Also Known As: K-ON!, Keion
Genre: Slice of Life/Comedy
Format: 39 Episodes
Allegiance: Pony Canyon
Director: Naoko Yamada
Vintage: 2011
Intelligence Agency Report by: Hikari
Four high school girls come together by chance to form a music group and a lifelong friendship. Among them is Hirasawa Yui, a girl who is prone to being lazy and wants to do something with her high school career in clubs. Being the classic ditz character that she is, she chooses the light music club, thinking she will play the castanets. Imagine her shock when she finds out she must learn guitar and join a J-pop-type band! She, Akiyama Mio (bass), Tanaka Ritsu (drums), and Kotobuki Tsumugi (keyboard) become fast friends and spend their hours procrastinating band practice and having “After-School Tea Time.”

Field Agent Report by: Hikari
Plot
Characters
Impact
Visual
Audio
8.00
10.00
7.00
9.00
10.00
Overall 9.00
(not an average)

K-ON!! is an anime that I vaguely heard about but dismissed because I didn’t know the full premise. However, after hearing its opening song by chance, I just KNEW I had to watch the show. Seeing the picture of the characters and connecting the music to the image of their personalities, I knew it was for me. Thus began a journey with one of my favorite anime of all time.

As is typical of the slice-of-life style, the setting in K-ON!! is a girls’ high school, and the plot centers around a group of characters with great chemistry. The story mostly follows the lives of Yui, Mio, Tsumugi, Ritsu, and later, Azusa. The interactions between the characters, tentative at first, become a gorgeous friendship and a mutual love of one another, as a group and a family. As always, each character tends to fit into a set category, such as moe, ditz, tomboy, and others. However, the characters’ embodiments and refusals of these categories are nonetheless amusing and charming. The plot moves the characters through high school and into preparation for university, and into the eventual departure of the club.

The Japanese voice-acting is superb, and the voices fit the characters very well, while the music is no less than charming and well-suited to the style of the show. It is not necessarily well-composed, but it embodies the heart and soul of the show’s premise, the potential for friendship through music. The songs reflect the characters’ development throughout K-ON!! and are innocent and fun. You don’t get the treasure of the full song until major plot points in the series, such as festival concerts, which can be suspenseful and frustrating after hearing intriguing riffs or cute melodies during the band’s practice. Actually hearing Houkago Tea Time (the eventual name of the group) practice is nothing short of rare, though, due to their addiction to teatime and girl chats. You just can’t help but wonder, “When will I hear the song? This is really intriguing! I wish they would practice some more!” There are plenty of songs to go around, though, and they are spread evenly throughout the series, so you are never short of the fun treasure that is the music of K-ON!!. A year after finishing this show, I still listen to the music and enjoy it.

The character designs and settings are nothing short of amazing—they really do a good job of staying true to the original characters from the manga by Kakifly. The animation is smooth and allows all the girls to be cute and fun, which is what slice-of-life is about. The girls’ instrument-playing motions during the concerts are accurate and in time with the music, which is an important thing to consider, especially in an anime focused on music production and performance. The only problem I had is that the hair of the characters could use more fluidity. The energy and fluidity of the characters themselves, however, more than make up for the fact that the hair is a little lackluster. Just watching Yui bounce into the chorus of a song makes me feel happy and excited!

Going into season two, there is an introduction of a new member of the group. At first I was skeptical of this new dynamic, but soon Azusa-chan grew on me as a great character with a lot of hidden spunk in her soft demeanor. As a new member, she is of course a shiny object to the other girls, and she is dubbed “Azu-nyan” as soon as they hear her meow and see her wearing cat ears (not that she has any choice in the matter). The importance of Azu-nyan—er, Azusa—is more than just the addition of a new character, however; she is a new friend and an apprentice to the group. Rather, she will be taking over the club when the others graduate. The anime focuses on the departure of the original four and the entrustment of the club to Azusa toward the end of the series, and the atmosphere and characters’ actions make the audience somewhat sad, but nonetheless joyful that there could be a continuation.

The impact of this anime is not necessarily profound or deep. The theme of the show is friendship through music, after all. There is no fight against adversity, but rather an embracing of true identities and music. The anime starts out light and fun, and it goes out light and fun, as well, but with an air of sadness to it. You know that there is some sort of goodbye, and the question of the group being together and continuing to play music arises. When I finished this anime, I somehow knew that there would be some sort of continuation. Maybe an OVA, or (this was my biggest hope) a movie. I won’t spoil the fun of getting to know the characters and finding out their all-in-all decision about the dynamic of the group toward the very end, but I will tell you this: the anime has a continuation in the form of a follow-up movie, which I desperately want to see at the moment of this writing.

If you have heard of K-ON!!, noticed its growing popularity, or just love music, you should definitely give this series a try. Its sweetness and great music will grow on you as you witness the growth of the group itself, into great friends as well as musicians.