It started with a simple enough premise. Four high school girls start a band, with dreams of playing Budokan. I thought to myself, "Hey, I like music! And I also like high school girls! I will give this K-ON! show a watch". The title K-ON! is a japanese pun, as the word Keion means "light music". However in this case of this show, they should've used a word that meant no music. That's right, despite being about a band, there isn't actually any music in K-ON!. But before we get into that, it's time to introduce the girls of this no-music band with the obligatory super in-depth character profile section!
The stupid one.
The stupid one.
The stupid one.
The stupid one.
The stupid one.
The stupi... oh wait wrong show.
These are the members of the band in K-ON!, each one having a different role. Yui plays guitar, Ritsu plays drums, Mugi plays keyboard, Mio plays bass, and Azusa gives 5 dollar blowjobs to groupies plays lead guitar. Or at least in theory, because as mentioned, they never actually get around to playing music in the show. Each episode consists of the girls lazing about their club room, and instead of practicing, they just sit around eating cake and drinking tea. The two seasons of the show take place over the course of 3 years, focusing on the banal day to day life of of the girls. There's no progression of the band itself, and no resolution at the end of it.
So if K-ON isn't a music show, what is it? It hovers somewhere around being half slice-of-life, and half comedy, but fails miserably at both of them. Nothing in the show is funny, and none of the characters are people you'd actually want to be friends with. Rather than develop as the show progresses, they actually devolve, and the single personality trait that defines each character gets magnified to such an extent it becomes parody. Yui goes from a simple well-meaning airhead to a zero IQ waste of life that needs to be waited on hand and foot by the other characters. Mio goes from a typical shy Japanese girl, to a paranoid wreck who breaks into tears at the sight of her own shadow. Ritsu goes from a high-energy aspiring musician, to the literal punchline of every "joke". Sometimes I really wonder what goes on in these writing sessions.
Writer A: Ok and then Ritsu says something stupid.
Writer B: And then Mio punches her!
Writer A: Brilliant!
The show's idea of humor is sticking to boring tsukkomi/boke roles, or other extremely witty puns like Yui naming her guitar, "Gitah". The majority of the episode "plots" are equally insulting to ones intelligence. Stories like "Mio has a stalker" and "Mugi wants to be punched" are clear winners, but my favorite is the episode where Yui doesn't study for her exams. She does everything wrong the entire episode, not studying, doing pointless favors for her neighbors, taking on more than she can handle, then somehow still aces her exams. The entire episode seemed to be setting her up for failure and a moral message at the end, and then just completely disregards any sense of realism and believability because nothing bad is ever allowed to happen in this sugary sweet bullshit world.
The real breaking moment for me was when I realized that somehow, Azusa had become my favorite character. Not because I liked her or anything, but because by season 2 the rest of the cast had become such unlikable characters, that she won by default by simply staying somewhat consistent.
Rewinding a bit, I'd always seen Azusa as a bit of an outcast in the group. She was introduced in the middle of season 1, and sloppily cut into the show's opening animation, and never added to the ending animation. Her main role in season one to complain about the fact that she joined the light music club, only to find out that none of the other members ever practice. This creates the show's first conflict, and for a while it looks like Azusa is going to quit the band. I foolishly thought there was going to be actual plot development, and that Azusa quiting may finally motivate the others to get their asses into gear, and there might be some sort of plot with Azusa joining a rival band. Of course this was completely retarded of me to think, as nothing can ever have consequences in this show, and nothing bad can ever happen. Azusa ends up staying in the group for absolutely no reason at all.
By season 2, it's been a full year and it still isn't clear why Azusa is hanging around with this group of retards. I'm pretty sure she had come down with stockholm syndrome or something. I couldn't understand why she would continue to be a guitarist in a band that doesn't play music, and put up with the constant sexual abuse from Yui. I felt for her in her plight, when I realized it applied to me as well, if I hate this show so much, I should quit. So about halfway though season 2 I finally bit the bullet and gave up on this garbage, thanks to Azusa, and the fact that they were about to do a fourth fucking beach episode.
From what I've read show ends with them graduating high school and the band breaking up. Nice message K-ON!, you had the girls start off with dreams of forming a band and becoming popular enough to play Budokan. The show starts with a clear goal, a direction for the plot to go in, and then completely ignores it, having the girls just laze around for three years eating cake and achieving absolutely nothing. At one point in the show, Yui writes on a career planner that she wants to be a musician. The other characters actually laugh at her to her face over this. What the fuck? What is the message supposed to be here? Don't follow your dreams, don't have ambition, just conform to what society wants you to be! What an absolutely worthless show.
Score wise I would have to be honest and give the first season a D. It's certainly below average, but it was at least tolerable at the start when there still seemed like potential to go somewhere with the plot, and the characters aren't totally hateable. I wouldn't say it's worth a watch, it was just sort of there and could have been a lot better.
Season 2 however, fuck. that. shit. This is when the creators realized they had a huge mega hit (yes this shit is actually popular in Japan), and decided to just pander to the fanbase as hard as possible, dragging out what little manga material was left into 26 agonizingly braindead episodes. Retarded plot, retarded characters, retarded everything. Season 1 looks like gold in comparison, but in reality season 2 was so bad it just makes me hate the entire franchise with a passion now. If I could give this a negative score I would. Zero.
So then! Instead of watching K-ON, I suggest you watch something better! Literally anything with do! But to limit it down a bit, let's stick to shows that actually have music in them. Thus I present:
11 shows with more music than K-ON!
Now this isn't a top 11 shows list, as my anime knowledge isn't infinite, I can't claim to have seen everything. This is just a list of 11 shows, that at some point, have the characters performing music. Since K-ON! has a musical rating of 0, literally anything will do. So let's get on with the list!
#11 - Lucky Star
What a way to start this huh? Before K-ON! came out, Lucky Star was the previous holder of the "bottom of the barrel" award, and we were pretty sure anime couldn't get any worse, until KyoAni (the makers of both shows) showed us they had not even begun to show how much pandering and bullshit anime fans would put up with.
I was originally going to post the last episode's dance segment here, until I rewatched it for the purpose of this review. "Oh my god!" I exclaimed, "This is horrible! I can't post this! They're lip syncing!". However, the show still has a lot of other musical moments, with each episode ending with a karaoke segment, and other things in the show like Konata singing at a cosplay bar. But I've decided to go with Akira Kogami, or as I like to call her - the only reason to watch this show - singing "Cape of Age Thirty" as the first song in our "This counts as more music than K-ON!" count down. Enjoy!
#10 - Kannagi
Kanngai is a show about two goddesses who become rival pop stars in order to gather followers. Or at least that's what it should have been about, as that would've been a much more interesting plotline to follow than what the show actually did. Instead the show would do bizarre things like devote an entire episode to the main characters hanging out at a karaoke bar. While one of the most boring things I've seen since... any episode of K-ON!, it did at least have music!
#9 - Shinryaku! Ika Musume
In this clip, Squid Girl shows off one of her many talents, playing drums with her tentacles! Take that Ritsu! You don't even HAVE tentacles do you? For shame!
#8 - Seto no Hayanome
Possibly the show with the weirdest set-up ever, Seto no Hanayome feature who main characters who are both mermaids, yakuza, and pop stars. Yes, you read that correctly. Yakuza mermaid pop stars. Anyways, while they have a fierce rivalry throughout the show that even contains a fierce battle of songs, the clip I've decided to use for this review is one where they were both young children. A simple moment that shows off the true emotional power of music.
Or not because of all the videos, this one got a copyright takedown! So here's a different song from the same show! That's how much more music than K-On this show has!
#7 - Hayate no Gotoku
Hayate is another very random show. In this clip was have lead female Hinagiku singing the opening theme to the famous Japanese cartoon Neon Genesis Evangelion while the main character Hayate runs through a school fetival crowd wearing a maid outfit and bunny ears. What, you didn't believe me when I said this show was random?
#6 - Sora no Woto
Sora no Woto is a show that gets compared to K-ON constantly for having similar character designs. This always pisses me off as the two have absolutely nothing in common besides that. One is about high-school girls eating cake, and the other a is a post-apocalyptic war show. Totally similar. Really. Music is the only common bond between them, but in Sora no Woto, it's actually important to the story. Here's the main character Kanata showing off her trumpet skills.
#5 - Panty and Stocking
Wait how did an American cartoon slip in here? Oh well, we'll just roll with it. Panty and Stocking is a show that takes its continuity very lightly, with characters dying, becoming zombies, etc, and then everything resetting and being fine the next episode. So when the main characters suddenly bust into song with no prior warning, or the event ever being mentioned again afterwards, we just rolled with it, because it was totally awesome. See how many music references you can spot in this video! I'll give you a hint, it's more than K-ON! had in two whole seasons.
#4 - Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru
A common practice in anime is to have the main voice actresses sing either the opening or ending credits song. If I included every show that did this, the list would be very long, so I've been keeping it to performances that happen in the shows themselves. However when Soredemo's ending theme had the characters playing as a band but still clearly "in-character" I was about to make an exception anyways, until later in the show they did end up forming a band and performing, even with the same wierd instruments and maid outfits. Here's both song.
#3 - Manabi Straight
This one sooooooort of contains spoilers, but it's ok. You were never going to watch Manabi Straight anyways. It's the student festival, and of course there's a band playing. The first song is pretty mediocre, but for the second one they invite the main character Manabi up on stage to sing with them. It's an insanely cheesy, but charming moment that sums up the whole show and what the characters had all worked for up to that point. Manabi Straight gets point for the climax of the show being a song, a musical tribute to the school that the characters love.
#2 - Angel Beats
While I can't really say this was a great show, I have to give credit where credit is due, and Angel Beats had some damn good band performances in it. Definite points for style here. The lead singer, Iwasawa, has a true passion behind her music and singing, which is something that was sorely missing in K-ON!. Another thing I liked was that the band was a persistent element in the show, worked into the plot, and wasn't just one that showed up for the main character's convenience.
However I have to take away points for the overall directing of the musical scenes. Angel Beats is a show that crammed way too much stuff in, and is never able to take a break and just let you focus on one thing. There's always mulitiple things happening, and even during an emotional acoustic song, it has to cut away to show what the other characters are doing at the same time.
#1 - The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
Well if you've seen this show, this is probably a predictable winner. The top 3 were all fairly close in my head, but in the end I had to go with Haruhi for two reasons. First, I consider it the original, and directly inspired the performances in Manabi Straight and Angel Beats. Secondly, simply because it's just so damn well done! It may not be the cap on an emotional moment, but as an animated band performance, it's easily the best I've ever seen. The most damning part about this, is that Haruhi is somehow made by the same animation studio as K-ON!. When I found out that KyoAni was going to make a show about a band, my mind immediately went to this scene. What huge letdown that turned into.