Being the plotless misadventures of five high school girls, K-On! is refreshingly lifelike in its observational, journalistic approach to storytelling. The 24-episode run is a beautiful coming of age shoujo comedy, chronicling the day-to-day lives of its central characters as they grapple with their futures. Playing like the flipside to this year’s Sound Euphonium!, where the band members employ hard graft and gruelling practice to achieve their ends, the girls of the light music club end up procrastinating to the umpteenth degree, drinking tea and eating cake.
Reiko Yoshida’s writing is low on plot but rich on character, and the members of the light music club and the supporting roles orbiting prove the show’s greatest strength. Ritsu, club president, drummer and Keith Moon acolyte, is boisterous and frenetic, as mischievous as she is enthusiastic. Lead guitarist Yui is the spazzy lynchpin of the band, while bassist Mio is introspective and unassuming—she’s even the unwitting idol of a fan club. Mugi is the privileged keyboard player, two parts whimsy to one part odd. And Azusa is the baby of the group as the junior rhythm guitar player, desperately trying to get the band to practice.
Given that the entire show hinges on this careful balance of characters, the development pays off in spades. While each character retains her quirks, they evolve in a tangible way, learning from their mistakes and failings. This is testament to Yoshida’s writing and her flair for character, but the effortless comedy holds its own. There’s plenty of visuals gags and slapstick asides, plus the usual cultural suspects, but there’s a distinct western flavour to the humour and, coupled with the rest, makes for a hilarious yet inoffensive series.
The episodes are well articulated by director Naoko Yamada, and the exquisitely rendered animation matches up the crisp instrumentation of Yota Tsuruoka’s sound design almost note for note with character actions. Within the innocuous goings on of each episode, is a series of relatively benign incidents for the characters to interact in, from trying to cool down on a hot day to attending a music festival. But each further the cliché-smashing series, as the girls face down their future and move into adulthood.
The lack of plot or overt action may face some viewers with a boredom endurance test, but for fans of Lucky Star hungry for another character driven, slice of life series with tremendous voice acting, bouncy soundtrack and heaps of laughs, K-On! is the show for you.
Special Features: Textless opening and closing animation / Two extra episodes / 2011 OVA
INFO: K-ON! SEASON 2: THE COMPLETE SERIES / CERT: 12 / DIRECTOR: NAOKO YAMADA / SCREENPLAY: REIKO YOSHIDA / STARRING: AKI TOYOSAKI, ASAMI SANADA, AYANA TAKETATSU, CHIKA FUJITO / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW