An anime series where the main character is a pianist voiced by Kawasumi Ayako, and it is not Nodame Cantabile?
Piano (released in the US as Piano: The Melody of a Young Girl’s Heart) is a slice-of-life drama that follows middle school girl Nomura Miu as she learns about love and prepares for a piano recital.
Piano is an anime series that is also a brainchild of Fujishima Kousuke, who is most well-known for manga and series like You’re Under Arrest!, Oh! My Goddess!, and eX-Driver. After the more recent work he has done, it seems like Fujishima decided to go back to making a character-driven slice-of-life along the lines of You’re Under Arrest!.
As a result of the brains behind the series, Piano features what are easily some of the most gorgeous character designs I have seen in a long time. Fujishima’s designs are easily some of the best in the business, and I’ll overlook the fact that Miu’s older sister, both in personality and appearance, is a recycled Natsumi from You’re Under Arrest!, even though she was already reused once as Keiichi’s older sister in Oh! My Goddess.
The main difference between YUA! and Piano is the fact that the writers of Piano set out to make it the most realistic anime series about a middle school girl that anyone has ever conceived. Miu has normal problems, like balancing school and piano lessons, helping out best friend Yuuki, and discovering love for the first time. If anything, the series is a little too realistic.
Not once did Miu have anything out of the ordinary happen to her. What I found quite odd was the fact that despite the fact that the series’ title is Piano, it didn’t really devote that much attention to her music playing, unlike Nodame Cantabile where music was the central focus of the show. It almost felt like the writers decided to make a series where they take Melfina from Outlaw Star (which was incidentally Kawasumi Ayako’s debut voice role), make her the main character, and have absolutely nothing unusual happen to her.
To add insult to injury, Miu’s (possibly alcoholic) father is voiced by Ohtsuka Akio, who I know for having voiced Solid Snake in the Japanese version of the Metal Gear Solid games. In attempt to make things exciting, I pretend it’s Snake sitting at the Nomura dinner table; if David Hayter voiced old man Nomura in the dub, that would’ve made this series instantly the best ever.
The problem with the series really lies in the fact that the characters have almost nothing special to them. Miu’s teacher Shirakawa is kind of a jerk for no apparent reason. I see Yuuki’s boyfriend Takizawa so infrequently that I am unable to commit his face to memory. With a slice-of-life show like this, where there really is no plot, it really falls on the characters to keep things going, and the cast of YUA! did that just fine in a show that was equally lacking in plot as everyone had unique personalities that made them memorable and fun to watch. However, because of what Piano has to work with, the series winds up becoming as exciting to watch as paint drying.
Piano has extremely good intentions, and it has its cute moments, reinforced by its understated music (such as the piano instrumental “To You”, incidentally performed by the multitalented Kawasumi herself). It is because I can detect its good intentions, I desperately wanted to like Piano. Unfortunately, for most people, it will wind up as a cure for insomnia. For that reason, it’s no surprise the series is only 10 episodes long. It tried very hard to do what Nodame Cantabile did five years later, but somehow just missed the mark. At least it wasn’t half-assed like Rurouni Kenshin: Shin Kyoto-Hen or pure evil like Issho ni Sleeping.
I do need to point out that, perhaps much more so than with Rurouni Kenshin, you really need to be armed with a good knowledge of Japanese culture before going into Piano. That said, the English dub winds up sounding rather awkward at times, such as when Miu’s mother “humbly beseeched” Yuuki for forgiveness for Miu’s slight lateness in meeting her. I’m kind of surprised that a dub even exists considering that Piano is more of a niche series for American audiences.