Nomura Miu is a junior high student who has studied the piano for many years. Her experience, including her relationship with her family, her friendship with her classmate Yuuki, and her crush on Takahashi-senpai all affect her life and the music she plays. Her teacher, Shirakawa-sensei, asks her to play in her piano school’s recital. Will she accept? And will she ever be able to confess her feelings to Takahashi-senpai?
summary by Madoka
Highs: Real “slice of life” feel for a typical girl’s life
Lows: No plot; frustrating and mundane characters
Very few anime can function with just a premise and no plot (Azumanga Daioh immediately comes to mind as one that can). Piano, however, comes dangerously close to failing as a series. A true “slice of life” story with realistic characters, Piano is a quiet, calming anime that barely clings to a story but provides some peaceful moments of reflection.
With no fights for the fate of Tokyo, no magic and no mayhem, Piano has one of the most realistic stories almost any viewer can identify with. The school and Miu’s home serve as the background and provide a real sense of a typical girl’s life in Japan. It’s no surprise, then, that the characters are just as mundane as the settings. Miu and her friends and family are just typical people going through problems of life and responsibility.
As Miu struggles with her decision to play in the piano recital, she is at the same time struggling with becoming an adult. That little amount of depth to Miu’s character is what saves the series from having no focus at all. Her piano teacher, on the other hand, remains a mystery with a background only hinted at with snippets of information. For a character that is supposed to be an impact on both Miu and the story itself, Shirakawa-sensei is an emotionless, frustrating character that could have benefited from much more background and development.
As would be expected, piano music plays a large part in the story, so the nuances of what is happening in Miu’s life and her emotions are subtly reflected in the music. If you’re a piano player or perhaps just want to see a quiet story of a normal life, Piano will be a pleasant diversion for you.
Highs: An excellent depiction of realistic daily life
Lows: Flawed characters with no plot to fall back on
Piano had the potential to be a quaint, realistic portrait of a girl’s life during adolescence. Unfortunately, the series really misses the mark. Slow pacing and an almost nonexistent plot mar the series, but this anime’s true failure comes from its underdeveloped and often exasperating characters.
Despite the title, Miyu’s musical talent is not the main focus of Piano; instead, emphasis is placed on her everyday life. Her interactions with both friends and family are firmly grounded in reality, so it’s not too surprising that an episode dedicated to finding the family’s lost cat is a little less than exhilarating. Taking a realistic approach to daily life can create a really charming series, but strong characters are an absolute must for it to succeed without a central plot. Quite simply, the characters just aren’t up to the challenge of carrying the show on their own. The protagonist can be grating on the nerves because of her extreme indecisiveness, and she never develops beyond a generic leading role. The other characters don’t fare much better. Shirakawa-sensei is made out to be an important and influential character and hints about his mysterious past are dropped throughout the series. However, these little hints are the only development his character receives, and he never becomes more than the cold piano teacher that he appears to be in the first episode. The flawed cast of characters makes this look at Miyu’s life a tedious and trying viewing experience.
Piano is decidedly average in most other respects. The soundtrack is pretty surprising considering how few actual piano pieces are included. The few that are used are mainly classics written by composers like Chopin, and the rest are nothing notable. Piano aficionados will most likely be disappointed that the musical aspect takes a backseat to the mundane events of life.
While it certainly has numerous problems, Piano succeeds in creating a realistic look at a young adult’s life. It’s just too bad that the characters are not more appealing. The series still has a certain charm beneath its flaws, but it takes patience to be able to appreciate these qualities.
Piano can be downloaded legally in the United States HERE.