Nodame Cantabile was originally a manga by Ninomiya Tomoko. I’ve never been exposed to her work before so I don’t quite know what to expect. I do know that it won the 2004 Kodansha manga award for best shoujo manga, so I’m hoping that’s a good sign. I’ll just have to watch through it and see.
The story is pretty basic. There’s a music student named Chiaki who can’t travel overseas due to an acute fear of both boats and planes, even though he’d like to study music in Europe. He lives next door to a piano student named Noda Megumi or Nodame who finds him passed out by the door one evening and decides to bring him inside her apartment to let him sleep in the comfort of the indoors… surrounded by comforting filth. The two quickly become linked when Chiaki starts taking lessons from the same instructor as Nodame and she quickly falls in love with him. You follow the two of them as they pursue their mutual love of music and as their relationship grows. It’s a simple story but it’s well written. The synopsis really doesn’t do it justice since quite a bit happens in their academic, personal and musical lives. There’s always an obstacle for one, if not both, of them to pass and it keeps things interesting. That being said, I did have one issue with the story, and no, it’s not the way the romance is done. Contrary to certain misconceptions, I don’t just mindlessly hate all het romances in anime. Just those that are poorly written. I don’t know whether that misconception still exists or not, but I heard it quite a bit back then. Possibly because I’d only reviewed a few things with prominent romance and most of them were terrible harem anime. This one, I honestly liked. Chiaki and Nodame might not be one of my favourite anime couples of all time but I did like their relationship. No, my problem is with the pacing. There are quite a few situations that drag on longer than they needed to and a few at the very end that were rushed. No, it isn’t a major problem but it’s enough of one to merit mention.
Since the story is pretty simple, this anime really needs interesting characters to work. Does it provide them? I’d have to say yes. The major characters are interesting and have some really dynamic and some funny interactions. Chiaki and Nodame especially are well developed. The primary supporting characters, Mine and Masumi, are also interesting. The more minor characters are really the issue. A lot of them get very little development or personality. Although I’m not going to hold that against the series too much since it deals with orchestras and, as such, has to have a lot of characters. What I will hold against the series is the character of Stresemann. While I don’t have a major issue with dirty old men in media on principal, it does bother me when they get away with harassment and borderline molestation without any real problems. Stresemann is one of those characters. He shouldn’t be able to maintain a career in education, or anything else where there’s potential for a harassment charge, at all.
The art is really detailed and impressive, mostly. The only issue I really had with it was that they do some bizarre stuff with facial expressions. I’ve mentioned this before, but it was in another review that not everyone’s necessarily seen so I’ll repeat it. This convention doesn’t bother me when it’s used sparingly, but Nodame Cantabile doesn’t show any kind of restraint with its use and the result is that it loses any impact that it may have had otherwise and it just ends up getting slightly annoying.
The actors do well in their roles. Especially Seki Tomokazu and Kawasumi Ayako. My only real problem with the cast is that there are a few Deutsch lines and the actors clearly don’t have a good grasp of Deutsch. So these lines just don’t sound good. Admittedly, that’s a pretty minor issue. Although you would think they’d give the actors pronunciation guides. The music… the music is amazing. When they’re trying to make it sound off, it sounds off and when they’re doing scenes where it all comes together, it sounds incredible. The music is so astounding that it almost makes the series worth watching by itself.
The yuri factor is a 1/10. There’s no yuri to be found in this.
My final rating for Nodame Cantabile is an 9/10. It’s an amazing series. I have a few gripes but they’re minor when compared with everything that the series does well. If you’re a fan of classical music, romance, or slice of life series, I would definitely suggest giving this one a try.