The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Nodame Cantabile ~Paris Chapter~

Title: Nodame Cantabile ~Paris Chapter~ aka Nodame Cantabile Pari-hen
Genre: Comedy/Drama
Company: J.C.Staff
Format: 11 episodes
Dates: 10 Oct 2008 – 19 Dec 2008

Synopsis: Having earned the opportunity to study in Paris, the titular heroine follows Chiaki as he too heads there to pursue his long-delayed dream of being the accomplished conductor he always wanted to be. But as the differing pursuits they undertake in Paris begin to pull them apart, both Chiaki and Nodame have to find new ways of connecting to each other through their beloved music in the City of Romance.

The Highlights
Characters: New supporting cast a downgrade from their Japan counterparts, but the increased focus on the main couple helps their development quite a bit.
Pacing: Ranges from rushed at times to utter butcher-job at others.
Music: The play-list of Classical classics remains the series’ biggest strength… too bad there isn’t as much focus on it as before.
CG: A lot more of it, in fact way too much more of it, and it still doesn’t look all that good.

When it was first announced that Kon Chiaki would take over from Kasai Ken’ichi as director of the sequel of the much-loved Nodame Cantabile, as well as the fact that it would run for only 11 episodes as opposed to the first season’s 23, much talk have revolved around the almost inevitable differences that the Paris Chapter is going to have from its predecessor and whether they would be for better or worse. At the conclusion of its run, I’m afraid I have to say that they are for the worse.

One could immediately peg the first season as a slice-of-life show from its relaxed, bordering on meandering, pace; however, with less than half the number of episodes that the first season had to play with, the second season was always going to feel rushed in comparison. But even with that expectation taken into account, there are times when Kon‘s execution devolves into outright butchery, and the overall effect of adjusting the metronome from Adagio to Allegro only serves to rob the Paris Chapter of much of the comedy and character interactions that characterizes Nodame Cantabile so well.

Also, with the relatively hurried pacing dictated by a need to cover too many plot points in too little time, the new supporting cast introduced in the Paris Chapter is too lacking in development to compare favourably with the supporting cast of the Japan Arc. The supporting characters of the Paris Arc are not nearly as involved as their predecessors in the activities of the lead couple, and with a few exceptions have a tendency to disappear altogether, having barely had any influence in the storyline. It is only the leads that get any significant development in their characters, and even Chiaki seems to have become prone to uncharacteristic bouts of moéness. Only Nodame remains the Nodame we all know and love, even as she learns ever more about herself and her music from her time in Paris.

While the classical soundtrack remains the series’ greatest strength, particularly with Mozart and Ravel contributing a majority of the pieces, the hurried pacing also makes its influence known here. While the previous season could afford to spend the time using the music to set the mood, showing just how the characters relate to the music produced by their own hands at the same time, the Paris Chapter simply can’t; this robs the music of much of the thematic influence it used to have on the story. For some reason, Kon attempts to make up for it by focusing more attention on the CG, which seems to be missing the point of Nodame Cantabile entirely; such a series is generally watched for the music rather than the animation, and when most of it looks like an Automaton Chiaki conducting an Automaton Orchestra anyway, calling it a waste of effort almost seems like a compliment.

With a rushed pacing leading to a compressed-bordering-on-butchered plot, an underdeveloped supporting cast, and thematic decay, practically the only good thing left about the sequel are Chiaki and Nodame, who remain one of the best-developed couples in anime. Once considered one of the better animation studios in its time, J.C. Staff have since developed an unfortunate reputation for habitually producing disappointing sequels to their adaptations, and while the Paris Chapter is hardly their worst effort, it certainly doesn’t help to rid them of that reputation. One can only hope they do better in the recently-announced third season, but in any case, I cannot muster up a ‘Bravo!’ for this one.

The Rating: 6

Reviewed by: Ascaloth

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