K-on started out as a short comic strip manga. It became absurdly popular and has since been adapted into two TV anime, two OVAs, a film and a PSP game. Is it popular for a reason or does its popularity have nothing to do with quality? Let’s take a look at the first anime series and find out.
The story of K-on begins with a pair of girls named Mio and Ritsu who decide to join the soon to be abolished light music club. They soon find a third member, Mugi, but they need one more to keep the club alive. Enter Yui, a girl with no idea what light music is or even how to read music. To save their club, the group convinces her to join and learn how to play the guitar. The series follows a linear structure, but most of it just focuses on the everyday lives of the girls as they learn together and have fun. Overall the series does a good job of setting up interesting situations for the characters and executing them in a way that’s fun to watch. Humour is used as a major element and it’s almost always used to great effect. One issue I do have is that the girls overcome all their problems really easily. Especially Yui who quickly learns how to play the guitar with only minor problems. But it’s not a huge issue since it does fit the show’s lighthearted aesthetic well.
The characters are a little under-developed. Most of them follow tropes without ever really deviating from those tropes. The characters do interact well with each other and with the situations they get into. They also get some development, but they never get fully fleshed out.
The art is good. It’s pretty distinctive and the backgrounds are really vivid and well done. They occasionally do strange things with it, but they don’t go overboard and it generally works for the scene. One problem I do have with it is that they can’t seem to draw noses but that is a pretty small complaint. My biggest complaint is that the art can be lazy on occasion. Overall it does suit the series well.
The voice acting is well done. It’s not the best I’ve heard, but Toyoskai Ai, Kotobuki Minako, Satou Satomi and the rest of the main cast all do well with their roles. The music is one of the strong points of the series. They manage to make the girls sound like a skilled but still inexperienced band which strengthens the series’ premise.
The yuri factor is a 6/10. All of the main five girls share some really homoerotic moments, especially Yui with anyone. I especially like the way Mugi responds to several of these moments by getting really excited and generally being a yuri fan girl. Although there are a lot of these moments, they never move into the realm of canon with them.
My final rating for K-on is an 8/10. It has some issues, but they’re generally pretty insubstantial and shouldn’t affect anyone’s enjoyment too much. Overall it’s a lot of fun to watch and uses humour well. If you’re a fan of Azumanga Daioh or Gakuen Utopia Manabi Straight you’ll probably enjoy K-on as well.