Is K-On the Anime We Need in a Crisis?
I rarely watch or like shows like K-On. I get easily bored with the concept of cute girls doing cute things. New shows in that sub-genre are often at the bottom of my list. I’ll get around to them someday. Not today. Usually I want psychological thrillers that oscillate between exciting action and philosophical brooding, like Evangelion or Ghost in the Shell.
When I’m depressed, normally my go-to is to watch End of Evangelion. Sometimes, I’ll also watch a few of the last Evangelion episodes leading up to it. Madoka and Bojack Horseman also make for a depression-fueled binge. I enjoy seeing characters go through sad, difficult times, because I can see myself in them. I almost universally shun happy characters and happy endings, because to me, they don’t feel like real life. I can’t relate to happy people doing cute things, if they’re not going through intense challenges.
K-On: Low-Stress Anime Helps During Highly Stressful Times
So then, why did I suddenly appreciate K-On a lot more than I ever had before? When I first saw it, I remember giving it a positive, if not glowing, review. It was cheerful. I liked the characters. I just didn’t see the point. It’s a show about an after-school club, and that’s it. There isn’t a lot to say about the plot. Each episode revolves around some minor struggle the scrappy, ganbare attitude-having club faces. The club is frivolous. It’s called ‘ke-ongaku’ or ‘light-hearted music’ club, hence the name of the show, K-On. It’s not just a happy, light-hearted show; it also revolves around happy, light-hearted music.
The club consists of four girls who all want to make it the best they can. What struck me when I re-watched the first episode on Netflix recently is how supportive the main characters are. Yui, the protagonist, is a ditz and a complete emotional mess, and doesn’t know how to play guitar, but she wants to learn. The other girls in the club are supportive and helpful to her. They don’t bully her for her shortcomings, which are many. Instead, they have a forgiving and welcoming attitude toward her. And that’s what draws you in about the show.
K-On, like Daria, or My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, centers on female friendship and emotional support. I needed that now more than ever because the COVID-19 outbreak has made me feel lonely. It has cut me off from friendship. Before, I would watch something like Bojack Horseman or Evangelion for its barbs at society. But now, I want, or perhaps need, to watch something where there is a more ideal and wholesome society.
Other Low Stress Recommendations:
If you’re interested in the concept of a simulated, idealized society or friendship, I have other recommendations.
I can’t wait for the Animal Crossing game that will soon come out for the Nintendo Switch. The Animal Crossing series involves helping others, forming friendships, and improving your house and the town you live in. I really enjoyed the GameCube one.
Similar to Animal Crossing are farming simulation games, the most well-known being the Harvest Moon series and Stardew Valley. I haven’t played all the Harvest Moon games, but I did immensely enjoy the three I liked. They are easy-going, kid-friendly games. You start and run a farm, build and expand upon it, make friends, and even eventually get married. Stardew Valley gives this concept a more mature, socially conscious update. That can make it more depressing, but also makes the stories of the characters you meet in the village more interesting.
Similar to K-On but with more of a comedic focus includes anime such as Zombieland Saga, Lucky Star, Squid Girl, and Azumanga Daioh.
I would also recommend checking out My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, if you didn’t see it at the height of brony fever. I like to re-watch some of my favorite episodes occasionally on a gloomy day. It similarly to K-On takes place in a world where friendship is easier, and friends are always emotionally supportive of each other in a crisis.
With literature, I’ve been getting into more optimistic portrayals of heroes. That’s why I’m thoroughly enjoying my Great Courses lecture entitled “King Arthur: History and Legend” on Audible. Because it maybe wasn’t such a bad thing that the past is full of stories that are less morally complicated. Reality is morally complicated, but these stories are an escape.
At any rate, whatever you watch, read, or play, remember that taking good care of your mental health is just as important as your physical health. Talk to people if you can. Work on creative projects. Remember that the world will survive this. Since I have multiple mental health issues, it’s not always easy for me. I’ve gotten caught up in the addicting nature of constant scary news stories. That's why I need entertainment that helps me remember the good things about life.
If you’d like, share what you’ve gotten into to help you emotionally weather this crisis in the comments! I also deeply appreciate everyone who reads my articles. Thank you.
© 2020 Rachael Lefler