Time Out! (Because I’m Sick And Tired Of People Telling Me I’m Watching K-On Wrong)

K-ON - 04 - Large 38

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.

29 Responses to “Time Out! (Because I’m Sick And Tired Of People Telling Me I’m Watching K-On Wrong)”


  1. 1 omisyth June 22, 2009 at 12:57 pm

    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”.

    Perhaps I don’t lurk on forums enough, but I don’t think this was the case at all. Eden of the East ended up getting completely overhyped and was more a candidate for “anime of the season” than K-On ever was.

    I don’t think much was expected of K-On before the first episode aired – I know that I thought of the concept as mildly interesting and not much more than that. Kyoto Animation have built up a significant following for their shows, but more for the moe character designs and great animation than anything else (though I say this without having seen either Air or Kanon). I was under the impression that people were already writing the show off as a moe slice of life from KyoAni bound to get popular because it was a moe slice-of-life from KyoAni.

    In any case, you’re not so much watching K-On wrong as just not watching a show that’s your type. If it was so arduous to watch, why did you keep up after episodes 5 or 6?

    And lol, you might as well have titled this post “In reply to omo”.

  2. 2 redmaigo June 22, 2009 at 12:59 pm

    At least you finished K-ON. I dropped the show around episode six — or was it seven?

    Anywho, my problem with K-ON is that it wasn’t bad, just mediocre. So mediocre in fact that I found other things to waste my time with.

    Speaking of waste, there was a lot of wasted potential that could have made the show interesting. Instead we are left with a bunch of cliches and by-the-numbers character types that shamelessly panders to its audience.

    Hey, I like to be pandered to but don’t be so damn obvious! It’s a coy game of bait and switch that if played right enhances the overall experience of a show. If done wrong leaves you dissatisfied and frustrated.

    In the long run this leads to lowered expectations and the eventual burnout.

    And then you move on…

  3. 3 omo June 22, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    >> And lol, you might as well have titled this post “In reply to omo”.

    I was hoping for that then I can tear a new one. But in effect, this is exactly kind of the argument/reactions I think is dumb and want no part of. I mean, it’s not so much right or wrong but just dumb.

  4. 4 RedWing June 22, 2009 at 6:06 pm

    “Maybe for some other people they find K-On enjoyable in all it’s simplicity and lack of significant plot and character development”

    Yep. This and Sora Kake Girl are my “watch because I can” anime’s because honestly, if they were shown on terrestrial television I wouldn’t waste my time watching them.

    I do wish you would take this level of criticism about more popular shows though..

  5. 5 relentlessflame June 22, 2009 at 6:37 pm

    Your perspective on this whole thing seems pretty warped. Enjoying anime isn’t “us” vs. “them”. It’s not “defenders” vs. “critics”. We’re not part of some sort of global battleground of opinions, fighting to be heard and understood. When we watch anime, it’s just us and the show, and the truest metric is our own enjoyment.

    You seem so focused on winning the debate and panning this so-called “strategy” that you’re losing sight of the fact that most people don’t watch anime so they can win in forum wars. They watch anime because they enjoy it, and simply enjoying it is good enough. If you watch shows you don’t really enjoy, that may be sad for you, but it isn’t the show’s fault either. No matter what arguments you use, you’re never going to convince people who enjoyed the show that it actually sucks. At the end of the day, all we can do is share our opinions and let people come to their own conclusions. And if people did enjoy the show, even though you didn’t, more power to them!

    So I guess I just don’t see why you’re so threatened by this. If people enjoyed the show so much that they don’t see your criticisms as valid or relevant to their own enjoyment, who cares?

  6. 6 Kaioshin Sama June 22, 2009 at 7:57 pm

    @omisyth: Yeah Eden of The East was almost certainly considered the other candidate this season. As for the case, I guess it’s a matter of where I lurk then, because early on I certainly saw a lot of hype for K-On and the following for Kyoani can easily go beyond just the simply animation and moe front. Personally that’s what I’ve come to recognize them for though, so I see what you are getting at though.

    Typically Slice of Life isn’t my preferred genre, but I thought I’d give it a chance. Every now and then I afford a chance to something I might not normally watch in order to keep things fresh, and sometimes I do end up enjoying them. It’s not a reply to Omo at all by the way, I’ve been planning on writing something about this topic for a few days now and just didn’t get around to it.

    Anyway I find this a little funny coming from you. After all you admitted to watching and blogging Code Geass for little more than the hits despite the fact that you were losing interest. I guess more than anything it puts us in the same boat if perhaps on different decks.

    @redmaigo: I don’t think what you point out is flat out bad per se, just that K-On never worked these cliches and stock characters into anything more than the sum of their respective part at the end of the day. As I said it never felt like it bothered to define itself and just chose to be the most basic type of show it could be, which is good for some, but fails to leave me feeling anything more than ambivalent to it in the end.

    @omo: It’s really easy to just call everything you don’t agree with dumb and dismiss it isn’t it? I’ve noticed this is a quirk of yours so I’m glad I don’t have to worry about you trying to “tear a new one”, because I find this attitude not to my taste in discourse. Just know that I actually took the time to address why I disagree with the manner in which people are trying to cast out critical opinions on this show and never simply called it dumb. If this article had been about you I would have included the above aspect of your recent demeanor and it would have been a whole lot shorter so you can know I’m being honest when I say that this song ain’t about you.

    @RedWing: Sora Kake Girl I actually do find enjoyable and quirky enough to subsist despite a lack of significant plot and character development, although in that case it does exist below the surface. It’s defined itself as a sort of action/comedy/gag mecha series, but I actually find the gags amusing, the characters are their playing off one another charming and amusing, and most importantly they rarely do the same thing twice or spoil the joke, which is something that frustrated me about K-On. To each his own I suppose.

    @Relentlessflame: I’m not trying to convince people who watched the show that it sucks, I’m trying to illustrate that not all of us who didn’t enjoy it were watching it as something it wasn’t. If they still see critics points as invalid (like Omo up there for whatever reason) then there’s not a whole lot more I can do, but to laugh off the situation and to just be satisfied in having my blog piece. I’ve planned this to be my final word on the issue so I hope to that it can turn out that way.

  7. 7 relentlessflame June 22, 2009 at 9:38 pm

    “I’m trying to illustrate that not all of us who didn’t enjoy it were watching it as something it wasn’t.”
    — Kaioshin Sama

    When people think you’re biased against something (which is what they’re really saying here), it’s typically because you haven’t demonstrated that you’d know a good “something” if it slapped you in the face. You can’t just *say* that you get it; you have to prove it. Given this post, I’d suggest that you’ve failed to do pass that litmus test in the eyes of the show’s fans. That’s perfectly exemplified in your quoted portion, which seems to have “I don’t understand slice-of-life” written all over it. You keep trying to poke “through” the genre at its wider “flaws”, but all you’ve really demonstrated is that, nope, you still don’t like this genre, and that this show didn’t “transcend” it. Which is a perfectly fine conclusion, but not what you keep trying to force on the table. Understanding what the genre is and what its characteristics are isn’t enough to produce a neutral, objective judgement within that genre, or to have that judgement accepted by a show’s fans. There is no wrong way to watch a show, but there are perspectives that lead to foregone conclusions, and I think that is what people are actually accusing you of.

    This whole thing sort of reeks of “I don’t understand how people can claim something is so wonderful when I don’t even think it’s good” (coupled on the reverse side by “I don’t understand how people can claim something is so horrible when I enjoy it so much”). If that’s really the issue, then this blog post is not even scratching the surface.

  8. 8 Kaioshin Sama June 22, 2009 at 10:13 pm

    @relentessflame: What I’m saying is that I agree with people that the show is light and fluffy slice of life, that’s how people are trying to say it should be watched and I agree. That doesn’t mean I have to have ended up enjoying it in it’s entirety because that’s what it is though.

    I’m not looking for transcendence in the quoted portion either, I’m looking for the show to define itself within it’s genre or premise, which means to make me want to care about the characters and their activities in the end. Considering that I could just as easily find something like what goes on in K-On in another slice of life anime sans the occasional band jam and hopefully plus me relating to the characters more I ended up finding the whole experience middling.

    This gets me thinking though, I’ve had Ristorante Paradiso sitting on my hard drive for a while now and maybe it’s time to watch it because it seems like it could be different and unique enough within the genre to keep me intrigued. Then again maybe not, it doesn’t hurt to try though like with K-On. After all contrary to what seems to have become the popular belief I’m not disinterested in slow paced character stories or slice of life, I’m disinterested in character stories where I am given little reason to care about the characters or what they are doing on my monitor.

  9. 9 sadakups June 22, 2009 at 11:09 pm

    I dropped the show after Episode 6. I was terribly disappointed with that first live performance they had with that stupid PV replacing seeing the girls perform on stage.

  10. 10 omo June 23, 2009 at 2:37 am

    It’s really easy to just call everything you don’t agree with dumb and dismiss it isn’t it?

    I don’t disagree with you, dummy. But it is dumb!

  11. 11 TheBigN June 23, 2009 at 3:07 am

    “In any case, you’re not so much watching K-On wrong as just not watching a show that’s your type. ”

    That’s kinda how I see it as. And what relentless flame said as well.

    And I’m interested in what was the potential that you believed that K-On! could achieve given what you’ve been saying. I’ve seen a lot of “what didn’t work for you, for what it was”, but not really a “what did work for you”, or a “what exactly you were looking for”. Or at least the latter two weren’t as stated as clearly as what you didn’t like. But that’s off topic.

    I am hoping that sort of thing might be material for another K-On! post from you.😛

  12. 12 Kaioshin Sama June 23, 2009 at 7:24 am

    @sadakups: There really never was a stellar performance in my opinion. The closest they came was with episode 08, which was surprisingly unique depending on how you chose to look at it.

    @omo: So assuming for the sake of this reply that it is in fact dumb then wouldn’t that make you dumb too if you agree with it? 😛

    @TheBigN: Nothing specific other then a series where I could be led to care about the characters and what I was seeing them do on screen or where I could at least get regular laughs out of the ensuing events. Maybe a few more moments like in episode 08 where Mio came in to cover for Yui that showed that the characters meant something to one another and that they had a distinct personality beyond their gag bit and moe appeal.

    Episode 08 worked for me and I even gave it a 9/10 on animesuki for what that’s worth. Episode 01 and 02 worked decently as well where we were introduced to the characters and they came across as having their own little tidbits and histories (for example Ritsu and Mio were childhood friends whose love of music inspired them to form a K-On club and Mugi was the daughter of a wealthy musical intrument manufacturing boss which led to her becoming interested in music), before they were set aside for the cake eating and dressing up that ensued.

    Gags that weren’t reused or spoiled by Ritsu’s commentary also worked for me. For example I can recall chuckling at the absurdity of Yui’s dream at the beginning of the last episode. However the fresh comedy and laughs were too few and far between to fall back on after noticing how uninteresting the characters antics were coming across. Had that not been the case I might not have noticed or been put off by it all so much in the last third of the series.

  13. 13 omisyth June 23, 2009 at 8:08 am

    It’s true I was getting hits from Code Geass but I watched and blogged it because it was pure entertainment (as evidenced by 35-40 screencaps in posts lol). I don’t regret following the series to the end, though.

  14. 14 omo June 23, 2009 at 11:01 am

    So assuming for the sake of this reply that it is in fact dumb then wouldn’t that make you dumb too if you agree with it?

    It could. I would say that it’s one thing to talk about something simple, it’s another to throw a tantrum just because people disagree with you. A more seasoned reaction, for example, would be trying to figure out why exactly this is the case rather than just stating it. Just critique K-ON directly.

  15. 15 Kaioshin Sama June 24, 2009 at 4:58 am

    @omisyth: Interesting.

    @omo: Tantrum? Errr….I think you might be exagerrating the nature of this post, but okay, if this is what you’d call a tantrum then so be it. As for critiquing K-On directly, well I’ve already done plenty of that anyway and I even said in the beginning that this post wasn’t going to be directly about K-On, but about something related to it. Though I think TheBigN got me to talk a little about that anyway.

  16. 16 Anonymous June 24, 2009 at 11:54 am

    K-On is rubbish. You are completely right. Yeah, everyone is entitled to their opinion but when compared to other slice of life/comedy shows, it isn’t even close to being good.

    That said, you are pretty much acting like a Jehovah’s Witness…again. Running around forums/blogs/whatever else screaming all of this crap is just doing to frustrate people. I wouldn’t be surprised if people actually respond to your alias instead of your post content.

  17. 17 Myssa Rei June 26, 2009 at 5:53 am

    I liked K-On. It wasn’t groundbreaking, but I’ve mentioned my preference for slice-of-life shows as a contrast/healing balm to my otherwise busy and frustrating real life, so it was a nice way to spend a cour. Still nowhere near YKK or ARIA material (or heck, Kiki’s Delivery Service levels), but again, it was (to me anyway) a relaxing watch.

    I think the majority of the complaints about K-On is the unnaturally high expectation levels people had coming into the series, simply because it was a KyoAni production. Many were, quite simply, expecting KANON or CLANNAD-level quality, something that’s simply not really possible for a series based on a black-and-white 4-koma adaptation. When it turned out to be incredibly generic (which I can’t complain about), and moe anime formulaic, obviously a lot of people got angry.

    As for me? I wasn’t expecting anything actually. Which is why I enjoyed it. Then again, that’s how I maintain my sanity given the high-stress levels found in my office.

  18. 18 Kaioshin Sama June 26, 2009 at 8:13 am

    @Myssa Rei: Hmm…I tend to prefer different things for getting me out of post-traumatic work related funks. Still nothing that beats a good shot of whisky or two and an episode of The Daily Show to laugh at the absurdity of the world. That’s my salve.

    For me anime is more of a day off or night before the day off sort of thing. Also I will agree that K-On had unreasonably high expectations put on it by some just because in the internet’s eyes Kyoani is supposed to be this be all end all infalliable studio, but then again who’s fault is that? To me though this is a pretty standard Kyoto Animation show so I can say my expectations were met simply because I never set them very high in the first place.

    By the way, Magic The Gathering on Xbox360, any thoughts?🙂

  19. 19 TheBigN June 26, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    “Also I will agree that K-On had unreasonably high expectations put on it by some just because in the internet’s eyes Kyoani is supposed to be this be all end all infalliable studio, but then again who’s fault is that?”

    The Internet?😛

    But more seriously, I agree with what Myssa Rei said. K-On! is neither great nor terrible, and not even necessarily great at what it was supposed to do, but it worked for me.

  20. 20 Myssa Rei June 27, 2009 at 1:04 am

    Kaiohshin: Not really the right person to ask. I haven’t played much these past few weeks (conflicting hobbies makes for a conflicted Myssa), and when I DID get the time to play, it was to do the Campaign of Dawn of War 2. Heck, I have Prototype (the game) already, but I haven’t touched it since I bought it.

    Now darn it, where’s the HQ version of Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea (Studio Ghibli at its slice-of-life-est) I’ve been waiting for?!

    BigN: K-On can be summed up as ‘Okay’, because really, that’s how it is. I never expected Azumanga Daioh-levels of endearment, ARIA’s calming and charming sophistry, or the casual march to extinction showed in YKK, and truly, people shouldn’t as well.

  21. 21 moritheil June 27, 2009 at 3:06 am

    @omisyth – I think it really depends on which forums you lurk on . . . as for me, I heard a lot about K-On! and only knew of Eden via trailers we were passing around at AD. I independently decided that Eden looked like it would be awesome, whereas I was told that K-On! would be, and that might be the source of a certain disconnect for Kaioshin here as well.

  22. 22 nekosasu June 27, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    Agreed with everything you have said in your post.

  23. 23 Baka-Raptor June 28, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    This whole debate would be over if K-ON fans would just man up and say “K-ON is stupid but I like it anyway.”

  24. 24 Echoleon August 10, 2009 at 4:54 am

    @Baka-Raptor:
    “K-ON is stupid but I like it anyway.”
    Does this not apply to nearly all anime series? Ok, so it of applies at higher levels to K-ON, because yes indeed, it was stupid, but it was definitely enjoyable to people who like these kinds of things.

    It seems that pretty much the debate over any show/popular-thingy would end if that could be said. But then again, some people do not see it as stupid.:/

    @Kaioshin:
    Or you could just be grateful K-ON’s (and every other show’s) fans are not like Twilight fans. ( ´・ω・`)

  25. 25 Kaioshin Sama August 11, 2009 at 5:45 am

    #Echoleon: All I know about Twilight fans is that all of the girls at my workplace that read it think I am the greatest most approachable guy ever, even if I outright tell them to their face that I think the book is rubbish. 😛

  26. 26 infinitezenith December 7, 2012 at 1:16 am

    I believe the better alternative would have simply been to not watch at all. Relentlessflame has a point: there’s little to be gained from watching something outside the scope of your interest, and then consuming more time towards talking about it.

    At any rate, I have composed a counterargument for everything mentioned in this article. The anime was composed for certain audiences, and you’d be wasting time writing about it.

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  1. 1 Attitudes to Slice-of-Life Comedy Anime » Behind The Nihon Review Trackback on June 30, 2009 at 10:17 am

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