Piano no Mori Episodes 1 & 2 [First Impression]
Raw talent vs a strong work ethic. Not an uncommon story, but what really matters is how it’s delivered and, man, is this show delivering well so far.
These shows, by that I mean those of the music genre, always seem to try to compensate for their lack of dynamic movement with stunning visuals. Don’t get me wrong, I get it. The limits of using classical music are apparent. They can only go so high and using visual effects is the way to break through that ceiling. I’m already a fan of classical music so I’m hooked either way, but I have to say that the way they are composing this show is really something. Even in just the first two episodes it seems like they went out of their way to create scenes using unorthodox methods and perspectives that really lend itself to surpassing the mostly audio handicap. Having a conversation in the reflection of a puddle, bouncing shadows off of a wall, a slow 360 degree shot of Kai playing the piano in the forest bathed in moonlight. I found myself genuinely breathless at some of the ways they used light, angles and other features to add an extra layer to what would otherwise be a normal scene.
Of course, that’s not to say I have no complaints. The jarring transition from 2D to CG animation (and a poor rendition at that) really disrupted the flow. I come backed with a mildly extensive history with CG too, so I know what it’s capable of. Berserk (2016), Ajin, Knights of Sidonia, Infini-T Force, Houseki no Kuni, even the continuing Katana Maidens did a pretty decent job of rapid, but smooth, transitioning back and forth. I know how great and how horribly it can turn out. There was quite a range to it in these episodes too. From mediocre to really bad. Like, really bad. Not enough to ruin the show, but I’m really hoping it improves in the coming episodes or it could seriously affect what it’s trying to do.
As for music comparisons, I must admit my history is a bit shallow so I’m not sure how it compares. Your Lie in April, some tidbits of Love Live, and Kids on the Slope are about as far as I go. Visually, I have to say this show is on the same level as Your Lie in April but in an apples to oranges sort of way. Your Lie‘s beauty sprung from the piano itself, bubbles and sparkles of color rising as Arima painted imagery with the keys whereas Piano no Mori is the exact opposite. The night sky, the moonlight, the tree. All of the beauty in this show is derived from the environment.
I’m also curious to see where this rivalry goes between Kai and Amamiya. So far it’s all on the up and up. I was legitimately surprised when Amamiya said he only came to Kai to encourage his joining the competition. He also handled Ajino choosing Kai over him very well. Actually, both boys are extremely mature for their ages. Compared to the rosy cheeked bully who was very, very insistent on seeing Amamiya’s privates before becoming friends, we see both Amamiya and Kai far above that level of maturity. God, that one kid reminds me of the pantsing incidents that plagued my middle school. No one was safe. No one.
It was really funny to see that Kai was even commenting on how his mother would never be able to escape the red-light district and had to talk his drunken mother out of trying to escape to the ocean! OK, maybe funny isn’t the right word. To be so aware of the cycle of life at that young of an age. I’m 22 and I’m nowhere close to that. I still run from my problems on the daily.
Of course, another major factor that will play into the show is the interaction between the mothers. Already we can see the controlling, tight grip of Amamiya’s mother contrasted against the lax, free-spirited teachings of Kai’s mom. To the point where he even apologized on her behalf for his mother’s unreasonable request for Ajino to mentor him. Will the context of rich vs. poor make her show her elite side only to realize through a very touching moment near the end that maybe people are more than how much money they have? I don’t know. Probably. I think hints of that are already in play though. While they have wildly different backgrounds, neither has had a father figure established yet. Perhaps that is meant to serve as the great equalizer.
A lot of the speculations I have can be more or less answered by the opening scene of episode 1. It was an interesting move to show the boys at a clearly much older age still playing in competitions together. On some level, we are assured that things will work out. That raises the question though if we will be able to hit that opening scene in the content of this season. Airing for 12 episodes, we have some foresight into where this is going but whether that’s a mid-point or an end-point we still don’t know. There could be a time lapse somewhere or what we saw could very well be the ending scene of the final episode. A complete circle that ties together the beginning and the ending or something like that.
Either way, I’m very excited to see what happens. Specifically, how this first competition goes. Kai picks things up/memorizes them at a prodigious level, but will his lack of technical skill show? The best part of competition driven musical shows is how they will choose to emphasize who is playing better. Like I mentioned before, there is a point where just hearing the music hits a cap at what it can convey. The methods they employ to overcome that are what makes the show great. If the normal scenes are any indication, I’m looking forward to how this all plays out.
OH MY GOD! I didn’t even talk about the magic piano that only plays for Kai’s hands! I got so caught up in the rest that I almost forgot. The chosen hands. What in the world? I doubt they’ll ever go back to explain that, but if anyone has any rationale as to why/how/what is happening, I encourage you to share it.
Regardless, I definitely plan to continue covering this. So naturally, my Possibility of blogging = Yes, of course!