K-On’s Psychological Exploration of Damage

So I finally got around to watching K-On. I know it’s a little weird, this show no one watched, but I gave it a try and liked it. Maybe you should give it a try, too. Here’s what I thought of it.

Well, actually, right, do you even know what the show’s about? That might be important information. OK, so there’s a girl with no parents named Yui who steals candy and food from people while being ditzy. She decides to join a school club now that she’s a high school freshman, because she’s done nothing with her life. Except maybe kill her parents? I’m not sure about that, but the clues are there. She’s pretty clearly psychologically damaged, and maybe that’s what did it. She has post-traumatic dreams of a blizzard sometimes, so maybe she had to eat her parents to survive a brutal snow slide or something. Regardless, as the show opens she can’t fend for  herself any longer, probably a reaction to taking the most extreme measures to survive earlier in life. Her little sister takes care of her now, rather than putting her in an institution of some kind.

She ends up joining the Light Music Club, because she thinks it will be easy. She envisions a room full of elementary schoolers, herself among them, playing castanets. The delusions are pretty bad, right from the beginning. She still sees herself as the innocent young child who had parents once, who didn’t do anything terrible to them and just played around with fake instruments all day. But no, to stay in the club she has to learn to play guitar.

The other club members are Ritsu, Mio, and Mugi. Mugi is a sociopath with no emotion or empathy of her own, who obsessively watches other people having fun, presumably to try to learn what fun is and how to do it. Mio is afraid of everything; the show hints it is because of crippling OCD. Ritsu seems remarkably balanced – energetic and forgetful, but generally ok. As the show continues, though, we learn she has a severe co-dependency issue, which is in fact obvious in hindsight in episode one, where she drags Mio into the Light Music Club by force. She can’t possibly go into a club alone.

So that’s the basic setup of the show. Yui tries to use music to get over her trauma but unknowingly creates a support group around her that, in turn, needs support. So everyone is perpetually stuck, unable to really support one another or themselves. It’s like Kafka in high school, a quagmire of emotional baggage weighing everyone down until they swim for themselves or drown.

The first few episodes are fascinating, as they explore Yui’s inability to focus on anything for very long, as concentration allows her bad memories more chances to take over. She constantly wanders from idea to idea and activity to activity. Her greatest focus in the first story arc is her guitar, which she finds at a store and can’t leave alone, despite its huge price tag. I tend to assume it reminds her of her father, especially given that later she pampers it, bringing it to the dinner table for a traditional family meal, nabe. She puts a bib on the guitar and feeds it, as well as sleeping with it sometimes when the nightmares are too much. But in the first episode in which it appears Yui stares, crouched down to protect herself, deaf to the activity around her and her new friends who try to take her to something more practical. So Yui shows herself, too, to have a problem with success, probably, again, stemming from the one time in which she excelled – her early survival. Certainly she doesn’t want to relive that, but it blocks her progress, as with the guitar. She doesn’t refuse to buy one, but instead sets a goal so unrealistic she simply can’t buy the guitar, and so is safe from success or failure. She floats, as she does with everything else.

Of course, her friends help her buy the guitar. Mugi shambles through a parody of socialized behavior, acting as though she haggles with the man behind the counter, knowing all the time her father owns the store and she can do what she wants. There’s another fine touch there, Mugi taking this opportunity to behave like someone else (in this case Ritsu), and in the process revealing that her sociopathy stems at least in part from distant parents to involved in their business to socialize their daughter properly. Mio insists on rules to help buy a guitar – it must be such-and-such a size, such-and-such a length and width, and she is worried that Yui buys a guitar that does not adhere to these standards – Mio’s own, obsessive standards – but of course she doesn’t know the significance of the guitar to Yui’s shattered mind.

I haven’t finished the second season yet, but I have seen the blackmail of a teacher, psychotic breaks concerning eyebrows turning into food – once again highlighting Yui’s difficulty with people becoming food, as her parents did – and the unhinged molestation of a younger girl in an attempt to satisfy the urges for sex that Yui’s body feels but her mind cannot understand. Just as she sublimates her desire for her father into a guitar, she sublimates her desire for physical contact into abuse.

If you enjoyed that, for whatever reason, who don’t you consider checking out my blog?

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13 Comments

  1. Ahem if you would read the manga you’d know that Yui does have parents her mom even shows up in it

    GET IT RIGHT I give this review 1/10…00

    Reply
    • cuchlann

       /  1 April 2013

      AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA…..

      ….

      Check the date.

      Reply
      • thesu

         /  1 April 2013

        The appearance of a “mother” in the manga, as well as the “parents” being shown visiting “Berlin” in “Germany”, are delusions seen by the characters, as some delusions actually can affect several individuals at once (See: ano hi mita hana no namae o bokutachi wa mada shiranai)
        And of course everybody knows there is no such place as “Germany”, so of course it has to be made up

      • AHEM…if you would watch the MOVIE, sir, you would know that Yui and Ui DO have parents…except they’re disembodied talking legs.

        That’s fucking scary. I’d be traumatized, too.

  2. darkfritz

     /  1 April 2013

    Well, I guess Ui poisons Yui with heavy metals (mercury, maybe lead) in order to keep her ditzy. Because she suffers from münchausen syndrome by proxy.

    Reply
    • cuchlann

       /  1 April 2013

      You’ll probably need to write a follow-up to detail that. I’m a little shaky on the effects of Munchhausen.

      Reply
      • darkfritz

         /  1 April 2013

        First let’s take a look a the definition given by Wikipedia: “Münchausen syndrome by proxy (MSbP or MBP) is a controversial term that is used to describe a behavior pattern in which a caregiver deliberately exaggerates, fabricates, and/or induces physical, psychological, behavioral, and/or mental health problems in those who are in their care.”
        Too good to be coincidence. I remember Ui mentioning that she preferably wants to go to the same college as Yui, even apply for the same work. Ui definitely tries to establish a relationship of dependency and obedience. So it should be obvious that Ui is silently poisoning Yui with heavy metals, so she can continue to take sick care of Yui.

  3. Well done, but I feel this is way too easy for you.

    Reply
    • cuchlann

       /  1 April 2013

      Why, whatever do you mean?

      Reply
      • darkfritz

         /  1 April 2013

        First let’s take a look a the definition given by Wikipedia: “Münchausen syndrome by proxy (MSbP or MBP) is a controversial term that is used to describe a behavior pattern in which a caregiver deliberately exaggerates, fabricates, and/or induces physical, psychological, behavioral, and/or mental health problems in those who are in their care.”
        Too good to be coincidence. I remember Ui mentioning that she preferably wants to go to the same college as Yui, even apply for the same work. Ui definitely tries to establish a relationship of dependency and obedience. So it should be obvious that Ui is silently poisoning Yui with heavy metals, so she can continue to take sick care of Yui.

  4. Alex

     /  1 April 2013

    So when I visited Germany, that was an illusion too?

    Reply
    • thesu

       /  1 April 2013

      of course. Actually, every day I live in the delusion that I live in “Germany” and speak some weird gibberish people created in my delusion call “German”

      Reply
  1. Spring 2013 Anime |OT| Shut it, fuckface! - Page 6 - Wasting Your Life

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