K-On!! – Review

I have returned back from the land of moe moe kyun, replete with riches and wonders from that distant place. Though most of these treasures come in the form of silly gifs.

Yep, I watched K-On!!, the double-length sequel to the original KyoAni blockbuster. And as many people hinted, the show definitely did improve in its second season – both the atmosphere and jokes were leaned into more completely and effectively, and the show’s final peaks had some startling emotional weight. The show is light viewing through most of its run, but very consistently funny, and its articulation of the melancholy of graduation beats out basically any other show I’ve seen. It feels like I experienced life at the pace these characters did, which was clearly the intent, and definitely not an easy feat to pull off. K-On!! feels effortless, but its craft is remarkable. Easy to enjoy, and also easy to appreciate as a high-quality production.

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


Episode 1

Opening with one of those quiet little moments, Yui getting to the practice room early. A callback to the first season demonstrating how the club has given her purpose, and also just one of those perfect mood moments

The subtitles are pretty huge and invasive here, even accepting these yellow ones always are

“My favorite things are stuff that’s cute or delicious”

More jokes based entirely in small details of body language. There’s basically constant humor in how Yui expresses herself visually

Yui falls down and immediately gets sketchier in her style

“I put you all in the same class. It means I have five fewer names to recognize”

Mio already bringing up future plans

Tons of tiny little visual gags, along with silly sound effects

Lovely backgrounds, of course. Warm lighting all throughout

Another quiet moment with the school song

This background gag of Yui grabbing flowers

Jeez, these closeups of the tea and cakes are gorgeous

And the usual great comedic timing – small one-two punches of gags

They keep using those ridiculous animal costumes to recruit members

Rui’s “collapse in the hallway” plan

The group’s rapport seems even better this year. And Azusa seems really natural now

The show’s leaning into its sense of humor even more heavily this season, and it’s great. Much more consistent comedy, threaded jokes, etc

Hah, they just skip the whole performance

Strong Yui faces

“It probably seems like the light music club is so tightly knit that it’d be hard for anyone else to break in” yeap

A shot of the afternoon sunlight reflected in a cup of tea. K-On! Incarnate

Azusa hears Yui saying she’s happy with just the five of them, and accepts that

Episode 2

“Liars. There’s no cake.” Yui’s face is amazing. Goddamn this show has gotten good

Ritsu gets buried in the storeroom, so it’s time for spring cleaning

They sure have a bunch of bizarre stuff

They find Sawako’s old guitar

More pleasant piano and synth songs. Nothing too noteworthy

Mugi’s excited about visiting a convenience store

“Look at all these screws! These are ALL screws!” goddamnit Yui

The silly wipes from the first season have been replaced by musical notes that switch the scene

“It’s so cute I wanna stick peanuts in its nose”

Sawako’s guitar is worth bank

Yui just wants to get smacked in the face with the money, lol

Yui complaining about getting bullied by Ui

Oh my god, Ritsu ate the fucking receipt

The whole gang has gotten even more absurd. Azusa and Mio pretend they’re responsible, but they’re just as bad

And Yui gets her slap in the face

Azusa still wants a new student… so they buy a turtle, Ton-chan

Azusa’s reaction is great. “Ehhhh”

Episode 3

Playing with Ton-chan

Ritsu’s sick of the drums

Nope, she’s just sick of being out of the spotlight

“Geeta’s cheating on me!”

The little bits of character animation feel even more consistent and precise this season. Tons of tiny expression shifts

Talking about how Ritsu gets bored easily

These are some pretty bold subtitles

Mio talking about why she’s a perfect bassist

Yui getting overly concerned for Ritsu

“Don’t try to go it alone, Ritsu. If you’re hurting, we’re all hurting!”

This season is getting even more fuwa fuwa than the last in its episode topics

The smaller episode focuses allow for moments like this solo scene with Ritsu, which are really nice

No big resolution to the episode. Ritsu just remembers she likes the drums

Episode 4

The classic Ui taking care of Yui scene

K-On!’s same old silly vacation song

Mio trying to babysit Yui and Ritsu

A cute gag where Yui is hidden by the teacher, but Ritsu and Mio should be able to see her, but don’t. The show is pretty dang diverse in its use of the camera for both gags and tone

And Mugi can do the old-fashioned talk easily. But the subs don’t translate the joke

Yui telling Ritsu she eats like a glutton

Yep, the girls have gotten even more over the top, and it’s great

Lots of tiny scenes that just exist as punchlines to previous gags

This pillow fighting gag, lol

Ritsu trolling and Yui and Mugi cracking up

This scene is great – comes across as really true, and it’s clear what good friends they are

More extremely consistent character animation

Mugi getting elated about simple things remains pretty great

They get lost and Yui calls friggin’ Azusa

Now Mio’s laughing at all their stupid jokes, oh god. They broke Mio

“It’s all your fault that the other students are calling me Sawa-chan now.”

So this episode just results in Mio being a little more comfortable leaning into the group’s gags. A nice turn

Episode 5

And now we see Ui and Azusa back at home for the trip

“She never practices unless I yell at her” lol

The whole band with crazy eyebrows in Azusa’s fantasy

Ui doesn’t see her sister as weird

So a whole episode about Azusa and her friends staying behind

Azusa, Ui, and Jun

The lighting and pacing of these tiny little scenes. It’s remarkable how completely a sense of space this show creates

Ui tearing up about her sister not being around

Azusa teaching freshmen in the jazz club

Jun’s a dork

Ui, Jun, and Azusa having a dinner party

Jun has to be the dorkiest to make up for Azusa and Ui being so straight-laced

Azusa feeling left behind. Her feelings are one of the stronger parts of this season

What a quiet show it is when Yui and Ritsu aren’t around

Azusa’s bored

Ui conquers the batting center

Yui says Ton-can is “as cute as Azu-nyan”

Jun suggests the three of them have a jam session

Music brings everybody together, but it’s not “the thing” that brings people together

Another one of those scenes where their playing is contrasted against shots of the school itself. A rainy Sunday with friends

Jeez, these shots of the room lit by the sun are gorgeous

Very nice reunion scene

Episode 6

Yui sacrificing herself to the rain to keep Geeta dry

A very peaceful scene with the girls before classes

“I’m supposed to drink from the bucket?” lol Yui

Today’s conflict is “Yui’s clothes got wet”

Azusa has a dedicated guitar raincoat, of course

And now restringing Geeta

Really an episode about Yui’s relationship with her guitar

A perfect little rain song with Yui and Ui. At times, this show feels like a mix between Yotsuba and Mushishi

Yui can tell her string is off by an eighth of a note by ear. Jeez

Yui named Mio’s bass Elizabass, which is amazing

Yui goes insane over leaving her guitar at school

This episode’s really heavy on feet. I wonder who the director was

Episode 7

Uh oh. Mio fanclub

The episode’s call “Tea Party!”, which really doesn’t tell me much

“Having something stuck in her hair is so Mio-y and wonderful!”

The former student council president was the founder of Mio’s fanclub… and her stalker

And they played a song just for her for her graduation

Nodoka asks them to hold a tea party for the members of the Mio fan club

Mio somehow still surprised when Mugi betrays her

Mio-branded everything. A pretty self-aware joke

A melancholy moment about moving on from being a Mio fan. This show is getting way too self-aware

Holy crap, there are a lot of Mio fans

They’re playing a wedding song as Mio arrives. Dear lord

And they’re cheering Mio as she acts silly on stage

“Mio Akiyama, This Was Your Life” oh my god

“Figures, not even Mio’s fans can make heads or tails out of her lyrics” amazing

A new song, and it’s a good one

Episode 8

Tiny Yui relates to the turtle

The turtle in the past fades into the turtle leading up the stairs to the music room, and then to Yui deciding on her college choices. She’ll get there, but very slowly!


Yui pawing at the air when she remembers something she learned in school

Flashback to Nodoka meeting Yui

Nodoka stopping Yui from eating crayons. This very slow buildup to it is great

“I want to become a kindergarten teacher and play with kids all day!” That works pretty well for Yui

Cute flashbacks with Ritsu and Mio

Imagining Yui being shitty at every job

Ui: “I can’t say I want to go to the same school as her because I worry about her” lol

And as is often the case, it doesn’t really end with a resolution. Things just go on

Episode 9

Yui going for a run, but she’s Yui, so…


Yui says she’s going to give everything 110%

More tiny little scenes that just exist for their own sake

Yui’s old neighbor comments on guitar being the one thing she’s stuck with

And now strumming guitar to images of the old lady being nice to her as a kid

Yui’s actually applying herself, sort of

Hah, Yui’s actually wearing the weird “NEO” shirt she was staring at in the previous scene

Yui goes out to get soy sauce, but immediately forgets that and gets sugar from the neighbor instead

Her neighbor wants her to perform in a talent show the day after finals. Yui feels like she needs to give back, so

A great natural transition here – Azusa’s thinking, and then we hear the clanging of a girl hitting one of the hurdles, and then that shot, with the yellow of the track and hurdles on the right, fades to Azusa biking home, with the sound of the spokes picking up where the clanging hurdles left off, into a shot with trees lining the right and sunlit yellow road on the left

“Don’t mix up soy sauce and sugar, okay?” “Huh?” “Well, it could happen to anyone.”

Azusa volunteers to help, and of course sets up a strict schedule for Yui

“Sometimes I don’t even know who I am anymore…” poor Azusa

This stream setting they’re practicing at is gorgeous

Ritsu rolling her eraser to pick the answers

They do a half-time version of one of their songs for the matinee crowd

Yui likes living up to people’s expectations

Episode 10

A scene using the train crossing alarm to emphasize Sawako’s stress

Ritsu tells a lame joke, and the show animates her both glancing at Yui for approval and then grinning after Yui and Mugi laugh

Five K-Ons can’t hide behind a tree very well

They get a lot of great little jokes out of the group tailing Sawako

They end up meeting one of Sawako’s old bandmates

A classmate wants the old band to play at her wedding reception

Another nice small moment of Yui strumming her guitar absentmindedly

The show is very good at coming up with new concepts to occupy a few minutes with new humor, like this note-passing scene

“So this is what it’s like to stand out in the hall. Twelve years after starting school, my dream is complete.” Mugi is great

“When I grow up, will I be grown up, too?” Good luck Yui

Yui and the group are playing with Death Devil, but they’re making it way too cute. Sawako is offended

Sawako kicks ass

And of course it turns out the underclassmen like badass Sawako too

Episode 11

Hot summer day. Those cicadas

“I’ve got it! We should all shed, too.” Thanks Yui

Today’s episode is “it’s hot”

Ritsu suggests scary stories and Mio just slaps her in the face, lol

Ritsu destroys the fan. Pretty great little sequence

Yui’s voice actor does really good work. Her sulking voice is excellent

Getting Ton-chan a bigger tank

Mugi having too much fun in Sawako’s car

Petitioning the student council for an air conditioner

“Yui said something that made sense for once!”

They practice counterarguments, but of course the council is just “yeah, whatever”

Episode 12

Summer vacation has arrived, so it’s training camp time again

Natsu Fest – a big summer concert venue

It’s weird that the subs “translate” it as Natsu Fest, but the episode title is Summerfest

Mio getting fired up about seeing bands

A more focused episode like this actually has fewer jokes

“Now that I’m really here, the reality is that it’s burning hot and packed with people.” Yep, that’s festivals

They get the atmosphere of trying to coordinate in a festival very well

ono, Mugi’s yakisoba

Beautiful nighttime backgrounds. More loose and interpretive than KyoAni’s usual ones

Listening to the distant songs from a hill

“I think our performances are more amazing than that”

Yui buoys the whole band up

“I hope I can keep playing in a band with you guys forever”

Episode 13

Azusa overthinking a text to the girls

Azusa having a Yui guitar nightmare that very well could actually happen

A lazy day with Azusa and Ui. Basically a total mood piece, leaning on that over jokes this time

Just a long series of Azusa daydreams

Really nice ending sequence at the summer festival, ending with Azusa worrying about being alone again

Episode 14

Ritsu and Mugi, for maybe the first time

Mugi was going shopping, but gets super excited when Ritsu asks her to hang out, of course

Yui dreaming about Mugi’s eyebrows again

“I have avenged you, Ritchan!” Mugi is great

Nodoka steals Yui strawberry, and Yui actually calls Azusa to complain about it

The show makes good use of flashbacks in the second season to give narrowly focused episodes more reach

Mugi wants Ritsu to whack her on the head

Time for summer classes

Mugi’s intentionally acting like a derp in order to get whacked on the head. Perfect

They’re doing a pretty good job of translating a gag entirely about boke-tsukkomi routines

Yui says she’s going to college because it’s too late to search for jobs

Mugi is incapable of being the derp. Which is unfortunate, because she loves enabling the derps

This strawberry scene is perfect

Episode 15

Dang, they have to run 4.5 kilometers. That would kill a bunch of kids at my high school

Sawako repping the marathon course

“The way these things normally go is you’d have a bet going with the judo club, and the winner got the loser’s club room.” Sorry Ritsu, it’s not that kind of show

Yui predictably gets distracted by everything

The team tries running to a rhythm, but Yui forgets the words to the song in her head

Yui just collapsed a while back, lol

“Did we underestimate the perils involved in a marathon?”

And Yui just ended up back at her neighbor’s house

Yui’s mochi flashback makes this episode

Episode 16

“Write down what the Light Music Club does on a typical day”

Azusa realizes she’s been infected by slackerdom, and must regain herself

Mugi wanted to scare the next person to enter the room, but she fell asleep on the floor

Azusa is insecure about being alone with Mugi

Mugi fails to play the guitar. I kinda figured she’d be naturally fine at it, though I guess Yui’s already got some of that

These episodes are giving us more Mugi context, but not from her perspective. She’s still a little distant

This time it’s just Azusa and Mio

And they end up making skirts instead of practicing

And the third time it’s Yui, and they clean Ton-chan’s tank instead of practicing

The small expressions are so good. Yui’s shocked look when she gets woken up

“Wow, you think up some really philosophical stuff, huh, Azu-nyan.”

“Waitresses wear cat ears, don’t they?” oh boy Azusa

Episode 17

These constant repeated shots of all the landmarks of the school in every season. The school really becomes a character

Uh oh, the club room’s undergoing maintenance work

“No Club Room!”

So now they’re looking for another place to practice

Again, this episode’s more tight focus makes it actually less funny

Yui finally realizes she looks silly carrying Geeta everywhere

Mugi manages to make tea even in a recording studio

This episode’s using a visual trick where they create sort of chalk-like impact lines around the frame for big exclamations. They’ve never done that before

And of course they waste all their studio time drinking tea

“When something is there all the time, you never think about how much it means to you.” A good message for the show overall

“We can come here. We can come home every day!”

Getting kicked out made Yui appreciate having their club room to practice in a bit more

Unsurprisingly, Ui comes up with the only good lyrics

Cute Mio shot transition with oranges switching to headphones

Yui makes some adorable lyrics about her sister

Episode 18

Mio’s starring as Romeo in their school play

And Ritsu’s Juliet. Hoo boy

“Yeah! If Mio’s playing Romeo, you’re the only one who can play Juliet!”

Okay, this is a good episode topic

Yui is playing “Tree G,” a role ideally suited to her talents

The whole class is bullying Mio into playing Romeo, and it is great

Mugi as the stage director telling them to dig deep into their emotions

Lots of little visual gags this episode

Oh my god, Satoshi laughing at Ritsu is perfect. Great timing on that gag

Yeah, the physicality of the characters is really strong this episode. Characters kicking each other around, grabbing pillows, falling off stuff

Mugi has them work at a maid cafe to work off Mio’s stage fright

Episode 19

Lots of small expressions for Mio

Yui is a very good tree

Yui almost sneezes and ruins the play. Great “holding in a sneeze” face

Oh no, they’ve lost the gravestone for the final scene!

Yui gallantly volunteers to play a second tree

They really sell the visual execution of the final play scene

They decide to sleep over at school to get ready for their show

It’s a good think Nodoka is the student council president, they wouldn’t last otherwise

“Why don’t we go look around the festival at night?” This show really takes care to savor all these little moments that define high school

“If you like, please come to our discussion on cattle mutilations tomorrow.”

The girls in their little caterpillar sleeping bags are ridiculous

Episode 20


Episode 21

Jeez, Yui’s hair and face sure are gorgeously animated here

Azusa’s been out of it since the festival

Talkin’ bout hair styles

A very peaceful episode to balance the climactic one last time

“I’ve seen dogs that look just like that.” Ouch, Nodoka

Yeah, this episode’s very heavy on the mood. The peaceful melancholy of things coming to an end

Ritsu and Yui still haven’t decided on their future goals

Mio planning on taking advanced tests for a national university, but then she sees the other girls talking about going to college together

Taking practice photos for their graduation

Yui trying to get things exactly right for her picture, creating the ideal memory

And of course she ruins her hair

Mio: “I’ll hand it in tomorrow.” All of them putting off the future in their own small ways

“Did you turn down the recommendation test?” Ritsu knows her too well

Yep, Mio wants to go to college with them

I love this little animation of Mugi celebrating their victory in the hall

Episode 22

Wait, it’s Valentine’s Day now? So I guess we skipped winter altogether?

Just noticed that one square of the window they blotted out for Ton-chan is still blotted out

This scene where half of them are playing in the background is great. Wonderful sense of space

Yui trying desperately to hold all the vocab in her head

Ui sees Azusa’s terrible chocolate ingredients and asks if they want to bake together

Azusa trying to give them chocolate, but nearly interrupts them hearing about their test results, and runs away

Beautiful shot of Azusa isolated out in the cold thinking about them leaving

And then shots of the cold, empty club room. Really good stuff

And a snowy shot of the bust out front. These shots are imbued with deep emotional resonance through repetition

And then the club helps her give them her own cake

Really good framing this episode

“Even though it’s been freezing all day, when I’m together with you guys like this, it doesn’t feel cold at all.”

“May we spend every moment until they graduate laughing and smiling”

And they make it

Episode 23

Yui ironing clothes on a lazy morning. Man this show nails tone

“You can’t play Snakes and Ladders without a finish line!” A very K-On thing to do

Yui digging out all the notes she was passed in class

Apparently Sawako became a teacher the same year the group became students

The sense of time/nostalgia really works with K-On!’s structural formatting, too. The first two years went by in a flash, this time they’re savoring every moment

Clearing out “unfinished business” while they’re still at school

Mugi finally got to use her window-cleaning cloth

And then they decide to clean the whole clubroom. Which makes sense, since the clubroom is one of the main characters

They’re going to record all the songs they’ve written on a cassette, as a memento

Deciding on a setlist

And then Mugi decides to record their teatime too

Episode 24

Yui running late on their graduation day, of course

Contrasted shots of everyone else preparing calmly while the K-On group rushes into school late

These classic high school episode touchstones are so often done, but this show makes them feel so real

Ui left a change of tights in case Yui tripped on the way to school, which she did

The flower bud on the tree finally blooming

“This really is our graduation ceremony, isn’t it?”

Sawako figures out something’s up with Yui, who’s hiding Sawa-chan’s graduation present

“What were you doing during the ceremony, Yui?” “I kept it safe!”

Ui and Azusa have a nice moment

K-On’s most important moments are staged at the pace they’re actually felt

“Please don’t graduate…” aw Azusa

Yui giving her little presents. Jeez

And they wrote her a song

This song for Azusa is perfect. And then it ends with the reprise of Yui’s introduction to the group – “you’re not very good, are you?”

K-On!!’s emotional bits work because the show is the same show from start to end. The show has always had plenty of affection, melancholy, and atmosphere, and graduation just enhances that. It truly does build character out of comedy, because the humor is grounded enough to feel like it’s actually helping you get to know these characters as people

Episode 25

An embarrassing recruitment video with Mio in a nurse outfit

Yui’s shitty haircut gives away the timeframe for this episode

Wow, badass shots for Yui’s performance

So they decide to make a new recruitment video

A ridiculous movie trailer fantasy. Mugi in Lennon glasses

Mugi wants to do a murder-mystery

This has been a very pure K-On episode. Just skits around the club table

Jun getting some really good animation in this scene

“This is a slice-of-life scene, so don’t worry about acting”

Trying to record slice-of-life scenes and Yui’s incapable of even eating normally

Episode 26

And this episode is the group acting weird right after Azusa joined

Nope, just a flashback. Back to the end of the year, and the graduation album

Ritsu laughs at Yui’s picture, Mio slaps her

Haha, everyone but Mio just taken aback by the idea of respecting Sawako’s privacy

Ritsu immediately forgets what they were there for, and starts accusing Sawako of villainy

Azusa’s up to something with Jun and Ui

Sawako reminiscing on life with the girls

They almost interrupt Azusa and the others practicing, and then run away, lol

And now we hear the instrumental Fuwa Fuwa Time from the tape! Really nice sequence

Episode 27

Setting up the overseas trip of the movie

This is back just after Natsu Fest, planning a graduation trip

Ui worried about Yui surviving overseas, understandably

Haha, Ui bought her a self-defense manual

And now they’re practicing English

And now passports

“I’m not sure I could handle you as a little brother, Yui”

Trolling Mio as she takes her passport photo

2 thoughts on “K-On!! – Review

  1. I think K-On!! made significantly better use of Sawako than the first season by giving her an actual teacher role along with all the dress-up gags. Especially in the second half.

    • Yeah, definitely. The second season basically treated all of the characters as more well-rounded people, and Sawako benefited more than anyone from this.

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