K-On In A Nutshell, Light, Fluffy, Cute, It Is What It Is, But It Doesn’t Mean That People Can’t Criticize It Within That Context
It’s no secret that my experience with K-On and in finishing it has been an arduous one and that I’ve been very critical of what I saw as it’s total lack of imagination with gag bits and characters that I found to ultimately prove about as interesting as the kind you might see on a Saturday Night Live sketch during one of it’s poorer seasons, but that is not what I am here to talk about. I am here to address the frequently brought up counterpoint that has been offered as a catchall to your general criticism of K-On (whatever it may be), because I think it’s not only a limp-wristed knee jerk defensive reaction that doesn’t really prove a viable rebuttal, but that it’s also somewhat presemptuous as well.
I’m talking of course about the defence where people claim that those who didn’t appreciate K-On must have failed to realize the type of show K-On was in a slice of life comedy and that it was because it was never meant to be an ambituous series that those who watched it for the “right” reasons and as a “light and fluffy” series should find it to be a satisfying piece. Basically the idea is that those who criticized K-On must have missed the point of it all and that therefore their reactions are the wrong ones for the series.
Two problems with this common defence of K-On/criticism of the shows critics right off the bat, the first one being somewhat incidental and in relation to the atmosphere under which K-On was likely to be viewed by an internet commentator. Upon it’s debut K-On got the treatment that is often afforded to the latest Kyoto Animation moe series in being rapidly hyped and promoted across the internet by intial viewers, sometimes as a candidate or outright forerunner for “anime of the season”. This was I would say a pretty dominant position that was held on K-On by a fair number of bloggers and regular pundits until quite recently when opinion become a little more divided. When something like this happens it tends to generate high expectations in the minds of viewers right off the bat to see that idea of a high calibre anime fulfilled, and it pits that anime subconciously or otherwise against other series that are out at the time as well as one’s similar to it as well. As such it’s to be somewhat expected that some people will be looking for something grand out of such a show, potentially be more critical of it, and potentially even end up disappointed in the process and expressive of that disappointment should it fail to live up to their expectations of an anime of the season. By this point it’s kind of too little too late to ask everyone to backpedal and retroactively lower their expectations for something that was for much of it’s run trumpted as a cream of the crop type affair and superior to other shows. The atmosphere had essentially already been created for K-On to be evaluated with more scrutiny then it probably should have been warranted.
However, this is just the first and less significant problem I have with the whole “you’re watching it wrong if you panned it” defence since as I said it’s mostly incidental and not everybody had high expectations for the series going in of course. That’s why my second problem with the defence comes as a more matter of fact one borne in the fact that I see it simply as begging the question. That is that it assumes that if people watched it as a slow paced moe driven slice of life comedy that there is no way that they could possibly still end up disappointed just the same. Not the case. Let me share a message I wrote up on animesuki as a musing about K-On and how I viewed it with in the context of a slow pace slife of life comedy:
People can say “it’s slice of life, don’t expect plot or character development”, and try to cut off the debate there, but if they can’t realize that something can be slice of life and still not deliver a full package to a viewer then something isn’t quite right on that front.
Don’t take this the wrong way since I know you like this genre, but isn’t the 4-5 girl slice of life comedy thing just starting to become a touch derivative and samey lately, perhaps even a bit stale and unimaginative…dare I even say formulaic and packaged? That’s how it feels to me and thus I have since been looking for series to further carve out their niche and carry their own unique charm within the slice of life comedy genre. K-On however chose to place itself at the bare bones of what this sub-genre could potentially offer and never tried to do anything to define itself or it’s characters away from the pack where it comes to 4-5 girl slice of life comedy shows other then to add as much moe antics to the mix as possible and call it a day. There was ample opportunity too with the K-On club concept, which I felt was tragically underused. There were also many chances for the characters to play off of each other better to make the gags funnier as well, but instead they just chose to have the characters sit around and eat cake, take vacations, repeat character specific gags and for the most part do the things you can see in any other given 4-5 girl slice of life comedy. Also it felt like when the characters were doing their moe gags that that was what ultimately came to define their personalites for me. I never got to the point with anybody save perhaps Yui where I recognized them for anything other than their character bit. Not a good thing in my book either.
A show defining itself is very important to me, but for others I guess it comes down to it containing a certain set of elements and that makes it good enough. K-On looked like it tried to define the girls in the very final run up to the finale, but alas it just doesn’t work because it never once came across in the earlier episodes where defining the characters could have made the ending have more feeling, nor does it feel at all like it’s the case that they’ve bonded over time in a definitive manner. I have recently been helped to see that Yui was talking a bit about how she found something to do in the K-On club rather than that she was implying that she felt she changed, but again, the K-On club was so underused as a concept and the bonds never really built up as the show opted for more recurring moe gags instead that it was just unrelatable to me as a viewer. When you can’t relate to characters in a slice of life show then that’s pretty much the nail in the coffin at the end of the day.
In conclusion what I’m getting at here is that as a person that didn’t care much for K-On and struggled to find the characters charming and relatable I have tried to avoid criticizing K-On for what it isn’t trying to be and have tried to enjoy it for what it is, but have found myself unable to on a significant level in the end. It being slow paced slice of life and my acknowleding this doesn’t get me any closer to finding Mio’s continued cowering in the corner throughout it’s run any more amusing, it doesn’t get me feeling what the final episode seems to want me to feel in that Yui has somehow achieved a goal in belonging to a club when I note that earlier episodes never hinted at her wanting to achieve this “goal” in the first place, and it doesn’t get me any closer to recognizing Mugi as anything approaching a developed character so much as a pair of bushy eyebrows and a nice body that is sometimes shown wearing different clothes. Maybe for some other people they find K-On enjoyable in all it’s simplicity and lack of significant plot and character development, I certainly find it harmless enough because I know that it’s just a television show and that it can’t hurt me, but I’m still going to say that I find some of it’s defenders attempts to act like it should have an immunity from the more critical among the fanbases criticisms to be more than a little silly while also missing the point. Take it all as you will folks.