Friday, July 29, 2011

Review: Sayonara Piano Sonata (さよならピアノソナタ)

It has been a while since I had done a review, but I enjoyed reading this novel so much, I just feel compelled to talk about it.

Firstly, a brief summary of the novel.

Naomi Hikawa is the main character of the novel, and the son of a famous music critic. Due to that, he has some musical knowledge, though it is pretty much limited to that, and perhaps the simple playing of a guitar. His hobby is to repair things, and has developed quite a good skill towards it.

One day, while going to his "secret" scrapyard to gather some spare parts, he saw a girl playing an abandoned piano there. Somehow, the music had caused the junks to resonate, creating an illusion of a junkyard symphony. He was mesmerized by the familiar sounding melody, but he could not remember the tune. Just then, the girl noticed him, and called him a pervert/stalker. She then requested him to forget about the incident.

Back at home, Naomi realized that she is the piano prodigy Mafuyu Ebisawa, who had vanished from the music scene for some unknown reason. He met her soon again, with Mafuyu as the transfer student of his class. She declared to the class that there is no need to know her too well, since she will be gone soon. She had even snatched away an abandoned music shed that he had customized for his  own personal use, in order to play her guitar. Not liking her cold personality and her sharp tongue, Naomi vowed to take back the music shed from her.

Somehow, things became such that he was roped in by a senior, Kyouko Kagurazawa, and childhood friend Chiaki Aihara, to start a music band. His mission was to get Mafuyu, the required forth member, into the band. However, he soon realized the shocking truth behind Mafuyu's reason for disappearing from the piano scene and playing the guitar. Knowing that, will he be able to forget about the melody he heard from the junkyard, or will he be able to help Mafuyu play the piano again?

Coming from the author of the ongoing Kami-sama no Memochou (though I had only known of it after I had finished volume 4), this is a really impressive 5-volume story about the romance of two characters, who went through a long painful path of hardship due to feelings that are not conveyed properly between them, the timidness of both of them, and the feeling of inferiority by the MC.

Firstly, the characters. We have MC and three girls setting up the core characters of the story, as the members of the musical band.

Naomi Hikawa a really good main character of the story, and it is mainly narrated from his point of view. He's a lean mean tsukkomi machine, and that makes up for quite a few bits of laugh in the story. He is also amazingly dense, almost a trait that is required for most male MCs in the current day LNs, and a trait that I will normally find irritating. I still do, but I had also realized that it is essential for the plot and drama of the story, which makes it much more palatable, and the fact that the MC acknowledges it makes it better. Sadly, Mafuyu is not good at expressing herself explicitly, and the other two female characters have no intention to point that out either. His relatively poor playing skills in the band also sets up the intriguing inferiority complex he has later, which makes the love story a little more heart-wrenching, and way much sweeter at the end.

Ebisawa Mafuyu is the female lead here, one who is musically talented, especially in piano. She gets angry easily, and is a timid girl who loves to cry. As such, she hides that by setting up an invisible wall around her, and having a sharp tongue at people whom she is not close to. I can't really call her a tsundere though, because it would not really fit in both the classical sense and the current-day meaning, from how the story portrays her. She does get angry at MC and gets slightly violent at him from time to time, but that is more due to the MC being so amazingly dense, then her not being honest with her feelings. However, she is the type girl who waits for the guy to confess, and coupled by MC's denseness, has resulted in the romance being derailed for quite a fair bit. She does hit me hard in how cute she is though, and her character just comes down well on me at all areas. She will be one of my favorite female characters for a long long time.

Childhood friend, Chiaki Aihara, is the girl who follows the destiny that most childhood friend walks on - being severely friend-zoned by the male MC. Has a huge amount of respect and love for Kyouko Kagurazaka, though not those of a yuri. She is there to drive the plot, and honestly, I do feel quite sad for her character, especially the way how Naomi treats her.

Kyouko Kagurazaka is the brains of the band, and if I am to describe her as simply as I can, it will be this - she is practically the Nikaido Arashi of the novel, minus the weird outfits. She is a bisexual (though still leans a little more towards the guys side) that kind of thinks of the band members as her lovers, and is amazingly smart. She is the person responsible for pushing the MC along the story, though she often stop short of helping Mafuyu, since she loves the MC as well. Her story of her first love, detailed in the Encore Pieces of the story, is also quite nice, and a tad bit bitter and touching.

There are various minor characters, the ones worthy of mentioning are Naomi's dad, who provides the rest of the laughs to the story, and a young famous french violinist named Julien Flaubert, who is a boy (and a trap) that falls in love with Mafuyu since they were young, and later on with Naomi as well. He is the one who taught Mafuyu how to play the guitar, and also the reason for Naomi's inferiority complex in the book, since he was poised to partner Mafuyu in a piano-violin combination due to his talents. In that sense, you can't really call him a minor character, even though he appears only at book 3 onwards.

One thing I loved about this story, is the pacing of the story. Many LN these days falls into the trap of being too overly drawn out (in the romance part), just so that the author can churn out more books as he pleases. In the meanwhile, the readers are left with the story moving at a snails pace, if not at all. I will not have much of a complain if the book is mainly of a fantasy story or something, but a lot of times, these stories are romance mixed in with comedy/slice-of-life/rabu-rabu/etc. To borrow the words of Nisio Isin/Senjougahara, I hate reading romance books that drags the plot on and on, despite it being painfully obvious who the MC is going to end up with. I had quite a lot of times nearly wanted to slam my ipod in frustration at the development of the stories due to that reason, though I'll not go that far as to name the titles, since some of them are quite popular among the English community.

Sayonara Piano Sonata avoided that trap by focusing on the plot, developing the characters nicely, and ending off the story satisfyingly within a decent span of four books. It was well executed, so kudos to Hikaru Sugii for that. The Encore Pieces, like the name suggest, is an extra that details on the lives of the characters in the future, as well as some back-story. One chapter of the encore, in particular, made me feel all warn and fuzzy. It makes me feel that it is all worth it, to burn through my time at a rate of one novel per day (despite my busy schedule), just so I can get to that part.

The next thing I like is how the two remaining girls of the "harem" are used in the story. Rather than to use them as fan-service bait, the author had chosen to bypass most of that, and instead concentrate on using them to develop Naomi and Mafuyu. This sits well with me, since I was reading this novel with me viewing it as a 'serious' series that focuses on romance. No other girls are added into the series just because, and the inclusion of Julien into the cast, as I had stated earlier, is a great move that furthers the pace of the plot.

Another thing which I had liked is the use of music as the main theme of the story, which I feel is a masterstroke by the author. Firstly, the setting of having the characters of the story as musician is a really good move, since artistic people are generally known to be more feeling, more sensitive, and more emotional (especially so for Mafuyu). Also, from the comments that I had read from the musically inclined readers, the author had done quite a bit of research into the music pieces he had used for the story, and most of them fit in perfectly into the plot of the story, as the author had intended. However, even if you are those who do not know much about music - just like me, do not let that detract you from reading the series. This reminds me of how similar it is to Hikaru no Go - you don't have to understand Go to enjoy a story about wonderful character development and a bitter sweet love story. In fact, the novels had caused me to have the urge to go and listen to some of the music, so that I can better understand the story and connect with it better.

Lastly, there isn't anything about the plot that seems to be overly fictional, which makes it much easier to connect to and feel. Being based in a real-life settings with no fantasy to the story, as well as decently believable and realistic characters, just makes it a lot better as a romance novel. I am not too sure if I had conveyed that point properly across properly. I still know it is fiction, and ends a little too nicely (compared to the reality), but that is to be expected from fiction. However, not having girls falling in from the sky, or a new girl getting into the harem every new volume, or random pantsu shots every 10 pages into the book, just adds in to the realism of the book and it's romance.

All in all, this is a really solid romance title in my opinion. There is so much that I want to talk about, so much that I want to rave, that I am having some difficulties in trying to get my ideas across. Then again, that is also part of the theme of the novel, so perhaps it is inevitable that I will end up like that in my review as well. I urge readers who enjoy reading 'serious' romance to try the book if you have not done so, especially if you understand Japanese or Chinese. My next review will probably come not too long after, since I am currently reading Otorimonogatari.


  1. @zgmfx09a Thanks for the review.

    I didn't know you do some reviews in here too. Uber-Awesome :D. May I suggest changing the blog name? of course, to something rainobe related. you know, since I couldn't find any dedicated rainobe blog (beside some translation sites and whatnot) on teh interwebz.

    Ah... but it's just my wishful thinking. don't mind it too much. you're already eternally awesome in my book for what you've done :3

    SPS is already in my to-read-list for a really long time. Alas, there are no translation around. it destined to eternally become a teaser on BakaTsuki T_T

    to add salt to the wound, the manga translation is pretty much dead by now :(

    And of course, the obligatory: ANIME WHERE?

  2. Hmm, I'll just keep it as it is. Reviews and rants will probably be sparse, since the main focus is more on translations, unlike my old 'blog'.

    There are things that I want to rant about though, like how disappointing Itsuka Tenma is compared to the novels, and other series that I wish to talk about, but we shall see.

  3. Ohoho... Really nice review. Makes me rage for not being able to read japanese/chinese :<

    And yay for your future review of Nadeko book.

  4. @zgmfx09a It's cool. like I said, you're already awesome as is :3

    so, you had another blog. a couple of questions

    -is it rainobe related?
    -is it stil active?

    would be awesome if it is :D

    about Itsuten... I'm just gonna leave this here:

    courtesy of @larethian from bakatsuki

    "actually, this is really made to get people to read the novels; definitely not for those who have read the novels because they will scream.
    and check out this scan from latest issue of Doramaga:

    if you have all the volumes, just compare the episode titles against the volume and chapter titles, and it will become obvious how things may pan out in the anime."

  5. I've owned the Kadokawa TW copies of Itsu-ten, and yeah, I don't quite like how the anime is turning out.

    I think you can find out something if you google Onii-Ai with this name or zgmfx19a. It's a pretty horrible 'blog', so I don't really wanna post it here.

  6. @zgmfx09a ahh.. what a luck I have. I think I've found your other "blog" xD

    Man, even in that other "blog" you have quite a number of fans xD

    well, looks like you've said "goodbye" to that blog though. No matter, since what you're doing in C.E. Trans is much more interesting

    oh yeah, @zgmfx09a have you read Tokage no Ou? It's a new novel from the duo Hiruma Hitoma/Buriki. What's your thought on it? I'm pretty sure you're more knowledgeable about it thank I am :D

  7. I don't really read as much LN as you think. I am currently just expanding my library by looking at interesting ones.

    It's a hobby that I had only picked up last year. I think it will be better if you find other people who are much more knowledgeable about LNs than I am.

  8. @zgmfx09a Nah it's cool. No need to be that humble xD. At least you're being honest about it :D

    "I am currently just expanding my library by looking at interesting ones."

    same here, brah... same here. Hell, I think the majority of English rainobe-community are doing exactly what you're doing. Me included :D

    Anyway, thanks for your awesome works in this blog :)

  9. lol, i just recently started reading the manga version of this. the first two girls that were introduced really got me angry with how excessivly abusive they were verbally and how that one girl just stole the mc's room that he personally customized. i was going to start reading the light novel in hopes that i would like the characters a little more and now i might actually read it. lol

  10. >lol, i just recently started reading the manga version of this. the first two girls that were introduced really got me angry with how excessivly abusive they were verbally and how that one girl just stole the mc's room that he personally customized.

    I don't think it was portrayed well enough in the manga, but in the LN, things are mellowed out by MC's inner thoughts and his tsukkomis.

  11. Hello everyone.

    I'll try to write less, since Google is starting to get angry with me. :P
    But you know that when I say I'll write less it is not true, so this post is gonna be really big.
    Sorry about that Google.
    And sorry people who read everything I write, all I have to say is, you don't have to. :P

    I usually don't like music based LN/Mangas, probably because I have none musical talent and I always wanted to, but this one is actually really interesting, I think every novel need her Arashi. :P
    I would like to say I will be reading this right away but that would not be true, since I have a huge list of things to read that I just don't have the time to. :P
    And as my winter vacations (here is winter BTW), are about to come to an end the amount of time I can use to read and look for this kind of thing will definitely decrease.

    But enough about me.

    @zgmfx09a, and team, at least in my opinion the fun of the blog is that you are not those anime freaks, at least you don't act like, when you trie to share something that you know everything about it just get boring, since the one explaining always ends up acting like a teacher, and I usually feel like a stupid student. :P
    You are just fans trying to share with this side of the world. That good, not many care enough to do that.
    Does that even make sense?
    I'll be honest, I just came back an I'm a little drunk so is I start to say things that doesn't make sense just don't read it. :P

    About the other 'blog', if I'm not mistaken I ran into it some time ago when I was searching something about Denpa Onna, I just looked at the name of the guy who posted it and I was quite sure it was zgmfx09a, I don't know if I'm right since i haven't managed to find it again so there is not much to do.

    Now you said something that made me think "I am having some difficulties in trying to get my ideas across."
    I'll just say, now you just exactly how I fell after every chapter of onii-ai. :P
    That's probably why I write so much, or I'm just one of those no-lifes. :P
    Anyway welcome to the club matey. :P

    And at the very least, I will ask to anyone who bothers reading:
    What happened to Mushi Uta?
    I wonder if Sveroz gave up the project since I haven't seen anything on it in a couple months.

    PS: I don't really know why I wrote this much, I guess I wouldn't be a "trademark" if I didn't, although I know thats no reason.
    I fear that my comment may actually be bigger than the post this time, if it is...
    I probably won't do anything since I stopped believing myself a few chapter ago. :P

    ε=ε=ε=ε=ε=ε=┌(; ̄◇ ̄)┘

  12. See guys? That's what I called: TL;BIRA (to long but i read it anyway) xD


  13. I just continued reading this today after somewhat being convinced by zgmfx praising it - -" . though noticed that zgmfx has already given away the first part of the story = .=

    Well wonder will he start translating this also QQ

  14. @zgmfx09a will you be translating the encore (volume 5) too? :D

    1. it would be great if he did, just to see what happens 2 or so yr's after vol 4...