As you well know I recently received a large shipment from Sentai Filmworks, and from that package I was especially thrilled to receive this show. Admittedly I watched it piecemeal, because this weekend was the first of the Blade & Soul closed beta. Still after I finished it I realized why I loved this show the first time around, and why this was the show that got me back into anime after a long drought a few years ago. Most people see it as “moe garbage”, but for me it much more than just cute girls doing cute things. Due to the fact that this was the show I was most excited to receive from Sentai, I thought it would be the perfect first review. Without further ado allow me to introduce…
K-On came out in the spring of 2009 from Kyoto Animation, and was an instant hit around the world. For anyone who knows Kyoto Animation (KyoAni), they’re pretty synonymous with hit anime. “Clannad”, “Love Chuunubiyo and Other Delusions”, and “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya” are just a few of the hit shows to come out of this studio. With a background of excellent anime like this it is easy to see why a show like K-On would be such a success. Typical of a KyoAni series the animation is adorable, with extremely expressive eyes and actions for all the characters. This comes to a head often during pivotal moments of the show, and it’s easy see how K-On’s animation might have influenced later KyoAni titles like “Hibike!Euphonium”.
K-On’s story focuses on a group of girls (Mio Akiyama, Yui Hirasawa, Tsumugi Kotobuki, and Ritsu Tainaka) who decide to start up a light music (K-On) club in their school. Ritsu (Drummer) decides early in her first year of high school to revive the light music club, with her unwilling best friend (Mio) as the bands bassist. The girls soon find a keyboard player in Mugi (Tsumugi), but they find that they need a fourth member to be considered an actual club. Yui at this point in the story is agonizing over which club to join, and decides on the light music club thinking they’ll play easy music. When she joins and learns they will be a band Yui considers leaving the club, but the three girls convince her to stay and promise to teach her to play the guitar. Thus the light music club is formed.
From here the story covers the girls first year of high school, and the girls learn the difficulties of becoming a start up high school band. Each episode is a new trial for the girls, usually ending with a resolution. The real stand out period of the first half of the season is when the girls have their first concert at the school culture festival. Writing lyrics, learning to sing while playing an instrument, and dealing with first concert nerves are all well portrayed in episode 5 and 6. The insert song for episode 6’s concert (“Fuwa Fuwa Time”) is to this day one of my favorite songs in anime. With the seventh episode being a christmas/new years affair, the girls first year of high school comes to a close.
Starting with the 8th episode the girls are amped up as second year students to welcome potential new band-mates to their club. Unfortunately their humorous recruitment methods, and small number of club members don’t attract many freshmen. Only one freshman, Azusa Nakano (Azu-Nyan), decides to join the light music club as their second guitarist. Being a serious minded girl like Mio, Azusa is appalled by the lack of seriousness by her upperclassmen. Mio convinces her that performing with the light music club is worth all the silliness, and over time Azusa starts to appreciate the talents of her band-mates. It is in this second half that the girls actually get the band name “After School Tea Time”, which is picked by their class adviser (Sawako Yamanaka). This second half also culminates in a performance, once again at the culture festival. This time Yui is sick for the days leading up to the concert, but she manages to get well just in time for the band’s second concert.
This blu-ray also had two OVA episodes. The first of which was a somewhat uncharacteristically melancholy episode, in which we see all of the girls wrestling with one issue or another. Ritsu struggles with her looks when she discovers what seems to be a love letter to her, Mio can’t seem to focus on writing lyrics, Azusa has troubles with pet-sitting for a friend, and Mugi has troubles in her new part time job. All of these issues are solved in the end by Yui one way or another, and the band learns that they are stronger together than separate. The second OVA is a new years episode in which the girls are invited to perform at a small venue outside of school. After School Tea time learns what it is to write up a set list, choose lighting schemes, and work with other bands to put on a show. Unfortunately not all of the performance is captured, but this episode is more about the learning experience the girls have in the set up to their first concert off campus.
Many critique this show saying it’s “moe trash”, but I see quite a bit of good in this show. Sure most of the time the girls are doing cutesy things for the sake of being funny, but there’s real character growth in this show if you judge the characters from beginning to end. This is most obvious in Yui who at the start of the show is less attentive than a potato, but by the end has much more focus thanks to her time spent in the light music club. The band as a whole grows too, as we see the girls become ever more adjusted to the idea of live performances through trial and error. The supporting cast are entertaining, and help drive the character development of the girls as well. I particularly enjoyed Ui’s (Yui’s sister) who played the “straight man” character to even out Yui’s carefree demeanor.
Last but not least is the music of the show. Both the opening and ending themes sound amazing, and their animation is excellent as well. These two songs are, to this day, two of my favorite anime songs. The insert songs are good as well, though in this one season we only hear two of them. They are both played at the school fairs, and both are sung (like the themes) by the cast of the show. The soundtrack for the show is actually pretty good as well, with each track complimenting the scene it’s assigned to. It’s not something I’d listen to on its own like “Kill la Kill’s” soundtrack, but as far as soundtracks go it’s still one of the better ones. The music for an anime about music is expected to be great, and K-On certainly delivers in that department.
If I had to pick out negative parts of the show, I can say that some of the character aspects are played out a tad much. Mio’s fears, Mugi’s gentle demeanor, and Ritsu/Yui’s goofiness are played out quite a bit. Though this was a very minor annoyance to me in the overall scheme of the show, I can see how people who are not a fan of slice-of-life moe shows would get bored quick. Still if you’re of a mind with me, and enjoy anime for what it is and not what it could be then you’ll get a kick out of this one. If you’re looking to stream it on a legitimate site, then head on over to Hulu. If you’d like to own a copy of this anime then check out Sentai Filmworks. I know it sounds like I’m just tooting Sentai’s horn, but trust me that this company is one of the few doing right by anime fans! You should check out their website, while I get ready to review another Sentai show!
Arigatō my fellow BrOtaku!
Post Review Giveaway!!!
Now normally I’d end at “Arigatō my fellow BrOtaku!” and post up the sources for my review. Before those sources though I’d like to take this time to announce the first BrOtaku Blog Giveaway! If you’re coming in from social media and skipped over the post to enter the drawing that’s fine too, though if you want to read this review I’d much appreciate it. The prize is the oppai mousepad of Tohka from “Date a Live” pictured below. I know this prize isn’t for everyone, but I wanted to gauge how many people would be interested in giveaways on the blog. To enter the drawing please select one of the five anime series and one of three anime movies below. Post both of your picks in the comment section of this post, and you’ll be entered in the running! On Wednesday (11/11) at 12PM PST I will choose the winner via random draw on stream, but don’t worry you don’t have to be watching the stream to get the prize. Limit one entry per participant. The stream is just to show you I’m being honest. The winner of the contest will get the mousepad, and I’ll review the anime/movie they selected soon after that (hopefully). The five anime series are:
The three anime movies are:
There they are, simply pick one of each and enter them in the comments section below! Hopefully there’s a decent turn out, if there is I’ll probably be doing this again in the future. Good luck to all who enter, and until then enjoy the blog!