Gizmo recently posted a comment candidly expressing his bewilderment of K-On!’s popularity. Which, in turn, got me thinking during my commutes over the weeks past; which, in turn, prompted me to write this.
I do this now and then: Write extemporaneously, then go back and revise, revise, revise.
Anyhow, regarding K-On!
I suppose you can sum up K-On’s popularity this way: The popularity of any show is usually based on how it strikes a cord (or chord in this case) with the individual; the more individuals can relate to a show, the more popular that show is bound to be.
It’s my opinion that K-On! is such a show: One that a lot of people from different age groups can relate to.
And here are some more of my own personal thoughts.
It’s the music.
I agree with Gizmo, to some extent: The stories on K-On! do lack a little (or a lot of) lustre in some episodes. But what attracted me to the show, and keeps me attracted to the show, first and foremost, is the music.
What got me started on K-On! was a small comment someone made regarding the character, Mio Akiyama, on Tokyo Tosho, when he posted the torrent for the second episode of K-On! When I saw the show and heard the opening song, that hooked me to keep watching. Music is what attracts my attention first to almost any anime. Then, when I heard and saw the ending song, I was blown away! I could go on into a full dissertation on what makes both the OP and ED songs so great or at least extremely good, but I’ll forgo that for now. Let me just say: Translation is my hobby, but music is my passion; I have a deep appreciation of how K-On!’s music was written, produced, and performed.
It’s the characters, not the story line.
Any good anime has to have characters that people can relate to, or at least entertaining and fascinating enough to want to watch (somewhat voyeuristically). Some shows are more plot driven, some are character driven. With K-On! the emphasis is on the characters.
Some of you may know, I’m a Hinata Hyuuga fan. In very much the same fashion, I’m a Mio Akiyama fan. I like somewhat shy, cute, and smart girls who rock! There’s often a perverted mystique about shy girls: Sure they’re shy on the surface and out in public, but, God!, are they animals in bed! It’s a harboured fantasy that is often portrayed in the doujinshis many of us enjoy.
What makes Mio’s character more fascinating to me is the seiyuu who does her voice. Often, in many a previous anime, the shy characters are given a meek sounding voice, like Hinata. The seiyuu who does Mio’s voice, Youko Hisaka, actually has a strong, melodic voice, but she does a pretty good job in giving Mio that level of shyness that is in Mio’s character. Some of us who have been up on stage in front of a live audience can relate to her bit of stage-fright, too.
In contrast, Yui’s voice is reedy, definitely distinctive, but not necessarily strong. Yet, Aki Toyosaki, the actress who does her voice, also does a good job in presenting that level of fearlessness, spunk, and determination that is in Yui’s character. Personally, I’m a bit put-off by the reedy quality of Yui’s voice, but still, the girl can sing and sing very well!
The other characters in the show (all portrayed by amazing seiyuus!) have slightly over-the-top personalities, but nothing so out there that is beyond anything that anyone can’t relate to. In other words, they may be anime characters, but in some aspects, we may know some people who are just like some of these girls! It allows room for our empathy and understanding towards any one or all of the characters.
It’s a marketing dream.
What a great show to inspire musicians and wanna-be musicians alike! Just check out YouTube for all the different musicians showing off their skilz playing to K-On! music. Including this real life Ritsu. (That’s not her name of course, but note same drum kit!)
What a great show to showcase and advertise your company’s musical instruments in hopes that musicians and wanna-be musicians will buy ‘em! Yamaha. Gibson. Fender. Korg. Marshall. Zildjian. Not to mention, Mio-chan’s pantsu patterned bowls!
I always find the Japanese, in general, to be master marketers. Besides the product placement of brand name musical instruments, there’s cross promotion and product tie-ins to CDs, DVDs, Radio programs, Computer Games, etc. Not to mention, Mangas–the seed that started it all! Most anime shows will have Character CDs, where your favorite characters sing songs reflecting their personality. Here’s a show where we naturally expect or hope to see the characters sing, because, well… they’re a band!
Which brings me to one last idea that I wish the producers would further exploit.
I Want My MTV!
As I said before, the ending song/sequence blew me away. I liked the “music video” approach to how it was produced: With the girls playing their instruments, Mio’s sexy pose and confident stance with her bass guitar, down to the magic disappearing act in the end. (Again, here’s that “characters you can relate to” thing: Sure they’re anime characters, but they’re shown like they’re a real band in a music video-instrument and amp cord connections included!) I’m hoping (but kinda doubt) that the producers of the anime would make full-length music videos of the songs, instead of the minute-and-a-half versions you get at the OP credits and ED credits, not to mention the short “Fuwa Fuwa Time” insert.