Feb 25, 2013

Posted by in Movies & TV | 3 Comments

Nodame Cantabile – A Review


There are always certain ideas that affect people. Influences, creations, stories. These are the things that inspire further imagination and ideology. And for me, it’s always been true romance. The story of one man and one woman and the tale of how they got there. And the very best stories are the long, incredibly weary journeys that end in a culmination of the inevitable. In my opinion, it’s the top reason Pride and Prejudice is my favorite book. Just when everything could have gone wrong, Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy still ended up together, and it was a really fun ride to watch it happen.

Some recent stories I’ve enjoyed are in the same vein. Sword Art Online comes to mind off the top of my head. But one of the ultimate stories I’ve ever had the pleasure of coming across and pretty much exemplifies my favorite kind of tale is Nodame Cantabile by Ninomiya Tomoko. A manga serialization that ended a couple years ago, from which three seasons of an anime were created. Here is a short summary from Myanimelist:

“Shinichi Chiaki is a first class musician whose dream is to play among the elites in Europe. Coming from a distinguished family, he is an infamous perfectionist; not only is he highly critical of himself, but of others as well. The only thing stopping Chiaki from leaving for Europe is his fear of flying. As a result, he’s grounded in Japan. During his 4th year at Japan’s top music university, Chiaki happens to meet Noda Megumi; or as she refers to herself, Nodame. On the surface, she seems to be an unkempt girl with no direction in life. However, when Chiaki hears Nodame play the piano for the first time, he is in awe of the kind of music she plays. To Chiaki’s dismay, Nodame moves into the apartment next to his and finds out that she is head-over-heels in love with him. Nodame Cantabile tells the story of Chiaki and Nodame, as they not only learn to deal with each other, but learn lessons from one another as they strive for the top of the musical world.”

One of the most unique (and important) aspects of this story is that the romance is not the biggest theme, not by a long shot. And that’s what makes it so great. The real draw of Nodame is the story of these two people. How they met, how they helped each other overcome their demons, willingly or not, and how they fell in love, if not by choice, then by absolute necessity. The mangaka, Ninomiya, absolutely perfects the art of showing how a relationship between a boy and girl becomes destiny, not because either of them believes in it so thoroughly, but because the reader can see how perfect they are for each other, if only they would see it for themselves. It takes time, yes, but it’s inevitable. And the culmination is the most satisfying thing any reader or viewer can experience. Much like Elizabeth and Darcy, their stories just can’t end any other way, because the whole world might shake and crumble.

I’ve been shouting the virtues of this story for a long time now, desperate to get anyone willing to listen to go check it out. The manga is excellent, but I always recommend the anime. The music is wonderful, the quality of the animation is top-notch, and the amazing voice acting will have you laughing one moment and weeping the next. It’s impossible not to fall in love with Nodame from the get-go, and watching Chiaki squeal at the sight of her messes never fails to draw a laugh. And this all goes without saying how much you unwittingly learn about music history! Ninomiya, herself a former music student, pours every ounce of her knowledge into the manga. And the complex depths of the classical music industry are used as a unique and wondrous backdrop to the story. There truly is nothing else like this out there, so even non-romance fans will get a lot out of it.

Go watch this show. I beg you. I’m on my hands and knees, pleading the case of this story, if only to spread the word of this amazing creation so influential to my own writing.


Here is a great clip from an episode featuring some of the music and internal plotlines