I love Hokago Tea Time. Five episodes in to season two of K-ON!!, and Ritsu has already overtaken the Tachokomas from Ghost in the Shell Stand Alonie Complex as my favorite character in all of anime, and the show itself is rocking a score of 9.5 so far, placing it in the same league as Wandering Son and Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood in overall quality. Through them I have finally found a wallpaper that is as meaningful to me as this one is to Digibro, and, of course, I am writing them it before I have come even close to finishing Season 2. And believe me, that word choice of loving Hokago Tea Time rater than K-ON!! itself is very deliberate; Hokago Tea Time the characters are even better than K-ON!! the show, especially the first season.
To be honest, I don’t even really like the start of Season 1 all that much. While it does do a great job of introducing it’s characters and setting up for the fantastic emotional climax in episode 12, I can’t overcome the bias against cute anime girls running to school with toast in their mouths to the backdrop of wacky music that Evangelion embedded into my skull. None of the characters are great friends yet so we don’t get moments of the adorable comedy and perfect character interactions that the show makes constant usage of later on, and the animation in particular really hasn’t really hit it’s stride yet. But believe it or not, I think this is a good thing; the worse episodes of K-ON! all do two main things to make the idea of Hokago Tea Time more appealing: Avoid what I like to call the NEW GAME! Effect, and dragging the viewer into the friendship of the band so completely that it feels more real than any other in anime.
Let me explain. I am an elitist jerk, pure and simple. Evangelion, FLCL and Wandering Son are all shows that have reputations among their detractors for either being pretentious or relying on discussing sensitive subject mater to make people think they are mature and interesting, but these are the shows that comprise my pre-K-ON!! favorites list. The only reason I haven’t finished Revolutionary Girl Utena yet is that I want to savor that delicious symbolism for as long as I can. With the exception of the K-ON! Girls, my favorite character list made entirely of ones that are known for being either incredibly deep or super melodramatic, depending on who you ask. Heck, freaking Ludwig van Beethoven is barley nudged out by Hideaki Anno for my favorite staff member in anime as a whole. So is it any surprise that when I opened up the first episode of NEW GAME and was met with this clip of P-P-P-P-PANTSUUUUU!?!?!? as my introduction to Kou Yagami that I immediately set my expectations pretty low? In fact, this is pretty much my initial reaction to the vast majority of these kinds of shows or characters.
But I’m getting ahead of myself; let’s clear up some things first before going any further. I don’t have a real issue with fan service just on principal. It didn’t bother me in Haruhi, it didn’t bother me in Ghost in the Shell, it shouldn’t bother me here. Clearly that’s not the issue. Is it because it’s situational comedy derived from a character being an idiot? No, Konosuba is hilarious for precisely that reason. So what was it? Put simply, both the in-universe and meta context of the scene totally shattered my suspension of disbelief.
Stealing from Digibro’s hipster journalistvocabulary toolkit, this shot is diagetic insofar as that it’s actually happening in-universe, as opposed to pretty much anything in a show like Food Wars, but at the same time it definitely doesn’t seem like something that would happen in real life, and only happened because somebody in a boardroom decided that P-P-P-P-P-P-PATNSUUUUUU would be an easy way to get some hardcore otaku to buy the blue rays. The disconnect here is the result of how I interpreted the intentions of the creator, and the reason that I interpreted the scene in question as cynical and cooperate was because in-universe the situation didn’t make sense. This is my problem with something like the Fate franchise as well, because even if the story being told in a given show is actually interesting, as is the case in Fate/Zero, I still can’t get into it because I know that this is what Ufotable is trying to sell me. Weather it’s something as acclaimed as Gamers or as panned asSword Art Online, this inherent cynicism towards this kind of scene in something that needs to make money to continue existing makes it impossible for me to buy into these kinds of shows.
And that’s where retroactively looking at episodes like one and seven of season one band come in. The best parts of the show come so sporadically that they leave the impression that he show could suddenly become hilarious, adorable, and incredibly emotionally involving all at the same time pretty much whenever it wants to, so the fact that the show felt it important to start out without it’s driving forces behind it completely removes that sense of cynicism when looking back on the show. Obviously Yamada Naoko could have started the show with the girls already best friends and just followed their daily adventures from there, and she probably could have done it well. But she didn’t. Obviously K-ON!! was a massive financial success and a third season would have made even more money had Naoko accepted the offer to make one, but she didn’t. The creator’s intentions are pure and her skill is proven; When the show has Yui outright lie to Azusa about her skill level at the guitar instead of show the girls having fun during Christmas, the show is making itself harder to watch on purpose. It helps that the show makes it clear that the girls know what they are doing is funny and usually kind of dumb and that they find it funny themselves, but the intentions of the author make it much easier to buy into the series at face value.
These less-than-perfect perfect episodes also serve to give the viewer a much greater appreciation for the friendship of the girls by making it feel far more real than most shows would ever be able to. K-ON!!’s greatest strength is far and away it’s incredibly natural yet very significant character development, with the girls barely knowing each other in episode one, to them trying to please Yui in an attempt keep her in the band in episode two, to Yui being generally a better person to the rest of the group in episode three, to them all going to the beach and bonding as a group in episode four, to the four all just being great friends in episode five through seven. The show then repeats a condensed version of this same cycle when Azusa joins the band in episode eight, and it’s only after all of that that the show is finally operating at full capacity. However, all of this time spent building up to the perfection that has been Season 2’s perfect character interactions and meaningful moments thus far was necessary to make the viewer care about said perfection. This is a massive oversimplification, though, but thankfully one that Digi and WeebTrashProductions have already explored in depth, so if you want to know more check the links in the description.
Anyway, seeing the development of these girl’s friendship during the first year and a half of their high school carriers lends a sense of weight to their relationship that makes it far easier to care about and be entertained by than in a show like, say, Nichijou, where everybody is already friends and the viewer is just expected to accept that unconditionally. The feeling of having gotten to experience every stage of these characters knowing each other creates the realism that leads to sentimentality towards a group of friends, and makes the most memorable moments (which is basically the entire second season; the show is a highlight reel of these girl’s lives) stick out even more both through contrast with the early parts of the show and through being natural extensions of those early episodes.
So that’s why Hokago Tea Time is my favorite group of characters in any show ever, why they are even better than the already-amazing show that they are a part of. That’s why this image means so much to me; Just looking at at the characters instantly provides me with strong joy or intense feels depending on the mood I’m in because the K-ON!! girls feel like actual friends, maybe even to a greater degree than most of the friends I’ve had in real life. That, in combination with the fact that billboards imply the bittersweat feeling of looking back on an especially great memory, makes this my definitive favorite wallpaper of all time. I can only assume that the series will get even better from here, and I have a funny feeling that the movie will manage to surpass even it. Consider me hyped.
Thank you all for watching. Obviously there is way more to why I like this show, but for the most part Digibro covered those reasons extensivly in “K-ON!: A Loving Thesis,” so explaining those other reasons would just be redundant. As with last time, the channel growth that’s been taking place over the course of the past month may not look like much to you, but to me every one of those subs is affirmation that people care about what I do and that I should keep doing it. I have a lot more videos planned that will probably be coming out shortly, including ones about Berserk and Serial Experiments Lain, so if you think that would be fun to watch sub for that. In the long term I have Evangleion 2.22 Sucks: The Movie in the works, so that hopefully won’t take too much longer to finish writing. On an unrelated note, I would like to thank WeebTrashProductiosn for giving me the 11:00 PM burst of inspiration to finish writing this script in the form of his analysis of Digibro’s Trial of the Golden Withc music; Seriously, he’s also about 14 years old and making even better stuff than I am. Go check him out. Once again, thanks for watching, and I’ll see you in the next one.