Suddenly, A Truckload of Self-Insert Characters (And the Idol-Fan Relationship) – K-On!! Episode 7

In perhaps the zaniest (though strangely lowest-budget) episode of K-On!! yet, we are formally introduced to Mio’s fan club – evidently a storyline in the manga that fans have long been hoping would be adapted this season (and which, I note, was the episode that most felt like reading a 4-koma manga to me.) I think it’s pretty obvious that the fan club is a played-straight parody of diehard otaku, and KyoAni being what they are, there is perhaps no one more qualified to write about otaku.

Which is why it’s very interesting to see that this is one of the most respectful portrayals of otaku (maybe the fact that the word is never used could even be considered respectful) that I’ve seen in anime, as well as a refreshing take on the age-old plot of a famous person dealing with fans that are more or less intruding on her life.

We are told in this episode that there was a time in the girls’ first year of high school wherein Mio felt like she was being stalked by someone. She received assurance that the problem would be dealt with from Nodoka and the student council president, though when she thought about their conversation, she realized…

oh shit.

I’m sure the name ‘Houkago Tea Time’ helped.

After Mio’s offhanded joke that maybe the student council prez was actually the stalker, we get the reveal:

How would you feel, I wonder, if you found out that someone had been basically learning all about you without you ever knowing? Mio is pretty much instantly forgiving, seeing the president’s anguish, and also having trust for her. She tells her that she’s happy that someone admires her so much – good. This is how you answer a fan. KyoAni understands this, because they know how to present things to otaku in an inoffensive matter. When you are dealing with something that will have rabid fans, you must be aware of their state of mind. If you draw a cute anime character, you know that there are a bunch of people masturbating to it as you speak. If you are an idol singer, you know that someone, somewhere, is masturbating to you as you speak. K-On!!, being a very soft comedy, was not exactly going to show the student council president touching herself while listening to Fuwa Fuwa Time on headphones, but that’s not to say it didn’t happen. If you tell your fans that what they are doing is disgusting, then you will merely offend them. It’s better to try and be understanding.


Nay, Mio does not push her fan away, but rather embraces her love and even gets Houkago Tea Time to perform a live song just for her. And the fandom continues~

Damn she’s good.

Otaku can be some of the most brilliant people you ever meet. Top of their class, leaders in their field, or just generally intellectual motherfuckers — who will turn to complete goo at the site of their idols.

Fans must know that they are cared for. In part, this is so that they won’t become enraged and do something stupid, but mostly it’s so that they don’t become enraged and stop spending money. Where there is a fandom, there is a market. A comic market. And a wide fandom often leads to a convention, wherein they will meet each-other as well as possibly get to interact with the idols they hold so dear, so that those idols can show not only their appreciation for your love, but their appreciation for your sales. The Mio fan club tea party is an obvious parody of these sort of conventions (well, moreso ‘events’). Once again, in it’s light and fluffiness, K-On!! avoids a maniacal money-grabbing scheme being made out of Mio’s fans (lampshaded by Azu-nyan making sure that Ritsu doesn’t intend to charge anything), but it’s obvious that they are making a joke about otaku merchandising.

I lol’d every time at that godawful picture

We all know what ‘Mio-chan tissue’ is going to be used for, amiright?

We all know what ‘Mio-chan chocolate’ is going to be used for, amiright?

So you can imagine she’s giving you a relaxing back-scratch. After your bath together.

Yes. Otaku would.

KyoAni gets the fan attitude down pat, especially for Japanese otaku, always ultra-polite and ultra-attentive to their idol’s every word and ready to be at their beck and call, taking every compliment like their life’s greatest experience (which I’m sure it will be remembered as for years to come if their devotion is true.) See: when the first-year fangirls are thanked for getting the keionbu some food (inc. curry bread, which they know Mio likes from the previous ordeal of having the sticker in her hair. The fans did not tell her about it for exactly the reason that you wouldn’t expect them to.)

This is so going on their blogs later.

Because Mio is the fanclub’s Absolute Goddess, she can do no wrong whatsoever – after all, her being herself is exactly why they are all obsessed, so anything in the range of her character is exactly what they want. See: when Mio is giving her opening speech and keeps biting her tongue.

Translator’s Note: cute means moe

It’s only natural that the fans are going to wear Mio out, especially her first time dealing with them…

Who in the hell thought that one up? Nevermind, Yui, obv.

…but remember, your fans love you. They will always offer encouragement.

Sometimes, the things that your fans want to know will scare the fuck out of you. Mio hasn’t been trained how to politely or cutely turn down a question (It’s a secret~~!) so she merely must hold out.

WOAH DANGEROUS, hilariously averted in that she cleans the bath itself first.

‘-and what about chocolate coronets?’

Indeed she must stay strong. And it’s not all bad – maybe you can have some fun or even be truly touched in the midst of it all.

Of course, some of your eccentricities might go over the heads of even your diehard fans, as happens when Mio reads them a really, really terrible poem that she wrote for the occassion.

But of course, they are easily recaptured.

I love how the fans dutifully clap through the entire song. For some reason, most US crowds only clap about as long as the band members direct them to do so. From what I’ve seen in concert videos, Japanese crowds are infinitely more energetic, often not needing a cue to clap or even managing to mass-coordinate their movements to the rhythm of the song. I would love to be in such a great crowd.

The important thing thing to remember about fans is that they love you. Their love can be intrusive sometimes, but it is still love, and Mio manages to appreciate that love without even having to think about it. Your fans only want you to be happy and want to appreciate everything you do – would you deny them that love? You’ll break their hearts (and, if Perfect Blue is any indication, you may cause them to create a fantasy world in their head wherein you still love them back and the real you is a fake who they must assassinate.) If you show your fans a little love, it’s good for everyone – your fans are happy, and you keep making money. Idolship is a trade-off – a little bit of your privacy is something that you have to be willing to give in order to receive your fans’ love (and profits).

Maybe it’s just because they are going off of the manga, but I almost felt as though KyoAni walked on eggshells through this episode. If they had leaned too hard on the side of ‘idols need their privacy’ or ‘otaku are creepy’, then they could offended some of their own audience, who are nearly all members of a much broader and more rabid Mio fan club. But I don’t want to believe that KyoAni avoided this conflict because they were afraid – I want to believe that it was out of respect for the industry. A respect for the symbiotic relationship between fan and idol, wherein neither side is considered just or unjust but only the equal parts of the whole that is fandom. I think that few studios have experienced both the positive effects of pleasing their fans and the negative effects of failing to do so more than KyoAni.

Or I’m reading too deep into it. But this is fun too.

21 thoughts on “Suddenly, A Truckload of Self-Insert Characters (And the Idol-Fan Relationship) – K-On!! Episode 7

  1. Cannot get image out of head. Thanks. orz

    I think Mio is a naturally kind person, can’t help but be that way, and this episode shows it. Whether KyoAni used that idea purposely for her behavior here or not is debatable, and it’s interesting to think about. But I don’t think we’ll get an answer.

    • Neither do I, sadly, and it is precisely because Mio is already a nice character and K-On!! a light and fluffy show that it doesn’t completely feel deliberate, yet when I see the little things like the crowd loving watching Mio bite her tongue, cheering her on, and asking her to sign her autograph as ‘Mio-tan’, I can’t help but think ‘good ol’ KyoAni knows us well.’

  2. This is probably my most favorite post here. I wish I’d actually watched the episode beforehand though- that bit from the Q&A session would’ve knocked me flat on my ass. I’m perfectly happy with the kinder, gentler portrayal of fandom too- it’s the insistence on depicting the industry grind aspects of idolhood that prevents me from fully enjoying idol shows.

    Also, I could do without the Perfect Blue reference. I can’t help but envision a Miomanic now. -_- They never did resolve who the second stalker was…

    • Thanks! I’m glad you enjoyed the post! I agree a lot, I tend to groan when I see the stories about stars being angsty over losing their privacy because this is a business – when you enter the idol or celebrity business, you are involving yourself in an industry where having no privacy is part of your JOB. This is, incidentally, actually what I like about Perfect Blue because rather than portray the lead as a tragic heroin, it was actually pretty ruthless towards her and was quite clear that her unhappiness was due to her own dishonesty.

  3. “K-On!!, being a very soft comedy, was not exactly going to show the student council president lying in bed with headphones on and her pants down, listening to Fuwa Fuwa Time while screaming Mio’s name and rubbing her crotch with her right hand while massaging her breast with her left (try and beat that image out of your head)”

    And why would I want to get that image out of my head. In fact I think I would embellish on the image but…well we all know where that train of thought leads.

    I think it was interesting that this was sort of that otaku fandom in a bubble. The setting of high school, where one might assume the fandom would be somewhat less-involved than the actual die hard otaku, allows KyoAni to project their perfect image of relationship. I think the setting of the high school and the style of the series allows KyoAni to walk so carefully on those eggshells.

    Maybe this is them trying to apologize some for endless eight, which Kadokawa clearly did not show this same kind of respect as KyoAni in their marketing of that particular fiasco. That hypothesis is only half-joking.

    • Haha, it seems like there are a lot of things that people have asked ‘is this an apology for Endless Eight?’ about, and who knows – maybe it is. I know there was supposedly that one guy at KyoAni who said that he loved the Endless Eight story and wouldn’t mind doing a whole movie on it – which got backlash. I haven’t seen E8 yet, though I suspect I’ll be one of those weirdos who enjoys it :p

      Very nice point about the usage of the high school setting to crate a safe environment for the otaku analogy~

      Also, there needs to be a doujin about that fantasy, STAT.

  4. I watched this a day early just so I could read this post. And you did not disappoint! This post was hilarious! And insightful, too. I didn’t think about it at the time, but it really is remarkable that Kyoto Animation would write such a sensitive, warm piece about fandom. Maybe because their coffers are flush with money from Disappearance. :)

    Unrelated: I wonder why Sogabe-senpai was shown so wistfully next to the famous William S. Clark “Boys, Be Ambitious!” statue. He said that to his students on the day he left Japan for good, so maybe there’s a message there about goodbyes.

    We all know what ‘Mio-chan chocolate’ is going to be used for, amiright?

    We… do? Eating?

    • Muchos gracias

      Isn’t ‘Girls, be ambitious!’ one of the lines in Cagayake Girls!, the first K-On! op? Maybe they just really love the message~

      As for the chocolate, I was thinking more along the lines of melting and smearing.

  5. Really interesting. I never thought about this episode in terms of KyoAni’s representation of a respectable relationship between fans and idol. They’re a studio that produces many fan favorites, but at the same time the way they market things (especially Haruhi) provokes negative feelings from fans. So it’s interesting that in spite of all the negativity they receive, they decided to represent fans as decent, unobtrusive people in this episode.

    Does K-ON! take place in an all-girls school? I would imagine so since there should have been at least a few guys in Mio’s fan club XD

    • I’m pretty sure that the school is just pretending that men do not exist period. Other than exactly one male teacher, there have been no guys there… and outside of him, only 3 males have had speaking roles in the show, 2 of whom were young enough that they were played by girls lol. I think it’s just in the name of purity. I for one am thankful for it.

  6. “If you draw a cute anime character, you know that there are a bunch of people masturbating to it as you speak. If you are an idol singer, you know that someone, somewhere, is masturbating to you as you speak.”

    If you write a really awesome article about K-ON, you know that there a bunch of people…..

    Anyway, I enjoyed the article. Very insightful.

  7. Can’t help but feel like a terrible sinner for enjoying this episode. It’s the very essence of fandom and moe that our more critical Internet peers despise, yet I couldn’t resist the charm for a moment. Thumbs up to KyoAni for dispelling the far-too-typical creeper otaku image as well.

    As this season progresses, I can wait less and less for December when I can get the K-On 4-koma. Leave it to Yen Press to be champions.

    • I’m s little wary of the 4-koma myself… I wonder if it expresses these things as well as it’s adaption. I know that with the Hidamari Sketch manga, it was like, this is entertaining, but it could never have been one of my favorite series the way that the anime was. That said, I usually end up buying Yen Press 4-koma anyway, so I’ll probably end up with it somehow lol.

  8. Pingback: 2010 Anime Review | My Sword Is Unbelievably Dull

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