The Right Stuf // 2002 // 72 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Joel Pearce (Retired) // July 14th, 2005
Unlock the music within your heart.
Looking back at my junior high years, most of the things that felt like a big deal at the time seem trivial in retrospect. Apparently the situation isn't much different in Japan.
Piano follows the non-adventures of young Miu Namura, a middle school student who plays piano, has a close friend named Yuuki, and sports the craziest hair in anime history. Between going to lessons with her mildly moody piano teacher and thinking about the cute boy on her track team, she deals with her moderately dysfunctional family, though it's clear that they all get along pretty well.
And that's about it. It's not a bad series, per se, but it's about as exciting as going to your little sister's piano recital. Stories thrive on conflict, whether it's external or internal, and Piano has very little. Miu thinks she forgets her music for her lessons and expects her teacher to be upset. She almost has to walk home in the rain without her umbrella. She worries that Yuuki might tell Takahashi about her crush on him. Disaster is averted after Mia's mom nearly doesn't get the kind of cake she wants as a gift.
And yet, every time conflict is about to rear its ugly head, Piano never fails to slip a soft cushion in. There are a few moments in the first volume that work anyway, such as the races in the third episode. We can be happy when Yuuki makes the right decision, and when all the racers get their act together at the last minute. It's telling that the creators of the show choose to include time trials, rather than an actual race. The competition here is fake, just like everything else that could get in the way of the characters' happiness. Mia's parents fight, but quickly sort things out. Maybe I'm jaded after years of mean-spirited action films, but I'm not sure what I'm supposed to look forward to in the volumes still to come. Will Miu get even better on the piano? Will she gather up the nerves to actually talk to Takahashi? Perhaps the future volumes of Piano will follow Miu's entrance into her turbulent teenage years, but this volume has done little to move things in that direction.
Although I haven't been blown away by the series this far, the disc has been well produced. It's presented in its original full frame, and although the animation is very simple, it's razor sharp. There are no print or transfer flaws at all. The sound is solid, too, with a gentle piano soundtrack underneath clear dialogue and a sparse ambient track. There's an English dub as well, although it's not as pleasant to listen to. There are some extras on the disc as well. There's an interview with the voice actress who played Miu in the Japanese version, in which she discusses her similarities and differences to the character she has played. It's about as thrilling as the series, and lasts nearly ten minutes. The usual extras are here, with character bios, sketches, and a textless opening.
Young girls in Piano's target audience may get more out of the series than I have. After all, I'm no longer going through the painful experience of trying to figure out who I'm going to be, uncertain of myself in social situations and struggling through romantic feelings for the first time. To its credit, there is nothing in Piano that's inappropriate for preteen girls. It's a wholesome exploration of a young girl's life, which is sure to strike a chord with the right kind of viewers. For the rest of us, it's just a dull trip through memories that no longer seem important.
Piano is far too good-natured to be guilty, but it isn't much fun either. It is hereby sentenced to spend a couple days with the girls of Azumanga Daioh.
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: 72 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Character Bios
* Character Gallery
* Production Notes