Hello! If you’re reading these words, it means that I graduated recently. With a lot less stress and more time on my hands, I wanted to create a place to collect my thoughts on various cultural creations I have found on my way through life. First off – K-ON!, an anime series that reached it’s peak popularity few years ago. I hope you enjoy, and I’ll see you next Monday!
There have been many anime and manga series featuring high school students as their protagonists. Oh, so many. And the first series I want to review on this blog is one of them.
K-On! Is an anime series set in an all-girls high school. There, at the very beginning, we follow Hirasawa Yui, a freshman you would never think is a good fit for a music club, or any club at all for that matter. As much as you could definitely call her adorable and kind, she has never had experiences that could help her decide what she wants to do in her life. So, when during the first week at a new school she is handed countless flyers from the clubs she can find at her school, she only grows more and more confused.
Her life intertwines with those of Tainaka Ritsu, Akiyama Mio and Kotobuki Tsumugi, when the first two, or rather Ritsu accompanied Mio who is forced to join her, decide to revive the school’s light music club. Which proves to be not an easy task, even though the number of members needed to keep the club from closing down is just four students. First joins them Mugi. Together, the three girls draw posters that they hang up at the school’s bulletin board, trying to convince other girls to join.
In stumbles Yui, who was not only late with declaring her club membership at this point, but still wasn’t very convinced which one she would like to join. Nevertheless, when she sees one of the posters, her next stop is the light music club.
The series itself is often criticized for the fact that it contains a lot of moe elements. Which in short means, that this series is nothing more than simple, boring misadventures of cute, young girls, doing cute, girly things. However, there is a reason I would like to argue with that.
Being a tired twenty-something that I am, I already get slightly nostalgic when watching shows that feature young people full of life and energy to pursue their passion. That enthusiasm, where does it come from, where does it go? Where did you come from, Cotton Eye Joe? To me, watching K-On! felt like relieving a part of my adolescence that is never coming back. It was like feeling a gentle, warm breeze on my face on the first sunny day of spring. And even though the story and the characters are fictional, it still feels so real, like I caught a glimpse of someone else’s actual life, or a version of it at least.
Let’s think about something else: K-On! is a series about a band. Is it a musical though?
I wouldn’t say it is. It’s not the story of young musicians reaching stardom before graduating high school. Sure, they are very ambitious, they definitely dream big sometimes, but music isn’t the only thing that’s important in their lives. They are in school after all – they have classes, exams, school trips, festivals, and all the other things that their peers do.
I think that’s actually the quintessence of what I love about this show the most – it proves that you don’t have to do one thing to be happy, it shows that to live a full life you need it all – knowledge, passion, friends and time to unwind.
Of course, this series could easily turn into one about an amateur band’s road to glory and fame, if it wasn’t for the fact, that:
- Yui is a complete layman when it comes to playing the guitar at the beginning, and has to learn everything from the basics before she’s actually good at it,
- More often than not, band rehearsals turn into an afterschool tea time instead of actually, you know, playing the instruments, singing, doing… music stuff, anything?
And even though this seems to be one of the most often repeated criticism of the series, I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing. As I said, this isn’t really a musical series. Much rather, it’s a slice of life piece, showing how through a shared passion a group of girls found friendship and meaning in their afterschool activities.
Even though it’s as modern a story as can be, I can’t help but think of it as a series that in tone reminds me of ukiyo-e, or the traditional Japanese art form, its name often translated to “a picture of the flowing world”. We keep the girls company until their graduation, which makes for three years in their lives in total. Because of that the series is somewhat episodic, an episode rarely picks up the plot directly from the moment the previous one ended. And this makes the story feel even more life-like – because it shows only certain moments, some important, some funny, some special for another reason. Think about it this way – no matter what your life looked like in high school or before, not every single day was worth noting. You’ve probably already forgotten what you were doing each day of the school year. But still some situations stuck to your mind, creating memories that you might treasure to this day.
And, in hindsight, isn’t it what this series is about? What adolescence as a period in life is about? To try new things and meet people you feel best with, to discover who you are and who you want to be, and to possibly inspire others to do the same?
I think it is.
So, why don’t we make some memories?