What it’s about: The Light Music Club of Sakuragaoka Girl’s High School is on the verge of disbandment. With all of its members having graduated the previous year, it’s down to a new crop of girls to get together and decide what direction the club is going to take. The end result is more of an afternoon tea club. where the four girls – Ritsu, Mio, Tsumugi, and Yui – get together and try in vain to practise their music while being distracted by the draw of beach holidays, tea parties and shopping.
Why you should watch it: K-On! is a fantastically cute, funny and heartwarming slice-of-life show. It knows exactly what kind of show it is, and plays up to its strengths. The character animation is fantastic, with each of the girls drawn as living, breathing human beings. The songs are perfectly crafted to be catchy and charming while still being believably written by high school girls. When it’s all over it’s not who did what that you remember, it’s how well they did it and how much you liked seeing them do it. You react not to specifics of detail or situation, but to the whole, to the relationships between the characters, and to your emersion in the setting. It’s difficult to pin down exactly what makes K-On! stand out from the crowd within its genre, but it really, really does. If you want to watch something set in a perfect world untouched by sadness, drama, or conflict, K-On! is there as a warm blanket – a place you can hang out with friends and not worry about anything serious.
Caveats: I really can’t fault K-On! in any of the areas where it actually puts in the effort. It’s not an ambitious show, but that doesn’t lessen its appeal at all. I can easily imagine something better than K-On!, and I can imagine something quite different than K-On!, but I have a hard time imaging K-On! as it exists being made much better.
Themes: This really is not a show to watch for its thematic content.