Besides being the best anime of 2010, K-On!! is the most well-written and acted anime of all time, and is littered with countless moments of dialog that outclass almost anything else on TV. </hyperbole>
Such a strange relationship I had with this show over the course of 2010. Back when it came out (S1), I quickly found that I didn’t care for it as much as I expected to, and because I don’t like to watch shows with too much hype around them, I put off the series. I finished the first season in May and still felt strangely held at arm’s length by it. Our relationship was a lot like the one I had with Bakemonogatari, where feeling my expectations were betrayed left me disenchanted with the series, yet I liked it more as I continued, and eventually came to adore it.
I first realized that K-On!! was becoming something greater than I could’ve imagined in the 4th episode when the writing quality seemed to spike and the brilliance of “lycopene” and “skull” was introduced to the world. From that point forward, I was enjoying things a lot more and better understood how people could love the series, but I fell from watching it weekly after episode 9 and didn’t get back to the series until months and a million rave reviews later.
From episode 10 onward, things changed entirely. After watching 10-14, I came to lolikitsune, a big fan of the series, and told him that it felt strange how I cared about it so much more now. I wondered if I’d become “ready” for it in the way that ghostlightning always talks about. LK told me that “the series simply becomes a different beast from episode 10 forward.”
Indeed it did, and oh my, how it did. The dialog in this series dazzled me again and again. The performances of Toyosaki Aki (Yui) and Satou Satomi (Ritsu) are definitely my alltime favorite seiyuu roles, and the chemistry between all of the actors and characters is unbelievable. I daresay I’ve never seen interaction this mesmerizing before. Sorry Kure-nai, Hidamari Sketch, Bakemonogatari… K-On blows everything out of the water.
That all said, I was having trouble trying to think of a moment to choose. The joy in watching K-On is from the whole experience more than individual scenes. If you asked me why K-On was one of my favorite anime (which it most assuredly is), I’d answer that watching these 5+ girls interact was more entertaining to me than watching giant robots do battle or dramatic moments unfold.
In episode 20, the show finally provided a summation of everything I loved about it.
K-On!! Episode 20 – Lycopene
I’m certainly not the first person to be blown away by episode 20, the most emotional and spellbinding episode of the series. The concert from that episode was the epitome of Houkago Tea Time as characters, and dragged almost all of the supporting cast in on the action with moment after moment of smiles while I thought “that’s so them.” I felt like I was standing in that audience—myself among the many friends and acquaintances who’d been with the band all along—and I think the reactions of the audience were a perfect reflection of my own.
It’s after the concert, however, that the spectacularly emotional scene takes place and the tears get to flowing. (I watched K-On!! with my 13-yo brother and that scene left him in tears.) There was a particular line of dialog in that scene which floored me:
Mugi and Mio have already burst into tears; Azu-nyan and Yui aren’t far behind. Ritsu has tears starting to form in her eyes, and she turns to the sobbing Mio and says:
To which Mio can’t help but laugh, and points out that Ritsu has started crying as well.
The “lycopene” joke was my favorite running gag in the series. It was an inside joke born among the girls at complete and utter random in episode 4 and provided Unlimited Laugh Works. It was such a great part of that episode that it instantly carried over into the anime blogosphere and became an inside joke there, leading to some really hilarious GRSI conversations.
The way Ritsu brings it up in that scene was perfect. It’s exactly why I love the dialog so much—K-On is never overtly dramatic, or at least not unrealistically dramatic. Normal life never halts for drama. The girls always bring their personalities into the situations, which play out the way I imagine them playing out amongst my own best friends.
There are plenty of powerful scenes in K-On where characters are touched by something like a performance, and I buy into their emotion completely because I, too, am touched. When the characters burst into tears, I burst into tears; not for the same reasons I do in other Kyoto Animation shows, where the brilliant directing, music, and dramatic timing manipulate me into feeling emotional towards characters I don’t honestly care about. I cry in K-On because I feel the same way the girls do.
I totally knew that my baby brother was going to cry during that scene. Every time the girls realized that their time together was short, he would have this look of ultimate sadness on his face. He kept saying things like “they can’t just break up!” and “but Azu-nyan is going to be all alone!!” When the series was over, he had that mix of happiness and sadness that the show was over. He said he wanted to know what happens to the girls in college and what happens to Azu-nyan and how the band will continue on. And I, too, wanted to know all of those things.
Bonus: GL already had this in his post, but I need to highlight it as well. I actually teared up the most during this scene, and for the first time ever was happy for translated lyrics on-screen, because the song was fucking beautiful at that moment.