When anime is brought up in the media, it’s generally seen through a very small window as something along the lines of Dragon Ball or tentacle porn (you make weird porn for 40 years and suddenly you get a reputation for it). However, that’s clearly not all there is to the medium.
Past the screaming, big haired men and women there are a number of different types of stories being told. One of the most popular types are stories about high school students.
While some of these shows feature these teens saving the world from aliens/demons/government conspiracies/angel-monster-god-things/tentacle porn most just deal with the every day life of a teen in Japan.
Add on to that cute character’s and pop music and you get franchises like K-ON!
K-On! is an anime series based upon a four panel manga comic written by Kakifly and published by Houbunsha’s Manga Time Kirara.
The show revolves around a school club called the Light Music Club. While the name Light Music doesn’t make sense in North American, it’s close to what we’d call Popular Music.
LMC had a strong history at the character’s high school but due to lack of members it’s threatened with abandonment.
The two current members; out spoken club leader/drummer Ritsu Tainaka (Cassandra Lee) and shy bass player Mio Akiyama (Cristina Vee) end up having to recruit two more member to meet the minimum requirement of members.
They soon find those two other members when they convince Tsumugi Kotobuki or “Mugi” (Shelby Lindley) a keyboard player with amazing eyebrows and the absentminded and guitarless guitarist Yui Hirasawa (Sephanie Sheh) to join the band.
As you’d expect the four soon become friends and start dealing with a number of issues such as; training Yui how to play guitar, writing songs and even finding another guitar player; the quite guitar master Azusa Nakano (Christine Marie Cabanos).
On the technical side, K-On! is an average looking anime. The show bounces around between it’s main art style to other cartoon-like styles such as Super-Deformed (i.e. big heads, small bodies) for comedic effect. While these moments are entertaining they’re few and far between. Most of the show is spend with the traditional looking anime style.
However, the real problem are the design of the main characters due to the fact that characters share a similar head shape.
While each of the characters have their own personalities and hair styles it’s still difficult to tell some of the secondary character from one another. The only who really stands out is Mugi who’s eyebrows are so large they make Martin Scorsese cry.
Additional the character’s playing animations aren’t that great either. While it’s difficult to show the intricacies of playing a instrument, i.e. the fingerings of a G chord, the show tries to avoid it by not shown them play that much.
For some episodes we only see them play during the opening theme of the show, although this lack of playing does make sense when you figure out what the show really is.
While this show might sound like it’s a musical comedy, it’s really a slice of life show with some music thrown in. This is made clear by the reluctance of the band to even practice.
The band ends up practicing as hard as The Police did for their last tour (take that Sting, you and your money) and end up seeming unprepared for every concert that they do, until the group starts playing.
However, when the band does play, their songs are fast, exciting and catchy…instrumentation wise at least.
While the songs feature a lot of distorted guitars, grooving bass lines, wild drums and great keyboard flurries the lyrics, which were originally written in Japanese, are awful.
Don’t’ believe me? Let’s take a look at one of their songs. Here’s some lyrics (translated) from the song My Love is a Stapler…no I’m not making that title up.
“Could it be, perhaps? Maybe I am just being whimsical, but I started with so little sheets. Now the number of them has increased.
It would help me out a lot if there was a calculation I could use to find out how much I love you.”
Most of these songs feature lyrics that more or less are like this. While it’s less painful than say a Justin Bieber song (and has far better instrumentation) it’s still kind of embarrassing to read.
Despite this, the show also has poppy opening and closing themes that’ll crack a smile on the viewers face. The closing theme, “Don’t Say Lazy” (again, I didn’t make that up) features a music video like look that is continued throughout the rest of the series.
The light music, gushy lyrics and goofy animation makes the show something that I’m not really familiar with. K-ON! has something that can only be called the “cuteness factor.”
Now being a man, it’s hard for me to like or understand cute things (what with me smoking cigars and drinking rye whiskey during my Mad Men type business meetings) but there’s something that makes me smile about the show.
All of the characters are so over the top and adorable that it’s almost hard to hate what you’re watching. In fact, I giggled a great deal during the first season’s thirteen episodes and one episode OVA.
So much of the show’s comedy is done through the over the top nature of the show and it’s just charming as hell.
K-On! has catchy sounding songs, bright over the top animation, funny dialogue and it’s “cute.” It’s a solid alternative to hundreds of violent anime that’s out there. I’d recommend it to anyone looking for something funny and different.
K-On! was directed by Naoko Yamada and produced by Kyoto Animation. The show is licensed Madman Entertainment (Australia), Bandai Entertainment (North America) and Manga Entertainment (United Kingdom).