Aphelion Issue 295, Volume 28
June 2024 --
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Piano No Mori: A Manga Review

by McCamy Taylor

Piano No Mori: The Perfect World of Kai by Makoto Isshiki is proof that a manga can be "adult" without blood, nudity, tentacles or swords. This is a manga for grownups who like Miyazaki movies or the manga Mushi-shi.

Piano No Mori is a modern day fairy tale about a prince living in obscurity in a town next to a forest. Kai's mother is a prostitute. He attends school -- when he feels like it. His favorite pastimes are getting into fights with the class bully -- and playing a grand piano which has been abandoned in the forest. No one else can get a sound from the weather beaten piano, but when Kai plays, it is magic. He is a self-taught musical genius whose light is hidden until a new pupil arrives. Shuhei is Kai's alter-ego. He also plays the piano. He has to. He comes from a musical family, and his parents have big plans for him. He is being groomed to become the next musical king. When he meets Kai, the natural prince who runs around like a feral child, it is Jonathon meets David -- -the reader knows which one is the prince and which one is the devoted follower, even though the world seems determined to anoint Shuhei and keep Kai down.

In 2007, Madhouse released an animated film that covers the events of the first six volumes leading up to the piano recital in which Shuhei and Kai compete with each other. You can probably find an Asian copy online at Amazon. Manga Fox says that the manga (which is ongoing and now up to 21 volumes) is licensed in the U.S., so one day soon you may be able to find the books for sell online or at your local bookstore.

Now, a few observations from A-Kon 23 in Dallas. A Hugo award winning science fiction author completely blew my mind when she said that she would like to do another book in her fantasy series, but her publisher does not want it. !!!! What is the use of becoming world renowned and laurelled if you cannot write and publish what you want to write and publish? Confirmed my prejudice against publishers who murder trees. If it isn't 1) steam punk, 2) Twilight-lite or 3) a Harry Potter clone, they are scared that the book will not make money. This fear of the new is death to the field of science fiction -- and it makes fantasy and horror a little stale, too.

The same thing seems to be happening with anime. The cult classic series Mononoke about the Medicine Seller who exorcises angry spirits still is not licensed in this country, but every single title with a vampire and a scantily- clad girl is being snatched up. Akagi, the brilliant psychological drama about a demon mahjong player who makes Alucard look emo will probably never arrive on this shore. Ditto for One Outs the psychological comedy-drama about a demon baseball pitcher.

On a happier note, I got to meet author/voice actor Rikki Simons aka Gir.

"'I loveded you!'"

© 2012 McCamy Taylor

Bio: If you don't know who McCamy Taylor is, you're really not paying attention. Aside from reviews like this one, many of her short stories and novellas have appeared in Aphelion and other print and online publications, and she is the reigning Aphelion Long Fiction editor. Her most recent fiction contribution to Aphelion was The Sleep of Death in the May 2012 edition.

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