Piano: The Melody of a Young Girl's Heart Vol. #1 - Mania.com

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: A
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 3 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Nozomi Entertainment
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 75
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Piano: The Melody of a Young Girl's Heart

Piano: The Melody of a Young Girl's Heart Vol. #1

By Chris Beveridge     May 23, 2005
Release Date: June 28, 2005

Piano: The Melody of a Young Girl's Heart Vol. #1
© Nozomi Entertainment

What They Say
From director Norihiko Sudoo (DIRECTOR: COMIC PARTY / ASST DIRECTOR: CASTLE IN THE SKY), with character designs by Kosuke Fujishima (OH MY GODDESS! / SAKURA WARS) and art direction by Junichi Higashi (MY DAYS WITH MIDORI / AI YORI AOSHI: ENISHI TV)!

Unlock the music within your heart!

Miu Nomura once loved to play the piano. As a little girl, the music made her heart soar and she eagerly shared her songs with all of those around her. Now an introverted teenager, Miu has become too shy to express her feelings – even through her music. Her playing has suffered and her piano teacher, the moody Mr. Shirakawa, has become impatient with her inability to reach the next level.

When Miu develops a crush on upperclassman Takahashi, her best friend Yuuki is the first to notice. Unfortunately, Yuuki's too distracted with her own emotional troubles – she's fallen hard for third year track star Takizawa! However, Mr. Shirakawa has also noticed something... a sudden and remarkable change in Miu's playing. Can he help her rediscover the joy of the piano and find the courage to share her heart and music once more?

The Review!
Taking things a bit slower in a slice of life storyline, we're introduced to a young woman who is looking for her place in life.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this series in its original language of Japanese. The stereo mix for the show is pretty decent but outside of the music it's not one that has all that much to really offer in that form. It's a very dialogue driven show for the bulk of it and that comes across clean and clear but the music is where the fullness really comes through and much of the piano work sounds great. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with either language track in terms of dropouts or distortions.

Originally airing in 2002, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. With this being a series that's focused on the real world and taking place in the city, it's very earthy at times with its street and building colors but it's also well balanced with the glitzy signs and lights at night and nicely done outfits that avoid being just school uniforms but also a good range of casual wear outfits. The range of colors here look good and maintain a solid feel as well as avoiding over saturation or bleeding. There's a touch of aliasing going on with some of the long range character shot scenes but they're few and far between here that it's just a momentary problem. This is overall a good looking transfer that keeps the attention on the program itself.

The cover for this release really lets you know what to expect from it with a really nice shot of Miu and Yuuki together laying on a hammock in some casual clothes. They used a nice soft purple filter for below it so the grass and flowers are mixed in with the whites and both girls are surrounded by a string of musical notes. It's a very soft and pretty color that just feels very laid back and relaxed. The back cover plays up the music note aspect and provides one down the side underneath a few shots of various characters. The summary of the shows premise cover a couple of good paragraphs that talk about it nicely and the discs features are all clearly listed. The technical grid along the bottom does a solid job of containing all that information easily so that it's quick to find and easy to understand. The insert replicates the front cover nicely while it opens to a two panel spread; one panel covers the production notes for this volume and the other has a short story with a cute piece of artwork done up as a photograph. The reverse side of the cover is a full color piece as well, with the left side showcasing a couple of pieces from the show and some character artwork while the right side has the same artwork as the front cover but without the filter, logo or swirling music. I really like how the front cover came out but I also really like the original untouched artwork here.

The menu layout uses the style set forth by the cover artwork and has part of that here mixed in with a letterbox style done in purples that is set to a small piece of the piano music from the show. It's simple and understated and fits perfectly with the material. The navigation along the left is nicely laid out and quick to access and load times are nice and fast. The disc correctly read our players' language preset accurately but picked up the wrong subtitle track as the first English track is just the signs and song subtitles.

A small but decent selection of extras made it into the first volume of the series. A special epilogue to the first episode is deceptive in what it is, since you figure it's something to the show itself but it's actually a ten minute video interview piece talking with the voice actresses from the show about how they got into it, its origins and so forth. It's fun to watch the two leads play back and forth with each other over how they dressed for the interview segments and things in general. The standard character bio section is included and some of the other standards are here such as the clean opening sequence, an art gallery and a section of original character sketches.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
I end up watching a lot of series and quite a lot of them at the same time, so when something like the Piano comes along, it's departure from the norms of what makes many of these other series tick becomes even more evident than it might otherwise, especially if you only look for shows similar to this. The Piano isn't a breakout show that will change the world or has something so amazing that you've never seen it before, but it is something that takes the slice of life aspect that so many people enjoy in other series and pulls it off without the additions made to them such as aliens, demons or a wacky cast of friends. It simply is a slice of life. And that is extremely refreshing.

The story centers around Miu Nomura, a junior high school student who is somewhat shy and a bit introverted. She's a decent student who has a good friend in the much more outgoing Yuuki who is on the track team. Miu's after school activity is one she's done since early childhood with playing the piano. She's good at it, but as we can see from her experiences with her teacher Mr. Shirakawa, she's reached a point where she's not necessarily not feeling challenged, but the material and the piano itself aren't exciting her like it used to. She's living her life and doing what she has to do but that spark just isn't there at the moment that will inspire her, consciously or subconsciously.

Something does eventually catch her eye though and it's an upperclassman named Takahashi who is on the track team. It's not a huge crush, it's just a little thing that she mostly keeps to herself, but it's something that Yuuki is able to figure out. Yuuki's outgoing enough that she's able to try and apply a little friendly pressure to things to get the two to at least talk a bit, but as aware as she is of her friends crush, she's also rather focused on a crush of her own with a fellow teammate. For Miu, she's able to enjoy her crush from afar and believes that nothing will come with it, but it's something that does light something within her. It's something that comes out in her piano music when during one lesson after school her teacher tells her to just play whatever she wants, and she does this original creation which surprises him quite a bit, though he doesn't let on in the slightest.

Miu's home life is interesting to watch as well, though I find myself more and more interested in these aspects as my own family continues to grow and change and my own parenting issues become more focused. Watching the family dynamic which is made up of Miu and her parents, as her older sister is in Europe for her own work, you can tell early on that her mother is very much the one that they all try to appease the most. The parents are fun to watch in how they dance around each other and the minor problems they're having, problems which have been there since the first day of the relationship it seems as her father is a journalist and is simply often out late and rarely comes home on time. So there's little frustrations about that that come out, but when her mother reminisces about how she met him, his lateness related to work was a factor then as well.

I also really liked watching how each of them treats Miu and what aspects that they play up the most. In a way, Miu is becoming more and more of a friend to her mother as she gets older but she maintains her status as daddy's little girl for her father who she does try to help out of the doghouse with her mother on several occasions. The two have a cute wink, nod and smile routine with each other that you can feel the dynamics of a real functioning family here and it is simply fun and heart-warming to watch it all be revealed here. The simple realities of their lives are fascinating enough without the need of the truly outrageous.

One of the appealing aspects of the show outside of what I've covered before is that the character designs are done by Kosuke Fujishima, someone whose design I've liked for a long time now. Over the years his characters have had some unfortunate similarities at times but he does a good job with the leads here original designs and what we get are characters that we don't quite think we've seen in every other show out there at one time or another. The feel of the show with its real world style is one that the cast here inhabits nicely and their simple but effective designs work out well. It was also really nice that over the course of the three episodes we see people in more than just the same outfit or school uniform constantly that it helps to flesh out their personalities more and makes them feel more alive.

In Summary:
This show is a very simple one at best. Even with a relationship potential here, it's not so much about that but about the people themselves and their lives from day to day and the simple dreams that they have for themselves and others. It's very laid back and relaxing but it manage to suck you in nicely and the cast grows on you as it plays out. This is a nice change of pace from so many other shows that I've been watching recently that it stands out particularly strong for us since it is so different. These are the kinds of shows that truly attracted me to anime years ago and I'm excited to see another variant on the material released here.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Special Dual Sided Cover, Character Bios, Line Art Gallery, Original Character Sketches, Special Epilogue #1, Textless Opening, Piano Side Story #1, English Production Notes

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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