It’s nice to have a DVD without commercials at the opening.
I think this is the very first series I’ve watched where the opening and ending themes didn’t have any impression on me whatsoever. If anything, the opposite was true, with some of the higher notes sung with the ending theme. The opening theme felt like random scenes put to classical music, rather than making the two work together.
Seeing the backgrounds makes me appreciate decent backgrounds. The backgrounds and non-moving foreground various objects look like the general rule was “outline on the computer, then fill with gradients. Gradients are awesome!” Maybe it’s the web developer in me who’s tired of gradients? I get the feeling the backgrounds were given less attention than they could have been, but it could be they match the intended style for the series. It’ll bug me repeatedly seeing those gradients, so the characters and their personalities will have to make up for it by being especially engaging. Likewise, there’d better be a good selection of classical-style music being played to keep my attention from the backgrounds during non-dialogue, non-movement scenes.
The general character designs are fairly typical here, although side views of faces look oddly proportioned to me. It makes me wonder if I’m viewing it at the correct aspect ratio, but everything else looks fine. Character animation doesn’t look terribly bad for the most part. Some things might have been done better with an increased number of frames per second. There are some perspective problems, such as when Miu gets off the subway train. A woman walks in front of Miu, then someone walks behind her. If they characters were not two dimensional, then there’d be no way they’d be able to pull off walking so close without Miu being knocked one way or the other.
If a viewer is going to be pulled into an episode by its first episode, either the characters must captivate the viewer, or the events must entice the viewer. Make me want to see who these characters are and what they’re doing, or interest me in what’s going on, and what will happen next. Many series I’ve seen fail to accomplish either of these for me personally, and Piano is no exception.
Personality. I’m sure there’s a lot to Miu, but I feel I know less about her than any other character. Seeing as the only thing about Miu’s sister Akiko is her vacation in Europe, that’s saying a bit right there. Miu is a forgetful person who’s lost many umbrellas over the years, but has never forgotten her sheet music before. On top of that, she has enough things in her bookbag that she can’t find her sheet music, which she must not have put in the same place she usually puts it. She’s been learning to play the piano for six years.
Going by what I’ve seen in the first episode, Miu is actually the type expected to become my favorite character, keeping in mind that few main characters have been shown yet. Yuuki, however, has caught my attention. While Miu’s quiet and reserved, apologetic and perhaps timid, Yuuki is the opposite. She’s outgoing. She talks with a lot of people and is in the know with what’s going on. She has faith in her friends and trusts their judgement. She’s the type who’ll go out and buy a CD not because she listened to the songs from it and liked them, but instead because a friend gave the CD a good review. Yuuki knows when to skip after-school activities, and will convince the more careful Miu to do the same, yet she knows when too much is too much, and is quick to remind Miu, “There’s still time to make it for your lesson.”
Another character whom I’ve found myself drawn to, and another potential for favorite, is Mr. Shirakawa. Okay, so he’s a possibly-strict music teacher, I take it a private piano teacher by profession rather than a school teacher. He’s learned a lot about Miu over the years, and can read her like a book. He must know by now that she can’t memorize a whole piece without a month. The striking scene for him is his reaction to the second piece Miu plays. He takes an interest in it, he wants to know what this is. This is the first time he’s heard Miu play something not from sheet music, and Mr. Shirakawa’s noticed it. Having noticed it, what comes next? And what of Miu’s bit about piano practice being boring to her?
Even Miu’s parents seem to have more personality shown than Miu. Miu’s father is the bread-winner of the family, responsible, but perhaps a bit forgetful himself; if his wife did tell him about her dieting, then he forget; as well, it was Miu who knew which tarts her mother liked as a favorite. He isn’t a doting father, but as his wife tells him, he does spoil their daughter. Rather than spoiling, it looked more like understanding to me.
There are voices I’m familiar with from other roles, which gives me an idea as to the kind of people characters may be. Miu’s voice actress is Ayako Kawasumi, giving her a softspoken voice similar other role of hers, including Elmina in Petite Princess Yucie and Matsuri in Strawberry Marshmallow. Her English voice actress, Rebecca Soler, played the quiet Reanne Griffith (Hazuki) in the English dub of Ojamajo Doremi, which I haven’t seen. In her role as Miu, sometimes she sounds older than the character, but otherwise she’s a decent fit.
The upbeat Yuuki’s Japanese voice comes from Tomoko Kawakami, whose other roles include Sugar in A Little Snow Fairy Sugar, Rika in Cardcaptor Sakura, and Satsuki in Ghost Stories. Her English actress, Zoe Martin, does a fine job voicing her. Unfortunately, some of her early dialogue echos, something which should have called for a re-recording.
The first release I’d seen by Right Stuf was subtitled-only Super Gals 2, after having finished watching ADV’s release of Super Gals (although I didn’t watch it dubbed). What this means is dub voices I’m unfamiliar with. The lone exception is Veronica Taylor, voicing Miu’s mother. I’m familiar with her voice from the original dubbing of Pokemon as Ash and his mother, as well as May for the few episodes I’ve seen with her, and more so as the role of the seven Nana’s in Seven of Seven.
Overall, it should be interesting to learn more about Miu. For someone like Yuuki, her personality is visible from the first moment you see her. Miu being introverted, everything about her is keep inside, to herself, out of view. It’ll take more than one episode to show who she is as a person.
One of the nice things about the DVD release is its inclusion of cultural notes, the first episode’s notes being about Japanese pay phones and the coin Miu’s father offered. Right Stuf was also extremely good at putting cultural notes and references about Super Gals 2 in with that release.
I’m uncertain of one line, when Miu says about buying tarts. She says they can “buy tarts instead” in the subtitles, and the dub has a line about exchanging for tarts. Do people actually buy pasteries, take them home, then return them to exchange for something else? What becomes of the returned pasteries? They can’t be resold, as there’s no telling what they’ve been through.