Yui is late for school! She barrels down the stairs, polishes the floor with her shapely ass, stuffs a piece of toast in her mouth and rolls out. It’s her first day as a high school student, and there’s no way she’s going to miss the opening ceremony. Well, turns out there was no way for her to be late, cuz she forgot to set her clock for daylight savings or somethin… she gets to school an hour early.
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The little montage of Yui running to school was a great little look into her personality – the talk with her mouth full, cat-petting, helps old ladies cross street, bounce uncontrollably at crosswalks, weirdo who keeps looking around during the assembly type of girl that lives her life one clumsy step at a time. Ah, I’m liking this show already.
Yui gets her first dose of life as a joshikousei, as she’s mobbed by club recruiters. Little miss indecisive likes to keep her options open, but there comes a time in every young girl’s life where she must take a stand, no matter how useless she may be.
Elsewhere, Ritsu (forehead) catches up to Mio (long and sexy) and asks her to go to the K-ON club meeting. Ritsu is a pretty funny name, considering it sounds like “itsu”, which means “when?” in Japanese, like “when are you going to go bald?” or “when will you take that damn headband off?” Anyways, Mio is pretty cool. Based on her look, you’d think she’d be one of those Motoko / Kokegawa samurai disciplinary-type girls, but she’s not like that at all, which immediately suggests that she might be the dark horse to be the best girl in the show. Yes, these things are important. Ritsu uses some brute force and gets Mio to come with her, but they soon found out that the K-ON club was effectively disbanded after all its members graduated.
What is the K-ON club, anyways? “Karui Ongaku” club, we’re told, which roughly translates to “light music” or “easy listening”. At any rate, it’s some silly name, not unlike “SOS dan”. And just like the SOS dan, K-ON is having some trouble recruiting members. A real sweet looking chick with nice hair walks in looking for the choir club, but somehow gets talked into joining the K-ON instead. She’s Tsumugi, clearly one of those healing-type characters meant to keep the other crazies on a leash. How appropriate that she plays the keyboard – a suitable complement to Mio’s bass and Ritsu’s drums.
It’s interesting to point out that their instruments mirror their personalities quite well – Ritsu is indeed that crazy loud girl and makes everybody around her march to her beat; Mio is that steady, often unappreciated but vitally important support of the group; Tsumugi is the sweet girl that livens up the room with her melody; now they just need a guitarist to provide the umph and the soul!
The three hit up a fast food restaurant to discuss their battle plan – first, they advertise! A little detail worth mentioning – they post their flyer in the club bulletin board, taking the place where the ping pong club’s flyer used to be. It’s unclear whether the spot on the board was vacant (ping pong is pretty popular, after all), or if the girls just saw the ad for the club with all the icky nerds and posted theirs right above it. Either way, their flyer is ugly, but it catches the eye of Yui, who starts reminiscing about her musical youth as a kindergarten clapper…
A terrified Yui eventually applies and ends up in the K-ON club room, where she’s bribed with tea and cake and cookies – but, as it turns out, she can’t even play guitar. Oh well, no matter, if they don’t get a 4th member, the club won’t be officially recognized by the school. They put on a performance for her – it sounds amateurish and rough around the edges, but it hits all the right chords with Yui, and she’s touched to the point where she wants to join!
And thus, the K-ON quartet was formed!
Like many people, I’ve been pretty excited about KyoAni’s new production, as it’s been a while since Lucky Star, which was their previous “new” work (Munto doesn’t count, and I’m counting Clannad as a sequel). Those who have been followed my posts in the past know I’m a huge non-Key KyoAni fanboy, and I’m all about the slice-of-life shows. Yea, I can already tell, K-ON! is going to easily be my favorite show of the season.
After all, what do we have here? The premise of BECK (great anime), with ENOZ as the band, drawn with Lucky Star style art, with the character dynamics of Manabi Straight. It’s almost too generic, but we’re talking about KyoAni here – time and again they’ve demonstrated their ability to take the generic and turn it into masterpiece.
And true to the KyoAni canon, this first episode was quite docile, with plenty of hints as to what we’ll be seeing in upcoming weeks. The little performance they put on sans-guitar was really quite special, having a “first draft” feel to it, but still able to capture that moment of ultimate camaraderie and joy of playing music together. It’s something that BECK pulled off real well, and I’ve yet to see anything reach that level since – but if this first episode in any indication, K-ON! may be the one.
Couple of other little things worth mentioning – the instruments all had their proper brand names on them. Yamaha was written clearly across the drum set, the keyboard a Korg Triton (Extreme, no less), and the guitar that Yui uses in the OP is actually a Gibson Les Paul (figured that out on a totally random google). Since the fast food chain adorned with the great golden M was still called “Max Burger”, it suggests that KyoAni really went out and got permission from the companies that make the actual instruments to use them in the anime, which shows the dedication they are putting into the music aspects. Well, that, and they’re probably getting paid big bucks for doing it. Hey, everybody’s happy.
The attention to detail warrants mention, especially that of the facial expressions. KyoAni really excels in this department, as we’ve seen their mastery of facial expressions in prior work, like Akira’s “live performance” in Lucky Star, or their word-for-word lip syncing of Haruhi’s God Knows performance. Even with the simplistic art style in K-ON!, they manage to bring out a huge variety of facial expressions, which really adds a great deal to the level of enjoyment.
And finally, the hands. One thing that really jumped out at me was how much attention was put into animating the hands, whether just doing everyday passing gestures, or playing an instrument. The movements looked fluid and realistic, not like the robotic CG in Nodame, which kinda makes me wonder if I’m developing a hand fetish as well…
Anyways, I was thoroughly satisfied with the quality and direction of this first episode, and I look forward to the rest of the season!