Reviewby Mark Sombillo, Sep 9th 2011
Part of high school life is joining a club of some sort and Yui must search for one as she commences her first year. Mio and Ritsu are desperate to continue the light music club but to do that they must find the members, otherwise they face being closed down. After finding Tsumugi to play the keyboards, they only needed one more member. Yui steps in and somehow it all seems like it was meant to be. Or is it?
I've been spoilt. Kyoto Animation has produced shows that have continued to become favourites for me. Air, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Kanon, Lucky Star, Clannad; the list goes on of just some of the wonderful titles that this studio has brought into the world. They typically involve deep emotional stories, fantastic quality in terms of animation and memorable characters. Heck, even though Lucky Star is a comedy through and through, it was nevertheless very engaging and there's something to relate to in all its hilarity and reflection of the otaku lifestyle.
Remembering then the gobsmackingly good episode in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya where the protagonist played with a band and Aya Hirano totally exhibited her prowess as a voice actress, I went into K-ON! expecting episode upon episode of the same kind of awe inspiring performance. The beginning of the first episode was standard enough and at this stage I still had my hopes up. Then the faithful meeting of the band came where they sat down and had tea. At this point I thought to myself, “ok, this is still fine, they're getting to know each other” and somewhere in the middle of the comedy, I assumed I'll see that first performance that will have me cheering from my couch.
But it didn't happen. By the 4th episode of this DVD release, all I seem to get a lot of are the girls sitting in the club room drinking tea and eating cakes. One wonders, if only they didn't spend money on tea and cake then maybe the club could have afforded to pay for YUI's first guitar without them having to take out part time jobs, but I digress. You could say that I wasn't all that impressed.
Maybe though it's my unfair expectations or comparisons to previous titles that's led me to this conclusion. After all it's actually a fairly unique storyline, whereas the previous Kyoto Animation titles offered up very similar feel to each other (heck, Kyon, Tomoya, Yuichi and Yukito all even share the same haircuts). Even with its closest cousin, Lucky Star, the contrast is noticeable in that K-ON! feels a lot more like a no frills slice of life high school story where despite the light humour, there's no pretension towards it.
It is also noteworthy in the animation quality department. The high energy opening sequences and even the juxtaposed lolita rock ending credit are good examples of this remarkable animation studio flexing its muscles. The accompanying songs are also not bad and if you're prone to bopping along to hyper-energetic “moe-moe-kyun” style tunes, “Kagayake! Girls” sung by the voice actresses themselves, is sure to float your boat.
Essentially this show ticks all the boxes as far as surpassing the standards of the cute girl anime stories are concerned. If you are not after something deeper or pushes the boundaries of story telling, if all you wanted was something else to yell “kawaii” at, then look no further. K-ON! caters for a certain market of fans. To be more specific, it appeals to a certain level of being a fan, either for those who are new to anime or those very entrenched in collecting character figurines for which there's certainly no shortage of for K-ON!.
Cuteness has always been ever present in Japanese media since Hello Kitty painted the world pink. In anime, the shows which feature zero levels of cuteness or sweet acting characters are the rarity. You could have a Gundam sniping away enemy mecha actually being co-piloted by a yellow Haro ball with round flapping ears and it would still make sense! What makes K-ON! an exception to all of this prevalent predisposition towards adorability is that rather than being just a peripheral tool or a narrative element, cuteness is practically what this show is all about. The singing, the school life, the character motivations; all of that comes second to the fact that the characters are so tooth achingly sweet that it will rot your brain.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B-
Animation : B
Art : B-
Music : B+
+ Very funny when it wants to be.
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