If you’ve read a good chunk of my reviews, you’ve probably noticed at this point that I almost never talk about anime studios; in fact, I don’t think I’ve mentioned the studio responsible for any of the shows I’ve watched even once, which is actually kind-of impressive now that I think about it. Naturally, anybody familiar with anime is acquainted with at least a few studios, but I have always glossed over who is making what—I just never really saw it as being important, and nowadays I prefer not to shame any particular studio, even if I really didn’t like whatever they produced. If anything, I’d say that’s a byproduct of my approach to critique; watching shows while completely divorcing them from their source material—any and all context be damned—trying to judge shows purely on their own merits. Well, the studio responsible for K-On, KyoAni (short for Kyoto Animation) is something of a special case, and a good excuse for me to finally break the aforementioned track record. You know, for a long time I didn’t always keep up with the news, whether recent or not. When I started working retail though, I got into a habit of looking at newly published articles on my phone just to kill time, something I still do and I’m not entirely sure whether or not I regret, if I’m being honest. Most of the time, I have very little actual interest in whatever I’m reading, even when it has to do with topics that should draw my attention, but there was one particular piece of news I remember getting that really caught me off guard. Of all the places, an arson attack at one of Japan’s most beloved animation studios taking the lives of 36 people… one of the deadliest massacres in Japan since the end of World War 2, at a fucking anime studio. I think part of the reason why that caught me off guard is because despite some of the shows that KyoAni has produced being some of my absolute favorites, just like the one we’re talking about today, I really only knew about them on the same incredibly basic level that I knew about every other animation studio, which is to say almost not at all; it all of a sudden got me thinking “you really don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone”. And today, I know that KyoAni is not just some animation studio, it’s one of the most well-loved studios in the whole industry, responsible for classics like K-On, Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai, Clannad, Lucky Star, Nichijou, The Melancholy of Harumi Suzumiya, and MANY others. With all that in mind, rewatching K-On for the millionth time suddenly took on a new meaning. Just in case you don’t already know, K-On is a Slice-of-Life anime about a girl who joins the Light Music Club despite not knowing an instrument, learning guitar over time and getting into wacky hijinks with the other members of her club; a tried-and-true formula that I would argue K-On actually popularized. Many, many times in the past, I have referenced K-On’s “sense of grand scale”, a point of discussion I use for many other shows I watch both in and out of its genre—but what exactly does that mean? Well, let’s break down what exactly K-On is; a Slice-of-Life taking place over two seasons and 39 episodes, each group of 13 episodes roughly spanning the course of one year, chronicling the lives of the protagonists from their first day in highschool all the way up to their graduation. But while this particular angle is a very popular tactic many Slice-of-Life shows do to create a sense of narrative cohesion and try to evoke emotion from the audience, K-On has always done it so well that it stands out among the crowd. When I watched the Konosuba movie recently, it clicked for me why K-On manages to do this; it takes its time slowly but surely endearing you to the main cast, letting you grow truly attached to them, and eventually this culminates in emotional scenes that hit extremely hard, giving you an appreciation for everything that has happened in the show up to that point. Suddenly you become aware of how little show there is left for you to watch, how much time has actually passed, and you feel a bit sad about the inevitability that, eventually, it has to end. There are other aspects of the show that contribute to this, the characters being one of the most prominent and another facet of the show I often reference; the idea of a “collective protagonist” where the protagonist role is shared by a group of characters who all feel equally important, with one of the most important aspects of this approach being the chemistry between them and the ways in which they complement eachother. K-On is the de-facto golden standard for this and executes it flawlessly, the only other show that comes to mind which even approaches the same level is Joshiraku which also did this concept fantastically. And now, despite how many times I have rewatched this show into oblivion (and it is a lot, like Shakugan no Shana levels of constant revisitation), this focus on the idea that all good times must come to an end was enough to make me tear up a little bit, you know? And, you know, maybe I’m giving the show too much praise—if there’s anything I’ve become as I grow softer and more mature in my slightly older age, it’s more susceptible to those kinds of tear-jerking moments. Hell, I remember a solid decade ago joking about being an unfeeling robot (which is actually part of why I hated how badly Ruka’s robot complex was ham-fisted into KanoKari, which I watched very recently). Perhaps you could argue I’m seeing the show through rose-tinted glasses, and I wouldn’t necessarily disagree; not only was it one of the earlier shows I watched and one of the first Slice-of-Life animes I watched, but it was also the catalyst that got me legitimately interested in music. Out of context, that probably sounds weird, but I think it was precisely because I grew up in a very musical environment that I became very disillusioned with it; I knew the music I was constantly surrounded by was seemingly soulless and half-assed (speaking in the most frank terms possible), so I just attributed that same label to everything else. There was music I liked, but I didn’t see myself as a music person—and K-On helped to completely change that. So at the end of the day, it’s easy to see why you could dismiss my enjoyment of the show in present day as being biased, and I think it’s also easy to see why you could write it off as being just another generic Slice-of-Life; this is an anime that is, undoubtedly, not up the alley of somebody who is not into the classic “cute-girls-doing-cute-things” formula, because that is exactly what it is. But enough of being objective; K-On is a show that takes that same formula and does it better than any other show in its genre, with great characters, fantastic humour, a concept so well realized that it feels extremely unique despite following familiar guidelines, extremely memorable and great music, elements of drama and extremely well-done narrative cohesion that evoke powerful emotion from the viewer, telling a story that’s given meaning just by the relationships of the characters and the viewer’s attachment to them. It, much like the vast majority of everything else Kyoto Animation has made, is a true classic that deserves your time if only for the sake of giving it a fair chance.

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