K-On is a subtle psychological thriller about a rich sadist using strategic kindness to torture a group of her unsuspecting social inferiors while slowly being disarmed and healed by their artless sincerity.
It’s the kind of plot that could drive a great 19th century opera or novel, but it’s performed so
delicately you barely notice it’s happening. it’s understandable to watch an episode and think,
“well, nothing happened”. But that’s the art of it. Because really, everything happened, it was only
disguised as effervescence
The strawberry incident is the perfect example, and arguably the climax of the entire show (I don’t think
it’s a coincidence that it’s one of the moments that stood out to people, even those who only saw the show as a collection of moments) Over the second season, we see Mugi lose interest in
actively sculpting the purgatory in which she has ensnared the girls, as she instead begins to identify herself As one of them, as someone not merely observing their drama but suffering it as well.
As a result, her sadism transforms into a kind of masochism, Where she constantly tries to debase herself, submitting to mental labour, etc, all in an effort to capture the freedom, warmth, and sincerity of her peasants (compare and contrast the character of Konstantin Levin from Anna Karenina)
However, it’s not enough, and we see her grow more frustrated over the season. Part of the framework of the status quo she has created, is that the other characters worship her as a benevolent goddess who can do no wrong. As a result, she can never receive justice or absolution for the suffering she has willingly inflicted, and for this reason must always be kept spiritually apart from them. This all comes to a head with her plan to receive a slap from Mio. Mio, as the primary target of Mugi’s torture, is the only one capable of delivering the physical acknowledgement of her crimes that she craves. But here, tragically, she is defeated by her younger, more malicious and calculating self. The status quo she has created is too strong. She never receives her slap. By trying to be like her subjects and earn their friendship, she has become just another toy in the hands of her own cruel genius. It’s a sobering but strangely beautiful cap to the arc of one of the most complex anti-villains in fiction.