Upon starting to watch K-On! for the first time I knew very little about the plot or structure of the show. I knew it was a cutesy looking anime about a group of school girls who started a band together. I assumed the genre was probably light J-Rock. That was about the extend of my knowledge of K-ON! from the offset.
The mental image I had of K-ON! prior to watching was ultimately pretty accurate. It’s an easy to watch light hearted show about young girls trying to start a band. There’s a little too much non band related filler and the show cwould certainly benefit from having a bunch of content cut for pacing, there is something here to enjoy.
Season one of K-ON! spends a rather long time getting up to speed. Initially focusing too heavily on low pace character development and heavy handed exposition, K-ON!’s early episodes fail to really capture the aspects of the show that really appealed to me.
The first five or so episodes were watchable enough. Shy cutesy girls trying to make friends and grow closer together was never unpleasant or unwatchable, but without the core of working together as a band to pull the group together, there was just not enough structure to the early narrative.
Episodes in the early part of season one were also very heavily reliant on unrelatable levels of plot convenience. The super expensive guitar is available for almost free because one of the main cast happens to own the shop. Girl joins the band with no musical knowledge but is able to instantly pick up complex skills with ease. A lot of the plot makes unnatural jumps in order to arbitrarily jump around self constructed plot holes.
However, once the show starts focusing on the group of friends as a band rather than just a loose group of friends, the narrative picks up considerably. Episodes touching on development of callouses, the nerves of live performance, over practicing before your first show to the point you destroy your voice and song written with overly simplistic lyrics all felt incredibly reminiscent of my own teen years trying to start a band with a bunch of kids who didn’t really know what they were doing.
While these moment of K-ON! are spread out far too thin, with considerable amounts of filler and fluff in between, it’s hard to deny that K-ON! is a show that at times really captures a relatable core regarding many of the intricate, imperfect aspects of being in your first band. It is a show that understands the excitement, the fumbling, the practice sessions dedicated to anything but actually playing music together and the feeling of rockstar success that comes from throwing a handful of rough song at an audience that are entirely your own creations.
I certainly enjoyed watching the first season of K-ON!, even if it wasn’t always the show I wanted it to be. It was at times meandering, at times directionless and at times filler more than plot, but those sections of the show never failed to be light hearted, well written and generally pleasent background noise.
When it was actually focusing on being a teenage band, it really did capture that mentality well. It was worth watching if just for the moments it happened to resonate with my own personal experiences.
K-ON!’s second season to me was a bit of a let down, mainly due to poor choices made regarding focus, pacing and length. Put simply, it was twice as long, spent considerably longer focusing on non band elements and if anything decreased its focus on a young band trying to find their feet together.
Much of K-ON!’s second season is about everyday life at school. A focus on moving on, deciding what academic path your adulthood might follow, the fear of leaving your friends behind and the necessary focus on getting good grades as you finish school.
Sure there’s still band content, and yes the content that focuses on school life is well written and enjoyable, but it’s not what I came into K-ON! hoping for, or the content that personally resonated with me. That was a shame.
Still, some of it’s moments of focusing on the band itself were incredibly strong. Probably my favourite single episode of K-ON! was a season 2 episode about the drummer getting fed up of being at the back, hidden away, onstage and in their music videos. As a drummer myself I certainly understood and appreciated the focus of the episode, and I really enjoyed watching the drummer, like myself, eventually finding solace in bands like The Who and the way their drummers were able to command focus regardless of their positioning on stage.
While K-ON! season two isn’t as strong overall as the first season, it did contain some of my favourite episodes of the entire show. It’s just a shame the content I was enjoying was spread out even more thinly.
K-ON!’s movie takes place on a group trip to London and probably had the best balance of band focus to other topic among the three sections of the show. Set around a misunderstanding that sees our heroes playing a show in the place of another band, it did a really great job capturing some of the risk taking and reckless fun that can be had in young bands.
Oh, and when watching the subbed version, the attempts at English were pretty damn adorable.
K-ON’s movie was a really nice book end to watching through the whole show in order. It was a send off to the cast that focused on the aspects I most enjoyed in the show, while minimising the filler content. It left me looking back on season two in particular and wishing that we could have seen a season several episodes shorter, with a much tighter focus and a shorter running time.