Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Addict Overview: K-On!!

I love all types of anime, but one of my favorite genres has to be Slice of Life. Don't get me wrong, I love watching giant mecha battles and manly men beating the crap out of each other as much as everyone else, but more then anything I love watching anime dealing with the trails and tribulations of everyday life with some comedy and maybe even some drama thrown in for good measure. Of all the SoL series I've watched, though, there's one that stands out to me. So much so that I have no problem calling it my favorite anime series of all time. And to think it's nothing more then a story about five girls with a passion for music.....

K-On! is a relatively simple tale about a group of female high school students who make up their school's Light Music Club. The main girl of the group, or the one who we follow throughout the series the most, is Yui Hirasawa. Yui is, in simple terms, a ditz. She oversleeps, she procrastinates, she's usually always late, she's easily distracted and she's none too bright. If there's one thing she does do right, though, it's learning. See, Yui has a really weird talent for automatically learning something new in a very short amount of time, such as learning to play the guitar with absolutely no previous experience. This comes into play when she ends up joining Sakura High's Light Music Club, which was on the brink of abolishment due to the lack of a fourth member. The other members, who become Yui's best friends as the series progresses, include Ritsu Tainaka, the group's tomboyish drummer, prankster and self-proclaimed club president, her childhood friend Mio Akiyama, the bassist and a total scaredy cat, and Tsumugi Kotobuki, a kind-hearted and wealthy girl who also serves as their keyboardist. As the series goes on they also gain a first year student, Azusa Nakano, who becomes the club's back-up guitarist. Rounding out the main cast is Sawako Yamanaka, a teacher and the club's advisor, who was also part of Sakura High's music club during her high school years. Difference is her band was much more grounded in metal instead of light rock and pop.

The entire series focuses on our fivesome trying to become a good band. Good enough to play in large stadiums and sell out concert halls. Basically, they dream big. Unfortunately one of the main problems they face is actually finding time to practice, opting to sit and talk about practicing while drinking tea and eating sweets instead. The thing is, when they do practice or preform, they sound perfect. That's one of the things people don't seem to get when critiquing the series. While the central plot of the show revolves around music, it also shows that practicing alone isn't what makes you a better-sounding band, it's also the bond you share with the other members. The stronger your bond, the more in-tune you are with each other, thus the better you'll end up playing and sounding. Yeah, practice is good as well, but it's not the only factor. This is what K-On! focuses on the most. The bond these five girls share which leads to how sad it becomes once we reach their final year of high school and they realize they don't have much time left. All the members play off each other perfectly. Yui and Ritsu are lazy procrastinatiors, Ritsu constantly plays tricks and scares Mio, Mio acts as a constant teacher to Yui, Mugi learns about what "normal" people do from all three of them and Asuza is constantly watched over and babied by Yui. This is only some of the interaction we see. There are only some moments where we don't see one member of the band interact with another. Every episode gives a situation that our heroines need to react to or solve, thus leading to said interactions and usually creating really good comedy or even some slight drama or emotional scenes.

The animation is very smooth and eye-pleasing with all the characters given a very cutesy design. Big eyes, cute faces, slightly smaller bodies, etc. This is the type of design that we anime fans call "Moe". While a lot of fans detest moe as something that oversaturates the anime and manga industry, I actually don't mind it in the slightest as long as it's done right. The colors are very grounded and realistic. You don't see any flashy colors or seizure-inducing scenes here without serving some sort of purpose. Then there's the god the music. If there's one thing K-On! accels in, it's the music. I'll just put it bluntly: Every single prominant song from the series has sold no less then 50,000 copies in Japan. That says a lot. I'd say a good 85% of the songs are really good and addicting to listen too. While most of the songs are very upbeat and poppy, there are also traditional rock songs and even some metal in the form of Sawako's band, Death Devil. All the voice actresses really give it their all and it really shows. Their voices are loud, clear and sound great, which is hard to pull off when doing a character at the same time.

Overall, K-On! is a simple yet sweet series that teaches us about the bonds we share with friends and what said bonds can lead to. What started out as a manga made out of 4-panel stories evolved into a literal phenomenon that took Japan by storm and for good reason. While the cute-looking characters may be the drawing point, the show has enough heart to keep you coming back until it's over. I highly recommend it to anyone who has an interest in music. I mean if it inspired me to try drumming then it might do the same to any of you!

Note: K-On! will be released state-side in early April on both Blu-Ray and DVD from Bandai Entertainment. Volume 1 of the manga is available in all major bookstores.

1 comment:

  1. I'm looking forward to the BD release as well, and all the extras that comes with it.

    Too bad it will be a painfully long wait for the K-ON movie... :(