ANIME & MANGA - Review
10:29 - 7th August 2015, by NEO Staff

K-On!! Season 2

Light-hearted slice of life comedy K-On!! centres on high schoolers Yui, Ritsu, Tsumugi, Miu and Azusa, otherwise known as the band Afterschool Tea Time. Spending most of their time hanging out at their school’s keion-bu (or ‘light music club’), their lives revolve around their passion for music and performing. That is, at least, when they aren’t being your typical teenage girls, eating cake or procrastinating as they try to avoid thinking about their upcoming graduation. Under the somewhat conflicted watch of their teacher (and metal-loving former keion-bu member) Sawako Yamanaka, the girls must not only focus on kicking ass on stage, but also on what the future will hold once their school days are over. While the wealthy Tsumugi and introverted Miu seem to have it all sorted out, air-headed Yui and self-appointed club president Ritsu remain undecided, and with final exams only a few months away, they don’t have long to make up their minds.

Following on from its break-out first season, K-On!! remains as entertaining and endearing as ever. The noticeably moe character designs, alongside the adorable friendships that the girls establish, give the show an irresistible (if occasionally cloying) charm, and it doesn’t do any harm that it’s often laugh-out-loud funny. Less High School Musical, and more your typical high school drama, there’s actually surprisingly little music practice or performance from episode to episode (a fact that youngest member of the group Azusa doesn’t fail to point out, much to everyone else’s embarrassment). The focus instead falls on the girls themselves, their ever-evolving friendships, and the everyday scrapes and escapades they get drawn into. What original music is included can be hit-and-miss, with some songs proving every bit as catchy as your average J-pop concoction, and others sounding more like something an average high school band might actually come up with.

At times the pacing can feel clumsy, meaning episodes often either go rushing by at breakneck speed, or conversely never really get off the starting line. If you’re not a fan of the odd overly long and technical piece of musical exposition, then you’ll find yourself checking your watch on occasion, and, if you look too closely, there’s not really any main narrative to speak of. Most episodes nonetheless include a self-contained story-of-the-week that really hits the mark (for instance, an excellent early episode when the girls sell their teacher’s old guitar and quite literally get more than they bargained for), with only the occasional misfire. Even when individual episodes are sparse on story, they usually make up for this in pure comedy, as Yui and co. approach even the most minimal problems with the over-the-top seriousness inherent in every teenage girl.

The voice acting is excellent, with Aki Toyosaki (Yui) and Satomi Satō (Ritsu) particularly standing out, bringing an infectious sense of humour and innate likeability to characters that could very quickly and easily have become annoying and repetitive. While the animation is fairly run-of-the-mill (including the occasional, jarring computer-animated sections), it’s this snappy yet compassionate banter between the girls that ultimately sells this as a show worth watching.

It’s by no means a perfect series, but the warmth and humour of K-On!! should thaw even the coldest of hearts. Its well-balanced ensemble are always good for a laugh or ten, and when they aren’t trying to make you giggle, they might just make you nostalgic for the high school band you wish you’d formed. If you’re already playing in a band, however, they’ll probably just make you feel better about your own practice to procrastination ratio. Or not, but we won’t judge.

Ideal for a quick laugh, if not for a marathon binge, K-On!! is the kind of show that can put a smile on your face, whatever your mood. It might not help you find your inner rock god, but it might just inspire you to start looking.
SCORE: 4/5
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