Simple, concise and amusing.
K-On! centres around a high school's light music band, and their experiences together; contrary to the title, it is more about how individuals can create memories of their times together rather than the music itself. The first season is the shorter half, focussing on how a band forms and how the characters grow as time progresses. The second season is a full-fledged series and concerns the matters of separation as high school ends and everyone begins to find their own purpose in the world. One of the most noticeable aspects of K-On! that is perhaps an unexpected factor was the degree of character development each of these individuals received. Each character begins with the classic archetypes, but as the series progresses, each gradually acquires uniquely-defining traits. When coupled with the series' depiction of friendship, the subtle and dynamic nature means that the particularly emotional scenes are far more effective without relying on excessive drama. In general, the art in the series adds an additional degree of depth to the series, and while the cinematography is at times limited (i.e. animating the more intricate details of the girls playing their instruments), the methods nonetheless give rise to a sense of creativity when we consider how camera angles are used to depict the various moments. Despite being a well-done anime series, there exist many individuals who dislike this series owing to its premise. I full well understand that K-On! is a moé series, which simply means that particular emphasis is paid to making the characters appear more endearing to the audiences. While K-On! does take this to new heights, this factor alone is simply a style of storytelling and insufficient to make the series unwatchable. K-On! stands exceedingly well on its own merits, although not every individual out there shares this perspective; it is for this reason I will not be providing a numeric score to rate K-On!. Ultimately, K-On! is successful because it is simple: with no complex themes or inspiring/motivating details to follow, K-On! is the type of show that one watches to recover their spirits in trying times.
K-On! Standard story, great characterization.
(This review will be mostly about the anime adaptation). K-On! is deeply entrenched in the moe-craze that has swept over the Japanese anime scene in the last few years. Kyoto Animation benefited a lot from this, with shows like Lucky Star and the adaptations of the Key Visual Arts visual novels. Where a lot of studios think it's enough though to have big-eyed girls act cute, Kyo Ani always tries to go that extra mile. While the jokes themselves are not particularly new or clever, Kyo Ani really picked up on the characters and gave it their best shot to make them come alive. The voice acting is splendid; the animation is sprinkled with subtle touches to make the interactions between the girls believable and, often, heartwarming. The attention to detail of to the instruments is staggering. Where the show falls short is in the music department. Sure, the OP and ED are cute, but there is little music in the show itself, which is a bit strange in a story about a high school band. This is still no problem, since the focus is clearly on the little stuff that is going on between the girls. So viewers had better not expect a big, sweeping plot or immense drama. Expect a lot of cute moments and signs of friendship. Sure, there are a few occasions of strife, just like there would be in real life, but even those are resolved fairly quickly. And in shows like these this is a good thing. On a scale of 1 to 10 this show is an 8. But only if you don't mind being clubbed over the head with cuteness.
The good and bad in K-On!
Now that the both the first and second seasons of K-On!, as well as the movie, have aired, the series can be reviewed as a whole. For those unfamiliar to the moe phenomenon in Japan, and the history of the production studio that animated it, K-On! superficially appears as an excuse to cash in on some extra money. However, Kyoto Animation has produced another anime with superb character animation, extreme detail to the musical instruments which the characters play, music that rocks, brilliant voice performances, and unlike Lucky Star, some resemblance of a plot! The cons lie not in the storyline (since it is largely faithful to the manga), but rather, the direction the studio chose to take when making the adaptations. Some characters, especially Yui, the protagonist, have been accused of falling victim to Flanderization: Yui has next to no redeeming qualities other than acting cute, and the club she joins consist of members who focus mainly on slacking off instead of actually practising. In fact, the only characters who seem to stand out in originality would be Mio and Azusa, who both have the best personalities and are both the voices of reason; it figures that they would be quite close. The Moe Moe shows have been around for a long time, but this show may appear to make excessive use of these elements. With that said, the pros described in the first paragraph would overshadow them all for individuals who do not mind the prevalence of cuteness: K-On! is a show for watching after a long and tiring day. I would give K-On! 7 out of 10 stars.