Wednesday, June 24, 2009
When I watched the first episode of K-On!, I thought "Ah, another slice-of-life show about a group of moe girls in high school. It'll probably get attention from yuri fans simply because it's about a large group of girls, and besides Saki (and blegh, Queen's Blade), there isn't anything else yuri-ish this season." I was partly right. It is a slice-of-life moe school show, but in a micro-niche subgenre that has already become overcrowded with banal crap like Hyakko, with a high standard set by the now-classic Azumanga Daioh, K-On! turned out to be a surprisingly funny, endearing show.
K-On! is about Yui Hirasawa, a girl starting her first year of high school. She's your typical ditzy, cheerful, yet unmotivated protagonist who doesn't have any specific passion or interest. Ritsu ("Ricchan") Tanaka and Mio Akiyama are best friends and first-year students, but while Mio wants to join the literature club, Ritsu convinces/coerces her into reviving their school's old Light Music Club, which is defunct because all of the members graduated the previous year. They find a third member, Tsumugi ("Mugi") Kotobuki, a rich girl with a mellow (but amusingly eccentric) personality, and finally decide to make Yui join join their club because they need four members and they think Yui can play the guitar- when the only instrument she ever played prior to high school was a pair of castanets when she was little. The series follows the Light Music ("kei ongaku") Club as they practice (and eat lots of tea and sweets that Mugi brings to the club room each day) to become a better band, with Yui on electric guitar, Ritsu on drums, Mio on bass, and Tsumugi on keyboard.
The primary charming thing K-On! has going for it is its characters. They do fit archetypes to an extent, but even while going through the same events that have been done in numerous other anime series (school festivals, holidays, the beach, etc), they play off of each other well enough that they just work together. The mundane events of daily life receive a little bit of a fresh twist in how they tie into the music club- the trip to the beach is for the band's training camp, the school festival is where they get to put their training into practice, and shopping trips and part-time jobs are primarily for the sake of the band (like buying Yui her first guitar, or instrument maintenance). The "music club aims to play at the Budoukan" plotline isn't earthshaking, but it gives a little more focus and structure to K-On! than most high school slice-of-life series, which I like. Plus, while Yui is still a goofy ditz by the end, seeing how she discovers her passion for music and all of the light music club members find something to work toward is nice to see. Again, K-On! isn't trying to be brilliant, but it's fun light viewing, provided that one doesn't mind moe.
Speaking of which, even as somebody who isn't a fan of moe, there isn't any question to me that Kyoto Animation has perfected the animation of "cuteness" to a science. The characters have cavity-inducingly cute body language and facial expressions, and I actually don't mind because they are effectively cute without being annoying (aside from Mio in a few instances) or used for fan service (aside from a few light, dumb cosplay gags). The cuteness doesn't go overboard for me because the characters are offbeat enough to be likeable, my two favorites being the laid-back ojousama Mugi and in-your-face, Tomo-like Ritsu.
There isn't much yuri, but enough to warrant this review. lol Obviously, there are several female characters who spend a lot of time together, which will cause fans to inevitably pair them. ^^;; Some "couples" are more viable than others, like Mio and Ritsu or Yui and Azusa (the first-year student who joins the club when Yui, Ritsu, Mio, and Mugi become second-years) by the end of the series. The only "real" yuri I saw was Mugi's brief crush on Sawako-sensei, the mood-swinging teacher and former member of the original Light Music Club who becomes the girls' club adviser. When Mio is struggling to write lyrics for the club's performance at the school cultural festival, she receives a text from Mugi saying that her heart has been thumping since Sawako-sensei became their adviser, and Mio uses the message as the first line of her song, which the other club members later take to be a love song. ^^ And Mugi stares at Sawako-sensei with googly eyes until Ritsu asks her if she likes their adviser, and while Mugi seems to give a vague, denial-ish answer, she ends with "I don't think there's anything wrong if both sides express interest..." Take that as you will. :) So, the yuri is small but cute. Plus, the cosplay causes some rather gay reactions from a few of the characters (including Mugi).
Anyway, it was a cute series, and it reminded me of some of the fun things about being in high school. There isn't much more to say. ^^;;
Art: B (It's moe, but improves when animated by Kyoto Animation's..."Kyoto Animation"-ness?)
This review covers the 12 episode series. There is supposed to be a "special" episode coming later, but I probably won't review it unless it has anything more of yuri interest.