Apologies to Slice of Life, of Anime Suki, for stealing his bit. But we all know what the Simpsons has to say about stealing somebody's bit, so I hope Slice of Life won't hold it against me. :D
Anyway, I have a confession to make.
A rather big one.
Even though I've made a fair number of comments on it, and frequently criticized its art style... I never watched K-On. I spoke of it simply based on a couple short YouTube clips I had seen of it, as well as from what basic second-hand knowledge I had of it.
The show concept just did nothing for me. A show of nothing but female characters, the main ones of which making a rock band, in this art style, and... its not Strawberry Panic-esque, so it probably has no romance or 'hotness' to speak of... yeah, I wasn't seeing the appeal. I especially wasn't seeing the appeal for a male viewer, and frankly, I still don't... well, with one possible exception that I'll get to in a bit. It's a rather neet exception, shall we say. ;)
However, now that I've started a blog on anime, I almost felt that it was my duty as an anime blogger to watch and evaluate one of the best selling animes of all-time. So, yesterday, I sat through and watched seven episodes of K-On.
It's... watchable, at least in quasi-marathon way. I imagine that the plot seems rather plodding to somebody who wants to hear the band actually play, and who waited from week to week to watch each new episode. Nonetheless, these are my general impressions...
Episodes 1 and 2 - Solid start. Good plot. Some of the jokes are lame (especially the slapstick comedy), but I did like the way the story brought the key characters together. It didn't feel forced at all to me. Instead, it felt very natural.
Episode 3 - Pretty boring. It had a couple funny moments, but I would have liked to had seen a bit more emphasis on the band, instead of focusing almost exclusively on studying for and taking tests or make-up exams.
Episodes 4 through 6 - Very nice conclusion of what, to me, felt like a 6-episode opening arc. Taken together, these three episodes flowed very nicely... though I imagine 4 and 5 might have left some viewers impatient if they had to wait a week or two for the obvious conclusion of the build-up to be realized. Knowing that I'd only have to wait a short period of time to see the realization of the build-up enabled me to enjoy episodes 4 and 5 with less unrealized anticipation than what I may otherwise have had. Episode 6 was sincerely cute and fun.
Episode 7 - Genuinely nice heartwarming Christmas special. I very much like the relationship dynamic between Yui and her sister.
K-On has about a 1:1 ratio of good jokes to lame jokes for me... and I can live with that. I won't rave about it, but I won't rip it apart either. Rarely got more than a chuckle out of me, though; paling in comparison to what even the latest episode of Haruhi managed to do for me.
K-On isn't what I would call bad, necessarily - it just fails to stand out much to me. It's like a serviceable NHL defensemen: Plays his 20 minutes, does Ok, does his job, clears the corners about half the time, makes a couple decent outlet passes from time to time but certainly can't quarterback a power-play, maybe gets five goals a season, but all told - he's not a weakness; he's just not a stand-out strength either.
So why does he have the top salary amongst all NHL defensemen?
In K-On's case, why does it sell so well?
Well, that brings us back to the title of this blog entry: Moe is Neet!
Moe is a bartender serving up cuteness.
And the Neet? Well, Yui is the neet. Yui, in one of the first lines in the first episodes, is even warned that she may become a neet, instantly causing the neet viewer to identify with her. Over on Anime Suki, I argued that I didn't see where the male touch-point (i.e. the character that you identify with and live vicariously through) for this anime is. Well, now I can see a male touch-point of some sort at least...
Yui is terrible at school, has a hard time concentrating on her work, does virtually nothing in her spare time (going by her own words)... but she's an affable, harmless character for the most part with an obsession over cute things. Replace Yui's obsession with cute things with an obsession over alcohol, and you get a pretty good description of this guy...
And if you replace this guy's obsession over alcohol with an obsession over cuteness, you basically get the modern NEET. I remember reading an editorial once talking about how Japan has recently endured a large growth in its NEET population. Britain is going through the same situation from what I've read... so could many other countries.
NEET, for those who don't know, is a person "Not in Employment, Education, or Training". Basically, a NEET is somebody currently outside 'the system', who probably has loads of free time and who is presumably (if they're not poor and destitute) making due on income from parents and/or government assistance. The more well-to-do NEETs have loads of time to kill, and some disposable income to burn, and hence can feast upon entertainment for hours upon hours upon hours each day. As with any viewer, they like to see somebody they can relate to. And here we have Yui of K-On - the NEET icon for any NEET, male and female alike.
So, our good bartender Moe serves up beverages of intoxicating cuteness to our NEET friend Yui Barney. Yes... K-On's success is all starting to make sense now, isn't it? ;)
Ah, but there's an added twist! One of Yui's friends and band-mates is a drummer named Ritsu. Ritsu's a fun little character - basically a poor man's Haruhi Suzumiya with out the reality altering powers or cosmological intrigue.
And who is Yui must like of all of her friends? Why, who else but Ritsu!
Particularly when on the beach, Yui and Ritsu are almost just alike one another. So, you see, neet KyoAni fans of Haruhi, now you; yes, you! - can become "Haruhi's" best friend - through experiencing life through the eyes of Yui as you play around on the beach with Ritsu Suzumiya.
And then, to complete this bold process of capturing the NEET market, KyoAni gives us this...
Do you see the bold full circle now, my friends? Do you see KyoAni's master plan in all its glory? You identify with Yui while you play with Haruhi-esque Ritsu and watch Yui become increasingly like her... and then the actual Haruhi is made to look like Yui! Now, the hope is that the NEET fanbase will all identify with Haruhi directly; classic bait-and-switch, with Ritsu acting as an important bridge point! I guess that KyoAni didn't feel that Kyon was up to the job of being the fan's touch-point. Perhaps he's simply not cute enough for the job anymore, especially with all that brow-furrowing that he does.
After all, we may be entering into a new age in anime - the Age of the Moeblob. But... that's a topic for another day.
All told, I now see why some male fans would hold a particular interest in K-On. I see how Yui is the touch-point for neets everywhere; she's not just cute, Barney, she's just like you as well! ;)
I'll leave off by saying that I don't hold much against NEETs, and that this post is made in good fun. In this world economy, especially, it's understandable to be a NEET, and I myself have been a NEET in the past, most recently after leaving my job of two years to further my education. There was a significant interim period between the two (my last day on the job and the start of my education) where I was a NEET.
However, it's interesting to seriously conceive of NEETs as a very powerful consuming target demographic. What will that mean for future animes, I wonder? Will we have more Yuis, and fewer hardworking diggers like Simon of TTGL?
I guess only time will tell.
Thanks for reading, and I look forward to any and all replies. Meanwhile, MOE's Bar is just down the corner, currently being ran by KyoAni and Kadokawa, and Moe is serving the cutest beer you've ever seen. I've sure you'll find plenty of neat Barney's there... ;)
- Newfoundland, Canada
- I've been a big anime fan for about 10 years or so now. My five all-time favorite animes at this point are, in no particular order... Puella Magi Madoka Magica, El Hazard: The Magnificent World, Love Live!: School Idol Project, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, and Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha. However, there are hundreds of anime shows that I like. The main purpose of this blog is to provide meta-commentary on anime, and the anime industry - to try to cast a critical, though appreciating, eye upon this entertainment genre that I believe has tremendous potential, but can also be easily wasted. I have always been a fan of animation in general - in the 80s, I grew up on western cartoons like He-Man, She-Ra, Transformers, and G.I. Joe. Through out the 90s, I was a hardcore comic book fan, for the most part. I'm also a big fan of Star Trek. Right now in my life, though, anime is my principal entertainment passion.