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