Piano Vol. 2: Confessions
It is hard to describe Piano in a way that does it justice. Piano is a delightfully low-key series that cannot be described as wacky, off the wall, exciting, or even quirky. It's not fun in the way that a rollercoaster is fun. It's not a raunchy romance. There is no noticeable fanservice in the series; at least there's not enough to give panty lovers a reason to check it out. The animation will not astound viewers with its high-budget fluidity. However, to a significant degree, Piano certainly is enjoyable.
Like the musical meaning of the term itself, Piano is soft, quiet and warm. It's even comforting. This is the kind of show to watch over the cold winter months with a fire crackling in the hearth, some hot chocolate in your hands, and a good friend nearby.
The show's main character is Miu Nomura, a pretty average fourteen year old who possesses a talent for playing piano that hasn't been fully explored yet. Unlike many anime characters, she lives with her parents. Bucking even more common trends in anime, she actually gets along with them, as well. Her father's job keeps him away from the home for longer than what they would all like, but given the current economy in Japan, that's pretty standard. Miu's older sister, Akiko, is rarely home -- in fact, her career keeps her out of the country rather frequently. Even when Akiko does visit (as she does in this volume), there is no dark secret to be revealed about her.
Miu is very quiet and somewhat in need of a boost to her self-confidence. Although she is slightly introverted, she maintains a positive attitude in everything she does. In that sense, Miu makes a great touchstone for her friends and family. She's the person that they all know that they can turn to whenever something is going wrong, for she manages to cheer them up with her upbeat nature.
On the other hand, Miu's best friend, Yuuki Matsubara, complements Miu in practically every conceivable way. While Miu is an introspective musician and somewhat petite for her age, Yuuki is a tall, lanky and loud track star. Despite their differences, the two are very close friends. Much of the story follows Yuuki's adventures with teenage romance from Miu's perspective. All of the ups and downs of dating a guy for the first time are revealed, preparing Miu for the moment when she's finally ready to find a guy of her own.
The story progresses very slowly, although with a carefully plotted series such as this, that's the way that it should be. Even though the series is called Piano and Miu shows great potential with the instrument, viewers aren't going to see her performing any recitals or starring in a hit band -- at least not yet. While it may not move at a hare's pace, nevertheless the series is engrossing.
Much of the charm of Piano comes from Kosuke Fujishima's delicate character designs. Known for his popular Ah! My Goddess series, Fujishima has a knack for creating detailed characters. While the goddesses in his other series are almost too pretty to be realistic, he has crafted a good cast of attractively designed players for Piano whose looks aren't too supernaturally perfect. Miu and Yuuki are both considerably cute, but they still manage to look like young girls rather than fashion models. That isn't to say that his trademark attention to detail is lacking in Piano, which only makes the show all the more visually appealing.
The music, as can be expected, is just as light and airy as the rest of the series. It's not necessarily a soundtrack that I need to buy anytime soon, but it works well within the confines of the series. There are a lot of cute female voices to be heard in the series, and they all do rather well to add heart to the show.
This DVD release from The Right Stuf includes a great package of extras, such as a dual-sided cover in a clear case, character bios, a line art gallery, two visual monologues, a special epilogue, production notes, and two short stories printed on the booklet inside the case. The production standards of The Right Stuf remain high, with well-timed and well-worded subtitle tracks that do well to set the standard for other publishers in the industry.
While Piano may not move fast enough for some viewers, those who take the time to immerse themselves into this simple, pleasant series will find it very rewarding. It has the substance to back up Kosuke Fujishima's pretty character designs, and it's more than just another coming-of-age tale. Likewise, there's more to the plot than one girl's quest to play the piano. Give it a try to warm yourself up this season -- just don't forget the hot cocoa.