Let me tell you a story about five girls and a few cups of tea

by eternal on January 27, 2011

I avoid writing these subjective, meandering articles whenever I can–if I have nothing of substance to say, why publish a post about it? Still, there are exceptions to every rule, and K-ON!! seems to have forced my hand. I’ve written about it twice (disclaimer: old posts are embarrassing and bad), and in that time I’ve said all that I have to say… yet I can’t leave things hanging.

So, instead of analyzing the narrative (what’s there to analyze?) or digging into the heart of its appeal (it’s pretty self-explanatory if you ask me), I’m going to tell you a story. It’s a story about the rise to fame of the world’s five greatest moeblobs.

In the beginning, there was a legend: a promise in a season preview chart that the renowned Kyoto Animation would be taking on a new project, adapting a fun but ultimately unoriginal 4koma manga series. Having seen the likes of Haruhi Suzumiya and the Key adaptations, anime fandom knew that, like it or not, K-ON was going to be a financial and popular success. As yet another entry in the growing trend of “database”-styled moe shows, it attracted both diehard fans and haters. People knew whether they would like it or not before they even watched it.

Fast forward a few months. K-ON is now more or less a cultural phenomenon, apparently making a direct impact on Japan’s guitar sales. What exactly made the show magical enough to garner this kind of adoration? Frankly, it may not have been magical at all–who would be surprised that a high-budget otaku-targeted KyoAni production would make waves in fandom? Being the shameless bishoujo fan that I am, I loved the show, and I was impressed at how its lightheartedness never drifted into the dangerous realms of boring fluff and forced drama (the moe version of shounen filler).

The second season was much of the same, and I mean that in a good way. I commented a couple of times on how it took an average of less than 5 minutes of an episode for me to start grinning, either at a joke or as a natural reaction to the dialogue. Worst case scenario, the OP would make me smile. It’s like listening to Perfume.

And then something happened. Episode 20–the final school festival.

Graduation drama is a bit of a cheap shot in that it forces you to relate to it, but it usually winds up being hollow. Forced drama at the end of a comedy series is nothing new. The best case scenario would be the likes of Azumanga Daioh, which, if memory serves, ended on a bittersweet high note without attempting to conjure any real emotion.

But that’s not the impact that K-ON had on me. I felt something. I was impressed, too, at the way everything was presented: drawing out the introductions during the concert, setting the climax in the club room, using tears as the first visual cue that the drama was about to hit. I can understand why I enjoyed the scene from a formal perspective, but in reality, it reaches far deeper than that. The dialogue in that scene was poignant in its reflection of the girls’ personalities and the little quirks in their relationships (the mention of lycopene was brilliant), but the scene is really about the dialogue in the entire show. It brings to mind every one of Yui’s silly comments and Mugi’s naive exclamations, the kind of events you think nothing of because you know shows like this never end.

Really, you don’t realize how important something is until you lose it.

I was surprised. Of course I love KyoAni and I liked K-ON since the beginning, but I liked it as a fluffy moe series–the best of its kind. It normally takes a full-fledged drama to get an emotional reaction out of me, and even that can go wrong. What was I thinking, nearly tearing up at the end of the concert? It’s just a moeblob show–the best of its kind!–it’s not the kind of thing to warrant tears. We know it made money so there’s bound to be more of it, as confirmed by the upcoming movie. Heck, the TV series even packaged a couple extra episodes to tide us over and keep it from ending on such a sad note.

No matter how much I think about it, though, nothing can change the fact that it reached me. My emotional reaction to fiction usually revolves around events: a death, a disappearance, a breakup. Sadness resulting from nothing but a little drama at the end of a moe comedy series is new to me. Even so, I felt something for K-ON, a show with no plot or depth of narrative, a show with nothing but amusing characters. At what point did that amusement turn into genuine depth? I’m not sure.

If there’s anything I can say about K-ON in the end, it’s that I underestimated it. I praised it since day one, but I underestimated it. I would’ve never thought that the characters whom I once deemed to be the epitome of the good kind of archetypal shallowness would become this whole and emotionally affecting.


{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

miretruck January 27, 2011 at 6:08 pm

Wow reminds of when i got my brother to watch the second season, he was put off by the first season cuz it seemed like that stereotypical moe-blob show but eventully midway into the second season, he sent me a txt saying, ” i can’t believe i like this show”. I was grinning very hard when he came to that realization


feal87 February 12, 2011 at 6:20 pm

Yep, same thing happened to me. Started up sceptical, ended up watching every episode. :P


Samukun January 28, 2011 at 1:13 am

*fires off a 21 gun salute to a series well done*


Krozam February 4, 2011 at 2:47 pm

I’ve never watched a single episode of K-ON, but I like the musics, so I downloaded them and I listen to them even now. I can say, however, that sometimes you’re moved by the strangest things. Sometimes all it takes is the right BG music. There’s no need to look for reasons, just savour the feeling.


Yi February 23, 2011 at 9:25 am

Just wanted to say… Best title ever!


k May 19, 2011 at 7:33 pm

K-ON! is just amazing and I find myself searching out new content relating to the anime series every day.
I tell myself to post about other anime series, but, K-ON! is the center of my anime world


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