Nomura Miu is a normal teenager. She is good in her studies, and in her spare time she takes piano lessons. Together with her normally energetic friend Yuuki, they experience normal activities like dating, piano lessons and hanging out. It's so normal, it's painful.
We've seen plenty of anime characters bestowed with some great power/ability, and they cry and sob about how they want to be "normal teenagers" and live "normal lives". Believe me, they're not missing anything - and this title is proof of that. You see, Piano is one of the first titles to bring unparalleled, exciting and cutting-edge BLANDNESS straight to the comfort of your own home. With this, you can understand how watching a totally normal anime character can totally suck.
Although some people have difficulty guessing the direction of an elevator in three guesses, it probably isn't hard to deduce what this title is about. Miu plays the piano, and the story is supposed to show how her lessons and her playing influence her life and the lives of others around her. To be honest, the packaging sounds a lot better than the food inside. Instead of making the piano the main focus of the plot, the scriptwriters chose to turn this title into a chronicle of Miu's daily life, with the piano taking a backseat to everthing else. Even calling this a drama is an overstatement, since there is no drama, no conflict, no action, no comedy, no plot twists, and no flying elephants with pink tutus.
Having taken piano lessons before, I first got this title thinking that I would be able to relate to the difficulties of studying music, or the life of a pianist just by watching it. To my utter dismay, I felt like I was watching a video done by someone stalking the two main girls. All you get to see are normal conversations, normal life at home (eating dinner, chatting on the phone, talking with family), normal school activities (walking home together, chatting during free periods) and normal events (Christmas parties and all that). I'm totally convinced that this stalker is a ninja since he managed to get great camera angles without being noticed, but was still able to retain the effect of everyday boredom as he trailed the main characters around.
On the subject of the main characters, it gets worse. They are the obligatory polar opposites : Miu is shy, soft-spoken and quiet, while Yuuki is loud, athletic and bubbly. Unfortunately, we've seen these traits in just about every similar title, and the characters here have nothing to make them stand out from the rest of the stereotypes. Miu's piano teacher, Shirakawa, certainly walked into the wrong anime character audition - he's quite good looking, but always in an irritable mood and he doesn't talk much except for the usual grunt or comment on Miu's playing (bearing more than a striking resemblance to a certain Trowa Barton). He also has a reputation for making his students cry, and whenever Miu goes into his room for class, he's always staring out the window, deep in thought. My guess is he's dreaming of some other better roles that he could have been in, like say, the commander in Lime-Iro Senkitan or maybe Soopy-kun in Scrapped Princess. The only consolation prize in this category goes to Miu's cat, Mew (my, isn't that original) - Mew is probably the best representation of a real-life cat that I've seen in an anime title. And that's because, unsurprisingly, Mew acts *normal*.
I certainly hoped that the plot would somehow be able to compensate for the shortcomings - after all, that's what you need for a slice-of-life drama. Unfortunately the variety shown immediately draws parallels to the excitement of having ice, water and vapor for breakfast. Example : Yuuki has a crush on a senior, but doesn't have the courage; Yuuki runs to Miu; Miu gives her advice; Yuuki confesses; the boy accepts; End. I don't know how their calculations were performed, but they certainly eliminated surprise, drama and innovation from the equation back there. In fact, this part and Miu's own crush on another senior cover the most part of about three episodes. The piano plays little part in the story other than making her have to dash off to piano class after everything's done. Occasionally, the plot introduces some element of drama, but once again these have been used countless times since the first Neolithic caveman saw a female and carved a love story on the cave wall.
The only memorable part in it all is when Miu's sister comes from overseas to visit her parents. Her character is a whole lot of fun (something like what Misato did to Evangelion's cast lineup) but she only appears a couple of times. Towards the end, the story picks up ever so slightly when Miu gets entered for a piano recital but doesn't feel like she can do it. There are also a few plot elements that could have been expanded a lot more, like the unknown relationship between Shirakawa and Miu's sister, or how Miu composed her own piano piece.
For the art and animation quality, I could probably compare it to an average dating sim title. The characters are generally drawn quite well, and the environments are quite well detailed. Since there aren't any chase scenes or action sequences, frame rate and animation quality doesn't really play a major factor here. Generally it's what you'd expect from a modern anime title - nothing above or below the usual (i.e. it's *normal*).
As expected, the intro theme is a piano piece and the ending a light, sweet melody. Same goes for the background music during most of the scenes. This makes me think that probably a ninja *troupe* was there, since they needed someone to play the piano while the other guys carried the piano around. They must have been really good ninjas, since Miu and Yuuki didn't notice the bunch of ninjas with a digital camera and a large piano following them around.
I'm probably a lot more disappointed in this review than I should be, because I had high hopes for this title. It appealed to my interests and was also in a genre that I usually enjoy, and that usually gets a lot of points from me. Unfortunately, I ended up making a list of random exciting events and numbering them from 1-20; every 3 minutes, I would roll a d20 and imagine the corresponding event happening in the scene I was watching. That's how I watched Piano, and probably explains a lot more than this whole review possibly could.
Kudos to the ninjas, though.
The boredom of real life has never been portrayed to such a degree of accuracy as in Piano. Normal stuff warrants a normal rating, and that's what it gets. Even a music student like me couldn't add a star, so I don't think you would want to either. Subtract a star if you don't like piano music. Instead, go for something exciting and new - head to the local bar and yell to the bartender, *Hey Bud, gimme the usual*. — Enoch Lau
Recommended Audience: While it was originally intended to cater to people who have studied or enjoy music, it actually appeals to all people of all ages, because it's so close to real life that it can get sued for sexual harassment.
Version(s) Viewed: Prerelease fansub
Review Status: Full (10/10)
Piano © 2002 OLM
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