K-On! – Review

Stepping back even further than Symphogear and Idolmaster, this week I reviewed the nameless moe beast itself, K-On! I was a firey young jerkoff the first time I watched K-On!, and dropped it a handful of episodes in, but this time I had a pretty good time with it. It wasn’t astonishingly good or anything, but it was a very enjoyable time, full of strong character animation and nice character-based gags. There were even a couple really heartfelt moments – most of these came from simple gestures of friendship between the characters, but the last, when Yui had to run to make it to their last performance, was a genuinely gripping sequence. K-On! probably won’t change your life, but it certainly works as a fuzzy temporary vacation from it.

You can check out my full review over at ANN, or my notes below!


Episode 1

Well damn. There’s already a great unexpected looseness to the animation here – it’s sharp, but the characters are visually expressive and exaggerated in a variety of ways. And the motion works well to convey personality and voice. Solid direction, too

Lots of visual humor that makes great use of timing. KyoAni are confident

And also great use of depth – multiple jokes at different planes at the same time

More dramatic direction for humorous effect as Yui approaches the school

Yui’s extremely visually expressive

This OP is really making me see how this show is nostalgia incarnate – from the priorities of the lyrics, to the relationships, to the very concept of a crappy high school pop band, everything here just emanates that ephemeral youthful feeling

Perky gag comedy timing. Perky soundtrack too, synths and chimes

Nodoka is Yui’s childhood friend

Yui’s faces lol

Yui’s tiny stick-hands are pretty great

Ritsu and Mio are introduced through body language in a variety of ways before their faces appear

More quick visual comedy, timing-based humor

Yui’s dopey face is a joke by itself

Ritsu faces too. They’ve got a very diverse look

These scene transitions are pretty interesting

More direction humor – this huge fisheye shot of the music room

And they’ve got Tsumugi

Yui the airhead MC is an interesting choice, but actually kinda perfect for this incredibly easygoing series

More fisheye shots as Mio and Ritsu react to Mugi saying she’s excited about fast food

We can already see Mugi’s deal – she’s delighted by small details of everyday life, because she’s clearly removed class-wise

More wacky wipe transitions

And more dramatic angles – crazy foreshortening on this shot from the corner of the band room, emphasizing the drums

oh my god, Yui’s memories of light music are just whacking a box on beat. she is the most useless person

“The club name has ‘light’ in it, so they probably just play easy music. Whistling and stuff”

oh my god these Yui daydreams are too much

Yui can barely walk down the friggin’ hall

The looseness of the show’s style at a distance is great – it doesn’t feel like the character designs made smaller, it feels like they’ve been more warped and stylized to better emphasize fundamental visual personality at a distance

Her slumping body language, dang

More synth tracks

Wacky-ass smears

More great body language. Very consistent character animation, but looser than KyoAni’s more recent stuff

Plying Yui with tea and cakes. lol

These faces are really something

Dang, I’m actually feeling kinda insecure with Yui here

“We can’t let this mark leave this room.”

oh my god, Ritsu kicking Mio. actually laughed out loud at that one. this show is really good

“What other things do you like?” “Anything that tastes good.” “Just food, huh”

Everyone being unimpressed with Yui is amazing

More great faces

This melty body language is wonderful

Shimmery late afternoon light on the tea and cakes. The afternoon idyll

These classic little movements as they set up for their song. So much mileage out of small tricks of pacing and character animation

This simple little song

“You guys really aren’t very good, are you. But it seems like a lot of fun!”

Oh my god, this photo. Combined nostalgia and humor – just Ritsu’s forehead

Sooo many faces

And more great details of body language

Episode 2

More Yui faces

Nodoka is basically Yui’s mom

Yui’s memories are all of her staring vaguely off into space. Yui is ridiculous

Jeez, the perspective in these shots is so exaggerated. It feels natural, but is incredibly stylized – a mix of the grounded backgrounds, heavy lighting, and well-animated but loose characters

Some of the jokes are a little too obvious – slow reactions, easy payoffs

Mugi’s apparently actually good at piano

All of their equipment is Mugi’s

In this episode, they’re all going way chibi in their reactions, and the other characters follow suit. A different style from the first episode, and definitely not a style I’ve regularly seen at KyoAni

Even the offhand expressions in the mid-distance shots are excellent. This show really cares about its visual language

“We’re like rare animals to her” re Mugi, which is true

Nice transition using the sound effects of Yui emptying her piggy bank

Yui can’t make it across the street without bumping into someone and being distracted by a dog. Yui is amazing

Diverse fashion for the character, a KyoAni staple

More silly synth songs

Mugi is very distinct from the rest of them. Although I guess they’re all distinct

Mugi getting really into them all getting part-time jobs

When the show goes for more dedicated gags, it’s often less effective than its simple incidental humor

Mio is Shy

Mio stealing herself is nice, because she’s also a derp – this whole plan is ridiculous, but her being invested demonstrates her derpness

Mugi is just fascinated by the job, while Yui’s trying to distract her

“People bring your family enough sweets that they go to waste?”

Absolutely lovely background colors

Yui returns their money, saying she’ll get a guitar within her means

Mugi’s dad is the company president, so she gets her guitar for basically nothing

“I gotta practice signing my autograph!”

Aaand now she’s sleeping with her guitar

A sense of import to Yui first plugging in her guitar

Episode 3

Mio’s gap moe is pretty extreme. I’m not surprised she became a poster girl for moe blobs

Lots of light incidental jokes. The show is at its best when the jokes come naturally like this, at least so far

“It’s not like you’ve studied for a single test since middle school.” “Oh right! Then it’s all good”

I like this half synth, half organ song

Yui feels betrayed that Ritsu didn’t screw up on the test

The backgrounds are nice – those classic seemingly penciled KyoAni ones for the longer shots

Yui’s banned from club activities until she passes her make-ups, meaning they all have to help her pass

That quick transition to Yui just strumming away on her chords. As usual, excellent comedic timing

Mio sends her such a formal message, lol

The animation isn’t always ostentatious, but it has great personality

And then they meet Ui, Yui’s actually put-together sister

A lot of the jokes are essentially “harmless,” which fits, since this is such a grounded show. They’re actual jokes that would come up between friends, not comedy jokes

Ritsu’s just distracting Yui, lol

This Ritsu gag is pretty great

More cute casual conversations

And now Yui gets into some ridiculous daydreams

Yui going black and white and loosely drawn after the test. More nice understated visual gags

Yui forgot all her chords, lol

Episode 4

Beach episode

The backgrounds here can’t quite match up to their recent shows

Yui and Ritsu really bring out the silliest in each other

Rapport is the cornerstone of this show

Mio checks out the club’s old materials

Lol, this summer vacation song

The animation’s more about personality than fluidity

Man, the instruments sure are nicely drawn

“Mugi… do you have a summer house?”

Yui’s bedhead is pretty great

Dang, this shot from the seagull’s perspective

This whole soundtrack is so dorky – smooth beach jams

Then again, I guess this whole show is basically a vacation. Peaceful time with friends

“I could only borrow our smallest house”

Mugi feels embarrassed about her rich lifestyle. She just wants things to be normal with her normal friends

Mugi and Mio sharing a moment regarding the old club

And then Yui and Ritsu interrupt them with derp

Watermelons and everything

Awesome foreshortening on this shot of Mugi waking them up

Ritsu and Yui being useless

More great atmospheric shots – the evening scene framed through Yui’s footsteps

This scene with Mio watching Yui play is magical

Mio’s too much. Her character is so inherently exaggerated. It’s kind of off-putting

Holy crap, Yui can play now. Dear lord

So many good faces

I remember the first time I watched this episode, I basically assumed Mio and Yui would be a couple based on the tonal choices here. But apparently this director just super loves framing relationships in the most romantically charged context without actually going anywhere with it. Fun

Episode 5

The old light music club pictures

And now meeting Sawako-sensei

Yui just being a lump

This sappy flashback for Ritsu forgetting to submit the club application form

They’re basically a coordinated comedy troupe when they want to be. Looney Tunes language

Wow, this Sawako sequence is great

This episode is also really heavy on stark lighting – heavy shadows, oversaturated light. Kind of a weird fit for K-On!

“You’re still dragging out that shtick?”

The show can be really grounded in its humor, but it can also completely lean into particularly silly gags

Lots of sweat drops in this episode, too

Mugi defends with cake!

Mugi’s got a nice counterpoint silliness to Yui and Ritsu

So I guess Mugi’s gay? Kinda odd that they’re just offhand implying that, since it’s not going anywhere. Nice if that’s just actually what they’re doing, then

“I love these lyrics! I think they’re great!”

Yep, Mugi’s just yuri goggles all day

“Maybe I can give my image a boost by saying that I like this perky, cutesy crap” amazing

So many little animation gags

“You don’t think that Mugi has a thing for Sawako-sensei, huh?” “Oh, no. It’s just nice to see some girl-on-girl action.”

“If the people involved are happy with it, it’s alright, right?” Huh! So it really is just sort of an offhand thing. Nice

This episode actually had a fair amount of stuff happen – the form, advisor search, and vocals stuff

Episode 6

Sawako’s gags seem to be a bit more “anime” than some of the others

Carrying instruments sure does suck

These lovely peaceful establishing shots for tea-time

More derpy organ songs

Great character animation for Ritsu. All of them have different body language

Ritsu working to calm down Mio in her own way

Nodoka looking on, hoping Yui can finally succeed in something

Cute little music video thing for their performance. Nice classic color filters

And Yui’s terrible backing vocals are a nice touch

goddamnit Mio

Episode 7


Christmas episode, I guess

Ui keeping Yui alive for forever

“I haven’t been very good, so maybe he won’t come” lol

Yui has the tiniest feet

Yui ripped up a cushion to make it a white Christmas for Ui. Adorable little moment

Incredibly cute moment of the sisters sharing warm things on the way to school. Very true to each of them, with Yui doing her silly best to be a good big sister. These are the moments where the series shines

More wacky faces, loose animation focused on cute keyframes

“Leave the food to me, because Ui will be making it.”

Ritsu and Yui see how excited Mugi is about a normal christmas and smile at each other. Her personality’s infectious

Ui commits to everything she does

Mugi turns down a trip to Hawaii to get a board game to play with her friends. Mugi in a nutshell – she’s a simple type, but it’s played in an endearing way, not for direct jokes

Yui versus the sandwiches. Another good tiny visual gag

“She tried to clean up the house and tried to put up decorations.” Ui’s sad defences of Yui

Sawako again getting the most “anime” jokes – a single woman one and a cosplay gag

And of course Ui and Yui somehow get each other the right presents

“Mio-chan really pushed herself there” lol

And Mugi just makes a ridiculous face

This was basically an Ui and Yui episode, and really strong because of it

“Give me Ui-chan!”

The show actually generally avoids anime-ism jokes, but not with Sawako

Episode 8

Yui being the embarrassing sister at Ui’s exam results

And there’s Azusa

Mio getting sassy about Ritsu being in a different class

Yui and Ui again. The show consistently repeats basic jokes, but they’re more texture than actual gags. It’s very much a mood piece

Really nice shots stranding Mio alone for this class gag

“Come to the Light Music Club, where you get all the tea and snacks you want, and do nothing but eat and sleep!”

Yui’s friggin’ chicken outfit

Ritsu’s just lying on the couch in her maid outfit

More nicely loose animation for Sawa dragging Mio around

Mio’s technically the “straight man,” but she’s so easily defeated she can’t really do anything

Another nice shot framed to emphasize Azusa’s walk up into the club room. This episode’s director is strong

They immediately change out of maid outfits and into track suits, because lol playing music in a maid outfit

Ui’s friend also struggling to have nice things to say about the Light Music Club

“The Light Music Club is a blast!” a lot of the fun is how happy the characters are

“Fun is fun!”

Another nice shot – floor level, in the midst of the instruments as they set up

“My Love is a Stapler” good song title

Really nice colors for this scene. The stage lights and curtains bring out the base colors of the band

Oh wow, this transition from the guitar bit to Mio picking up the vocals is fantastic

Azusa staring intently is great. This song’s catchy, too

Haha, this shot with Mugi framed between the three of them staring out the door

Episode 9

Yui excited about being a senpai

ono, don’t let Azusa be even more helpless than Mio

Ritsu throwing a still frame of Yui is great

Azusa surprised by what worthless derps they all are

Lots of silly rose backgrounds for effects here

Yui just pets her into submission, lol

Yui’s slow collapse with her guitar, nice animation and vocal performance

Tempting Azusa with cakes. Great gags. These girls are terrible

She already seems like a more dedicated straight man than Mio

Oh god, Sawako got her cat ears

“Your nickname has to be Azu-nyan!” oh god

Mio just feels relieved she’s not being bullied anymore

Mio versus the cat ears. Beautiful

Mio actually checking if Azusa’s okay. Good to see

This is honestly kinda uncomfortable. These guys are not good friends to Azusa. And in a show so focused on being comfy, that’s a problem

The show is basically entirely loose on the actual music – proficiency is based on humor expediency

“These other bands are all better than the Light Music Club, so why?” Gotta have that K-On magic

Nice, they’re resolving these conflicts immediately and with empathy

Episode 10

Ui just sees her sister as a kind of pet

Nice early evening shot in the room

Mio still doesn’t realize Mugi’s just a quieter kind of derp

Breezy beach montage

Yui doesn’t know what a tuner is, she just easily does it by ear. Pretty classic Yui

Yui and Ritsu have so many gags specific to the two of them. You rarely see such an even “friends with similar senses of humor” dynamic

Mio is too easy

Wow, this face for Mio

Sawako even tries to do a boob grab joke

Yui’s practicing after everyone else has gone to sleep

Nice little scene of Yui and Azusa

Episode 11

Dang, great shot of the school reflected to open this episode

Azusa’s gotten pretty comfortable with the group dynamic

Yeah, it’s immediately clear the dynamic has changed this episode. Azusa’s part of the group now

And now the dynamic is way stronger. Azusa as the more coherent straight man really helps the team

“Why did you get that guitar? It’s heavy, and it’s got a thick neck…” “I got it because it’s cute!”

“You charge for this?” lol

Some drama with Mio apparently

Ritsu is jealous of Mio being friends with Nodoka

Jeez, Ritsu’s a jerk!

Mugi suggests tea!

Yep, Ritsu’s feeling sad because she’s not Mio’s favorite. Drama out of friggin’ nowhere!

This show sure isn’t good at this

Sawako suggests looking for a replacement drummer. She sure is good at leaning into the worst parts of the show

ah good, this makeup scene is excellent

“You’re a good egg!” that is a perfectly K-On! line

Episode 12

And this episode opens with Yui eating Mugi’s eyebrows. Good start

Yui’s sick

Yui apparently got too good while she was sick

lol, it’s actually Ui

Who can apparently play guitar better than Yui just after holding her guitar a few times

Yui sneezes on the camera

“You’re finally kicking me out?!” like she’s been expecting it, lol

“I’m gonna sleep a lot. I’m gonna sleep as much as I can!” you can do it Yui

Tiny Yui’s stupid haircut is perfect

Really cute moment with Yui and Azusa

A nice repeat of the first episode’s opening sequence for Yui running to her performance, but now she has actual purpose

Nicely contrasted with some lovely animation for Mio’s song

“You’ll find them soon enough. You’ll find something you can do. Something you can lose yourself in. And a place that means more than anything to you.” Dang, this is really good

“We all think you’re the greatest, Yui”

damn, reaaaally strong episode

“Right now, for us, this auditorium is our Budokan!”

Mugi opens a final jam and encore. So good

This episode kinda elevates the series. What a good finale

OVA 1 (actually an extra episode that did air, apparently)

Lots of feet and legs in this opening. Who’s the director who likes feet, again

Really nice long shots too, and a very nice song

They’re absolutely nailing the tone of early winter morning

“You are a disappointment!” to her gloves. lol


Azusa’s bag says “Pet Shop Girls,” which is a cute reference

Mugi amazed about submitting her time card for her part time job

Ritsu reading what sounds like a love letter

Really, really nice quiet scenes this episode

Azusa yawning in time with the cat is adorable

And Yui sends a bizarre upbeat text when they’re all having a hard time, giving each of them the help they need. Yui’s basically the Gon of their group – the sun

Of course, the “love letter” was just lyrics from Mio

“You’re so lucky! I wish we could install one of you in our house!”

“Hey, does it cost a lot to rent the Budokan?”


A show opportunity on the last day of the year at an actual club

Meeting the other bands

Mio’s got a fan

Designing a tea-time logo

Deciding on the lighting styles for their songs

Yui consulting the punk band on everything, lol

They somehow still manage to have a tea break in the backstage room

All of them just milling uselessly around on stage

Sawako runs into an old band friend

Even here, the song cuts back to their clubroom. That’s basically the little perfect world this show revolves around

Ui once again made happy just pandering her sister

This show is a very successful self-contained nostalgia engine! It feels sad to leave this atmosphere behind

5 thoughts on “K-On! – Review

  1. Given the last few seasons of anime, I’m sure you could go watch a LOT of the lesser and overblown anime of yesteryear with fresh appreciation.

  2. This show is a very successful self-contained nostalgia engine! It feels sad to leave this atmosphere behind.

    Yup, this is my take on the show as well. It’s not interested in a story, but it’s interested in an atmosphere, and that atmosphere is nostalgia.

    I said so on Twitter, but when you think about it, I think Hyouka shares a lot of the same atmosphere. Sure, it’s a lot more driven by questions of friendship, self-worth, how to relate to one another, and the “plottiness” means it’s not as “atmospherically-driven,” but a lot of what makes Hyouka such a lived-in experience is the same “nostalgia-atmosphere” treatment.

    • I like how the show emphasizes this by having most of their performances visually center themselves on the places that created their music – the school in general and their club room in particular. It feels like the closed atmosphere of that particular room is the show’s main “character.”

      • You know, it’s true, the club room is a character, but not just as a where, but as a when, which is what nostalgia revolves around. I mean, Kyoukai no Kanata was often at its best within the clubroom. Hyouka’s main story/theme may not have been “club-centered”, but the atmosphere is what carried the show.

        As “pure clubroom activity” shows, I do think K-On! is the best I’ve seen, but then again, I mostly avoid this type of show so there could be better ones out there.

        Also, if you think about it like that, so many of the KyoAni shows could be defined as “clubroom shows”, not just overtly, but about a where-when being a strong character.

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