Recently, I was finally able to watch the K-ON! movie. The movie itself was tremendously enjoyable, and to the series’ credit, the characters and settings were memorable enough that I was still able to follow the story even after three years.
Watching the film brought back quite a lot of fond memories, enough memories to convince me to throw away my weekend plans (Overwatch was having a double-xp weekend) and revisit K-On’s mostly excellent second season. I was a bit of an anime snob when I first watched K-On! (though I kind of still am). I was really choosy about what anime I watched and generally ignored most of cutesy, fua-fua stuff – stuff that K-On! is mostly known for. K-On! represented a shift in attitude for me, mostly because I was able to see that there are great stories that can be told even through a cutesy exterior. In a sense, it’s like when older people realize that cartoons can actually tell heavy, mature stories and should be taken seriously. It was kind of like that for me. Though the first season was great, funny and really just a blast overall, it was the second season that really cemented the anime for me as a lighthearted favorite.
By the beginning of the second season, four of the main characters were entering their last year of high school. It was not really that big of a change in setting from the first season, although there was a feeling that the club’s after-class tea sessions are about to come to an end.
For the most part, the series sticks to what makes it work, letting the chemistry between the characters take center stage to create a fun and energetic series. It is extremely light-hearted as it never takes itself too seriously. The episodes help develop the relationships between the characters more and the chemistry among them is just superb. You get the feeling that these are good friends who are enjoying their youth to the fullest, while making some of the cheesiest songs around.
What makes the second season different though is the increasing realization that most of the characters are about to leave and the Light Music Club as we know it, would be no more. We realize this as we are put into the shoes of Azusa, the club’s kouhai, as she starts to realize that the club would look drastically different next year as her senpais go to college. The season dedicates several Azusa-centric episodes that not only helps expand her character greatly, but also helps make her the stand-in for the viewers as she starts to realize that this is her last year with her seniors.
It creates a feeling of melancholia that slowly envelopes the viewers but never threatens to overwhelm them. You realize that the characters are about to go their separate ways but you’re laughing too much to really feel sad about it. Until you do. There are episodes where it really hits you that these guys are about to graduate, and the afternoon tea sessions, the bonding, the procrastination, is about to come to an end. It’s time for the characters to move on; they can’t be high school students forever.
What makes this season great for me is realizing just how much I unknowingly invested in the characters themselves. You feel sad when the characters leave for college, you feel sad when they perform together for the last time, heck, you feel sad just seeing the clubroom, quiet and empty. You don’t really feel sad for characters you’re not invested in. I think the greatest achievement by the animators here is that they are able to turn you into more than an observer. You aren’t just a viewer in K-On!, you’re as much a member of the club as Ton-chan.
In the end though, K-On! is still the fun, energetic and extremely funny anime that we have come to love. What makes it great is that it does well in the niche they’re in. They don’t try to do anything revolutionary, sticking to their strengths and playing up to them well. The result is a fun anime that immerses you into its high school setting and dragging you along for a fun, unforgettable ride. It might not have the narrative prowess of anime like Stein;s Gate or the philosophical musings of Fullmetal Alchemist but in the end it provides you with a fun escape from everything, even if for just a moment.
So how was K-ON!’s second season for you? Share with us in the comments below.