K-ON! is a new take on the whole musical anime thing. While it certainly doesn’t contain the amount of musical sequences that I would have preferred, it still ranks as one of my favorite anime this season.
“K-on” is a play on keiongaku, which is the Japanese for light music. Light music generally refers to light orchestral music, which is what our main character Yui assumes when she joins the club. She is surprised, however, when she learns that the club members have formed a rock band.
Yui hears them play and is inspired to learn the guitar from the ground up. She is extremely lethargic, but she has a knack for the instrument. Many techniques that take some work to get down (like vibrato and palm muting) she nails after seeing someone do them once.
Mio is my favorite character. She is shy and a bit of a chicken, but her bass playing skills are wonderful. She also has the moe thing going in full force. She is easily the Mikuru of this group.
Ritsu is the drummer and plays a good contrast to Mio. They grew up together and she knows all of Mio’s weaknesses. Her silliness often results in Mio smacking her on the top of the head.
Mugi is the resident ‘rich kid’ and provides the club with their snacks. She also loves to tickle the ivories. She is probably the most mature of the bunch, but she also has a childish side that often comes out when they go on their musical training camps.
Azusa is an underclassman that decides to join the club. Both of her parents are Jazz musicians and she is very serious about her guitar playing. It is funny to see her call the group out on their laziness and then slowly become assimilated.
K-ON! is a show that sits somewhere between Lucky Star and Beck. By Lucky Star (which is, in my opinion, the Seinfeld of anime) I mean there are plenty of times when this group just sits around doing nothing. They love being useless. Most of their club time is spent eating cake and rambling. However, when they DO pick up their instruments everything is good.
The musical performances always make me think of the “God Knows…” sequence from Haruhi Suzumiya. I don’t really know why, because the songs are generally light hearted and don’t really have the metal undertones of that song. Not to worry though -the compositions are just as complex.
I thought that this would turn into a “song of the week” type show and I’m glad that isn’t the case. Rambling aside, the music is great. The opening (“Cagayake! Girls”) and the closing (“Don’t say ‘lazy’”) have both appeared on the Oricon weekly singles charts at 4th and 2nd respectively. “Don’t say ‘lazy’” is definitely my favorite song so far.
There’s also the issue of the licensed musical instruments. Yui plays a Gibson Les Paul, Mio plays a Fender Bass, Ritsu is rocking Yamaha Drums and Mugi has a Korg Triton keyboard. I think I have even seen licensed amplifiers and headphones in some of the episodes. The placement isn’t obtrusive or unnatural (i.e.: they don’t hover over the logos) so it doesn’t bother me in the least.
The visual quality is what I have come to expect from Kyoto Animation. Well, I have to admit that I was surprised that the show isn’t being broadcast in high definition. In fact, it has a 3:4 aspect ratio as well. This is only a minor complaint though because everything else is top notch. Consistent art style and frame rates abound.
Definitely give K-ON! a try. If you appreciate music as much as I do you won’t be disappointed.