Forest of Piano links music to the inner soul of the characters in a wonderful anime that has landed on Netflix.
Another week, another Netflix anime series added to a growing archive that can only please the fandom. Forest of Piano, or Piano no Mori, was originally a manga titled Piano no Mori: The Perfect World of Kai. The history of the material is impressive; it was serialised between 2008 and 2015, and amongst that, the content was made into a feature-length adapted movie. Forest of Piano has managed to resonate with varying generations and now lands in the form of an anime series on the global platform of Netflix.
And I can see why it has managed to touch and warm the hearts of many. Forest of Piano is a series that delves into various endearing themes, with music chiming at the core, preparing to drive the story at every emotional objective. Forest of Piano is notably written to delve into the characters’ relationships, with the sweet sounds of piano highlighting their differing personalities.
Forest of Piano‘s main driving theme is the characters’ backgrounds. Kai Ichinose (voiced by Sôma Saitô) is the constant throughout season 1. Rumours are whispered between his peers that his mother is a prostitute and that saddening connection is confirmed when you realise Kai travels from the red light district. He loves the forest he spends most of his time in, sometimes with his drunken mother who cannot culturally escape the area, like a revolving door trapped in her locality. In the forest is a seemingly broken piano, that only Kai can play due to a spiritual reason; Forest of Piano is a story about escapism with music, forcing Kai to tap into his raw talent.
On the opposite side of the scale, Shuhei Amamiya (voiced by Natsuki Hanae) coincidentally bumps into Kai, becoming aware of his piano skills. Shuhei has an entirely different background; growing up in a modest family, a grade-school son of a professional pianist. Both characters come from opposing worlds and the invisible gap can be felt – Kai is not trained in playing the piano at all, consoling himself as an unrewarded genius, whilst Shuhei has the inherited reputation, talent and practise to overcome most pianists.
What I found fascinating is that Forest of Piano pits these two characters against each other. Kai Ichinose loves his one piano in the forest due to the emotional baggage that keeps him attached to it. Once his talent is found by Mr Ajino (voice byYou Taichi), a respected pianist and teacher, his transition from the love of the piano to grasping professionalism are sweet and heartwarming. You can sense his struggle to adapt into a world he did not grow up in. Yet Shuhei Amamiya sees him as his main rival and lacks the upbringing to understand how to properly engage.
Netflix’s Forest of Piano hits the right chord: a person’s relationship with music. The anime series spends long periods observing the character orchestrate around the piano. Kai Ichinose needs to understand this place he is in emotionally to perform his best, whilst Shuhei Amamiya is consistent with the use of keys, making sure the music sheet is 100% complete. You can appreciate the gulf between the friendly rivals, especially when the experts in the piano industry have to judge them individually. Differences in upbringing and class are clear.
And it is not just differences in childhood that shines through, like many series and movies before us, Forest of Piano signifies the pressures of performing arts and how it can truly affect a person’s wellbeing. The anime series hits the nail on the head, especially when the young schoolers have to perform on stage in front of industry peers, family and friends. The emotional pressure resonates well through the animation.
As the series progresses, Netflix anime series Forest of Piano shines a torch not just on music but how it can bring people closer together – sometimes as friends but also born out of pure respect, bearing some similarity to Dragon Pilot: Hisone and Masotan. You do witness Kai Ichinose and Shuhei Amamiya get older eventually, both in different life situations, but you can feel the maturity and the need to finally grow up with each episode progressing. There is a need to understand where both characters stand with a piano. Is Kai always going to be the unknown genius and will Shuhei finally find a personality in his music?
With each episode, you understand the characters further, which can be savoured as the series progresses. Forest of Piano is another Netflix anime success. Keep them coming.
Daniel Hart is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has operated as Editor-in-Chief since 2017.