Compared to a lot of other anime, the premise of K-On! is decidedly down-to-earth. It’s about a group of high school girls who form an after-school rock/pop band, and none of them are reincarnated princesses or commute to school in a giant transforming robot built by their brilliant but aloof father. They just hang out and play music together.
Still, there’s one big break with reality that comes at the start of each episode, when instruments are obviously played by studio musicians, and not actually a bunch of teenagers, for the theme song. You really can’t fault the producers for this decision, though. After all, where are you supposed to find an actual high school girl to perform the manic drum beats used in the anime’s second opening?
Ah, we see Kawaguchi-san is raising her hand.
The 17-year-old Senri Kawaguchi attends high school in her hometown in Mie Prefecture. That is, she does when she’s not on the road lending her skills and providing precocious percussion performances for currently touring idol troupe E-girls. Kawaguchi didn’t land this gig because she’s friends with one of E-girls two dozen or so members, though, but because she’s wickedly talented.
Just how talented? Watch her absolutely nail the opening theme to the second season of K-On!, which is just as fast and chaotic as you’d expect from its all-capitalized title of “GO! GO! MANIAC!”
Not only does Kawaguchi literally not miss a beat, she’s got enough mental capacity left over to smile for the camera.
▼ You’ve got to be tremendously good to make something so hard look this easy.
When someone shows this level of skill at such a young age (the above video is from 2010), it’s tempting to toss around the label “natural.” While we don’t know how much God-given talent is involved in the above display, what we can say is that it’s also the result of a ton of practice. Kawaguchi took up the drums at the age of five, and by the time she was eight she was receiving lessons from famed Japanese jazz and rock drummer Kozo Suganuma.
▼ Kawaguchi performing with rock band Nokemono, something she did before becoming a teenager.
From there, Kawaguchi went on to win tournaments, appear on TV, and even land endorsement deals with Yamaha and Zildjian. She hasn’t let it go to her head, though. Just the opposite, she only seems to have improved in the years following her early successes, as shown by her most recent video from just a few weeks ago where she proves she’s as skilled at Asian-infused jazz as she is anime rock.
▼ We’d have a hard enough time just keeping tracks of which sounds everything makes.
While nothing beats seeing a talented drummer in person, with each strike rattling in your eardrums and your chest, if you can’t make it to one of Kawaguchi’s live shows, she’s also earned prise on Amazon Japan for her two albums, A La Mode and Buena Vista.
Given how many years she still has left in her music career, we figure there’re a lot more glowing reviews to come.