K-On! Like Lying in the Sun on a Warm Afternoon

K-On! is an interesting show to discuss, because you can’t really discuss the plot – there simply isn’t one. If we look at plot as more than just a series of events that are happening, but that are leading us somewhere, that are connected and paint a bigger picture, then K-On! doesn’t have a plot. K-On! is an atmosphere show, not a plot one.

K-On! band members

Just napping in the sun.

What lead me to want to talk about K-On! is the following comment I’ve left on Yi’s post about the movie (which I still hadn’t watched), and using my post there I’ll jump off to discuss the series at more length:

It really is a show about the every-day comfort, not the everyday with the ups and lows. It’s a very laid-back show, it’s the mental state of napping in the shade on a warm spring day.

Anime have a genre dedicated to this sort of show, which is called “Slice of life”. I think for an episodic show that has no real continuity between the episodes and where you can watch each one completely separate from the others, having no real plot makes sense, and many of the “gaps” also makes sense. K-On! with its two seasons is only half-way an episodic show, however, and halfway a show with some sense of continuity of goals, with references to what had happened before.
Slice of life shows tend to cover a certain “slice”, because you can’t cover everything. But, on different episodes you can cover different slices, and “slice” often isn’t a specific aspect of life as much as it is a “snapshot”, covering a day or two and then moving on. But with K-On! we’ve got three years’ worth of high school time, we have 1.5 full seasons (39 episodes total), so the lack of certain things is really noticeable.

Just having fun

Where are the parents? This is something I’ve noticed lately, that parent figures are almost completely absent in series, and not just shonen shows where it makes sense (see Joseph Campbell), but the parental unit is just not there, and there aren’t even parent figure replacements – the parents are more like siblings to the characters in the shows, and unlike some series, it’s not even explained here.
Likewise, where are the boys? The show covers for the most part 9 girls, over 3 years of their lives during high school. We have the teacher figure’s love-life woes get about 5 minutes of air-time during the whole show, and the other girls spend about 30 seconds discussing boy related issues during the show (Someone receives a letter in their shoe-box and thinks it might be from a boy).

Now, we can certainly have a show without parents or any boys in it, but since it’s not explained at all, I have a somewhat hard time thinking of it as fitting in a “slice of life” show, and on the other hand, it is also extremely fitting – I mean, we get a very limited variety of slices, which is what I’m faulting the show for, but for the specific slice they show us, it is fitting.

But there is another thing that is missing, and this is also the real thing that makes it hard for me to consider this not only a “plot-show”, but “a show with a plot” even. There isn’t really adversity in the show. Adversity doesn’t necessarily mean combat, or even human adversity, it can be time, it can be not having money when you need to buy something – it’s just things not going the way you want them to. K-On! doesn’t even have that – one of the members is rich and mostly any part where they’d need money is solved instantly – even when picking a guitar. There is nothing to really move the story forward, there’s no impetus – and thus, we don’t really move forward, the show is about a certain moment.

We’re here to be with everyone, so let’s just have fun ^_^

Even within the show they talk about it – how while they’re ostensibly a music club, most of what they do is drink tea, eat cakes, do homework and talk to one another. Their table is lit by the afternoon sun. This is the moment the show is about – there is no story that moves forward because this is not what the show is about, the show is about being comfortable with your friends. It’s about spending time smiling in a cozy and safe environment. The show is about this certain moment, frozen in time.

There is only one word I can think of to describe such an atmosphere, which is even more fitting when you think about the lack of any real conflict (things are smoothed over, you gloss over any and all negativity), when you think of it as a “moment frozen in time”, and that word is nostalgia;  This is the essence of the show K-On.

K-On! band members taking a break.

Another break! You know that’s what we’re here for!

Score: This covers two seasons, combined I give them 6.7 smiles in the sun. I’d give the first season more along the lines of 7.2, and the second season 6.2. They just could’ve done more, could’ve done things differently in the second season, but I respect this is not what they were going for.
The animation is crisp, the voice acting works, but from a show that is ostensibly about a music club, I’d expect more songs. This is a good show to watch when you need something warm and comforting, when you need something to pick you up, but to some degree the show is between popcorn and warm chicken soup – warm and tasty, but leaves you wanting something more nourishing.
I’ve watched this show one episode a day, during my lunch break. I think this is the best way to watch this show.

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8 comments on “K-On! Like Lying in the Sun on a Warm Afternoon

  1. bluedrakon says:

    no comment as never got into it – not my style or speed – LOL :^P

    • Guy says:

      You’re too old for anime! :p

      This anime isn’t my pace either, the whole concept of marathoning this series defeats its mood. But I watch one anime episode every day at my lunch break, and this is the perfect pace to watch this show at.

      Also, if you need an emotional pick-me-up, I guess it can work. I usually prefer uplifting through defeating one’s enemies, or actually prefer watching sad shows, so yeah. It’s still a well made show.

  2. Kai says:

    “Frozen in time” type of anime is certainly not the type to marathon. Just recently, I marathoned a similar anime, Hidamari Sketch, all four seasons in one go. Definitely not the most enjoyable ride, lol, too bad with my time schedule, marathoning is the only way I can actually watch my anime.

    Have you watched the K-ON movie?

    • Kai says:

      Wait nvm, only been a week, think you still hadn’t watch it, lol.

    • Guy says:

      Marathoning is not what fits my time schedule, but what fits how I enjoy consuming series, so it was a strike against a lot of series, it’s true. I might have to keep on watching some series an episode a day once I leave my current work-place.

      K-On! was watched about 4 months ago I think, no, still hadn’t made time for the movie.

  3. Yi says:

    “K-On! is an atmosphere show, not a plot one.”
    I love this!

    ““moment frozen in time””
    And this as well!

    The missing parents and boys/sex is an interesting phenomenon. If I had to guess, it was that the show avoids delving into relationships and real sexual aspects—the silly panty flashes and obligatory fanservice of hugs and kisses from Yui do not count for sexual maturity—of teenage life in an attempt to keep the girls “pure” for the fans. More importantly, it has to remove any threat of the girls being taken by other men and becoming unavailable. An apt analogy would be the pressure there is on seiyuus to be single. We see the same thing here with K-On! Of course, without that element, there goes a major source of adversity and angst in a typical teenage girls’ life.

    Nostalgia is what I think of too when I think of K-On!, and for the exact reason you claimed. My fondest memories of the past are no doubt glorified into a relaxing, beautiful, peaceful experience. Likewise, K-On! is just that.

    Odd that you had the first season rated higher than the second. I found the second far better, perhaps because there is more of an overarching theme, and a semblance of adversity—dealing with graduation and separation.

    • Guy says:

      Hm, I didn’t think of the “keeping them pure for the obsessive fans” angle. That situation coming up in the Kannagi manga fandom is still so ridiculous…

      I think they just wanted to keep things light, and conflict-less.

      I think I rated the first season higher because I rated the 2nd season lower – it was more of the same, and I was ready for some changes. It was pleasant, but you know how in our busy lives we often go for the different rather than the calm.

      I also felt that dealing with “separation” was just a way to give more screen time to just how together everyone is :)

      Azu-nyaaaan! :)

  4. […] because after a while, the transition is over and the series can relax into a holding pattern, which is how nostalgia is conveyed, and also provides a comfortable and natural “ending point” to the series, which will […]

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