fine, that is what a slice of life comedy is all about, having fun. Azunyan pretty much sums up the epic power of the moeblob in episode one when she poses in front of that "rising sun".
I enjoyed the time I spent watching this show. I never felt like this was a waste of time or anything of the sort. Maybe its because I love school comedies or Mio's ability to bring the whole country of Japan (and the world) to its knees. Regardless, its still fun to watch these girls try to get by and reach their goals together. Its obvious as to why such a simple show is appealing to the masses. It has all the right components and the constant bombardment of moe scenes will defintiely make any moe fan's heart flutter. It defintely has its flaws (in some important places) but since it is so short, you get just enough story progression to enjoy it
Aside from a character’s eyes and mouth, eyebrows also play an important part in the character design of an anime character. And sometimes these anime character's eyebrows are painted on pretty thick! Let’s take a look at some of these majestic eyebrows!
Looking back on the top selling anime series of the 21st century by year, you'll find some shows you'll expect to see, and some you might not have even thought about since they came out. Let's look back and see what shows sold the most in their years.