A Fanboy’s Analysis of Akiyama Mio

by eternal on May 19, 2009

a fanboys analysis of akiyama mio 8 A Fanboys Analysis of Akiyama Mio

I was an otaku before an anime blogger, I played my first visual novel before reading The Animanachronism. I collect things that have pictures of attractive 2D females printed on to them just because I can. The acronym of my blog’s name spells a familiar word. If I wore glasses, surely they would be rose-tinted.

But that’s not the point. The point is Akiyama Mio. You know, Mio. That Mio, that Mio, that Mio, that Mio…and yes, even that Akiyama Mio. So what does this mean, aside from the fact that Nasu’s pen has infected me? It means that Mio is popular.

…And it also means that I’m going to try and figure out why, because that’s what I do!

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Let’s start with the obvious aspect: Mio’s tsukkomi to Ritsu’s Boke. Much like Kagami and Kontata, their relationship begs fans to toss around the word tsundere, but none of this matters since it doesn’t change her character in the least. Whether Mio is more tsun or dere is irrelevant: for now, let’s call her the “serious” one. She’s the cool, collected, levelheaded one in the group, and she just so happens to be in a group filled with not-so-levelheaded people. Mio plays off of Ritsu’s vast quantities of energy, forces Yui into doing something productive, and puts the band as her first priority. She might not be refined and delicate and lesbian like Mugi, but she has an air of maturity about her that sets her apart from her friends.

However, unless she possesses the mystical powers of Nagato Yuki, she won’t be able to win the heart of fandom with just subtle maturity. But don’t forget, she isn’t silent, and she’s more than capable of being nice. In fact, we’ve already seen signs of a girly side – or should I say, a light and fluffy side?

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Alluding to Mio being “light and fluffy” might make the wrong impression, so I’ll settle it by calling her…sentimental. Well, that’s probably the wrong word, but it’s obvious by this point that she’s figuratively soft on the inside. She might look like the leader of the group, and I question how far the light music club could have made it without her, but one can never accuse her of being cold. She’s cold on the outside, but warm on the inside. Like fresh taiyaki on a winter’s evening. Or like a good tsundere.

Not that she’s a tsundere at all by any definition of the word, but she shares some of the important traits, and subsequently some of the appeal. She plays with the viewer’s mind by altering conveniently between the kind of person a young guitarist could talk to earnestly about music, and a clumsy VN girl that just wants to be loved and protected (and loved once more in whatever way you see fit). This may or may not have been intentional, but certainly, her incredible appeal in the male fanbase is due to more than a nice character design and a flashy ED.

Now, this is where I believe Mio diverges from other characters of a similar archetype, as well as the reason why I believe she’s worth devoting a post to. Like with everything else, the secret lies in the finer details.

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Like barnacles. Those things are scary! Well, maybe the viewer wasn’t supposed to agree on that point – it was one of those awkward moments where you find yourself attracted to a trait that you already have, like a meganekko fan looking into a mirror and seeing his own glasses -  but it definitely worked. Mio’s natural shyness is somewhat of a replacement to the hesitance tsundere feel toward the thought of confessing their feelings, and it’s a more plausible substitute for other devices that beckon protection like physical frailty and the dreaded Keyicitis. Mio’s weaknesses are all mental, and they’re noticeable enough to be adorable yet not serious enough to warrant real worry.

a fanboys analysis of akiyama mio A Fanboys Analysis of Akiyama Mio

And then there’s the fanservice. Oh boy, the legendary KyoAni fanservice. If there’s one thing they know how to do right, it’s this: fanservice that doesn’t even come close to crossing the line, but hits you harder than a thousand episodes of Queen’s Blade. (That is, it hits your Burning Otaku Spirit harder, not your IQ, which is bound to decrease after a thousand episodes of Queen’s Blade).

The thing about KyoAni fanservice is that it’s innocent, and yet…not innocent. It’s brilliant, really. They know their boundaries and they stay within them, but in playing with an otherwise pure series and inserting their own little…moments…they can toy with the hearts of their fans and produce earth-shattering results.

a fanboys analysis of akiyama mio 7 A Fanboys Analysis of Akiyama MioBecause I can.

Mio is, in effect, a more realistic, accessible, and relateable psued0-tsundere that gets the best from both worlds. Her violence is comic rather than annoying, and she’s doesn’t seem like the type to go yandere; her soft side is cute, and appeals to much of the otaku population, if not much of the male population; and to top it all off, she’s intelligent and diligent, assuring that she can never be called a moeblob. You want someone who can teach you algebra? Sure thing! But she won’t be rude or condescending when teaching you, and she’ll probably make a few careless mistakes of her own – and what’s worse, she’ll even find those careless mistakes embarrassing. Assuming that you’re a stranger, she might try to cover it up with something to hide her shame, but a little teasing will be enough to make her blush. Not that anything more will happen, of course, because K-ON is pure!

And that, I believe, is the glue that holds Mio and the rest of the cast together. Their story is told through innocent eyes, in a world untainted by H-doujins and fanservice – it’s the perfect breeding ground for moe. Whoever is responsible for the creation of Mio’s character either thought things through or came upon an extraordinary fluke, because she takes traits that we all know and love, builds upon and develops pre-existing archetypes, shows her weaknesses in relateable, everyday scenarios, and ices the cake with a subtle showing of shimapan.

…Er, you know what I mean. The point is, she does everything, and not in a disturbing patchworked sort of way. It actually works. All she needs is a pair of glasses.

Oh wait.

~ ETERNAL
つづく

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

ghostlightning May 19, 2009 at 9:05 pm

Good work! Too bad I published my latest post too late, I would’ve loved to reference this while making a point about knowing and articulating uh, love, for Mio.

I’ll edit it and track back here.

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calaggie May 19, 2009 at 9:07 pm

Okay, NOW I understand! Nice analysis.

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animekritik May 20, 2009 at 11:29 am

i think you captured very well the funky combination of traits that is making mio stand out from the crowd. still, do not for a second believe that i will betray Ritsu. And even if I did, it’d be for Mugi..

animekritiks last blog post..Companion Post to “Ikki Tousen, China and Japan”

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slpless May 20, 2009 at 12:36 pm

Nice analysis and a good read. I particularly liked your thoughts on the innocent and not so innocent fanservice of Kyoani…

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Micchi May 20, 2009 at 1:02 pm

When I first started watching K-ON!, I didn’t understand what all the fuss was about Mio. Everyone seemed to be talking about Mio this and Mio that. But, she has grown on me (almost on par with Yui) for the reason you have mentioned. She’s a pseudo-tsundere and just the whole innocent feel, with moments and actions that are cute, but yet believable.

I still find the ‘moe moe kyu~n’ out of place though, even though it was cute. It felt too much like a forced service to the viewer.

Micchis last blog post..CrossNet Closes?

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TheBigN May 20, 2009 at 7:44 pm

My only problem with Mio is more on how KyoAni as worked with her weaknesses to the point where it seems like you can tell that they’re deliberately trying to enhance them for a certain gain. And it doesn’t come off right to me when they do that. I do enjoy her as the voice or reason, though as things are going along, we’re noticing that that role is being shared as well, as Ritsu seems to be taking a little of that mantle.

And I think some of Evirus’ post might apply here. :P

TheBigNs last blog post..Eden of the East 6: Laughing Akira

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Chris K. May 20, 2009 at 9:03 pm

Good job on laying out the Mio popularity issue. I have to admit that I’m hooked on K-On!, while I find Mio very likable I actually find both Ritsu and Yui to be more interesting and intriguing.

I think part of the massive appeal of Mio is that she’s “sneaky hot”, this is a term that me and my friends use IRL to describe women/girls that we think might be kind of attractive but when you see them in a little black dress at a wedding or some other formal event you say, OMG she’s really hot.

The Mio fans are treated to the sneaky hot moments at least twice in every K-On! episode. In the ED, the fans are treated to Mio in her super cute black dress complete with hat, the only sexier thing they could have Mio do is climb on top of a real piano and have her sing “Makin’ Whoopie” to all the fanboys ala “The Fabulous Baker Boys”, and then in almost every episode Mio is sporting some form of cosplay outfit, like the maid outfit or the Santa outfit.

If I had to choose what K-On! girl would be the most fun to hang with, I would pick Ritsu first. Ritsu’s energetic, lively, and fun nature would probably ensure that there would be very few dull moments when hanging out with her. My second choice would be Yui, she’s kind and she goes with the flow, if something catches her fancy she not afraid to the stop and enjoy the moment. When Yui grows up I think that she would be like Poppy from the movie “Happy Go Lucky”, easy going and cheery but not stupid, a person who tries to see the better side of most situations.

Chris K.s last blog post..Weekly Anime & Manga Motivational Posters for the week of 5/18/2009

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Alastor May 20, 2009 at 10:56 pm

I think you nailed it on the head, and on several points. Mio’s been my favorite since episode one, although that’s largely due to my weakness for girls with long black hair LOL

What strikes me about her aside from what you’ve already mentioned is that she really seems to be the heart of the show, even though the obvious “center” is Yui. It’s Mio’s dream, hope, and ambition to create a group, and this desire is almost tangible. I really felt for her in that one scene (summer break ep?) where she entered the room where they were all to practice only to find it empty; her shoulders slumped and you could feel the zetsubou as she stood there in defeat.

KyoAni’s “secret sauce” (I believe) is in how they animate the expressiveness and expressions of their characters. Not that they’re the only studio to do so, but ever since Air I’ve tried to pay special attention to what sets them apart, and it seems to me that their characters all seem more “real” in how they display their various attributes, feelings, and emotions. It’s in their eyes (and in some cases brows LOL), the turn of a head, even the movement of their hair. Whatever it is it’s almost seamless and invisible, which makes overanalysis kind of beside the point. They’re just very good at what they do, and obviously effective at it!

We (generally speaking) should just go with it and try to enjoy the “light and fluffy” shows without disecting them with scalpels of sarcasm, cynicism, and criticism, which really defeats the purpose of any show: simply to entertain us. This only turns prospective viewers off who might otherwise enjoy the series; I’ve seen lots of K-ON! haters (not to mention those who slam KyoAni “just because”) gleefully bashing it to “spread the hate”. Hate is overrated.

But that’s probably the subject of a whole ‘nother post, so I’ll just sign off here, with an added “good job!” for good measure :-)

Alastors last blog post..The Craft-Work and Art of the AMV, Part Two

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Jinx May 21, 2009 at 12:27 am

The problem with the way KyoAni present Mio is the fact that… well… K-On is not supposed to be about Mio. While yes, I do agree that Mio is the most attractive of the lot (Mugi coming in second, then Ritsu, then lagging far behind is Yui), I found it rather annoying that KyoAni is focusing too much on her, even though recently Mugi and Sawako-sensei have been getting more spotlights (as well as everyone’s shock when Yui proved to the world that she can kick ass with a simple 3 months training).

Sometimes I do enjoy her more mature side, which should be her more prominent self, since it would highlight the dere moments even more. But this is just me nit picking. For new I shall simply enjoy the show and all the Mio that’s coming my way~

Jinxs last blog post..Twins and Sugars

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Densha Otoko May 21, 2009 at 6:38 am

Greatest post ever . AM new to this site and after reading this post , it seems the writer put much effort into writing a marvelous post .

Also , I have a Meganeko Moe too ^^

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M12 May 21, 2009 at 6:54 am

Yes, like you said, Mio is very “accessible”. I like Mio as well, so let me explain my reasons also XD. I don’t care for the fanservice much. It’s crazy cute how she’s scared of squishy and creepy stuff. The best part is, she overcomes her shyness by performing on stage. When you see this kind of development, that’s when a character reaches that fantastic level :). Go Mio!

M12s last blog post..Kick the Hax!

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Glo the Legend May 21, 2009 at 9:07 am

That was a good post, and you made a lot of good points.

But to me, Mio will always be my least favorite character, I just feel like she’s molded by the creators into what they think the audience wants to see. (I feel like they took all of the popular personality traits and smashed them together to make Mio). I mean, apparently this worked amazingly, but I just don’t buy it.

Of course, I admit that there are times when even I am swayed a bit by Mio.

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A Day Without Me May 21, 2009 at 11:43 am

Ok, so this isn’t related to your post, but I think your poll needs a ‘yes, I travel by train’ option.

Then again, I might be the only person left in the universe who travels by train on a somewhat regular basis.

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Alastor May 21, 2009 at 3:29 pm

With regard to Glo’s comment above, I’ve seen lots of remarks in many forums about various characters being created to pander to viewer’s favored traits. While there’s a good argument that can be made for that (i.e. the moe-blob), here’s the thing: Most often, EVERYTHING is created to provoke enjoyment in the viewer, whatever the artform is. Art is created to manipulate, but in a positive way.

Looking back at the history of anime, there’s ALWAYS been cute “moe-licious” girls, and with the advent of more modern methods of animation, they’ve only gotten cuter LOL It’s only been since “defining” moe that people seem to have been complaining about it. For instance, while it’s true that Mikuru is a moe-blob, contrary to what many complainers like to say, she DOES serve a purpose in the story aside from Haruhi’s molestations. No, really, she does!

I don’t want this to be a(nother) tl;dr reply, so I’ll just say that it’s the creator’s obligation IS to manipulate his/her recipients in the necessary way in which the artwork is to be meant to be viewed, whatever the medium. In the years I was writing my novel, I was CONSTANTLY writing with the Reader in mind, and crafting, and, yes, manipulating them to feel what the Story wanted them to. If I want a character to be cherished, yes, I’ll try and gift her with those qualities that provoke that. If I want one to be hated, ditto. It’s true that repetition breeds cliche, but what with the sheer numbers of anime out there it’s bound to happen. If of good enough quality then it should be accepted and “forgiven”. As if that’s even necessary…

There’s good manipulation and there’s bad. The latter is when you try to manipulate another human being in the name of selfishness; the former is when attempting to connect them fully with the artwork you’re trying to create. So: Tsukasa, a moe-blob, yes, but she successfully elicits those endearing traits that (to most un-cynical viewers LOL) will make her lovable. This is a good thing :-P

Complaining about it is practically ludicrous.

Mio is a delicious combination of different qualities; I don’t define them, I just appreciate them and don’t think too deeply about it. There IS a literary caution as well as a magician’s that it’s not wise to “look behind the curtain”. Don’t even look AT the curtain LOL ;-)

Anyway, sorry about the length and thanks for reading.

Alastors last blog post..The Craft-Work and Art of the AMV, Part Two

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Baka-Raptor May 21, 2009 at 6:04 pm

Mio fanservice doesn’t come close to crossing the line? I must agree; it’s gone so far past the line that you can’t call it close. Moe Moe Kyun.

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ETERNAL May 21, 2009 at 9:23 pm

@ Micchi: It is forced, unfortunately, and there’s not much we can do about that. I don’t particularly mind since it was only one instance, but at least it helped me mentally move the show from “iyashikei/comedy” to “pure, unadulterated moe.”

@ TheBigN: Like with all moe, it’s forced, artificial. There are a few exceptions in iyashikei and, if you can call it moe, miscellaneous characters like Saki in Eden of the East, but for the most part moe will always be targeted. I think it just comes down to how bothered you are with the pandering. The people that hate otaku pandering will hate the show (like Evirus, evidently), but the fact remains that KyoAni has done a good job of making a “fake” character more likeable than she should have been. It’s a harder task than one would imagine, and countless mediocre harem/VN adaptations have shown us that blatant pandering does not always make a character this popular (or this loveable).

@ Chris K: “Sneaky hot” is a surprisingly good way of putting it – I completely forgot to address the issue of the ending video. In addition to her personality that we’re treated to in the show, we’re also presented with a more visual form of fanservice; quite simply, Mio can be sexy, in a way that few anime girls can be. It sounds impossible – and it is, since the flashiness doesn’t carry on into her personality and character – but from the perspective of a fan, she’s capable of being both moe and…well, hot.

@ Alastor: The animation is definitely worthy of mention, I noticed that myself. It has that difficult to describe, slow moving, overly fluid look that Kannagi had – as if there were too many frames per second, or the same amount of frames were stretched out over a longer time. I’m not sure of the technical details, but it looks great, and you can feel the detail of the characters (since the backgrounds are pretty much irrelevant). It just goes to show that KyoAni can do the technical stuff as well.

@ Jinx: I probably have the advantage here in not being familiar with the source material; the show was never “about” anything for me, and after the whole moe moe kyun affair, I decided to succumb to Mio’s charms. The plot is more of a pleasant bonus for me rather than the main attraction, because really, I’ve already seen Beck – and while I wouldn’t mind another Beck, I also wouldn’t mind seeing KyoAni unleash the full potential of their moe. Like with many other situations *coughGONZOcough* it’s all about expectations.

@ Glo the Legend: Alastor’s comment makes a general point which I agree with, but the last point especially should be highlighted: sometimes it’s best to just ignore the curtain. If you accept that the show is otaku targeted and you still don’t like Mio, then it’s your opinion; if you dislike her because she’s targeted, then the show is incompatible with you. Of course, I’ve also seen a few romanticized characters and settings that I wanted to believe in, most notably visual novels like minori’s Wind, but the lack of realism was a bit too much. It’s very much hit or miss.

@ A Day Without Me: Yeah, you might be. I didn’t want to include bus/boat/horse carriage so I kept it simple, but you can probably vote based on distance: if the con is far enough that it would be impractical to drive to without wasting a day, then it might as well quality as plane travel :P

@ Baka-Raptor: That brings to mind something I though about a few months ago: psychological vs physical fanservice. K-ON is obviously the former, since it blatantly panders to fans, but it’s different since it doesn’t use the standard definition of the word. It’s “innocent” from a technical perspective, but in reality it’s far from it. It’s an interesting concept, really, and I’ll probably write something on it at some point. But in the meantime, I’m enjoying watching moe moe kyun spread to the farthest reaches of Danbooru :P

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lexter louis e reyes May 28, 2009 at 2:35 pm

i think your in love with this kawaii shishi ehhehe …….. you found something positive in this kawaii eheheh………. am i right? oh well shoot me in the head if im wrong mexklow & lexter seeyah………..>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

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lexter louis e reyes May 28, 2009 at 2:36 pm

people express their love in many words

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NioMio June 14, 2009 at 7:57 am

MIO MOE MOE KYUN!!

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MangaHeadbang September 17, 2009 at 12:20 am

I agree with all comments. It really does seem that Mio is just a ‘tool’ to keep us watching, which also explains her many persona.

Yet, I still love her. She plays bass, I do too. That is probably the reason I paid attention to her. If she played the guitar, I would just pass her over and all the moe-ness.

Come to think, Mio has the same Tsundere qualities as William Murderface (Bass) in METALOCALYPSE.

Must every bass player be tsundere?
Those are my favorite shows by the way…

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MangaHeadbang September 17, 2009 at 12:36 am

In addition to my last comment, I learned Mio’s bass line in the ED song Don’t Say Lazy. The second riff suprised me because I wouldn’t expect a light music club to play accented open E’s followed by a F. This is normally found in Heavy Metal. If you listened to One by Metallica, you would see the similarities. (Light music isn’t actually so light)^_^

Maybe I should form my own LIGHT and HEAVY music club…

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MangaHeadbang September 17, 2009 at 12:44 am

Maybe that’s why Mio seems to be tsundere! Heavy Metal on the outside, Light and Fluffy on the inside. Maybe someone like me found the Light in the Heavy. Or, perhaps understanding 2 different music genres can help you correlate between both?

Heavy ‘MOE’tal?

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General Ali January 13, 2010 at 3:16 am

*attempting to get turned on by moe*

Nope sorry ain’t working. Back to pron and Maxim.

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Deepblue August 8, 2010 at 1:59 pm

We need your help!! Here’s plan tonight for Diamond 7:>Do not let Shana beat Taiga>Vote for Mio against Hina>Do not let Saber beat Kyou FujibayashiWITH THESE PLANS, Mio will be #1 and someone has to get the Diamond Necklace!
http://www.internationalsaimoe.com/voting/

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