Anime of Tomorrow
K-ON! (series review)
Final impression – heartwarming and funny, but oversold
K-ON! (8/10) Spring 2009 (13 episodes) (title literal translation – Light Music!)
K-ON!! (6/10) Spring 2010 to summer 2010 (26 episodes)
K-ON! Movie (7/10) Autumn 2011
When spacey Yui Hirasawa started high school, she decided she wanted to become a more involved and engaging person. Carefree Ritsu Tainaka and pushover Mio Akiyama had a long standing pact to start their own band. The warm and friendly Tsumugi Kotobuki wanted to be in choir, but when she bumped into Ritsu and Mio, she decided to stay and make new friends. These four crossed paths in their first year of high school and the light music club or “K-ON” was born (if you’re wondering how light music becomes K-ON, the Japanese words for light music are karui ongaku, hence K-ON). Through a few stumbling blocks, they managed to make it through their first year when the serious Azusa Nakano joined the club to help give them all a better team cohesion. From there, it’s an adventure of playing music and goofing off as only the five girls’ band, After-school Tea Time knows how to do.
K-ON! and I have a somewhat flimsy relationship. I’m a big fan of the moe subgenre of anime and the first season of K-ON! delivered terrifically. It was fast-paced, funny, clever, insightful and most importantly not a second was wasted. It all added up to an entertaining experience. The music was at times lackluster and a little over the top, but it all fit together beautifully to set up the phenomenon that would come later. Then the second season began to air and it immediately became apparent from the much slower pace that this was not going to have the impact that the first season had. It was really quite sad to see something fresh suddenly get turned into a vacuum; sucking away the value that the first season set up by putting the viewer through drawn-out, drudging, pointless story arcs. Admittedly, the second season’s music was much improved over the first season, but that’s little consolation for the huge sacrifice that happened to the story.
So does the K-ON! Movie breathe life back into the franchise that had become a bloated, empty appeal to the fan base? The short answer is no, but I’ll add a caveat that the movie has much better pacing than the second season did. There are equal measures of story, punch lines and character development that were seriously lacking in K-ON!! However, this gets undercut by a distinct lack of new music which would really have helped keep things fresh. The product is a icon of compromise and mediocrity, fighting its desire to pander to the established fans while creating enough new material to keep everything afloat.