“Music is powerless to express anything.” – Igor Stravinsky.
Liverpool gave us the Fab Four called “The Beatles”, Rutland gave us the Pre-Fab Four called “The Rutles”, and Japan has given us the Animated Five caled “Ho-kago Tea Time”. Yui, Mugi, Mio, Ritsu and Azusa are back for another series and it is just as full of comic escapades and upbeat tunes as the first.
The second series of K-On!! (note the second exclamation mark) sees the original four-piece line-up in their final year at High School with Azusa in the year below contemplating future life without her fellow members of the Light Music Club, alongside Yui’s younger and more dependable sister Ui.
In these 13 episodes, the girls try to make an advertising campaign to increase membership, Mio deals with a fan-club devoted to her, Yui has to contemplate what she plans to do after school, there is a meet-up with an old school-friend of their Death Metal-playing teacher Sawako, and the girls go to their first music festival.
There are many attractions to this series. The main one is the humour. There is plenty to laugh at while watching the escapades. Whether it is Yui’s spaced-out nature, Ritsu’s overbearingness, or Mio being scared of just about everything, you will find something to laugh at. There is also plenty of comic slapstick such as in one episode set on a very hot day when the band try to cool themselves using a very old electric fan.
Then there is the music, which deserves a special mention. The most notable track is the opening theme “Go! Go! Maniac”, credited as being performed by Ho-kago Tea Time and sung by Yui which is most famous for being the first image song ever credited to a group of fictional anime characters to get to No. 1. To put it another way, the characters in this show are chart toppers! The end song for the show, “Listen!!” sung by Mio, got to No. 2 at the same time. There are also other songs performed during the show. There is another Mio-lead song, “Pure Pure Heart”, and their teacher Sawako also gets to perform in a different band: her old Death Metal band, Death Devil. So if the somewhat soft branch of music sung by the girls is not for you, you can listen to something much harder.
In terms of musical influences, it seems that Ho-kago Tea Time has been mostly inspired by the British (they later go to Britain in the movie version of the series). In this collection their main source seems to be The Who. In one episode Ritsu gets tired of playing the drums but is later inspired when she watched a DVD featuring Keith Moon. In the opening episode Yui plays the guitar on her own, waiting for the rest of the band to arrive. When they do turn up, Yui is performing a Pete Townsend style windmill move. The quintet have to go as far as smashing up their instruments, and to be honest I doubt Yui would want to break her beloved guitar, which she still calls “Geeta”.
It has to be said that the series is not perfect. For starters, apart from a textless opening and closing, there are no extras. Also some of the episodes fall a bit flat, because of the age gap in the band. For example: one episode sees the original four-piece line-up going on a school trip, but the next episode focuses on Azusa who is a year behind and still at the school. As Azusa does not have the main cast to work with, it seems to be less amusing somehow.
However the biggest issue for me is some of the dialogue. I watched this series in subtitles (dub is available) and in one scene the girls go shopping in a hardware store. Yui gets excited over a load of screws, to which Azusa replies: “You’re spazzing out, too?” Speaking as someone with a disability I do disapprove of the term. Someone should really tell the Americans doing the subbing and dubbing that this particular word does raise problems for us in Britain.
Other than this however, K-On!! is continuing to prove to be great value. Certainly worth continuing with this collection.