“The Chosen Hands”
Fans of classical music and the piano – you might be in for a treat. This is the story of two boys from completely different backgrounds, who rise up through the piano, while overcoming despair and hopelessness in their own circumstances. Kai Ichinose (Saitou Souma) is the son of a prostitute named Reiko. He has had a rough upbringing, being raised at ‘The Edge of the Forest’, a place in the red light district infamous for its crime and corruption. Although Kai has never had any formal musical training, he is able to remember any song he’s ever heard, and reproduce their melodies from the piano within the forest. Shuhei Amamiya (Hanae Natsuki), a transfer student hailing from a lineage of distinguished pianists, resents expectations of seeing through his family’s musical legacy. Even though he doesn’t enjoy practicing, we could describe him as a very precise player, who rarely makes technical mistakes.
I really liked how both forest and piano provided an escape, from a dreadful school life filled with bullies. To that end, the series does not shy away from establishing a powerful connection between music and the natural world, in being a form of healing. There’s a wild beauty to Kai’s playing, that utterly charms Shuhei as well as all the nearby creatures. Here, we can see an honest freedom of heart, that is so wonderfully expressed through music. Anyway, what else is so special about Kai, that only he can produce sound from the forest’s broken piano? Turns out he hits the keys really hard, because his playing sucks at Shuhei’s house, on an ordinary piano. But there’s talent yet, stored away at his precious fingertips. For now, the mysterious Ajino-sensei (Suwabe Junichi) has already marked out Kai as the chosen one, so let’s see where this goes!
Having read the manga, I went in with complete familiarity of the source material. What did I make of the adaptation? Meh to be frank, if not disappointing.
They left out a lot of scenes, that gave our protagonists much better characterisation. We lose out on a lot of emotional investment, especially when it comes to Kai. A vital scene was removed, which highlighted the difficulties of being raised in a brothel. Obviously, it isn’t all safe for TV. Show Spoiler ▼
However, I would like to have seen them rework the idea into a presentable format, so that Kai’s personal background could be properly conveyed. I can’t put a finger on why they started things off using a moment from the very end of the manga. Where the storyline gets dramatic, viewers will use this scene as reassurance that everything is going to be fine, which will take away any air of suspense. After snapping back to the start, they then sped through the source material at breakneck pace, covering 12 chapters in one episode. I also wish that greater effort was committed to bringing old designs into a modern era of animation. Most studios seem to be relying on CGI as a crutch for the aforementioned purpose, and while pretty at times, I generally disliked how the CGI was used.
Seeing how they’ve listed voice actors for characters who are going to appear 200+ chapters in, it’s pretty much confirmed that Fukushima Gainax intend to blitz everything into 12 episodes. A baffling directorial decision, that leaves me completely unimpressed. A well-tuned soundtrack may have been the only saving grace, but even delightful piano playing can only do so much, as the prospects of a nightmare adaptation have greatly soured my prospective enjoyment. Perhaps newcomers might have taken no issue, while finding this premiere intriguing, to which it certainly is. However, if rushing and substantial cuts are going to be the inevitable fate of Piano no Mori 2018, my advice is plain and simple. Read the manga, with a classical piano playlist in the background, to emulate the kind of experience you might have gotten. Feel free to continue watching this show, but for the foreseeable future, I’ll be signing out. Goodbye, and good luck!
ED: 「帰る場所があるということ」 (Kaeru Basho ga Aru to Iu Koto) by Aoi Yuuki