Once More, With Feeling
The melody of a young girl's heart comes into full bloom with the musical masterpiece Piano.
Itís easy to do what youíre told. Innovating is no mean feat, and interpersonal relationships require far less effort if one merely adapts oneís behavior and desires to match that of oneís acquaintances. In most first-world nations, even survival isnít hard if you know how to play by the rules.
Think about it. You can attend a public school, and so long as you study, youíll receive a fair education no matter where you are in the United States. Even if your teachers arenít the best, youíll have access to other learning materials, such as the schoolís library, and perhaps even more importantly, the Internet.
If you manage to earn good enough grades, you can then move on to a worthy higher learning institution for little cost either by attending a public college or by securing scholarships to the more pricey universities out there.
Loans can carry you until you find a job in your chosen field, where youíll likely make enough money to live off of until retirement. There you have it; the modern American dream.
Yet there are some of us who feel as if there should be more to life than merely getting by. Iíd wager that most artists, inventors and scholars would not be satisfied holding down a typical nine to five job just to make ends meet.
This internal conflict exists within us all; the conflict of choosing the perfect balance between what we want to do with our lives and what we actually need to do with our lives. Would I rather be a professional writer as opposed to an IT consultant? Perhaps. Right now, however,consulting is paying the bills and teaching me valuable skills, whereas writing would be an uphill climb in many ways. This universal conflict is the central issue confronting Miu Nomura in Piano as well.
She simply doesnít realize it yet.
Miu is the textbook definition of a good little girl. That is, she would be if there were such a book dealing explicitly with delineating the various kinds of children. She does her schoolwork, she listens to her friends when they need her to listen, and she does her best to obey her parents.
Miu also dutifully attends her piano lessons.
In fact, if thereís anything that bothers her, itís the thought of evoking the ire of her instructor, the young and attractive Shirokawa-sensei. Despite his youth, heís a renowned music teacher who probably has to reject more applicants than he can accept for the honor of receiving his tutelage.
For such a popular professor, he is easily thrown into a bad mood. This is much to the dismay of the students who are forced to deal with his frequently negative attitude. It doesnít take much to set him off, and once heís perturbed, nothing is known to make him feel any better. He was in such a condition on what started out as one of Miuís worst days in recent memory. It wasnít exactly filled with tragedy, but events were not going her way, and even little things have a tendency to generate uncomfortable emotional baggage if there are enough of them.
It is his temperamental nature that has Miu worrying about her lesson one rainy day -- that, and the fact that she forgot to bring her music for her training session.
Miuís best friend, Yuuki Matsubara convinces her to skip her practice after sensing her distress. Unfortunately, after an hour or so of shopping, Miuís thoughts drift toward the piano lesson that she was avoiding. Sensing Miuís good girl desire to show up, Yuki suggested that perhaps Miu should go after all. Miu took her friendís advice and arrived at the class, albeit far later than she was scheduled to appear. Shirokawa-senseiís receptionist warned Miu that the instructor was in one of his moods, which made her dread even more her fated encounter with the incensed professor. Her session was squeezed in near the end of the day, and when she finally goes in, she explained why she was late by means of a lame lie.
Miu, being a well-behaved young lady, is a terrible liar -- a trait that most good people share. She wasnít sure how sheíd survive Shirokawaís wrath at hearing that not only was she late, but she didnít even bother to bring her music, either. However, he surprised her. Instead of yelling at her or angrily telling her to go home, he asked her to play what she could remember. After that, he told her to play whatever she wanted.
Whatever she wanted? Was it some kind of test? Did he not care about the waltz that she had been practicing to play? Confused, concerned, and a little scared, Miu somehow managed to shoo her emotions out of the way and play a song of her own creation. Losing herself in the song, Miu also lost the worries that had been plaguing her during the day.
When she finished, Shirokawa-sensei was looking at her with an odd expression on his face. He seemed to have questions about where she learned to play her chosen song; whether it was something she was taught, or something that she came up with on her own. She remembered that he was supposed to be in a grumpy mood, and Miu excused herself as quickly as possible. She was worried that for whatever reason, her song had only made his mood worse. What Miu didnít realize was that her composition -- and the talented way in which she played it -- surprised Shirokawa. She improvised the piece based on her mood, and ended up showing a side of herself to Shirowaka that he had suspected that she had, but he had never really seen.
She topped off her rough day by forgetting her umbrella on the train home and running out of credits on her phone card, leaving her unable to even call home for help. Luckily, her father, Seiji bails her out by spotting her on the side of the road with a forlorn look on her face. He takes her home in a taxi and uses the smokescreen of some yummy pastries to divert her motherís anger over coming home late and losing her umbrella.
Actually, her father ends up on the receiving end of his wifeís annoyance quite often thanks to his job. Heís a journalist who is forced to often keep long hours at the office. Seiji Nomura rarely makes it home before dinnertime, and heís notorious for not arriving at all for important events, such as anniversaries and birthdays. Yet he clearly loves his family, and they love him, and the three make a very charming trio. Typically Mrs. Nomura finds herself getting double teamed by her laggard husband and daughter, but they all mean well.
This is a very down to earth series with appropriately mundane problems, so naturally Miu is dealing with a crush on a boy at school. Kazuya Takahashi is a star member of the schoolís track team (as is Yuuki and her respective crush, Takizawa) and he is far too popular for Miu to approach. Factor in Miuís absent older sister, Akiko, whose job sends her away from home frequently, and what appears to be a connection between the Nomura family and Miuís piano teacher (hinted at by Miuís cat, named Mew), and suddenly thereís a little more to the show than what there appears to be.
As an exploration of the nature of creativity, as well as a touching coming of age story, Piano is a promising multilayered tale.
The showís characters were designed by Kosuke Fujishima, creator of Ah! My Goddess and Youíre Under Arrest, and they all exhibit the familiar elegant beauty that all of his works boast. Altogether, Piano isnít a typical series, but it certainly is one that Iím going to be looking forward to for quite a long time.