This is based on second half of one of the greatest manga ever written. They left a lot of the story out because they only had 24 episodes total, and while that included some of my favorite parts the heart of the story is all present.
Let's just get this part out of the way. The animation sucks. All the CGI from the first season is gone and everything has been replaced with stills for the most part. They show motion by overlaying some moving bubble layer on top of the audience and pianist whenever music is being played, and by panning over still pictures.
There's very little actual animation.
The best part of this is the performances. They got some of the best young pianists from around the world to stand in for each of the different performers and they did incredible jobs. If you like classical piano this is worth watching for that alone. Or maybe buy the CDs.
I'm happy that they finally animated the entire story, if you can call this animation. But really I think what would be the best way to experience this would be to read the manga while the music from the anime is playing in the background.
I want to write a review here because this anime is unfortunately too underrated and I am in love with it. So, hi! minor spoiler maybe.
Just to get it out of the way: By the looks of it, namely the art, it's not reeeeally good and some shots look cheap, I wish they had done a better job. And you may overlook this series if you just want something quick paced.
Forget all that, where Piano no Mori shines is in its subtle undertones.
Albeit at first glance it presents itself with a known formula of poor boy-rich boy, it goes on and carries much more than
the main characters' contrasting realities and the premise of facing the road to become a great musician. It's a tale of friendship, father-son dynamics, conflict and personal growth. You can even see the show as a homage to the polish pianist Fryderyk Chopin (great choice by the way), done so while playing music beautifully, slowling developing the caracters and their personality in a linear, sensible way. The dilemmas they face come from daily, human nature feelings, making it easy to sympathize with the characters and cheer for them as they progress.
It's kind of predictable who wins at the end, but it's the last-episode twist that makes the victory even more special and really wraps the story up so later you are able to picture how their lives are gonna go from there.
After 24 episodes in total i'm holding Piano no Mori in high regards, and if you are captivated by a calm story an memorable moments (those even coming from supporting characters), give this anime a try. You will enjoy it!
I think more than ever I wish the characters in this show would just shut up. Because the plot is so focused on playing the piano and the sound that comes from it, not having just pure peace and letting the notes fly is a weird detriment to the whole thing.
Piano no Mori continues the story back in Poland where our dual protagonists of Ichinose Kai and Amamiya Shuhei move onto the next stage of the Chopin competition, using the rest of the runtime to find themselves in the realm of music and their reason to play the piano.
Compared to the whimsical and often time
storytelling-like presentation in season one where the setting of 'Forest's Edge' and the power of letting music flow sets the tone for the core themes of nature vs. nurture in the realm of music, season two takes a step back from that concept and instead does the complete opposite of what I expected Piano no Mori to do: spend time on less worthwhile characters. In this season, instead of just having Kai or Shuhei stand as the characters that earn the most screentime due to their role as protagonists, a lot of the early to mid sections of the story are instead devoted to other contestants in the competition, consistently using episode after episode to give apparently necessary backstories with enough depth and weight to them in order to warrant their motivations to win and succeed as musicians while also putting them on an equal pedestal to our protagonists.
This choice comes with a duality of problems. First, the stories essentially BECOME the characters. Each new contestant that gets even half an episode's worth of screentime essentially has their backstory simply define them without much exploration beyond that. As such, it's not uncommon for the show to have Wei or Lech constantly drone on and on about their stance against Ajino and dedication to their sister respectively, which despite the surprisingly well-paced backstories (that're mostly just told instead of shown in a meaningful light), only muddies the plotline as the story is forced to take a different turn to accomodate them. The other issue arises with our dual protagonists, who until the last couple episodes of the series, are not the main focus. Shuhei and Kai get about a third of the show dedicated to their characters, which is a choice I feel hurts the show in the long run because honestly, what's the point of having them be the protagonists if they're forced to share the spotlight with a bunch of new characters that the audience has little to no attachment with?
Numerous other smaller plot threads litter the show as well, including corruption within the contest, Amamiya Sr. just being the biggest piece of shit this show has to offer well beyond shitty tabloid people, all contribute to ultimately squander the runtime that Piano no Mori had left. I honestly wish that the series just stuck to having Kai and Amamiya as the focus, as their personalities, the dichotomy of their upbringings, and their different approach to the instrument and styles are the things that made the show so interesting to begin with. But as it stands with the treatment of their characters, I personally don't get the full satisfaction that I got with season one because I only barely get to see these two boys grow up to become better musicians compared to the prior installment.
Lumping Kai and Shuhei isn't something I'm happy about doing, but there isn't much to go on this time around. While Shuhei's story is certainly more fulfilling as him coming to terms with his upbringing in conjunction with his self expression as an artist comes to light, it only happens for about two episodes in the middle of the show. After that, he kind of gets shoved into a supporting role, and that one fact is enough to dock the show a few points because they made one of the key characters in their story act as nothing but a stepping stool towards the other's victory, which is an awful way to tell a story. Kai in contrast doesn't really have much character dichotomy this time around, as the show puts the boy on such a pedestal that his impact is only seen by the characters rather than the boy himself, earning one of two reactions: "He's so good", and "He's good, but I don't want to like it". His character only really shines when Ajino is concerned, and even then it's not about him, but Ajino, which I appreciate, but again, shows that Kai just lives on this god-tier pedestal of piano playing.
And because this series won't shut up about them this time around, you really can't go this show without talking about the other contestants, most of whom are given names, but hardly any of them really matter. Wei, Lech, Sophia, the twins, Daniel, etc, etc, I honestly don't really care about any of these characters because their stories feel forced. My main issue rises from presentation since their stories are just dropped on the audience right after their names are established, which doesn't give a good impression because now the audience is forced to take these characters into account even though they did nothing for the narrative prior. This trend continues for the rest of the series, and eats away so much of it that any runtime regarding the competition and furthering that plot would result in only half a show.
Much of the side cast, especially in regards to any characters we met in Season one, get pushed to the wayside unless your name is 'Ajino Sousuke'. Most if not all of the more notable ones like Shuhei's dad is set aside for plot reasons to create a tangental plot thread that doesn't feel like it should really be there, while others simply exist to fill out a census. Seriously there are so many side characters in here with names. The cast is so chock filled with people that don't matter that I'm genuinely surprised that they decided to do multiple plot threads insinuating corruption and ulterior motives in regards to how the competition ultimately turned out. Because someone there REALLY should've called out bullshit because there was CLEAR bias that was never resolved or acknowledged.
I'm not surprised that Piano no Mori doesn't look that great due to Gaina being such a small studio, but I didn't expect the show to have worse quality than its prior season. Often times the show would have different character models for much of its cast, so consistency is a major issue especially when something like Wei's hair flap becomes weirdly softer over time as the series goes on and on nearing the end. Colors are the same sort of drab color like season one, but backgrounds definitely clash with the foreground seeing as how Gaina's dwindling budget caused them to layer what's essentially a photo of a location behind the foreground.
And the lacking budget doesn't end there. Animation for this show is sorely lacking to the point that a good half of the show doesn't even really have animation. Piano performances are plentiful in this series, which gave the studio an easy way out to have what's essentially a slideshow of still images panning from one side to the other before changing to another, and another, and another. It also doesn't help that a lot of the characters have internal monologues too, which can easily eat up a good thirty seconds of runtime, again showing either how little budget this show had, or how cheap Gaina were willing to go to produce this. (Also audience clapping is done with only two frames of animation)
This is probably the first time I've ever seen a show fully reuse an OP. The OP for the second season is the exact same as Season 1, which again, really begs the question what the show was like on the financial side. Because if they couldn't even be bothered to get another piano recording and another set of pictures for a similar slideshow for a new OP, there's something going on. Thankfully at least they have a new ED in "Hajimari no Basho" by Rie Murakawa. Personally I don't really care much for this song, but it's nice to have something new for this series because copy pasting the OP is quite a red flag.
Adding to that, there is certainly a lot of beautiful piano playing which is something I asked in the intro to just have all characters fucking shut up while it's happening. Because so many characters feel the need to commentate on everything internally, it's actually kind of hard for the viewer to just enjoy the music along with the characters for a more immersive experience. Not having that was kind of a crapshoot, especially because there were plenty of monologues happening once the pieces were over and the audience in-series were clapping. That being said, I feel like Gaina just reused the same recordings over and over again since multiple people play the same songs (competition rules) and despite having music experience, I for the life of me couldn't tell the fucking difference when it came to two people playing the same song, and how one was objectively better than the other.
I got into Piano no Mori purely for the reason of it being a piano series and music series based on the music just interest me and bring me back to a time when it was a staple in my life. Not only that, but the narrative of nature vs. nurture brought about some interesting questions in music philosophy on technical playing vs. playing by feel. Shuhei and Kai I feel really helped play out this dynamic and were a main force as to why I had the urge to watch and finish this series.
Yet despite that, I was really bored watching this show. Coupled with an obvious conclusion to the competition given the buildup given prior to the results, I didn't really feel the urge to sit down and really watch/enjoy this show. Poor aesthetics aside since I expected the show to not be all that visually appealing, I expected this show to have a great narrative where the protagonists herald the story forging their own destinies in the field of music. But it wasn't that. Instead I got backstories I didn't care about, pure Poland worship for 'reasons' as everyone in the audience was screaming "OUR POLAND!" the moment someone performed a pieces to a consensus liking, so much mention of Chopin that even I feel like Chopin wouldn't appreciate, and a dissatisfying conclusion for Shuhei because it didn't feel like he got the payoff he deserved.
There were certainly some good aspects like the ending after the credits and the reappearance of my favorite character (for like a grand total of maybe 10 minutes. Thanks for bringing Aoi Yuuki back for that, knobs), but the journey ultimately just has too many bumps in the road for me to really recommend this. And that's a shame because in concept alone I feel like Piano no Mori is a fine show. But because of its consistent blunders and focuses put on the wrong things, I just think it's best to just ignore this show. I'd rather have just a better first movement than a closing second movement to make the whole thing less than the sum of its parts.
The first season of the Piano Forest has this fantastical whimsy to it. A grand piano abandoned in a forest severely damaged by the elements with no chance of playing again is happened upon by a young boy who breathes life into those worn out keys and strings. Magical would be the word to describe that season, but can the same be said for season 2?
The story of the piano forest felt like something out of an old Disney movie with a touch of Studio Ghibli. The fantastical elements interwoven with real world talent made watching a delight. The second season in my opinion
abandons what made the first season special. The forest setting is abandoned in favor of a symphony hall as the story meanders through what can only be called a tournament arc putting the very best in the world against each other. Most of the story chooses to center around these performances rather than the potential character development of our main cast. The story does pick up though in the last couple episodes and the ending is as beautiful as the music the pianists play.
With the second season we are introduced to new characters with new stories of their own. During this time much of the spotlight is taken off our main duo in favor of other characters. Out of the new characters I found myself only interested in a couple. I found myself more concerned with our main characters and how they are handling this change of scenery. I really wish the story put more focus on them but what can you do.
The animation for the second season is all together a big improvement yet also a disappointment. The cgi that plagued the piano performances from the first season are gone. However they are replaced by still images. Anytime someone starts to play, the camera pans to the audience as they sit there quietly thinking about the performance. No lip flaps, no blinking, no nothing. Honestly you could close your eyes and just to the performance and not miss a thing. With that being said, despite the many still frames, if you are a fan of traditional 2D animation then you will enjoy the second season.
The music thankfully did not change. Every piece is as beautiful as the last. I wouldn’t say I’m a fan of classical music but I enjoyed the performances from each and every episode. For the music side of things, the magic had not been lost.
Overall, I feel that the second season was a bit weaker than the first season. The magic and fantastical whimsy that made me invested in the show to begin with is mostly gone. The direction for the 2nd half felt misguided and lost by choosing to focus on a tournament arc style approach rather than a character driven drama. The ending however was beautiful in a way that definitely captured the spirit of what made the Piano Forest special to the point of almost bringing me to tears, almost. In spite of its flaws, I’m happy to be one of the few who stuck with this anime to the very end.