If I have learned one thing while watching Piano no Mori, it’s that everyone has baggage. Some people carry more weight than others, but we all are the product of our experiences. In this week’s episode, ‘In the Country Where Chopin Was Born’, we get to see a thrilling performance from Kai Ichinose!
Original Japanese Title: ショパンの生まれた国で
As the Final Stage of the Chopin Tournament continues on, Kai Ichinose takes to the stage to play his version of Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1.
Heart to Heart with Lech: Not one episode after I said Lech was shaping up to be an antagonistic rival for Kai and the two manage to have a heart to heart. Kai remarked last episode that no matter how composed a person may appear, everyone has their own baggage. Lech is one of those people, and Kai calls him out on it in this episode.
Kai’s Performance: Kai’s performances are always a treat, but in this week’s episode we are treated to one of the best ones yet! We’ve seen Kai grow and change as a pianist over the course of the story in ways I never would have imagined back in Episode 1 and finally he is reaching a new stage in his career. His performance is the culmination of all of his experiences up until this point, from the Forest’s Edge to Warsaw, Poland. Kai is not the same person he was at the start of the series. During his performance we get to see a wonderful montage of flashbacks showing key moments from his life and the people who helped him get to where he is now.
Piano Concerto No.1, Op. 11: The first of two piano concertos composed by Polish composer Frédéric Chopin. While it was written after Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2, it was the first to be published and thus was given the distinction of No. 1.
- Played by Seong-Jin Cho in the Final Stage of the 2015 Chopin Tournament: YouTube
Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor, Op. 21: The second of two piano concertos composed by Polish composer Frédéric Chopin. While it was written before Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1, it was the last to be published and thus was given the distinction of No. 2.
- Played by Charles Richard-Hamelin in the Final Stage of the 2015 Chopin Tournament: YouTube
First, I will admit that I thought that Lech was performing next, not Kai, so imagine my surprise when the announcer said Kai Ichinose instead. That being said, I watched this episode twice, because it was just that good! There is always something special about episodes where Kai plays, because the series builds them up so much. We spend so little time with Kai in this season that the episodes that focus primarily on him and his playing really stand out from the rest.
Kai is one the main reasons I enjoy Piano no Mori as much as I do, not just because he is the protagonist of the series but also because of who he is as a character. Despite the many obstacles he has faced over the course of life, he always seems to have a positive outlook on just about everything. He could have easily become vengeful like Wei Pang or bitter like Shuuhei, but he never waivers; even when the cards are stacked against him, he perseveres. A lot of that is thanks to the people who nurtured him. His mother, Reiko, gave him life and nurtured him despite living in the Forest’s edge. She did the best she could with what she had even if it meant taking on hardships. She encouraged Kai’s love of piano, and when the time came, she allowed Ajino to take him under his wing, even if it meant ‘giving him up’.
Then there’s Ajino who over the course of the series went from piano teacher to mentor and then to a pseudo-father figure, invested not just in Kai’s playing abilities, but in molding him into a person who could live freely from his own efforts. Their relationship is by far my favorite in the series, since we see how much both of them have learned from one another. Ajino gave Kai the opportunity to see the world, to expand his horizons far beyond that of the Forest’s Edge or even Japan. He always encouraged Kai to explore and shape the world in his image rather than conforming to the expectations of others, whereas Kai restored Ajino’s hope for the future. When Ajino injured his hands, his world changed overnight. Unable to play the piano he loved, he gave up on life and music, becoming a shell of his former self. He even remarks that he was living as if he was already dead, but, meeting Kai and hearing him play the Forest Piano opened his eyes to the boundless potential both he and Kai have. The Chopin Tournament isn’t about winning or losing, it’s about opening up a brand new world of possibilities and that is the biggest takeaway from the series.
Kai and Ajino have been bound by their circumstances, limiting their potential, but once they break free something truly amazing happens.
The Sound I’ve Longed to Hear
Piano no Mori continues to put me under its spell with its beautiful character-driven narrative and powerful piano music. ‘In the Country Where Chopin was Born’ is my new favorite episode because, like the series as a whole, it reflects on the past while also carving out a new more beautiful future. During Kai’s performance, the episode takes us on a journey through Kai’s past, spotlighting the moments that made Kai into the person we see today. He’s come a long way since his time in the forest, but this isn’t the end of the road. There are still new heights for him to reach…
I’ll be back next week with another Piano no Mori review, but in the meantime, be sure to check out MANGA.TOKYO’s other amazing Winter 2019 reviews!!
NEXT TIME: Hero (ヒーロー)
Forest of Piano (Piano no Mori)
Winter 2019 | Anime Info | Simulcast