To put it mildly, K-On! brings joy to my soul. It will forever resonate with me and hold a special place in my heart no matter how old I get. I’ve recently been rewatching K-On! for what has to literally be the 25th time. Watching any of the episodes never fail to put me in a good mood.
Unlike another anime I hold dear, K-On! doesn’t even have a complex or intricate storyline. Seriously, the story revolves around five young girls as they live out their daily lives within their high school music club which results in shenanigans and fun throughout their years. Like I said, there’s no serious story or deep message, just good comedy and adorable girls interacting with each other. Even though I’m someone who enjoys a well-written story, I’m someone who also enjoys developed and interesting characters. I would like to take the time to introduce each of the members of Ho-kago Tea Time because they are all exactly that.
Yui Hirasawa – is the first character introduced in the series. The story starts with her misunderstanding the meaning of “light music” thinking it was synonymous with “easy music”. Yui joins the light music club and becomes the guitarist and lead vocalist. She’s definitely the autodidactic kind of character since she learns to play the guitar with no experience. She has a soft spot for cute things and is easily distracted by them and good food. She is the epitome of “brilliant but lazy” as her grades are always on the verge of failing (except for fine arts). She shows though when she properly applies herself she can do anything and this is seen when she retakes a test for a class. Goofy, air-headed, kindhearted and optimistic are all adjectives that accurately describe Yui. She has a younger and more responsible sister named Ui and their parents usually go on trips so she and her sister tend to have the house to themselves.
Mio Akiyama – the shy, no-nonsense, introverted, easily frightened, but mature bassist. She originally intended to join the literary club, but was exhorted into the light music club by her childhood friend and the club’s president/drummer, Ritsu. Because of her shyness, she chose the bass over the guitar because according to her it’s not the center of attention. Speaking of being the center of attention, she doesn’t like being in it and the thought of it is enough to make her feel faint. Despite being the main composer of the band, she tries to avoid being the lead vocalist, only singing if Yui is unable to. She’s a scaredy-cat and gets paralyzed with fear concerning anything involving pain, blood, gore, ghosts, haunted houses or when other topics she finds disturbing are brought up.
Ritsu Tainaka – is my favorite character in the show, mostly because she reminds me so much of myself during my senior year in high school. She’s the rambunctious and cheerful president and drummer of the light music club. She might have the title of president, but she’s not the most attentive regarding important club activities and announcements. Despite her selective amnesia, she is one of the more enterprising characters since she is the one brainstorming ideas that earn money for the club. Ritsu exudes confidence, fun and jocundity, often making jokes, puns or pranks and being sarcastic most of the time. She likes to tease and annoy the others, mostly Mio who in return usually whacks her on the head. Her favorite band is The Who and her favorite drummer is Keith Moon. She says she picked the drums because they were “cool” but later admits it’s because she has trouble playing instruments which involve dexterity like the guitar, bass and keyboard. She has a younger brother named Satoshi.
Tsumugi Kotobuki – is the beautiful cinnamon roll too good for this world, too pure. And if you disagree please comment with your address so we can settle this like grown-ups. Often simply called “Mugi”, she is the big-eyebrowed, gentle, sweet, wealthy keyboardist of the group. She originally intended to join the choir club, but joins the light music club instead after receiving an invitation and encouragement from both Mio and Ritsu. Considered a piano prodigy in her youth, she has been playing the piano since she was four and has won various piano contests. Her parents are very rich and own several villas in various parts of Japan and one in Finland. Her father also owns a maid cafe so she often brings snacks and sweets to the club room, and makes tea with a tea set which is kept in their club room. Mugi is enamored by seeing two girls interacting close together, if she’s not a lesbian, she sure does seem to like the thought of girl on girl action. It’s implied she has a crush on their teacher, Sawako Yamanaka (and I can’t really blame her. Hm, maybe I relate more to Mugi than Ritsu, haha).
Azusa Nakano – The light music club’s first new member after Yui, who joins in her first year of high school (the rest of the girls in the club are second years). She’s in the same year and class as Yui’s sister, Ui. Despite her modest nature and being younger than the other four, she is actually more talented and superior to her senior Yui in guitar playing and conveys a more mature levelheadedness. Funny thing is she doesn’t appear until the middle of season one, but an argument can be made that she’s the most important character in the anime with many episodes told from her perspective. She became bewildered and disappointed when she expected the light music club to be a serious club with serious members. It got to the point she considered leaving the club to join others, but Mio talked her out of it. She’s the more serious and naggy member but nothing she says is offensive or hurtful. She eventually gets acclimated to the club’s laid-back vibes, much to her surprise since she likes to practice.
Sawako Yamanaka – I wanted to mention one more character because if you’re like me who’s had teachers who changed your life then you’ll know that’s how Sawako was for the girls. Besides being a fine specimen of an anime woman, Sawako is the wind instruments club adviser, who was eventually blackmailed by Ritsu into also becoming the light music club adviser. An alumna of the school and a former member of the light music club, she was part of a heavy metal band called Death Devil as the lead vocalist and guitarist. She’d prefer if people didn’t know about it because she has a reputation of being nice and not as wild as she once was. Obviously, she’s the adult figure in the anime and was the one who came up with the club’s band name after the members took too long deciding one. Underneath her friendly demeanor is a wild, lazy and funny individual who enjoys dressing up the light music club in (sometimes embarrassing) cosplay costumes, much to the chagrin of Mio and Azusa. She wasn’t just a teacher, she was a mentor, educator, and friend.
Storywise, there may not be a lot going on, but contentwise there is so much to enjoy. This anime is truly a character driven one. You got 5 young ladies with very different lifestyles, personalities, and backgrounds coming together to become close and inseparable friends. Anyone who’s had friends they love when they were in high school will be able to find this watching experience to be a personal one.
Also, I would like to take the time to say the girls are one of my fashion icons. For real, do you see how they dress?
fresh to death!
Musically, K-On! is no featherweight. The songs are all performed by the voice actors behind each character, and while they certainly aren’t going to be as beautiful as Bohemian Rhapsody or Purple Rain, they complement perfectly with the tone of the anime and with the musical talent of the girls. The OPs, EDs, and character image songs are all on rotation on my Android phone. I should note the cast consists of high school girls so it’s not like they’re professional recording music artists being paid to make organized sound. They practice and play for fun which makes their upbeat, silly songs much more fitting. The background music might be simplistic, but it fits so well with each and every scene.
The visual aspects, in my opinion, are stellar. Everything and everyone moves so fluidly and it’s all detailed it feels lifelike. Not only will the characters be moving, but their hair will also flow along. It’s even better during the music scenes, when they play music the animation is crisp and beautifully animated and I think it’s something even my brother would be able to appreciate (he doesn’t like these kind of anime). It’s an eyegasmic anime to look at and I have to applaud the work and effort the anime studio put into the series.
I’d say the biggest appeal of K-On! for me is how much it reminds me of not only my own high school days and graduation with The Kliq, but my favorite and graduation song “In This Diary” by The Ataris. Of course I must take the time to say RIP to my favorite teacher who introduced me to the song. You are missed! The most prominent theme within the series is that of growing up. This theme hits the hardest during two poignant scenes: when the girls perform in front of the school for the last time and realizing this after it’s all said and done, and a final scene where the four girls graduate and play an emotional farewell song in the club room for a teary-eyed Azusa.
“Being grown up isn’t half as fun as growing up. These are the best day of our lives. The only thing that matters is just following your heart and eventually you’ll finally get it right”.
You can’t tell me those lyrics and the whole song in general don’t apply to the girls of K-On! (and me too). There are times when I relate so much to them even though I’m a grown man now. It’s been five years since I graduated high school, yet watching a series that embraces its silliness, I still get reminded of those jovial days with those irreplaceable people. Days that are over and will never return. Now, I’m not one for nostalgia, but it’s funny… sometimes I do want to experience it all over again, but I realize it’s not possible. Those years make me happy and sad in my reminiscences, while making me happy and sad with affection.
It goes to show life goes on, even in anime. Just like them, I knew I wouldn’t be in high school my entire life, and I too had to be aware of the ineluctable future. All good things invariably come to an end. The girls talked about it before, and as seniors they were content in ignoring the inevitable as they spent time together, laughed together, ate cake together, practiced together, drunk tea together… I enjoyed the fact that despite the possibilities of drama in a high school graduation, I saw that even for these girls there is no need for tearful farewells. While it’s not another day in school for them because it was their last, they still intended to make the most out of it. If there’s anything I remember about my high school graduation, it’s when I teared up like a kid telling my friends how much I love them and am going to miss them. Graduation is a solemn ceremony no matter what anyone thinks. It’s a big event both for those who are going to leave and for those who are to be left behind.
K-On! shows the best of what anime has to offer. It is an exemplary title not only in the anime medium, but I’d say in entertainment as a whole. It’s amazing something so simple like K-On! struck an emotional chord with me. Everything about it has aged so well. By the way, anyone know where I can get these shirts? I have the Yui and Mio version, but I’m missing Ritsu, Mugi and Azusa, that’s no good! I’ve been trying to find the remaining shirts for a while, haha. Also, can the world have a season 3? I mean, it’s 2017. It’s time.