K-ON: How To Make A Simple Thing Good

by eternal on April 12, 2009


K-ON: it’s the show everyone is talking about. While not directed by Tatsuya Ishihara of KeyAni fame, the fact that it’s being produced by Kyoto Animation is enough reason for the fans to go figuratively wild, and when you add the distinct moe character designs and the simple yet appealing slice-of-life premise and setting, it should come as no surprise that K-ON is one of the most fervently discussed – if not praised – shows of the current season.

However, while naysayers do exist (and the minority always has its way of making its voice heard), I’ve fallen for this show after a mere two episodes. Certainly, the series isn’t technically good by any means, and I can’t think of anything truly original that it’s accomplishing – but therein lies the answer. Why do I like K-ON? Because it’s simple, and without doing much of anything, these first two episodes have already provided me with far more entertainment than I dared ask for.

It would be counterproductive to discuss what K-ON does not do, but for argument’s sake, I’ll list a few. Anyone who has watched the show would know that there isn’t anything too astonishing in the directing – the story gets told in a fluid, uncumbersome manner, and that’s that. The music is forgettable as well: save for the OP and ED, I don’t think I can remember a single piece of background music. That could be due to forgetfulness, of course, but I don’t believe that there are too many surprises lying in wait in the soundtrack either. The animation is good, but not great, and the character designs are appealing but ultimately unoriginal.

So what’s left? Certainly not the story, since it’s a typical slice of life show that’s unlikely to develop into much more. And yet, I find myself utterly drawn to it.

From the fanboy perspective, it goes without saying that KyoAni has nailed their target audience once more. Maybe it’s the result of the source material rather than the studio, but the fact remains that K-ON is completely and utterly moe, and I’m willing to admit that I’m not complaining. As someone who fits more or less into the target audience, Yui’s sublime mixture of clumsy and genki is something that I could never say no to, and Mio’s tsundere/kuudere tendencies are absolutely adorable: nothing is more entertaining than seeing the most cool and level-headed girl of the group nervously blush at the thought of handing out tissues.

That said, I’ve probably just covered everything that marks the dividing line between the supporters and haters of the series – if you’re not interested in the things mentioned above, then you probably won’t like it. But is there any truth to that? Does K-ON have merit beyond its obvious pandering?

k-on-first-impressions-1Inserting pictures of Mio everywhere is now the cool thing to do.

In a broad sense, I’d say no, but when it comes to the specifics, it strikes me as the kind of show anyone can enjoy. Let’s face it: there isn’t any deep meaning in this story, no symbolism, nothing to analyze, nothing to objectively appreciate. Aria-esque shows might come along once in a while, but for the most part, slice of life isn’t about depth: it’s about appreciating the simple things. Or, in short, it’s about entertainment.

In sharp contrast with my April Fools post on the ignorance of most of the world to the potential depth of anime, K-ON is the kind of show that falls into the exact opposite category. I wouldn’t recommend it to a film critic or university professor, I wouldn’t take notes on it and write 2000+ words when I finish: instead, I watch it when I’m in the mood to give my brain a little break, and I find myself savouring those 22 minutes more than I do for some far better shows.

In that sense, K-ON can be enjoyed by everyone, somewhat akin to how we have female Kanon fans and male Fruits Basket fans (and just for the record, I’m one of the latter). I don’t think the moe in the show kills it: it simply makes it more enjoyable for its single male fans. Once the viewer overlooks the targetted character designs, not unlike a UC Gundam fan overlooking 00’s Tieria, he or she will most likely find that K-ON is a very simple and very entertaining show. It does not excel at any specific aspect, it neither breaks new ground nor reinvents an old genre, yet I still find myself looking forward to each episode nearly as much as I did for the emotion-charged Clannad and Toradora.

In short, I cannot concisely explain why the show is good, in the sense that it’s nearly impossible for any of us to define why we like the things that we like. However, I can confidently say that while K-ON is not revolutionary, it possesses a charm – a sort of magic – that enthralls its viewers into watching, and I believe its secret lies in its innocently portrayed simplicity. I laughed when the girls found themselves subconsciously counting clouds instead of cars, I smiled when Yui first got to play her guitar (and I learned a thing or two about amps). My point is, my feelings were with the cast the entire time, and even with the most well thought out directing and writing, this is something that many shows fail to do – and as long as K-ON can continue to be as blissfully entertaining as it has been, I’m sure it will give me something to reminisce fondly on in a year’s time.


{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

RyanA April 12, 2009 at 9:45 pm

I would call it ALLURE, and it’s precisely what I feel towards it.

RyanAs last blog post..We Can Microblog


zzeroparticle April 12, 2009 at 9:51 pm

It’s certainly an enjoyable series, that’s for sure. I’ve made a mention about it being a bit too moeriffic at times, and while that is true, it strikes at me in a way that succeeds in being appealing. As you said, it’s not a show to be subjected to a heap of scrutiny by people looking for any depth but more of something to just enjoy for what it is.

zzeroparticles last blog post..Kannagi Character Karaoke CD – “Nagi Uta” – Review


Roy Mustang April 12, 2009 at 9:54 pm

K-ON took everything I hated about Lucky Star and got rid of it (simple animations, non-episodic plot, etc). It also took everything I liked about LS and enhanced it (Moe!).


Hypernova April 12, 2009 at 10:20 pm

Good post. I cannot say more than that. Really agree with you on the fact that this show does not try to do anything except entertain people who enjoy this type of show.


ghostlightning April 12, 2009 at 10:55 pm

Big Lucky Star fan here. K-On has its charms, but I don’t think that the public is so divided into neat fanboy and hater categories. I find it quite dull, for the reasons you’ve enumerated, but I don’t hate it at all and will continue to watch it as my source of cute anime fluff for the season.

ghostlightnings last blog post..Instant Findability


animekritik April 12, 2009 at 11:00 pm

i agree with Mustang. This is like Lucky Star with more detailed design and with connection between episodes. If only they could have squeezed Aya Hirano in somewhere, it’d be godly. (I guess there’s still time for that!)

animekritiks last blog post..Soul Eater 60: Gorgon Merger


Persocom April 13, 2009 at 2:03 am

The appeal of this show to me has a lot to do with the fact that I used to jam out with friends before I moved to where I live now. I also worked in a local music store for some time and remember quite well the excitement of working to pay for an instrument and learning how to play. I find similarities between myself and Mio, not only is she a bass player and that’s the instrument I play the most, but I have the same reasoning for not playing the guitar XD Ritsu reminds me a lot of my wife’s cousin who used to play drums with me. I know lots of people are being sucked into this for whatever reasons, it’s definitely not a deep show, but it’s fun and relaxing and reminds me of times gone by. Eh, I should just do a post on it myself I guess huh.

Persocoms last blog post..Easter Special


Sorrow-kun April 13, 2009 at 3:09 am

Aria-esque shows might come along once in a while, but for the most part, slice of life isn’t about depth: it’s about appreciating the simple things. Or, in short, it’s about entertainment.

The entire Iyashikei genre would like a word with you.


Martin April 13, 2009 at 4:22 am

I think there’s a little – not much but just enough – in this series to entertain non-moe fans such as myself – if it starts to get on my nerves I’ll drop it but as far as inoffensive, disposable fluffy comedy goes it does the job fine. I think it is one of those shows that gives you a laugh, then you forget about it. I like the OP and end themes as well but the BGM goes in one ear and out the other for me too.

I’m sure the moe-ness and the aesthetic will endear it to the KyoAni fanboys but there’s something about the ‘four friends forming a band’ that clicks with me. I know the (unfair) Beck comparisons have disappointed some but in a roundabout way it has the same ‘iyashicomedy’ vibe of Hidasketch, albeit in quite a different visual style.

Martins last blog post..White Album end: a question of lust (and spineless losers)


Optic April 13, 2009 at 7:38 am

An show I unexpectedly fell in love with. It’s not the typical moe and the slice of life genre which is attracting me but instead it’s music they are delivering. Considering there aren’t many music type shows out there, I feel it’s somewhat different from the other series I’ve experienced.

Optics last blog post..Hospitalized for the day


TheBigN April 13, 2009 at 8:17 am

I don’t consider K-On to be that “moe”. It has it moments, sure, but not enough to call it a “moe” show, whatever that really means.

And what’s wrong with moe all of a sudden? :/

TheBigNs last blog post..The Things K-On! Can Influence…


phossil April 13, 2009 at 8:30 am

I think K-ON is still at a very early stage for giving a complete opinion. I like it so far, mainly because of the good theme they have and the schoolgirls (that and leaving the fact of the character designs and animation..)

phossils last blog post..Swimsuits gallery


Noirsword April 13, 2009 at 8:39 am

K-ON is what it is, a moe show for fans of moe. Simple, fun to watch, and ridiculously sugary cute. It’s not really anything special so far, but it does what a slice of life should, which is create a cast of likeable (and moe archetypal) characters.

Noirswords last blog post..Spring Impressions Part 3: Hayate no Gotoku!!, Natsu no Arashi, Pandora Hearts


otou-san April 13, 2009 at 11:53 am

I think it’s still a little early to make too much of a judgment on a series that moves at a slice-of-life pace (although I don’t think K-ON is strictly slice-of-life since it’s already got a central narrative and there are goals that characters are working toward).

That said, though, this is a short series and it doesn’t have all that long to make its mark, which it has yet to do in my mind. Even though I have contemplated sleeping with my Les Paul.

Inserting pictures of Mio everywhere is now the cool thing to do.

I approve.

otou-sans last blog post..Springing ahead ‘09, part two


Chris April 13, 2009 at 10:50 pm

I think the reason I really like K-On! is because it’s simple, and it won’t pretend to be anything more than a series about four cute likable girls who want to form a band. The only thing I fear is that they’ll continue to make Yui seem like she’s so air-headed that she’s almost borderline retarded, in the manga Yui is easily distractible, but not as bad as in the anime.

Each new anime season I need to find an anime that just easy to watch and enjoy, nice likable characters, simple plot, call it my weekly dose of anime Valium.

I can see why a lot of fans like Mio, I actually know someone in real life that has Mio-like tendencies, when this girl sings karaoke she’s like a sexual charged diva but when she sits back down, she’s like a church mouse.

Chriss last blog post..Weekly Anime Motivational Posters for the week of 4/13/2009


Shin April 14, 2009 at 6:16 am

I’m the reason why haters for this show exist; the only real reason why I’m watching this mediocre anime is for one girl.


Rangerroh April 14, 2009 at 4:34 pm

Nicely said. I too fell in love with the anime because of the cute moe and the simple slice of life theme it gives off. Also, like Chris said, I did find Yui to be a bit annoying. She seem so clueless. But other than that the rest of the characters are very likable.

Rangerrohs last blog post..Valkyria Chronicles


M12 April 15, 2009 at 3:14 pm

All I know is, Mio’s hairstyle reminds me of Nishina’s. So, I’m following this show :P.

But yeah, K-On is simple and good. I love it how the heroine isn’t some super talented guitarist. Also, the club isn’t scheming to hit the world stage or anything. They just want to run club activities and have fun. During episode one, I thought Yui’s character was extremely stereotypical. Episode two characterized her better, though. So, I look forward to more.

M12s last blog post..Queen’s Blade


tai April 16, 2009 at 7:27 am

It’s definitely moé, but I don’t find it to be stereotypical moé, and I think that’s the success behind the simplicity: New and Simple. It looks good from the first two episodes, but I think the plot is going to be more necessary than say Aria or Lucky Star. The producers seem to be pushing towards plot much more than with Lucky Star—the characters actually have a goal to achieve. Becuase of this slice of life + plot, I don’t feel as confident about the outcome of the series compared to when I started watching Clannad or After Story; hopefully it lives up to our expectations.

tais last blog post..And on the 7th month, Haruhi said “Let there be Kannagi”


ETERNAL April 19, 2009 at 8:49 pm

@ Sorrow-kun: Scratch the “entertainment” and that still seems to sum up iyashikei. I’m not too familiar with the genre, but as far as I know, the goal is provide a sense of relaxation/healing through the use of simple, everyday situations. I doubt it’s a rule, but iyashikei is more or less part of the larger slice of life genre. K-ON would simply be on the comedic side of slice of life while iyashikei shows like Aria would be on the opposite.


zenical April 26, 2009 at 7:44 am

hi im back ^_^ i see you’re in love with Mio too XDXD

zenicals last blog post..What are You Watching this Spring 2009?


Aeromax April 27, 2009 at 4:02 pm

I concur. With four episodes, I’ve got crystal hindsight, but I still think I’m justified in my decision to watch this lightly. It’s not like I watch anime for the interesting/original/thought-provoking plots (although when a series has one, ’tis beautiful). My life is taxing and void of moe-moe.

So for me, this is a cool, natural high.

Aeromaxs last blog post..No comment.


shadow December 28, 2009 at 5:02 am

hey man great post. i just finished the anime and loved it. i think if one tries to dissect k-on too much, they’ll miss the point. it’s kinda charming that way. =)


Haliga February 26, 2010 at 7:31 am

I like K-ON it was such a great anime to watch, and cant wait to start watching the next series.


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