K-on was quite literally one of the first seasonal anime I watched. I remember spring of 2009 eagerly making a checklist of what was new that season. I started making friends both in the virtual world and in school that shared the same interest. While people were quick to pass on shows like Saki and the second season of Haruhi (if you know you know), K-on was a hit.
Week after week everyone took different things away from the slice of life show, though I can’t say it was near and dear to my heart. I liked Mugi but I wasn’t crazy about any of the girls in the show, nor did I identify as much as my friends did with any of the characters.
There was something about this show that brought everyone together, something I wouldn’t catch until my rewatch eleven years later.
K-on fills me with an inexplicable coziness. It’s something you don’t realize until it’s too late, when you’ve seen people come and go. You’ve moved on yourself- hopefully to a better place, away from the mundane school days and outings with friends you won’t realize are gone until years later.
There’s something about the progression of the show at a slow pace that hits different as an adult. Seeing Yui work her way up to buying the guitar she wants, the girls working part time jobs to get the money for it, and even haggling the price down just felt so real. It felt like I was there watching these girls go somewhere with their lives during their formative years. I wouldn’t consider myself a fan of slice of life shows in the past, so this was a newfound appreciation.
While Yui didn’t know how to play the guitar at all she soon learned how. Mio loosened up a bit as flustered as she was by her energetic childhood friend Ritsu’s teasing. Mugi was a rich out of touch girl who kept the snacks coming and even offered up her beach house for the girls to practice (read: vacation at) for an entire episode. Yui became a savant with the guitar at times playing things she just heard by ear perfectly. The gang went on adventures.
I saw glimpses of their school festival. Their Christmas party and the awkwardness of white elephant gifts. Their first performance where Yui’s voice was absolutely wrecked leaving Mio to step in and sing in front of the whole school, only to trip and fall in front of the audience at the very end (that made her moe as much as she initially rejected the term, even leading to a fan club forming around her). The events went as fast as I remember my own high school days going by all those years ago. Before I knew it their year was done with, and they were now second years in high school.
But you know what really, really hit home this time? Azusa Nanako.
An underclassman looking for a club to join, the now upperclassmen gang of our four girls are now the senpais trying to recruit new members. They’ve had the first performance, they’ve tried their best to attract fresh blood, and it didn’t quite garner the attention they wanted. Azusa walks into a room full of girls chatting and eating snacks only to be confused on where the band is. Azusa’s friends tease her and ask why she’d want to join them, the girls we previously spent so much time with. She doesn’t get why everyone jokes about her looking cute with cat ears on at first. She says she can play the guitar but her skills take a backseat to the club’s usual tomfoolery.
Azusa tags along on an outing only to feel initially disconnected until Mio connects with her. While Mio was in retrospect hazed into the club through teasing and working through her anxieties, she sees something in Mio that clicks.
There are brief glimpses of Mio’s discomfort throughout the show. She’s shy and anxious. She didn’t want to sing. She just wanted to play bass. She didn’t expect to become a hit at all. While it’s clear Yui is the focal point of the show, Mio comes in clutch as a relatable deuteragonist.
Along with her stage fright, she deals with being placed in a class without the other girls to which she stresses about. She sees Yui’s childhood friend Nodoka and clings to her, happy to see a familiar face instead of being lost in a sea of random students. Her anxiety is put at easy as the brief glimpses of class mesh into their afterschool activities, with Mio back with her group of friends once again.
But enough about Mio. Azusa quickly proves herself as a worthy rhythm guitarist for the band and integrates under the affectionate nickname Azu-nyan. The rest is history.
People come and go. Those familiar faces you saw every day in elementary school become less and less familiar as you choose who you befriend in middle and high school and hopefully find your own passion after that.
I never understood what some of my older friends meant when they mentioned having trouble meeting people. I was in college and surrounded by people, slowly branching out through mutual friends and common interests. They pleaded that it wouldn’t be the same in a few short years. They had jobs and saw the same people every day, but they didn’t connect. Meeting others was hard. You rarely just stumbled into people if you didn’t go out at all. Most of the local hobby groups were already tight-knit and sitting in the background while they enjoyed themselves wasn’t fun at all.
It wasn’t until seeing Azusa again where it all clicked in my brain. How hard it is to integrate in a new club when you know no one and everyone else is thick as thieves.
It was a brief moment of clarity that thrust me into the real world. The shift between the cozy days watching the girls go about their lives and the real life. A dissonance that only brought me closer to the show. With the realization that my high school days were long gone and the older I got, the less people I met. The less people I actually connected with. I saw the show in a completely different light. Much like the ending of the second season all good things come to an end, and we should be happy for the memories we made all those years ago and the people we bonded with now on different paths in life.
This one is for all the twenty-somethings that watch this show with a bittersweet taste never wanting their adventures to end. Nevertheless the girls of Houkago Tea Time still feel like friends, just immortalized in time.
P.S. – Seeing them perform Fuwa Fuwa Time again after all those years made me cry like a baby.