The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

K-On! S2

Title: K-On! S2 aka K-ON!!
Genre: Comedy/Drama
Company: Kyoto Animation
Format: 24 episodes
Date: 6 Apr 2010 – 14 Sep 2010

Synopsis: Spring has come to Sakuragaoka Girls High, and the new school semester has begun. A girl came to school an hour early by mistake, and decides to “practice a new technique” for the upcoming orientation performance on her Gibson guitar alone in the club room. The girl is none other than Yui, the front girl of the school’s beloved rock band, the After-School Tea Time. Yui, Mio, Ritsu and Tsumugi have become senior students and the four girls spend their final year in high school making music and taking part in school activities, along with their club junior member andĀ feline mascot Azusa.

The Highlights
Artwork: Major improvement; highly detailed for slice-of-life but animation quality remains the same.
Characters development: Slim to nil; even the chemistry is barely interesting.
Humor: Sporadically amusing; basically hits-or-misses, mostly being the latter.
Storytelling: No creativity or decent effort put into it; lacks value.
Music: “NO Thank You!” is one of the better songs but the Chipmunks-inspired OPs are needles to the ear drums.
Possibility of another sequel: Very likely.

K-On! S1 is arguably Kyoto Animation‘s ultimate moe show for its sheer popularity, so the announcement of a second instalment came as no surprise to everyone. As one who is generally unaffected but sometimes irritated by the show’s shallow characters and bland storytelling, I was expecting K-On! S2 to be no different from the prequel. The only cynical expectation I had was more moe material, and K-On! S2 actually offered just that. In fact, it even took a step further: it doubles the prequel’s length from 12 episodes to 24 episodes (plus two extras), so there’s enough moe to go round for its legion of fans and their fixes.

The problem with K-On! S2 isn’t its length per se. Rather, it’s what one can expect once the gist of the whole story is understood just a few episodes into the show. In terms of the overall story, it’s no different from K-On! S1: the daily accounts of a group of girls and their experiences as high school students. But the problem is, even as a slice-of-life show, it can be more boring than real-life experiences. Reaching the halfway point of the series, the character development remains to be out of sight and the chemistry between the girls is lukewarm at best. The prequel fared a little better in character development for at least exploring how the girls formed a band out of their fondness for light-hearted rock music. In this instalment however, several episodes don’t even concern them on making music. Instead, it shows them in the most mundane of scenarios such as going to the beach or not being able to use their club room for a day. This is why 24 episodes feels awfully long: things could’ve been more condensed and coherent for half the length, and it gives the impression that the writers have deliberately taken a vacation on their efforts.

Another main concern about K-On! S2 is its use of the slice-of-life genre. Some people have slammed this show because “nothing happens”, but personally I think it’s more than that. Slice-of-life may involve having nothing significant taking place, but what makes the genre watchable is the value viewers stand to gain by watching. What makes slice-of life shows such as ARIA and Minami-ke interesting is the aspect where viewers get more than what they initially expect; the former emphasizes on subtle character development while the latter highlights quirky characters and the often amusing hijinks that ensue as a result of their chemistry. Watching K-On! S2 however, is like watching cats playing a ball of yarn on Nico Nico Douga. Viewers get exactly what they expect and it’s a simple case of whether the show “pushes your buttons”, not how the characters win over their viewers. Worse, the humor can be inconsistent, where the occasional funny moments are bogged down by capricious dialogue that barely incites a chuckle, with Tsumugi assuming the role of the club’s lovable troll.

K-On! S2 sets out to be a show targeting at moe fans, and it does it oh so well. Even after a major aesthetic improvement where the minute details can be seen from the gleaming guitar strings on Yui’s Les Paul to the strawberry hulls on the girls’ confectionary desserts, it doesn’t do enough on the more significant aspects such as creative storytelling and genuine character development. K-On! S2 feels like a cynical product for raking in money on the producers’ part and, although it isn’t deplorable, it’s quite a waste when there is potential for genuine drama. There are hints of another sequel soon, but as a viewer who is remotely impressed by the two seasons, I won’t be that keen on following it.

The Rating: 5

Reviewed by: AC

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