“The Chosen Hands”

「選ばれた手」 (Eraba reta te)

Initial Impressions

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!


Concluding Thoughts

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 Sequence

ED: 「帰る場所があるということ」 (Kaeru Basho ga Aru to Iu Koto) by Aoi Yuuki

End Card


  1. I have to admit that I spent most of the episode trying to work out how they’d animated the piano playing so accurately. OK, so it still looked pretty awful, but the fingers were hitting the right notes at (round about) the right time. Did they start with a MIDI file and then use that to drive the animation somehow, or did they mocap an actual performance? I know it’s possibly to lipsync MMD to MIDI, but this is going way beyond that.

    Apart from that, I found it all pretty ridiculous. It kind of fell right in between something that’s believable and something at the level of a fairy tale where you’re clearly expected to suspend your disbelief. Plus I hate Chopin. But starting with the ending? I suppose if you really knew that was going to be the ending it would be a major spoiler, but if you didn’t, olde-style Gainax has pulled that one on us before in Gurren Lagann, where the opening sequence doesn’t actually happen.

    Anyway, this one is an instant drop for me too.

    1. Hey Angelus! I also appreciated the technical accuracy portrayed when it came to playing. But it seems like a small thing they got right, in a sea of wrongs.

      Plus I hate Chopin.

      And that’s a terrible thing to say! Chopin might be overrated, but he has so many pieces that are just timeless and great.

      For me, Debussy if my favourite. Now I want to ask, who would your favourite composer be?

      1. Sorry about my dislike for Chopin, but he’s too early for me. Perhaps if he had lived long enough then he might have managed to break the constraints of tonality in the way that his contemporary Wagner did because you can almost hear it happening sometimes in the later Études, especially Opus 25 No. 5 as featured in Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso.

        Favourite composer? Well, certainly Debussy and the rest of the French Impressionists are up there with the greats, but La Jeune France is more my thing.

      2. @Angelus. I talked about Debussy in an intro I did last summer!

        The classical music certainly tickles my fancy and it was a pleasure to hear that the soundtrack had successfully captured the Baroque period characteristics using instruments like the harpsichord.

        This is also probably a good moment to reveal that while I cannot compare to Kousei Arima of Shigatsu fame, I’m quite handy at the piano! Impressionism remains my favourite period, with Debussy being my muse. Some of the pieces that I learned, which I would recommend listening to include: Ballade, Reverie, Deux Arabesques, Pagodes – Estampes, Sarabande – Pour le Piano.

        No other composer comes close to resonating with me on a spiritual level, the way that Debussy does. I actually played the piano up till getting a distinction at Grade 8, before quitting the diploma halfway through, due to academic commitments. When you have the time, do let me know, what are your favourite pieces by our favourite composer? I haven’t actually heard of them before.

  2. From a manga reader’s point of view, I hate the fact that there were several minor events that have been left out which showing in depth background and characteristics from Kai. Unfortunately, some of those are R-rated which is definitely a no-no on TV. I strongly recommend to read the manga.

    Besides, I have a bad feeling that some supporting characters would be left out too. Show Spoiler ▼

    1. A Nodame Cantabile profile picture! If one was to pop up around RC, I would have expected it for this kind of show.

      While those moment are R-rated, I’m saying that there are ways of re-expressing them in a more SFW way, that can still convey Kai’s background and characteristics.

      Show Spoiler ▼

      Also, you’re most likely correct on that hunch.

      Show Spoiler ▼

      For a story that’s meant to be about music and the heart, there’s surprisingly little heart to this adaptation, which is a damn shame.

  3. If a decision has been made to cram 200 chapters into 12 episodes, it was a production committee decision. The studio will have had little to say on that – they get their budget and have to do what they’re contracted to do. I guarantee you Fukushima Gainax and any other studio would rather have more time to tell the story, not less (or tell less story in the time they do have).

    1. Thanks for the insight, Enzo, which corrects me on my mistaken assumption. That absolutely sucks and it’s a sad state of affairs, how the modern animation industry has turned into a money making mechanism for higher up corporations, that is slowly being devoided of any remaining heart or soul.

      1. ROFL, that extrapolates a lot from my comment… Though I’m not sure I disagree with much of it.

        Many in the industry itself have been speaking out against the production committee system in recent years – something has to give sooner or later. More control and more income has to go to the studio itself and the creators, but the casting agencies, idol mafia, music publishers and LN publishers have a stranglehold on the system – they decide what gets made for the most part, and how much of a budget it gets. Just look at what Morita Shuuhei went through with Tokyo Ghoul – he and Ishida were on the same page with what he wanted to do, and the production committee never stopped meddling and vetoing his creative decisions. TG is one of the best-selling manga currently in publication, a profitable franchise in its own right – and even it’s far from immune to production committee sabotage. The system is broken, and it needs to be fixed or else.

    2. Gainax Fukushima is a decent branch, one of their managing directors stopped by in Malaysia for VAX 2016 and I can tell that they genuinely really enjoy the projects that they’re working on, but funding for GAINAX overall is immensely strained, I’m surprised actually that any of GAINAX’s branches are still kicking it. Currently GAINAX Fukushima is trying to encourage younger individuals to make animation as a profession by providing instruction to them and having develop their own animated projects

      So yeah, same thing all over, business model sucks because business people don’t know what the fuck they’re doing. If anything I’d rather just watch the OVA just for a glimpse into the feel. For sincerely, I just cannot ‘read’ stories that heavily focus on music, I have to be able to listen to the music itself no?

      Nishizawa Mihashi
  4. I decided to take your advice and read the manga and its great. I understand why you said what you did. A pity such a great body of work is being cramed into 12 eps. Wish it got 3-Getsu treatment….


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