• Anime Review 31.07.2009

    four

    Ok, like most of Japan I was waiting for my K-On! fix every week this spring.  After-all, it’s not like there was anything else to watch, was there?  So if you’re the odd Otaku that hasn’t watched K-On! yet, get to it.  I promise it won’t be a waste of time, unlike reading ANYTHING about Sarah Palin.  Life is too short for stupid, and not long enough for more moe.

    K-On! is about a high-school light music club that needs at least four members to be chartered.  No members, no club.  When the new semester starts, Ritsu decides on joining the club, but her friend Mio wants to join the literature club.  A quick rip of Mio’s application assures Ritsu’s first member.

    ripped-application

    At this point we’ve identified the pairing of polar opposites, the foundation of any comedy.  Ritsu and Mio are basically the Odd Couple of the series.  And as old as this shtick is, it never seems to get old when you reincarnate it in the form of cute Japanese school girls.  Go ahead, I dare you to screw that up in your mind.  You can’t right?  Yeah, it’s pretty much impossible.

    So onto their next member, Mugi.  She’s the kind hearted rich girl of the series who  joins the light music club after some slight coaxing.  By the way, light music is actually pop music in Japan.  Over here, we tend to think of Yanni with light music.  Anyways, Mugi is somewhat like glue for the group.  She enjoys music, but more so she enjoys the camaraderie they all share.  It’s important to her, and she seems like someone who will do a good deal of self sacrifice to maintain those bonds.

    mugi

    So, we’re just shy one more member.  Someone that would be scattered enough to want to join the light music club.  Someone who really doesn’t have any musical talent except for playing the castanets.  Someone who seems more interested in snacks than… oh yeah, Yui.

    yui

    One of my favorite scenes happens in the first episode as the three members try to convince Yui to join.  At this point, Yui isn’t very confident in her musical abilities and has doubts.  Mugi and Ritsu begin fawning over Yui, their fourth member needed for their club.  Cookies, snacks and tea are offered.  Mugi suggests they have snacks like this every day.  I guess Mio thought things were getting off track a bit, and wanted to talk about Yui joining.  You see, in Japan, business relationships take time.  Lots of time.  Things need to proceed at the pace of delicious snacks.  So before Mio could utter another word in to question Yui, Ritsu delivers a swift kick under the desk that generates a violently painful reaction.  This would not be the last time Ritsu tortures Mio.

    ritsu-kicks-mio

    Right, so we’ve established our main characters.  They’re nothing we haven’t seen before, but that doesn’t seem to diminish the entertainment value at all.  One thing you couldn’t help but notice was the all female cast.  There wasn’t a Y chromosome of interest to be seen anywhere.  For some reason, that made this series seem more voyeuristic than most anime of this type.  I felt like I was watching a secret society of sorts, a culture that was girls only. I felt a bit left out.

    And though we’ve seen these caricatures before, you couldn’t say they were completely devoid of all originality.  For instance, Mio’s popularity to a degree has to be attributed to some part of uniqueness that makes Mio, Mio.  If we break her down, she could be Sakaki from Azumanga, but the voice acting of Yōko Hikasa (Mio) makes her special.  There’s a little something in Reiko Yoshida’s writing that just makes the characters memorable… but not all.

    nodoka

    I present to you Nodoka, a childhood friend of Yui.  All I can say about her is she seems like she’s got a decent head on her shoulders, responsible, reliable and all around boring.  Cosplayers, if you want a completely obscure character that no one will ever remember, go as Nodoka.

    The other characters of note are Sawako, a teacher who becomes the clubs advisor.  She was also a former member of the light music club, and apparently a hard rock guitarist of questionable character.  She comes out all sweet when you first see her, but her true colors start to show pretty quickly.

    sawako

    Then there’s Ui, sister to Yui.  Though Ui is younger, she seems far more capable than her older sister. Ui cooks, she cleans, she pretty much makes sure Yui doesn’t die of neglect.  Ui is probably one of the more memorable characters outside of the core group, even more so than Azusa, the fifth member they eventually pick up.  I think it’s mostly because down deep in our soul where we keep unicorns and bunny clouds, we all want a little sister like Ui.

    ui

    And last but not least (by much) we have Azusa.  She’s a grade younger than the other four girls and apparently an excellent guitarist.  She’s a bit more serious, like Mio which probably explains why she gravitates more towards Mio than anyone else.  She’s often bothered by the groups lack of commitment to their music practice, and once in a while gets upset.  It takes her a while to realize that music is just part of their gatherings at the club, and that friendship plays just a big a role.

    azusa

    K-On! for me was pretty light hearted.  So much so that any fragile disturbance in their lives almost seemed like a horrible event in the brew.  But nothing like that ever comes to pass.  It’s just another anime that takes a slice out of high-school life.  It’s pretty normal actually seeing how they’re even in a normal high-school as opposed to some huge affluent academy, or a school with a secret hidden base underground to launch robots.

    You’re not going to get any profound morals or ideals out of K-On!  The story is situated where you don’t even have any deep questions about the girls past or private lives.  You just watch them go through the steps of putting together a club, working towards their first school performance.

    k-on

    This brings us to the other character in K-On!- the music.  As the clubs name would suggest, the music is pretty much pop in nature.  Again, fun to listen to light hearted music.  No surprises and no hidden meanings in the lyrics.  You’d be hard pressed to find anything dark in the line “fluffy, fluffy time” or a song titled “My love is like staples.”

    Rumor has it Kyoto Animation cancelled the second season of Haruhi, and opted to work on K-On! instead.  Needless to say, this angered many a Haruhi fan, but I can understand why KyoAni did this.  One of the most popular scenes to date has to be the end credits of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya.  Youtube is flooded with Hare Hare Yukai dances.  And the school band scene where Haruhi subs in as their lead singer is pretty popular as well.  In fact, if you look at the Haruhi OSTs, there’s more musical content in the OSTs then there were in the series.  I think Haruhi had 10 released OSTs!  10 OSTs from only 13 episodes.

    So in KyoAni’s eyes, K-On! must have seemed like a sure fire hit.  And they were right.  Just to show the slight purchasing influence K-On! has, an article in Gigazine stated that left handed bass guitar sales rose by 800% after the episodes aired!  It was a show of pure Mio power.  Not only that, K-On! has been in Japans top 10 spot for music for weeks now.

    So, even though K-On! is a light hearted romp through a music club with four adorable girls, there seems to be just one nefarious dark side to all of it.  In a way, there is a secret organization in K-On! that most of us will miss.  It’s insidious and completely manipulative.  They’re hard to spot, but they’re there.  Underneath the Moe in K-On! lies Kyoto Animations marketing group.  Their ultimate goal, to make you love K-On! so much that you’ll buy any K-On! related merchandise.  In the end, that’s probably the ultimate puppeteer in any anime series, but it’s a necessary evil.  Actually, evil is too harsh a word, because in the end there’s nothing wrong with an anime encouraging you to have an interest in music, or aspire to own a six inch Mio figure on your desk.

    scarred-mio

    Mio-strike

    content-mugi

    barnacles

    Ritsu-taunting-Mio

    sawako-discovered

    fast-food

    azuma-sensei

    macots

    mugi-maid

    lazy-Yui

    cold-hands

    Yui-dissapointed-at-gloves

    warm-hands

    Mio-and-Ui

    Mugi-working

    azuma-cat-ears

    end

    In the end, I’m hoping for another season of K-On!  13 episodes were not enough… and…  I LOVE LIGHT MUSIC!

    All images used, copyright of their respective owners: Kyoto Animation

    Posted by Otakukon @ 11:54 am

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kurou: i was in awe when i saw these pics. such exelent focus! i was the guy with the face mask [...]

Otakukon: Argh, stayed up too late watching some K-On, again.

Otakukon: Playing Aion closed beta.

Otakukon: Registered for Zenkaikon! I'll be there both Saturday and Sunday. Should be a great con!

Gaijin Otaku: Fish balls. Yummy.

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