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The family names of the four main girls are named after former members of the disbanded band "P-Model". In addition, the instrument used by each of the four girls also matches with the instrument used by the cooresponding P-Model member. Yui Hirasawa from Susumu Hirasawa (Guitar), Mio Akiyama from Katsuhiko Akiyama (Bass), Ritsu Tainaka from Sadatoshi Tainaka (Drum), & Tsumugi Kotobuki from Hikaru Kotobuki (Keyboard). In addition, there are other characters that have family names matching those from the band "the pillows". They include: Sawako Yamanaka from Sawao Yamanaka (lead vocal & rhythm guitar) & Nodoka Manabe from Yoshiaki Manabe (lead guitar).
In episode five, Mio is seen wearing a pair of AKG k701s (highly popular reference headphones among audiophiles).
In episode five, Sawa plays the guitar with her teeth after she is handed a guitar by Yui. This is a direct reference to one of the moves Krauser of Detroit Metal City uses when he plays his guitar.
In K-On! OVA, after their live house concert, in Yui's house Sawako-sensei attempts to make Azusa wear a cosplay costume of Lum's tiger bikini. Lum is the main character of Rumiko Takahashi's classic manga Urusei Yatsura.
Azusa Nakano's hairstyle is closely similar to Kana Minami of the anime "Minami-Ke".
Mio's camera, which she frequently takes on outings (for example, to both gasshukus, or training camps), is a Lomo LC-A+.
The setting for the anime is a fictional girls' high school, but the visuals of the school itself are almost identical to the old campus of the Toyosato Public Elementary School, particularly the music rooms (one of them re-styled as the "music prep room" where the band practices and has tea) and the auditorium; many unique elements from the actual school (the Aesop hare and tortoise on the banister, for example) are faithfully recreated in the fictional school. These visuals don't exist in the original manga (the manga's live performances are usually held in the gymnasium, for example), as they are a part of the town's promotional efforts. The elementary school itself has a notable history, as the local residents' resistance of the government's decision to demolish the old school buildings made national news. With the popularity of the anime, the old campus has become something of a "mecca" for fans of the show-- the music room upon which the band's club room is based has been carefully arranged by fans into a very close replica of what's seen in the anime, and a "K-On! Cafe" has started in the building facing the old auditorium (though operating only on certain days of the month as the staff is mostly volunteer). The old campus is now a local museum and library, as well as a protected landmark. Tourists are generally welcomed to the old campus, although the curators (?) of the campus ask that the school's property and the local residents are not to be disturbed. An irony of this setting is that while the band travels to Kyoto for their class trip by bullet train past Mount Fuji (which would suggest that they live no further south than the Kanto region near Tokyo), Toyosato Elementary is in Shiga prefecture, adjacent to Kyoto prefecture. Many other scenic visuals that are supposed to be in the girls' unnamed hometown in the anime are based on actual locations near Kyoto, which is rather understandable given the geographical location of the anime production studio. (The class trip story is in the second season of the anime, and the 3rd volume of the manga.)
The song played by Tsumugi, Ritsu, and Mio for Yui in episode 1 is named "Tsubasa o Kudasai."
In episode 1 at 13:54 the character Yui was imagining is Krauser from Detroit Metal City. "Satsugai suru zo" is the famous catchphrase said by Krauser in Detroit Metal City.
The song "Tsubasa wo Kudasai", performed instrumentally in episode 1 (and "completed" as a cover in the "Fuwa Fuwa Time" single) was originally performed by the folk group Akai Tori (lit. "Red bird") in 1971, and was popular among schoolchildren in the 1970s as a song arranged for choir-- which would make sense given that Mugi originally wanted to join the choir, and she would become the composer for the band's original songs.
In episode 2, while Yui is picking a guitar. The guitar's brand is Fender. When Yui brought the guitar to school the brand is changed to Gibson.
In episode 5, Yui together with Sawako-sensei both smiled with their tongues stick out is based on the smile from the popular Fujiya Peko-chan Milky Candy.
In Episode 5, the guy Sawako Yamanaka sensei was trying to impress in her flashbacks is or looks like Soichi Negishi from Detroit Metal City. Notice that he has the same hairstyle as Negishi and he also wears nearly the same clothes as Negishi in Detroit Metal City The Movie, which is a vertically stripped T-shirt with blue jeans.
In Episode 6, when Mio trips on the wire and falls to the ground, it is implied that her panties were showing. When focusing on the bowl of rice, the sound of "Ara" parodies the one in Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei when there is panty-flashes.
The strap Yui bought in episode 7 for Christmas can be seen on Ritsu's bag in episode 13.
Azunyan asks Mio at the beach in episode 10, if she'd heard a story about a man cutting his leg on a barnacle. This is a very real condition known as Fish Tank Finger, which is commonly contracted from barnacle scrapes on extremities while immersed in seawater. It's caused by a slow-growing relative of the tuberculosis bacteria, Mycobacterium marinum, which can be contracted from contact with barnacles. Infections occur in the cooler hands and feet, as they thrive in 82 - 90 degF, rather than 98.6 degF of core temperature. If left untreated, and infections can cause visceral damage to joints and tendons of the fingers and feet, and can take many months on antibiotics to cure. While it is a real reason to stay away from walking on or touching submerged barnacles... Mio's fear is probably caused by urban legends about barnacles growing inside wounds caused by touching them -- which is false. Coral polyps, however, can. She is most likely fusing the two in her mind.
The lyrics Mio sent to Ritsu in episode 13 were the lyrics of "Fuyu no Hi" or "Winter Days" in the K-ON!! album "Houkago Tea Time II"
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