Yui Hirasawa has just commenced high school triggering the most important decision of her life – from the plethora of available options, which after school club should she join? After much deliberation the ditzy teen decides to register with the recently revived light music club. Sadly for her the group, which specialises in performing pop tunes, isn’t in need of a scatter brained castanet player. No worries, there is a vacancy open for the position of lead guitarist/vocalist. Yui can fill that role, after all how hard can it be to learn a stringed instrument from scratch? If she practices on Guitar Hero for a bit I am sure Yui will get the hang of it.
K-On is a slice of life anime, which originally aired on Japanese TV way back in 2009. The show, based off a four-panel manga created by Kakifly, is animated by Kyoto Animation (who have previously worked on Lucky Star and Clannad.) The first season DVD set, which comprises of thirteen episodes and a solitary OVA, can be purchased in the UK courtesy of Manga Entertainment.
The show follows the exploits of the four girls that make up the light music club, with their membership growing to five later in the series when jazz prodigy Azusa Nakano joins the fold. Out of the original quartet, Yui Hirasawa is the one I would class as the protagonist. She’s nice, but dim – often succumbing to bouts of daydreaming. Although she isn’t the brightest lass to grace Japanese animation she is capable of learning new skills surprisingly quick (although doing so expunges other knowledge from her brain.) After just a few episodes she is able to play the guitar like a pro and can even tune the instrument without the aid of a tuner. One thing I envy about Yui is her efficient metabolism. No matter how many slices of cake she gorges on she never puts on a single pound.
The group’s other members include childhood friends Ritsu Tainaka and Mio Akiyama. Ritsu is the band’s drummer and the self-appointed club president. She took on the presidency mainly for the prestigious title, although she isn’t very good at the role. On more than one occasion the club finds itself in a bind because she would rather goof off rather than submit application forms and other necessary paperwork. Mio, the bashful bassist who pens the group’s song lyrics, is more mature than her chum although she has a weakness for anything scary. Over the course of the series she is reduced to a nervous wreck by the sight of a horror movie DVD, ghost stories and even barnacles that she spots at the beach.
Last, but not least is Tsumugi Kotobuki – better known simply as Mugi. In the band she plays the keyboard, making good use of all the piano lessons she has received from a young age. Mugi hails from an affluent family, but is not the spoiled rich brat you would find in other shows. She’s extremely courteous and seems to revel in doing what us lowly commoners partake in (one episode for example has her working at a fast food restaurant.) One quirk that Mugi has is a fondness for girls showing affection towards each other, leading to speculation that she may be a lesbian or at the very least a rabid connoisseur of yuri fiction.
K-On could well be the My Little Pony of anime. The subject matter seems to be targeted at girls, but from what I have seen the series has a sizable male viewership too. I’m not surprised, as the show’s charming comedy skits are appealing to anyone regardless of gender. I for example found myself chuckling whenever the club’s advisor Sawako Yamanaka was onscreen. She masquerades as a sweet senpai, but is in fact a former death metal guitarist who has a passion for cosplay. A recurring gag sees Sawako try to coerce the girls into donning all manner of ridiculous outfits.
If you are a fan of cheery J-Pop then K-On’s soundtrack will be right up your alley. Be warned however that the occasions when the girls actually do play something are rather sparse. Mio and Azusa try to encourage their companions to practice, but more often than not the girls end up spending their time sipping on cuppas and chomping down on desserts. Things get so bad that Sawako eventually christens the group After School Tea Time.
My final rating for season one of K-On is four stars. It’s an enjoyable experience for anyone who enjoys peeking at cute girls doing cute things… and who doesn’t like that sort of thing? I know I do – well I did until that pesky parent caught me hiding in the bushes. Now I have to stay away from the school due to a court order. Sigh.