I have not read a single anime-related RSS feed in months, but judging by a casual sampling of my Windows Live Messenger contact list, K-On! appears to be the hottest thing in town since the last Kyo-ani series, which really isn’t all that long ago.
This week, I take a look into the latest moé craze that is wrecking havoc on Amazon’s suggestion algorithm in a way only a otaku-led buying spree can.
The term keion (軽音), literally meaning “light music”, is a term used to describe music that can be performed in a smaller group/scale as opposed to orchestra music. In English, the term “light music” usually invokes imagery of ballads and classical tunes, but “keion” on the other hand is more commonly used in Japan to describe small bands that play rock or other popular genres.
Using my theory that all anime can be explained as a function of other anime, K-On! is probably best described by the following equation: Lucky Star + The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya – Kyon + Mio = K-On!. It is quite clear that as Kyo-ani adjusts its winning formula for producing enriched weapon-grade moénium, K-On! marks yet another step closer to cuteness-induced global annihilation. UN sanctions will come any day now.
Yui Hirasawa is probably the most boring girl on Earth. She has no focus in life and spent the last fifteen years of her life staring at the sky. Fresh in high school, she decides to finally join a club. A series of small misunderstandings leads her to become the guitarist of the school’s light music club, alongside Ritsu Tainaka the hyperactive drummer, Mio Akiyama the tsukkomi bassist and Tsumugi Kotobuki the ojousama keyboardist.
The premise of the show is standard anime fare. The four girls (Yui in particular) are a bunch of complete newbies reaching for the seemingly impossible goal of performing live at the Budokan. This rather generic story motivation is enhanced greatly by Kyo-ani’s perfect character dynamics techniques perfected after years of intensive research. Each girl is expertly personified to fulfil a different niche in the moé comedy paradigm, painstakingly balanced to achieve a Zen-like harmony.
Ritsu’s silly outbursts are countered by Mio’s down-to-earth seriousness, while Mio’s occasional girlish uncertainties are matched by Tsumugi’s calming presence. Tsumugi’s child-like wonder when it comes to mundane things beyond the scope of her high-class life experience is in turn contrasted to the relative normalcy of the rest. Yui fulfils the role of the all-important wild-card underdog, whose straightforward honesty makes her behave rather clumsily at times but will no doubt prove to be a great game-changer when the moment is ripe.
Mio, being the tsukkomi girl with a soft spot for certain things, is naturally the most popular character in the show. If you think about it, Mio actually fulfils the role of Kyon — a sane and rational character who brings sensibility to comedic situations — except that she has (rather sizeable) boobs. Considering the fact that Kyon was popular enough among male fans to inspire Kyonko, it’s really no surprise that Mio is leading the popularity contest and FENDER-JAPAN JB62/LH/3TS basses are flying off the shelves.
K-On! is proof that gal-game-style storylines work even better when you remove the male protagonist, and further evidence that product placements in anime work, albeit somewhat limited to Kyo-ani productions.