Some Axes to Grind with K-ON!


I would sleep with my Les Paul too if I had one. I was primarily intrigued by Otou-san‘s apprehensions about the show, noted here [->] and here [->]. The gist being him being a serious music connossiur and multi-instrument in his own right, he’d have problems getting past the perhaps unrealistic and perhaps not-up-to-snuff quality of music, musicianship, and its depiction in K-ON! Now I don’t think Otou-san is hating at all. It’s more like his own experience as a musician has created a stronger resistance to suspend his disbelief over what goes on in the show.

After all, to have a Gibson Les Paul Custom for your first guitar while you’ve never strummed a single string prior is high fantasy. While Otou-san I think owns one himself having bought it as an adult, I’ve never been able to buy one. By now I’ve no more pretensions of being a guitar player (it’s been 13 years since I was in a band), the Gibson Les Paul that Yui bought through divine intervention [->] is still a dream of mine to own.

To repeat the obvious: K-ON! isn’t a realistic depiction of musicians. Musicianship is a device that the show uses to depict moe. That’s it. Anything else is a bonus. As a moe delivery module it works quite well. Aside from the intrinsic appeal of the character design [->], the characters have moments of devastating cuteness [->] [->] [->].

But if you’re looking for a more down-to-earth depiction of musicianship, the underground punk scene, and the life and times of a Japanese rock band then I recommend Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad. I love the manga, the anime, the OSTs, and the tribute albums. I love the clumsy lyrics, the engrish, the clumsy MC-ing, the Beatles cover, everything about it. 

Beck however, is not a moe show. It does have a devastatingly gorgeous tsundere in Minami Maho:


People who watch K-ON! for the moe may find little to appreciate in Beck, but I daresay any fan of underdogs trying to make it will have a blast watching this show if they can get past the somewhat unorthodox character design and how Beck the dog looks himself (and the engrish; I underestimate how off-putting this is for people not me – since I rather enjoy it).

I don’t have electric guitars anymore. I did however fanboyed in my own way. Check out my sneakers:


Koyuki’s Squier Telecaster [->], I don’t think he was able to afford a real Fender one. Koyuki played rhythm guitar and vocals for Beck (the band’s name), and the guitar fit his image just fine – very workmanlike and unassuming.


Ryuusuke’s “Lucille” Les Paul Custom. It’s very similar to the guitar Yui bought in K-ON!, only that in the Beck narrative, the “Lucille” was owned by a legendary blues guitar player and who was shot dead while playing it. This is very loosely based on B. B. King’s guitar [->].

I didn’t paint those myself. Some guy here in Manila does custom paint jobs for shoes and t-shirts.

Ever since I saw Slash from Guns N’ Roses play with the sunburst Les Paul Custom when I was 13, I knew I wanted one. Next year, 20 years later I just might get one. I can dream right? Maybe there’s a Mugi-chan out there to buy it for me.

Useful Links

Ascaloth prepared an excellent guide to the musical instruments in K-ON! [->] It’s really worth checking out.

My favorite Beck fansite is this one [->] (it’s got almost everything you need).

About ghostlightning

I entered the anime blogging sphere as a lurker around Spring 2008. We Remember Love is my first anime blog. Click here if this is your first time to visit WRL.
This entry was posted in comparative, fanboy, K-ON!!! and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

41 Responses to Some Axes to Grind with K-ON!

  1. animekritik says:

    well, i figure it’s like Taco Bell. If you go in expecting real Mexican food, you’re going to be very, very disappointed. But if you think a little and say “Hey, this ain’t even trying to be real Mexican”, then you’ll enjoy it for its own qualities (I love the Mexican pizza!!)

  2. Anonymous says:

    I thought one of the best parts of episode two was when Yui decided to pick a guitar she could actually afford. I would totally love it for Yui to suddenly lose interest in the instrument- that would be realistic (I know a few teenagers who have done this, but then it wouldn’t make for an actual show).

    • ghostlightning says:

      Yeah and when she loses interest she sells it to me at a quarter of the price. I am now a proud owner of a 2D guitar!

  3. lelangir says:

    Those are the most pimping shoes EVARRRRRRRRR

  4. lelangir says:

    And of course everyone needs to recognize the obvious distinction between music as subject and music as vehicle. Beck had everything to do with music. K-ON makes a joke out of it in the service of…fanservice.

    • ghostlightning says:

      And discerning readers as yourself would distinguish a blogpost that actually sets out to make a distinction and one that’s just a vehicle to show off the blogger’s shoes ^_~

    • TheBigN says:

      I guess I noticed that unconsciously, which I why I don’t have a problem with K-On! not going hardcore forming a band, practicing and stuff, especially since the source material doesn’t focus on that stuff either. That, and I hope that they might get to that somehow in the future. Are people selling it as a show about music though? I didn’t get that, but I felt like that’s what many people had assumed it would be at the start.

      I love it when music comes together though, so I’m hoping for it to be the case here in K-On at least once. I really enjoyed Nodame Cantabile for that, though I think I would still be fine with the show even if it was more the zany adventures of Nodame, Chiaki and co than the focus on classical music. I don’t know. 😛

      • ghostlightning says:

        It never even occur to me to compare it to Nodame Cantabile as I hardly compared Beck to it myself.

        NC’s involvement in/of music is just whole levels more intense and broader than most shows. I don’t think it would work at all if it were more of a romantic comedy with domestic violence than it is as the life and times of talented musicians.

  5. tj han says:

    My girlfriend really hated Beck and likes K-ON, even though I told her nobody hates Beck!

  6. foomafoo says:

    I think it’s Yui’s fault why there are some Beck protesters in /a/. Seriously, of all quitars, why les paul…

    • ghostlightning says:

      Well, it’s an awesome axe! Completely unrealistic to be sure; it’d be more likely that she buy a second hand one. These guitars are the first axes that more advanced players started with before they bought something more expensive after they figured out that they’d be more serious with playing.

  7. coburn says:

    Perchance the attaining of an expensive guitar symbolises the Japanese dojiko’s inherent economic advantages? Yui reaps the advantages of Japanese citizenship, slice-of-lifing her way through her lighthearted youth, surrounded by mad privilege. A theme which is set up against the peculiar idea of ‘light music’ bands receiving excellent equipment?

    I too like your shoes.

    • ghostlightning says:

      Put in those terms, fantasy anime is fantansy-filled to the brim. It’d be interesting if it throws a big wrench in things by getting gut-wrenchingly dramatic along the way, Grave of the Fireflies level awfulness.

      Chuck Taylors are just begging to be customized, ‘itasha’ style.

  8. Martin says:

    After watching Beck (I’m waiting for the last couple of DVDs to be released over here so I can finish it), recognising the gear depicted in Solanin and watching K-On for reasons other than the moe, I’ve decided a new subset of fandom is needed: the ‘guitaku’. 😛

    Yeah, it’s pretty unrealistic; I’d love to be around when anyone can haggle the price of a Les Paul down like that. Years of scrimping and saving have still meant I’ve had to make do with the next best thing: an SG I found in the January sales and a second-hand 1980 Ibanez (which is pretty similar to an LP, I must admit. Will post some pics at some point).

    If you’re starting out I’d recommend a Yamaha. Squiers have crappy circuitry (I’ve gutted and completely rewired my Affinity Strat!) but Yamahas are great-sounding pieces of kit that you can afford on a student budget. ^_^

    Great shoes BTW. I’ve never been a fan of Teles though – I’ve wanted a Jazzmaster ever since I found Kevin Shields and Mono’s “Taka” Goto played them…there’s something about the mellow sound and their ‘uncool’ image that I love.

    • ghostlightning says:

      The SG is awesome – I’ve daydreamed as Robby Krieger too every now and then. Because of him I can’t seem to imagine a distorted sound coming from and SG even though it very much looks like the axe of Satan himself.

      I’ll be one of your ‘guitaku’ as well, even if I’m a n00b. As a poor high school and college kid I could never afford original guitars. I may still buy an LP or an original Srat, just because I can next year if all my plans go well.

      I don’t get to see Jazzmasters a lot, but I distinctly remember the one that Ryodo played with and Koyuki dropped. It wasn’t the most pleasant chapters/episodes of Beck to witness but I suppose it’s quite unforgettable. Thanks for the heads up on the starter guitars. If I can afford to buy more than one I’ll definitely keep the Yamaha in mind.

      • otou-san says:

        One word: AC/DC. Thirty-some-odd years of massive sound from an SG.

        Anyway, you’re right: I wasn’t hating. So far K-ON is pretty enjoyable, if a bit light and fluffy. But really, the experience of going into a store and plopping down ASKING PRICE for a Les Paul Standard because you freaking earned it is a great experience, after 20 years of playing shitty guitars. at the risk of sounding like someone who bears my name, how are you gonna appreciate that guitar if it’s your first and only? You’d better goddam well be sleeping with it.

        • ghostlightning says:

          Oh shit I totally forgot about Angus Young and his ridiculous short pants.

          When you say, you ‘earned it’ do you mean earning the cash or the mythological right to play an awesome instrument by the virtue of your skills?

          I should be ashamed to own a LP if I can hardly play anything anymore knowing there are so many struggling players who are quite skilled. But I won’t be, since I’m pretty shameless and owning the guitar is more for nostalgia at this point rather than any aspiration to become a musician.

  9. otou-san says:

    I suppose when I say “earned it” I’m just being a dick, or as you put it, “the mythological right.”

    Because when you get down to it, anyone who has the money has a right to have the guitar. That’s capitalism. But I guess it means that you either worked for it, or built up a lot of skill, or just generally feel that the guitar is a significant enough part of your life to spend an equivalent amount of your income. I dunno… I’m a lot less romantic about the whole idea than I’m making myself sound. Ultimately, I’ll play a piece of shit that costs 50 bucks and I’ll love it because it’s the playing, and the music, that I love, not the toy.

    • ghostlightning says:

      I suppose that these thoughts aren’t ‘active’ ones. They’re triggered when we see kids playing with expensive toys I think, to have access to unearned privileges that make us feel that these people can’t possibly appreciate the toys (guitars, tennis racquets, etc) they’re using the same way we can… which draws us to conclusions that they’re wasted on them.

      So going back to your observations – specifically Mugi-chan’s keyboard… these are overkill for the purposes of these girls. Since K-ON! isn’t a music anime anyway, then why should the characters be using such top-of-the line instruments? What’s the big idea?

      As a contrast, Nodame Cantabile rarely talked about (if at all) the musical instruments the characters used (pianos, violins, etc.). I’m speculating here, but I imagine the staff of the manga/anime does have some fetishization of the instruments (he’s wanted them for herself/himself and the band he’s always wanted). Since the manga/anime isn’t supposed to be taken that kind of seriously, she might as well draw/depict the gear she really likes.

      • otou-san says:

        I can find nothing to say except a thousand times Yes on all points. I’ve not doubt that the fetishization comes from the creators, and why shouldn’t they? That’s one reason why it doesn’t cheese me off that terribly — these characters aren’t real people, I’ll never encounter them in the music store, and their instruments must indicate some form of love on the part of the creators.

  10. Pingback: So you say Yui is an EEJIT. « orz - I Will Show You Terror in a Handful of Flans

  11. gloval says:

    I figured it’s about time K-ON! has reached this blog. When I saw those avatars in AnimeSuki, this one character got me with those eyes and I was like, Kagami, is that you? (Well, sort of.) Being in a family that appreciates music and had musicians in it (though I myself am just a mere n00b), I figured I’d check this show out and see if I’d like it the way I’d liked Lucky Star.

    As for the instruments being overkill, you could think of it this way… They aspire to play in, what was that, Japan’s equivalent of the Woodstock? In that case, they already have the right instruments for the glorious concert, they just have to fill in the concert package with their skillz and the X (moe) factor.

    If there is just one axe to grind with K-ON!, I haven’t seen in this anime or in its fandom some respectable reference to the anime that started it all 25 years ago. I do see the “Kira!” ones but there could be MOAR crossovers with Macross, that good old anime with the singing VAs and prototype-moe.

    • ghostlightning says:

      While the Lucky Star comparison is merited, the experience I get from watching both is very different. I can’t fully articulate it yet aside from the cosmetic ones, only in that in LS I feel like I’m in on a big joke… while K-ON! feels like it’s telling me one.

      Yes, Macross references would be delicious. Have you seen Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu? The episode previews leading to the concert episode is one of the best Macross references ever. At least as far as contemporary in-anime references, it’s the best ever.

      • gloval says:

        Really? There was such Macross reference in Haruhi Suzumiya??? So they did remember love, I’m happy now.

        I was thinking, when I saw Yui dashing out with a slice of bread on her mouth, I remember a particular fanservice ED of Mylene. I’ve been waiting for an AMV about that (the fanservice level would be over 9000!!!). Also, “Don’t Say Lazy” could fit in the Macross universe, just add VFs.

        Moar Lucky Star crossovers would also be appreciated.

        • ghostlightning says:

          Look for it, they sure did remember love. I can imagine the idol group in Mylene Beat manga can do a mean ‘Don’t Say Lazy.’

          • gloval says:

            Found it. Excellent. It’s also nice that they put it in the Day of Sagittarius episode. I see that they paid proper respects and were amply rewarded. Didn’t know much of Macross 7 in my first viewing of Haruhi, so it got past me that time.

          • ghostlightning says:

            Same with me and otou-san. I hadn’t even seen Macross Frontier then so Haruhi’s phrasing (exactly like Sheryl’s) escaped me completely as a Macross reference.


      • djwhack03 says:

        I feel that Lucky Star panders to otaku on an intelectual level for lack of a better term. It challenges them to see who can pick up on the more obscure references than others. K-ON! on the other hand just targets their nutbladders and smothers them with moe.

        • ghostlightning says:

          I lol’d at nutbladders.

          And I completely agree. Lucky Star is cerebral and moe; when it’s not being funny, it’s making you think about what the hell is being referenced this time. Haters would take this as a lousy excuse for lack of comedy, but the show just isn’t for them.

          K-ON! is indeed all about facial expressions, clumsiness, and the whole range of moe tricks – almost the same way as Sengoku Basara is pulling all the stops in outdoing one manly feat after another.

  12. Pingback: Moments of 2009: This is Our Budokan! Yes I’m talking about Yui « We Remember Love

  13. gridsleep says:

    That’s not a Custom, it’s a Gibson Les Paul Standard Traditional Plus in Light Burst. And they got it cheap, as American imports to Japan go.

  14. yvesram says:

    No bullet holes? I like the shoes though lol

    • I worked through the artist’s agent, who failed to specify it. I didn’t want to return the shoes for a revision, so I took it as is, thinking instead how it was like before I got shot while playing it lols.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s