A tranquil tale about two boys from very different upbringings. On one hand you have Kai, born as the son of a prostitute, who's been playing the abandoned piano in the forest near his home ever since he was young. And on the other you have Syuhei, practically breast-fed by the piano as the son of a family of prestigious pianists. Yet it is their common bond with the piano that eventually intertwines their paths in life.
Piano no Mori had been previously serialized in now-defunct Young Magazine Uppers between August 1998 and November 2002 (1998 #9~2002 #22). It resumed serialization in Morning in April 2005 (2005 #20).
The manga won the Grand Prize for best manga at the 12th Japan Media Arts Festival in 2008.
An anime movie adaptation premiered in 2007 and was nominated for the 2008 Japan Academy Prize for Animation of the Year.
I first stumbled upon Piano no Mori while searching for a sports manga. At first I thought it was going to be something boring; however, after a few chapters, I realized I could not stop reading. My first impression of the manga was that it was about some elementary school kids and music, however, it soon progresses into something greater. I know most of you do not enjoy reading mangas about elementary kids as it takes away a lot of the drama; however this is not the case for this manga. As seen later on, the childhood of the characters sets the stage for a promising series of developments.
The manga is about a music prodigy that was brought up by a prostitute mother in a rural the red light district called "edge of the forest." Kai, the protagonist, was never taught how to play the piano, yet he is able to learn songs after just hearing them a couple of times. Since an early age he has played with a piano found in the middle of a forest, a piano which was abandoned by a famous concert pianist due to the arm injury that destroyed his career. About a couple of years later, Amamiya, Shuuhei; son of a concert pianist and brought up to follow the path of his father, transfers and meets Kai. Along with a couple of other events, such as meeting the owner of the piano in the forest, Kai starts taking a serious interest in music and ventures into the world of music and out of the "edge of the forest".
Although the synopsis might sound common, there are a lot of elements in the manga that make it extremely enjoyable. First of all, the manga is extremely realistic, with a golden pacing. You can clearly understand the standpoints of each character and you completely immerse into the world that Kai lives in. It makes you feel the emotions of the characters and realize the harshness of childhood. For example, while reading the manga, I seriously had anger fits and the urge to strangle one of the Kai's classmates, a fat kid that often bullies Kai. In many aspects, such as music appreciation and the uniqueness of each musical piece, it resembles Nodame Cantabile. If you have liked Nodame Cantabile, you will surely love Piano no Mori.
In regards to the Art, at first it might seem really childish, consisting of kids with flushed cheeks and a lot of shading. However, as the story progresses, it appears to be getting better. I do not mean better as in the art style drastically changes, but you certainly get used to the art and realize that it is quite adequate to convey that kind of story. The art serves the purpose of making the events understandable. The only thing I would have liked to see more is actual musical notes when the characters play the piano. As of now, most of the time when characters play the piano, it is represented by sparkly stars, sometimes making it hard to distinguish if the character is actually playing (on scenes where they test the piano sounds, you cannot distinguish if the sound is good or not, until about 5 panels later, when someone casually points it out).
I would score this as 8.5, it is beyond very good, but in comparison to other mangas, its not really great
Piano no Mori, the Piano Forest, an old mysterious magic piano left unattended on the edge of a suburb of “ fireflies ” where everything seems already written; It is there where all begins, where the game starts for the one who will become one of the best pianists of his “ time “; in his fantastic magic world; The Perfect World of Kai. The first part tell us about his childhood, his life and that of some of his friends, while the second part already adults and ready to face the challenges of their journey.
“In my first time listening...it struck me in the depths of my heart. And it instantly, completely, captured my soul.”
I’m sitting here, writing a review for this manga I just so happened to stumble upon (and actually surprised by the quality of it too). Piano No Mori, aka. The Perfect World Of Kai, is like a painting; beautifully raw, and yet, framed by some crude, seriously harsh reality. Looking back on the story, I don’t think it could be explained any other way.
The story is set in a rural town somewhere in the late 90’s. We’ve got this one boy who is, maybe not “rich”, but extremely well off. He looks like the everyday honour student (even though he’s pretty average) probably because he wears such formal clothes to school. Initially bullied and introverted when moving from Tokyo to the country, he is Amamiya Syuhei. He lives in the shadow of his father, a famous pianist in America.
And yet, there’s another boy in this story, Ichinose Kai. And this is where this story shines.
Born at the edge of a forest in the red-light district, Kai is the son of a prostitute. He is beautiful, androgynous, uninhabited, (and as Shuuhei says:) blessed by the god of piano. Kai has a particular style of music. It gives people feelings and emotions, but it’s just not meant for performances. And it's not cantabile style like Nodame (in Nodame Cantabile), rather, it's extremely rustic, earthy, and unrefined. It's clear why his music is raw: it was self-learned from an old piano, abandoned in the middle of a forest. What I find surprising in this manga is how that piano is portrayed in such a supernatural/magical light. It’s almost as if Kai's piano, the Piano of the Forest (lit. “Piano No Mori”) is the personification of the god of piano itself (it refuses to be played by anyone other than Kai), although, it goes on to symbolize Kai’s growth as a piano player. And yet, another surprising factor is how Kai rarely uses the piano to escape from his unfortunate life. He uses it as a tool for his self-expression.
The story continues with it's character-driven plot. The main genre has got to be slice-of-life comedy (a little into the manga, there is a girl known as the “Bathroom Toilet Princess”) but as I mentioned before, the story itself is framed by hopelessness. There are the ideals of both boys, who are young and passionate, but yet, there is the truth of reality which goes on to contrast against it. There's this one part just a few chapters into the manga, where Kai is about to be raped. Of course, his mother (a prostitute) comes in to stop it, but do you know what she says? “Kai is not going to be 'done' by anyone. Kai will be the one 'doing' other people”.
In contrast with the magical, supernatural air the piano brings to this story, there is the actuality of Kai's situation. He is the son of a prostitute, and because of his upbringing, he, too, is expected to become a prostitute too. That is, if he wasn't so blessed by the Piano of the Forest. Contrary to the title, Kai's world is far from perfect, but yet, he still remains so optimistic and happy about who he is and what he has.
But still, it's pretty fun and light-hearted. Syuhei has a one-sided rivalry towards Kai, and his inferiority towards such magical playing is both reasonable and understandable. And I've probably talked about Kai too much in this review but, really, everyone falls in love with him. His personality is so compelling even through the pages. And while I won't say it's the most original story (since we've seen most of this already done in Nodame Cantabile or Sakamichi No Apollon) the story-telling itself centered around Kai and the Piano of the Forest is both mesmerizing and enchanting.
I have nothing bad to say about this series, except for (maybe) the art. The characters are drawn extremely plainly, and yet, things like nature, or the Piano of the Forest is drawn with sketches. I suppose this art-style may show that there is a big contrast between nature and technology, rustic/terrestial and refined (just as Kai's piano playing is contrasting to Syuhei's), but I don't see any necessary point in this. And I never judge a manga based on it's art, but I think I should caution some (younger) readers. There is some nudity in this.
Piano No Mori (The Perfect World Of Kai) was amazing. Rarely do I see a series which, not only does it capture me emotionally, but also has a touching, inspirational story to go along with it. I would love to give it a 9.0, but since there is only 13 volumes out of 22 volumes currently translated, I don't think it would be fair, because I still haven't seen a good amount of the story to come. So instead, I'll give it a 8.5 / 10.0 (and my overall score will just be a 9.0). I must say, the quality of this manga is certainly unexpected. And it's a seinen, so don't expect a lot of conventional cliches found in shoujos or shounens. Rather,don't expect anything, and just read it... just feel.
I, myself, haven't been reading this manga for a long time, but already, I'm completely in love.