Is it bad if I say I’ve never really cared much for character image songs in general? Granted, they’re obviously going to be a little bit harder to get into than the songs that are actually in the anime, which you get to hear on a regular basis and get stuck in your head before they’re even released on CD… but aside from that, character singles often appear to me to be blatant cash grabs with little to no artistic merit, half-assed productions of uninspired songs relegated to image song status because they just aren’t good enough to be featured in the actual show.
Okay, let’s be honest – they’re pretty much always blatant cash grabs. There’s little reason to create a buttload of extra music not meant for inclusion in the anime itself, and releasing it as a series of CD singles, other than wanting to wring some more money out of the hardcore fans who are still willing to buy more after the many opening/ending/insert song and OST albums and singles.
These things are generally merchandise first, and entertainment (or “art”, if you want to pretend we’re being important here) second. However – that doesn’t necessarily mean they can’t ever be good. At best, character songs can provide an insight into their respective characters that goes beyond what the anime itself is able to relate through the actual storytelling. At worst, they can be fluff pieces so generic and clichéd that it doesn’t matter who’s singing or what anime they’re tied to.
In the specific case of K-On!, the character song series is a mixed bag. There certainly are a lot of them – seven for the first season alone – but one good thing they all have in common is that they certainly don’t skimp on the production or musicianship. Whatever one might think of the songs, they’re all slickly and professionally produced and sound terrific. Many of the songs are composed by Tom-H@ck, composer of “Cagayake!GIRLS” and the other anime opening themes, so you know right away there’s going to be a lot of perky, frantic, fast paced tracks that walk the thin line between catchy and obnoxious, with songs landing on both sides of the fence.
I’ll be looking at all the singles in good time, but for now I’m going to concentrate on the first two: The Yui and Mio ones, which were released all the way back in June 2009.