The spirit of competition is alive and well in this week’s episode of Piano no Mori. A local junior piano competition is pitting friend against friend as both Kai and Shuuhei attempt to prove that they are the best of the best. Who will come out victorious? Will it be Kai with his unorthodox playing style or will it be the musical thoroughbred Shuuhei?
Japanese Original Episode Title: モーツァルトの遺言
The junior music competition is underway. Kai and Shuuhei have been putting in a lot of extra practice for this competition and neither is going to go down without giving it their all! But, when Kai has trouble playing Mozart his own way, an unlikely stranger helps him discover his own voice.
Encouragement from the Grave: So there is a really cute moment early on in the episode where Ajino tells Kai that Mozart personally left him instructions on how to play his Sonata No. 2. Obviously, it’s Ajino’s way of encouraging Kai to do his best in the upcoming music competition without having the kid rebuff him like he did in the last episode. There’s even a scene where Mozart (as Kai imagines him to be) appears to mock Kai while he attempts to play Sonata No. 2.
Playing with Heart: Both Shuuhei and Ajino play Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 2 F major K. 280, but Kai notes that there is a noticeable difference in the way both play the piece, and it has nothing to do with their skill level. It’s the feelings they put into their playing. Shuuhei plays because that’s all he’s ever known, while Ajino played because he genuinely loved playing piano and that difference has an effect on the quality of the music.
Friendly Rivalries: The music competition is underway and it seems Shuuhei is the guy to beat, but he’s only got eyes for Kai. Of course, that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of other great players gearing up for the competition as well. Kai even makes friends(?) with one, a young girl named Takako.
Student becomes the Teacher: Kai uses Ajino’s teachings to help out one of his fellow competitors… and it’s both adorable and heartwarming! Despite his reluctance to accept Ajino as his teacher, he does take his words to heart.
I ship it!: So, there are some pretty sweet moments in this episode between Kai and Takako, and I know it’s a little early to say this, but, I ship it. Not to mention there is some rather intimate hugging going on between those two, despite them being only in elementary school.
Themes & Trivia
Fingering: Okay, so I will admit that this might have another meaning for all the non-musicians in the room, but, fingering is a practice technique used to help with learning a particular piece of music. It can be done with or without an actual instrument and involves a person fingering the notes of a musical piece without actually playing the notes. For instruments like the piano, this is done by tapping out the keys on a hard surface or in the air, like Kai does when practicing for the music contest. It can be done with music or without.
Finding your own voice: Kai is really good at mimicking other people’s playing. If he hears a song once, he can perfectly play it back to you exactly as it was played. However, playing music isn’t just about just playing the notes. It’s also about the feelings your playing evokes in your audience. Right now, Kai isn’t playing with feeling, so his music, while perfectly played, sounds hollow to the trained ear.
Mr. Perfect: Shuuhei is the man to beat. Not only is he the son of a famous pianist, but he’s been playing piano his whole life. His playing is impeccable, and after he plays his piece in the competition, the crowd pretty much assumes he’s already got the competition in the bag.
I mentioned this last week, but, I love that despite being competitors, Kai and Shuuhei never try to tear each other down. Instead, they are constantly encouraging and praising one another. I’m used to seeing a lot of jealousy and mudslinging whenever an anime enters a ‘tournament arc,’ but in Piano no Mori that isn’t the case. Even when a genuine rival is introduced, she isn’t just a one-off trope character that’s there to stir up trouble. Rather, she’s a likable character with her own motivations and insecurities. While I love the music in this series, I have to admit that the characters are really where Piano no Mori’s strengths lie.
The music, as always, was on point this episode and despite the same piece being played throughout, you can tell that there are different musicians playing it each time. Two musicians can play the exact same piece using the exact same instrument and yet produce two different performances because each musician puts a bit of themselves in everything they play. I love how that difference was addressed both in the narrative of this week’s episode and stylistically through the music. That’s a level of detail I appreciate.
Competing Against Myself
Rather than bitter rivalries and underhanded tricks, Episode 3 offers up a rather relaxed start to the junior music competition. The conflict of the episode doesn’t come from the competition itself, but rather Kai’s personal shortcomings and I am excited to see how the competition helps him grow both as a musician and as a character.
What do you guys think of Episode 3 of Piano no Mori? Who do you think will come out on top? Will it be Kai or will it be Shuuhei? Let us know in the comment section! And don’t forget to check the rest of the Spring 2018 anime reviews on MANGA.TOKYO!
Piano no Mori (The Piano Forest)
Spring 2018 | Anime Info | Simulcast