This is a common statement during the first season of K-ON!, also used in the second (but not so many times).
K-ON! is not a show about music, but a show about the girls who play it, finding their place through it and cementing their friendship with their instruments, sometimes, as an activity to hang out, more than as the real purpose of those tools, play music.
Since this happens, and the main activity of the K-ON club is taken as secondary, as a means to an end without a real meaning other than an excuse, a lot of people may take as a fact that those songs aren’t relevant, but I would like to differ. The show doesn’t talk directly about music, okay, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t touch that topic in other ways.
And one of those ways, I would like to think at least, is a creative struggle.
You don’t have to be a professional to be a creative person, you just need to do something, the creation of that thing is the basic, then, after hat, comes the type of creative you are.
What do you do? How? Where? How much? Why?
All these things, that usually aren’t that simple to respond to any real person, are important topics that are addressed in the series. And each of the girls gives us a response to this that tell us a lot about them, and what their struggle in their lives and their creativity is.
If you haven’t done anything in your life, creative I mean, it’s simple (and sadly, very usual) to think that it’s a natural give or devotion for people who do it. People who aren’t accustomed to the processes or something think that it’s something that you have or not and that if you can, you put yourself and that’s it. If you draw, you will
If you draw, you will learn how the process has a lot of complex steps, sketch, anatomy, proportion, references…. not everyone is familiarized with all these elements of the art, yet, everyone has drawn in their lives, has the ability to draw, and can learn and develop this skill.
K-ON opens with Yui, the one in the club who doesn’t know how to play a complex instrument. And I say complex because she knows to play something. We see a gag about a high schooler who thinks that castanets are an appropriate instrument in a band, but I think that it relates to the same thing as drawing: a basis. This is not the first time Yui has a contact with music. The same way a person who wants to learn to draw has drawn, at least, when was a little kid, Yui has played an instrument as a little girl, and even if simple, she recognizes the experience, which leads her to the group, where she will encounter her new friends. And more important here (since is what I’m addressing), her new focus.
This contrasts strongly with the other group members, not so much with Ritsu and Mio, who are “amateurs”, but with Tsumugi and Azusa, which have been playing for a long time. And the differences on Mugi’s and Azunyan’s approach to the band will make this contrast stronger on one character towards Yui (guess who).
On the club.
Yes, this was a little obvious, but, it’s important. In the second season, it’s precisely addressed, in the episode where the girls can’t access the club room because the building needs to be repaired.
The club it’s, at the moment of the series, their point of reunion to play. Both musically, and play, in general. It presents a safe place that perfectly encapsulates everything they need and want. The moment the club is gone, a lot of difficulties to things “like always” are presented. They can still reunite, but they need to decide if they are going to practice, to hang out to drink tea and eat…
If you ended high school a time ago already, you probably noticed how people you know distantiate, everyone goes their own way and everyone has their own things, so it’s complicated to replicate what existed before, and, the same way with the club room being repaired, there are always difficulties one way or another.
These girls can still play music, but the special thing about their music it’s the feeling that it contains about their friendship in the club, so the fact that they drink tea, play, and hang out IN the club, gives shape to the music in a unique way.
How? How Much?
When you have a creative passion for something, you have to practice, but sometimes it can be difficult to know how much is a good amount. Maybe you need more, or maybe you are overworking and need less. Yui is a good example of this, as at the start of the series needs to practice more than anyone, and at the end of the first season has broken his voice from overworking.
When talking about the necessity of practicing, Azusa is the first one who comes to my mind in K-ON. As stated before, she has been playing for a long time, and she also takes this seriously, as her passion for the guitar guides her towards a band. So, the experienced Azusa, who is serious about her passion, clashes with a lot with the rest of the band, where everyone takes it differently.
The biggest contrast comes with Yui, who is the less experienced and loves to fool around. Yui is not a proper “Senpai”, she isn’t serious and gives the complete opposite vibe of someone who is hard working. So, it’s natural that she is the apparent laziest member of the group, where, ironically, she is probably the one who practices the most by herself, and has an uncanny musical talent.
In real life, you only know about people what you see on them when you interact, whether, in shows like K-ON, we empathize more with characters like Yui, because we see the real struggle, and how she continues to work after the club activities are done. Azusa will need to spend his time around her senpai to notice this, so, as she gets to notice all these things, a lot of respect and appreciation for Yui will appear.
Yui also can be opposed to Mugi, where Mugi, opposing Yui, has been playing piano since she was an infant, so she has much experience, and practice is something more trivial to Mugi brings the sweets and the tea. And not only because she is rich and can afford it, but more because she isn’t in the club to practice, which she has done all her life, but rather to spend time with her friends (and if she can do some piano in the way, that’s a good extra).
Mio and Ritsu make a pair in this discussion, since they are very similar, but at the same time, opposed. They are both the middle term, but Mio is someone who would be inclined to practice more and be more serious, she is the kind of girl who would practice until sick if she were really too serious, but instead, she keeps her bass playing in a healthy balance thanks to Ritsu’s and the club silliness and distended atmosphere.
On the other hand, Ritsu is someone who would easily give up, or get distracted, but thanks to Mio and the responsibilities that she has to the club as president, she ends up a little more responsible and focused. She wanted to shine like no one else, but ended playing the support role for the sake of the group.
They are a duo who nurture each other on what the other lacks, and we even see this directly pointed towards the end of season 2, where they play Romeo and Juliet, with the suited roles for each other reversed, and it’s learning from the other what will help them to do a goo performance.
This is probably the key question, as the girl’s motivations and drive come to this, and all the other questions come to this.
Why do they do this? Well, like Yui said:
Then, is the music important?
The music and its elements say a lot about this girls. I think this show will resonate more with people who do creative things (it resonated more with me because of that), as all these elements are important in any field, not just music. Yes, the main focus are the girl’s relationships, and that’s what makes the show so universal, but I think that relieving the music to a background place like something not important as a lot of people states, it’s unfair.
In the end, maybe the music is not the focus of the series, we all knew that, but as an element that is more than an excuse or something replaceable serves as a tool for all these people to grow up and develop together.
Also, I’ve been talking about the main five girls, but music also connects to all the other character and situations. Sawako sensei gets to know and become part of the girl’s group by contrast of their music, the song U&I is the peak of the development of the relation between the two sisters (something that seemed something simple, but gets its own evolution), the background characters get to know and appreciate the club members thanks to the concerts (Mio even has her own fan club! And Nodoka is involved in it!), Nodoka grows as part of the student council by her contact with the club (helping them with their mistakes)… So many things!
Music isn’t the star of the show, but it’s the glue that ties all its relationships and development of the series and its characters.