The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials


Title: K-On!
Genre: Comedy
Company: Kyoto Animation
Format: 12 episodes
Dates: 3 Apr 2009 – 26 Jun 2009

Synopsis: Hirasawa Yui has never joined a club before. Through strange circumstances, she finds herself enrolled in the light music club. There, she meets the three other members, Tainaka Ritsu, Kotobuki Tsumugi and Akiyama Mio and forges an odd but solid friendship with them. Together, the four of them face the ups and downs of school, adolescence and music.

The Highlights
Plot: What plot?
Animation and art: Vivid and consistent.
Humour: Inconspicuous.
Characters: At times humorous, other times irksome.
Music: Not as much as there should be.

Kyoto Animation has certainly come a long way. With mega-hits like The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya(1,2), Lucky Star and Clannad, KyoAni has definitely proven its mettle as an animation company that excels in slice-of-life comedies.

Employing the same formula of humour, languid pacing and lack of plot, K-ON! appears to be another typical KyoAni production. To a certain extent, this proves correct as K-ON! chronicles the quirky lifestyles of the four main characters in a paradigmatic slice-of-life manner. However, a major element missing from the anime is the humour factor. As a whole, K-ON! never really tries to be laugh-out-loud funny. Rather, it relies on a recycled “entourage” of recurring gags that were initially mildly funny, but became banal and dull after several episodes. There were however, a few scenes that I found hilarious such as Mugi’s affinity for the fairer sex and Sawako-sensei’s history as a heavy metal guitarist.

Ironically, despite K-ON! being a show about music, the music plays second fiddle to the other aspects of the anime. In many cases, the characters would forgo practice sessions in favour of vacations and indulgence in confectionery. To compensate for the lack of music, mini-tutorials should have been added at the end of each episode (as done in Moyashimon), for example tips on alternate picking, choosing a suitable guitar and so forth. Had this been added, viewers would be able to relate more closely with the characters in their endeavours to succeed as a high school music band. Instead, watching the characters perform on stage gave me a strange sense of detachment. Also, Yui’s progress as a guitarist was inconsistent, ranging from nil to inhumanly quick. To be fair, the songs performed by Yui and her band such as “Fuwa Fuwa Time” were infectiously catchy. Often enough, I found myself tapping my feet to the aforesaid tunes.

K-ON!’s colourful ensemble of characters is perhaps the anime’s biggest selling point. Among the characters are Yui, the ebullient, air-headed guitarist, Tsumugi, the effluent but ignorant keyboardist, Ritsu, the impetuous drummer and Mio, the reclusive, punctilious bassist/vocalist . Their contrasting personalities serve as an amusing focal point of the show, perhaps the anime’s sole source of humour. Yui’s indecisiveness and inability to concentrate (provided in small doses) had me chuckling as did Tsumugi’s obliviousness to her own wealth and infatuation for other females. However, Mio, initially my favourite character, proved to be the least interesting as she served as a mere conduit of moe by adopting various personalities (including reticence, cowardice and authoritativeness) in a cheap attempt to up the moe output. This rendered her character paper-thin, sorely disappointing me. The introduction of a fifth main character, Azusa, did little more than increase the already saturated moe content.

The last major element of the anime, namely animation, was consistently crisp and vivid. Character designs, particularly Mio’s, were appealing and very easy on the eyes. However, what really irked me was the reusing of numerous scenes . particularly in the beach episodes. In addition to that, the crude pasting of Azusa into the opening song made me unsure whether I should cringe or weep. These, among other scenes exhibited KyoAni’s lack of effort and general flippancy in producing this anime.

As a whole, K-ON! has its moments but is ultimately an inconsequential anime. Mediocrity at its quintessence.

The Rating: 5

Reviewed by: Fuu

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