If it were up to me, every guy who wanted to write about women would be required to read/watch K-On!. I find the series to be utterly delightful in every way, and about as realistic a portrayal of a bunch of girls hanging out as I’ve ever seen. It’s not a “realistic” series but it’s got just the right mix of realism and fiction to make a great story.
The K-On! manga is a series of 4-koma strips and has all the usual strengths and weaknesses of the format. Volume 1 is a great example of the format actually working.
But, I’m getting ahead of myself. For those of you not already familiar with the series, K-On! is about the “light music” club in a high school and the four (then five) girls who are make up the band. Ritsu is the drummer and the on-again-off-again-responsible President of the club. Yamato Nadesico beauty and bassist Mio is a fan favorite, because she’s the most shy and retiring, fans got to see her underwear and she writes funny song lyrics. (The last is not probably part of why most fans like her, but it’s why I do.) Lead guitar and lead character is the pleasantly loopy, idiot savant Yui. Tsumugi, the keyboardist, with her daikon eyebrows, is our passport to Yuri, and latecomer Asuza plays second guitar and second fiddle to Yui’s gags.
What makes K-On! work is the characters and the interaction between them. It’s natural, carefree, goofy. The characters are more than just one joke, maybe as many as three or four jokes per character – it allows for more combinations in the playbook. Above all, what I like best is how freely they share food and touch each other – something that, at least in my experience, is pretty natural for female friends. When Yui hangs over Mugi’s shoulders, it’s not “Yuri,” it’s what friendship looks like.
Nonetheless, Yuri there is, if only in Mugi’s mind. For it is Tsumugi, with her “Mugi-vision” fantasy scenarios that pairs the various girls in the band. Many fans see the obviousness of Mio and Ritsu as a couple, but Mugi doesn’t limit herself to imagining just them. :-) Fujieda Miyabi had a fan-work for this series at the last Comiket of basically nothing but Mugi imagining them all paired up. It was very silly, on top of the normal silliness of the series itself.
The anime was a big hit in Japan – and totally understandably so. It was and is delightful. The second season is running as we speak. The manga has already been licensed by Yen Press and I very much look forward to its release here. I hope that someone picks up the anime (if no one has yet done so,) because that’s a series I will glad throw my money at – I’ve been tempted to buy the Japanese DVDs already.
Art – 7
Characters – 10
Story – 9
Yuri – 3 for “Mugi-vision”
Service – 3 for the whole underwear thing, but other than that, it’s probably more like a 1
Overall – 9
This is the kind of series that just totally works in every direction. The characters, the art, the writing all work together a complete package of entertainment.