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lunedì 11 aprile 2016

K-On! – A touching story of sickness, friendship and music

by Cloud


Yui is a little girl like many others. She’s 14 and about to start high school. She doesn’t have many friends; in fact, the only one she’s quite confident with is the serious and studious Nodoka.
If you think things are quite normal for now, well, things change if I tell you that little Yui is affected by a serious intellectual disability, which makes her a lot more childish than her age, lazy to the extreme, always with her head in the clouds and unable to get good results in any field, so that her responsible little sister Ui, a year younger, has to take care of her and do all of the housework.

Yui’s life suddenly changes when, almost by chance, she finds herself to join her school’s pop/rock music club. There she makes friends with three girls, apparently very different from one another, but equal in being kind-hearted and gentle. We’ll meet the mature and a bit timid bassist Mio, the quiet and noble-looking keyboardist Mugi, and the lively and a bit impetuous drummer Ritsu. In the beginning, Yui doesn’t know how to play guitar, as it’s easy to guess, and doesn’t even own one, but her club mates don’t let this discourage them: they help her get the money she needs to buy the guitar she likes (a beautiful Cherry Sunburst Gibson Les Paul), and assist her both in learning how to master the instrument, and in other situations, like studying for a test.

Despite it requiring commitment, Yui kind of easily learns how to play guitar, thanks to a natural inclination that she would never have discovered if she hadn’t had such gentle friends, who gave her a chance despite her condition. With the series going on, she will understand more and more that she has found, with music, her true vocation, and also a way of expressing herself: when she plays with her friends, Yui forgets about being just a poor dim-witted child, and unleashes her energy, transforming her emotions into music.

The band will work to the point that the four girls, that will become five when the younger but not less skilled guitarist Azusa will join them during the second year, will commit themselves to the goal of playing, before high school ends, at Budokan, the prestigious concert hall in Tokyo. Will the girls reach their dream? Who knows, what’s sure is that it’s gonna be a memorable ride.


But hey, life is not just made up of rehearsal: we’ll very often also see their relaxing moments, in which the young musicians drink some tea together and eat biscuits happily chit-chatting, take a walk around the city, or have some fun at the beach. What many K-On! detractors criticize about the show is exactly that, in their opinion, the “relaxation” scenes are too much, and the ones in which they play too few; but when they say this they prove to have not really understood the show and what it wants to say: the club girls are not just “fellow workers” for Yui, but also sincere friends ready to share moments of fun and joy with her, without discriminating her for her condition. Rather than just showing us endless rehearsal sessions, the series chooses to show us these sweet and light moments, which result even more touching being seen by Yui’s “childish” eyes, that add even to small things, as time spent with friends can be, a veil of magic and wonder. These moments will be so important to them that they’ll give name to the band: “Houkago Tea Time”, meaning “After school tea time”.

So, we don’t have to criticize the fact that they “rehearse too little” (as if sport/fighting anime showed us ALL of the training that characters do or other dead moments… a certain Hitchcock said: “Drama is life with the dull bits cut out”, and it’s up to the authors to choose what they consider “dull” or not, depending on what they want to express), but to feel like children again and experience wonder and happiness for the little beautiful things that happen to us everyday. Only by doing this we’ll be able to empathize with the sweetness of the time the five girls spend together, unconcerned by their differences, and deeply understand what this anime wants to tell us. And since we’re talking about happy moments, I say goodbye to you with “Fuwa Fuwa Time”, one of the first songs that the girls play together, whose title means “Fluffy time”, and which maybe perfectly expresses the whole anime’s atmosphere. Silly lyrics, simple but catchy melody, middle way between rock and jpop, and, in short, a song which makes you feel damn happy. 

So, greetings to all of you, Timber fans, I hope I helped you find out, or reconsider, a small gem of Japanese animation! This was only about the first season, there would be a lot more to say about the second one and the movie, but maybe I’ll keep it for a future article. This was also my first English piece, which I translated after the original one was quite successful, but from now on they’re gonna be more and more, so even if you don’t speak Italian, stay tuned!

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