Piano: The Melody of a Young Girl's Heart Vol. #2 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: A-
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 13 and Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Nozomi Entertainment
  • MSRP: 9.99
  • Running time: 75
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2

Piano: The Melody of a Young Girl's Heart Vol. #2

By Mark Thomas     October 03, 2008
Release Date: June 24, 2008


Piano: The Melody of a Young Girl's Heart Vol. #2
© Nozomi Entertainment

Yuuki’s gung-ho attitude towards confessing her love to Takizawa has Miu questioning her own feelings for Takahashi, and it is affecting her ability to play piano. Unfortunately, she has no real answers to those questions.

What They Say
Unlock the music within your heart!

Summer vacation is here and that means it's almost time for Yuuki's birthday! Since it's over summer break, her birthday is usually a nonevent; but this year, Yuuki has decided that things are going to be different...this year, on her birthday she's going to confess her love to Takizawa! But will the handsome and popular third-year track star reject her? The very thought has Yuuki in turmoil. Her best friend, Miu, is doing all she can to support her friend, but watching Yuuki struggle only reminds Miu of how troubled her own heart is.

Meanwhile, Mr. Shirakawa is frustrated at the lack of growth in Miu's playing. Trying to inspire her, he nominates her to be his sole representative at the Spring Piano Recital. Not only that, but she'll be the only student who will have to compose and play her own original piece! If she refuses, Mr. Shirakawa won't even have a single student participating. Should she play in the recital even though her heart really isn't in it?

Contains episodes 4-7.

The Review!

Audio:
For this viewing, I listened to the English dub, which is offered in 2.0. The Japanese track is in 2.0 as well. The mix is pretty basic, but as this series is low key and based on dialogue, it works just fine. The music in particular is really pretty and fits the mood really well. Of course, I am a big fan of piano music, and if it is not obvious by the title, the piano is a main component of much of the music. That said, even the non-piano music is great.

Video:
The design for this title matches the subject matter of the show. It uses a lot of simple designs, earthy tones, and subtle shading, which all work really well for a slice-of-life series such as this. Each character has his or her own distinctive look, and I found those looks appealing. Technically, there are no flaws to speak of; the transfer came through nicely. This is just a beautifully put together anime.

Packaging:
I like the design of the packaging for this release. The cover has a picture of Miu sitting on an old fashioned love seat with Yuuki leaning on the back of the seat behind her. The room behind them has been filtered through a faded blue lens which creates an interesting contrast between foreground and back. Wrapping around the two is a staff of notes from a piano score. Along the top is the series title, which in a nice touch is also laid across a staff, while the volume title (called a movement instead of a volume) is on the bottom. The back has a couple of screen shots along with a volume summary, special features, and technical details. The background continues the pink motif, with a large G-Clef running from top to bottom along the left. I liked how they mixed in the music theme to the overall design.

The case itself is clear as the cover is dual sided. Not really reversible, as there is no title information on the other side, the interior does have some other original art, including the cover image in proper full color. Also inside the case is a tri-fold booklet with some production notes and a two side stories, which are similar to an entry in Miu’s diary. These are good to read last, as they contain some minor spoilers, and really only makes sense after seeing the episodes. The booklet is not really that necessary, but I like it when companies make that extra effort.

Menu:
I have always thought that Nozomi/Right Stuf create some of the nicest menus, and this one is no exception. The menu’s for this release keep the music theme going, as they repeat the image from the front cover, and set it on a musical score. The selections are written in script along the left hand side with a G-Clef acting as the cursor. The opening music plays while on the main menu. The submenus have a similar look and feel. It is a simple design that fits the theme of the show well.

Extras:
There are a few nice extras on this release. There are character bios for Miu’s family and a line art gallery. There is also a “Special Epilogue 2”, which this time features both Ayako Kawasumi (Miu in the Japanese version and performs all the piano pieces) and Tomoko Kawakami (Yuuki) where they discuss the relationship between their two characters. Finally, we also have Visual Monologues one & two, which are roughly five minutes apiece. These are essentially just audio diaries by Miu, discussing recent events and her interpretation of them; while talking, there is some random footage from episodes interspersed with live footage of Ayako Kawasumi wandering around various parks and looking introspective. They are fairly neat to watch and add some perspective as they get a little more intimate with Miu’s thoughts than the show does. These actually appear after episodes four and six when watching the regular show, but can be accessed in the bonus menu as well.

Content:  (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
This volume gives us the episodes four through seven of Piano: The Melody of a Young Girl’s Heart. The first volume showed the promise of a nice, low key show, and that promise is extended through this volume. Strong characterizations are built upon, and the plot continues to move at an effective pace.

When the last volume left off, Yuuki was contemplating moving on Takizawa while Miu was starting to question virtually everything in her life, not the least of which is her love of the piano and her feelings towards Takahashi. When this volume opens up, we find that Yuuki’s birthday is approaching soon, and she decides that her birthday will be the perfect time to confess her feelings to Takizawa. As any true friend would, Miu supports Yuuki in her quest, but has to rebuff Yuuki’s attempts to get Miu to follow suit with Takahashi. At this point, Miu is still unsure of her feelings towards Takahashi and decides that she is unready to do anything.

At first, Miu is fine with her decision, that attitude begins to change when Takizawa accepts Yuuki’s proposal and they start dating. Not wanting to be one of “those friends,” Yuuki makes sure she goes out of her way to make sure the Miu does not feel abandoned, though obviously they do not spend as much time together once Takizawa enters the picture. While she is happy for Yuuki, the closeness that Yuuki and Takizawa share makes Miu a little envious, and that just confuses her feelings for Takahashi even more.

This confusion makes her piano lessons go even worse than what has become normal recently. Understanding that Miu’s musical block is coming from conflicting emotions, Shirakawa tries what he can to break her out of her slump. Recently, the only time he had seen her play with joy was when he asked her to play anything she wanted, and she responded with a piece that she had written herself.

As such, he now decides to try and challenge her, to see if she can rise to the occasion. He tells her that he has picked her to represent his students at the Spring Piano Recital and that he wants her to perform an original composition. As with everything recently, she is at first reluctant. He continues to press for her acceptance, even going so far as to tell her that if she declines, he will have no students play in the recital. This only adds to her apprehension, but a conversation with Takahashi after a Christmas party causes her to rethink her position.

This volume continues the themes presented in the first. As Miu becomes more anxious, she retreats within herself even more. At the heart of her problems seems to be Takahashi as she can never bring herself to admit that she might like him, but the few snippets of conversation she has with him here and there are the only things that can truly snap her out of her funk. Even Yuuki’s friendship can only temporarily cheer her up.

What continues to amaze me with this title is how well the characters are developed in such a short time. By the end of the first volume, every character had their own quirks and were fairly believable, and these episodes are able to expand on all of them. Even when Miu’s sister, Akiko, shows up for the first time for an episode, by the end of it, we have a pretty good picture of who she is and her motivations for what she does with her life. Characterization is extremely important with titles like this, and Piano: The Melody of a Young Girl’s Heart seems to have hit it head on.

Another strong point of this series so far has been the music. As the title implies, there is quite a bit of piano music in this one, all played by Miu’s actual Japanese VA, Ayako Kawasumi. She even at least had a hand in composing the original pieces. There is some truly beautiful music in this show, both piano and non-piano pieces. Considering a, or perhaps <u>the, major plot point is Miu trying to find her love of music again, having good music is an important detail, and Piano: The Melody of a Young Girl’s Heart does it well. The music is in complete harmony with theme of the series (bad pun fully intended).

In Summary:
Piano: The Melody of a Young Girl’s Heart is a series that continues to impress. It is subtle and understated and wonderfully put together. The coming of age theme works really well with the pieces that are in place around it, and I am looking forward to seeing how it all plays out. It may not be a title that would appeal to everybody, but for fans of slice-of-life should find a lot to like with this one. Recommended.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Character Bios, Line Art, Special Epilogue 2, Visual Monologues

Review Equipment
Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, Memorex MVD2042 Progressive Scan w/ DD/DTS (Component Connection), Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System

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