The Right Stuf // 2002 // 96 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Joel Pearce (Retired) // October 27th, 2005
Unlock the music within your heart.
After this second volume of Piano, I think I am starting to understand it better. That understanding doesn't make it any more palatable, but I suppose it's something.
In this volume, Miu must decide whether or not she will play in a piano recital. Mr. Shirakawa wants her to play badly enough that he won't include any players in this year's recital if she declines the offer. In the meantime, Yuuki has confessed her love to Takizawa. They are in a relationship, but Yuuki isn't sure how to go about it. Miu is still too scared to confess her own feelings for Takahashi. The core of the series remains in Miu's playing. She's uncertain about her own playing, and only through inner confidence will she improve.
The first volume of Piano was horribly trite. After the second volume, it's clear that the initial simplicity of the series was intentional. The stakes are slightly higher this time around, as Miu needs to start taking on some responsibility and making decisions for herself. For a girl in her early teens, the choice of whether or not to risk playing in a recital is a serious one, especially given the uncertainty of kids her age. The issues that plague the older members of her family are also starting to creep into her life as well, and the audience is also seeing more of that as the series continues. Her sister is struggling with alcoholism and irresponsibility. Miu will need to keep growing up quickly as the series unfolds.
Unfortunately, this added complexity doesn't transform Piano into a great series. Yuuki is shallow and annoying to the point of physical pain. Her enthusiasm is way over the top, and adds little to the story. Miu is still so painfully shy and passive that it's difficult to watch her at times. She is developing a little bit of personality, but she still doesn't seem like much of a protagonist. She spends half of the series repeating what everyone else says. Even when it isn't repetetive, the dialogue is exceptionally mundane. The whole plot is built around contrivances and everyday conversations that have me nodding off in no time.
The animation looks weaker this time around. Whether that's due to my poor memory or a decrease in production funds, I can't say. The backdrops look bland, sloppy and static. The characters are simply drawn and don't move much either. I realize not every series can have the visual depth of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, but Piano is in the same category as Hanna-Barbara cartoons from the '80s. The sound is acceptable, and the dub is solid. Considering this is a series about piano music, I was a little surprised by the amount of annoying soft synthesizer in the score, though.
There are a surprising number of special features on the disc, which would normally be a good thing. The centerpiece is a conversation between the two lead Japanese voice actresses. They reminisce about their own high school days, as the camera operator swoops around, seemingly at random. There are also "visual monologues," which amount to the characters talking about their feelings over footage from the series and the voice actresses walking around. Whee.
If you liked the first volume of Piano, you will probably like the series even more as it progresses. The rest of you needn't bother, though. Preteen girl slice-of-life dramas are a dime a dozen, and this particular one is a very thin slice indeed.
Review content copyright © 2005 Joel Pearce; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: The Right Stuf
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Running Time: 96 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Special Epilogue 2
* Visual Monologues
* Line Art
* Character Bios