K-On! anime series cover art

Series Overview

K-On! (けいおん!) is a moe slice of life anime created by Kyoto Animation back in 2009. And, despite its age, it doesn’t feel very old. Sure, the girls use old cell phones. But, if you ignore that detail, the series feels like something that could have come out around 2016.

The series follows a school “light music” club. Basically, it’s a high school rock band. And that’s pretty much all there is to the series. It’s cute girls doing cute things — band edition. (Not to be confused with Sound! Euphonium, which is cute girls doing cute things — orchestral band edition.)

I thought K-On! was pretty good. And it seems that the general consensus today is that it’s a good anime. But, I was surprised to find that this isn’t how people felt about it when it first aired. Well, at least the more vocal people online at the time didn’t feel that way.

Mugi, Mio, Yui, and Ritsu from the anime series K-On!
Mugi, Mio, Yui, and Ritsu

I read through some old reviews from 2009 and 2010 and they were very different from what people say today. They talk about how bad the art is and complain that nothing happens in the series. Some even go so far as to say it marks the end of the genre.

“If K-ON! is the future of slice-of-life moe anime, then the genre is dying.”

Splitter, MAL 2009

In case you’re wondering, Splitter was last online on MAL in 2016. Rest in peace, Splitter. I never met you, but you can take this L.

Anyway, I actually rated K-On! the same score that Splitter did. But, unlike them, I enjoyed the series. And the complaints I do have are different than the ones I’ve seen many of these old reviews bring up. So, let’s start with the character complaints.

Light Music Club

Yui Hirasawa (guitar) is the main character of K-On! She’s also probably my least favorite of the 4 main girls. Why? Because she’s actually a shounen battle series protagonist in disguise. She has a “secret ability” that’s randomly revealed. Despite never playing an instrument, she has perfect pitch and can play music by ear.

At first, I thought the draw of Yui as a character was that she’s flawed. She was the one member of the band with no music experience. But, that got tossed aside in episode 4.

Mio Akiyama (bass) is my favorite of the original 4 members of the band. She has the cutest design and I much prefer her on lead vocals over Yui. I get that Yui is the protagonist and Mio didn’t want to be the lead singer. But, Mio is a better lead singer. That’s also why the ED is so good.

Azusa "Azunyan" Nakano from the anime series K-On!
Azusa “Azunyan” Nakano

Although Mio is the cutest, Ritsu “Ricchan” Tainaka (drums) has some of my favorite outfits in the series. She has a good sense of style. Personality-wise, I see her as a worse version of Sakurako from Yuru Yuri. She also might be the most forgettable of the group.

Tsumugi “Mugi” Kotobuki (keyboard) is Ricchan’s main competitor in the forgettability competition. The only reason I’d put Ricchan above her is that Ricchan has the same (close enough) hair color as Yui. Mugi is the rich girl of the group — her family’s vacation homes are used for training camps.

Azusa “Azunyan” Nakano (guitar) is the final member of the band. She’s a year younger than the rest and joined a year after the band formed. With her in the picture, Mio loses her top spot. Azunyan is a smaller, cuter Mio.

Oh, also there’s Sawako “Sawa-chan-sensei” Yamanaka.

Not What I Expected

I kind of assumed that K-On would be a bit more about the music than it was. Sure, I understand that it’s a moe slice of life anime. But, I guess things like Love Live! have spoiled me when it comes to music anime.

With Love Live!, it feels like we get a new song every episode. From what I remember, there were 2 songs the band played in K-On! And 1 of those 2 songs was only played once in episode 12. Also, the songs in the actual show weren’t as good as the OP and ED songs.

However, the K-On! anime is an adaptation of a 4-panel manga. So, I’d imagine that there aren’t too many song performances in the source material. And, while there not being many songs isn’t a huge issue, the somewhat repetitive nature of the series is.

Mugi, Mio, Yui, and Ritsu during a training camp from the anime series K-On!
Mugi, Mio, Yui, and Ritsu during a training camp

To give you an example of what I mean by the series being repetitive, there are 2 training camp episodes. The band also plays at their school festival twice. Basically, everything that happens in the first half of the series happens again. The only difference is that Azunyan is there now.

I may have enjoyed it more if there was a bigger goal the girls were working toward. Or, even if their goal was different in the second half of the series than it was in the first. I guess that’s what the second season is for, though.

And the last thing I want to mention is the final episode of the anime. The final episode was the most boring of them all. That should never be the case. Anime should end on a high note. It’s no wonder the second-to-last episode was titled “Final Episode.”


In the end, I gave K-On! a 6/10. It was an enjoyable episode, and it was almost a 7. It’s right on the edge between those ratings. But, from what I understand, everyone likes the second season more than the first. So, I’m expecting to rate that season higher when I eventually watch it.

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My review of Season 2 is available here.

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