The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Nodame Cantabile

Title: Nodame Cantabile
Genre: Comedy/Drama
Company: J.C.Staff/GENCO/Nodame Cantabile Production Team
Format: 23 episodes
Dates: 12 Jan 2007 – 29 Jun 2007

Synopsis: Chiaki Shinichi is one of the most talented musicians at the musical college he attends. However, his ambition to become a conductor and study under the renowned Sebastiano Viera puts him at odds with his piano teacher, Etou. Chiaki’s fear of flying prevents him from leaving Japan to become Viera’s student. After being dropped from Etou’s class, which leads to Chiaki also being dumped by his girlfriend, Tagaya Saiko, Chiaki meets a bizarre, messy girl, Noda Megumi (who insists on being called “Nodame”), a piano student under Chiaki’s new teacher. Chiaki doesn’t like Nodame, but is strangely drawn to her; on the other hand, Nodame almost instantly falls in love with Chiaki.

The Highlights
Characters: Some of the best characters in the josei genre.
Music: Soundtrack packed with classical gems.
Seiyuu: Kawasumi Ayako is a superstar.
CG: Hit and miss.
Side characters: Too numerous; some steal more limelight than they deserve.
Ending: Satisfying.

Characters make or break an anime like Nodame Cantabile, and it has some of the most likable and well-developed characters in this genre. This is one of those premises that demands character development, but there’s a big difference between potential and actual execution. However, at the end of the day, there’s no point in understating just how incredible the character development and chemistry is in this series; “phenomenal” is one of few fair words one may use to describe it.

An anime about a music school must have good music, and Nodame Cantabile certainly doesn’t fall short here. Its soundtrack includes some absolute classics, with works from a list of who’s who of classical and romantic music, including Rachmaninoff, Mozart, Schubert, Debussy, Beethoven, Bach and many others. No doubt, Nodame Cantabile’s highlight reel prominently features its on-stage orchestral and piano performances, which not only feature some outstanding music, but manage to show just how the music impacts the characters and relationships in the series.

Honey and Clover’s director, Kasai Ken’ichi takes the reigns of this project, and I’d strongly argue that his style is better suited to this type of series. While in Honey and Clover, there were a few occasions in which comedy would interfere with drama in a fashion that was at least jarring, almost bordering on inappropriate, Kasai can get away with doing it here since Nodame Cantabile is only very rarely totally serious. The characters grow through music and through each other, but they do so because they enjoy it and have fun with it, meaning that a “fun”, playful tone is very much appropriate here, where arguably it wasn’t at times in Honey and Clover.

Another similarity to Honey and Clover is Nodame Cantabile’s visuals and art style, but the most noticeable aspect of that is the way CG is used to animate hands and musical instruments while characters are performing. The result is a mixed bag; sometimes it looks seamless, while others it’s jarring. While I’m discussing technical merit, the voice acting in Nodame Cantabile is exquisite. Seki Tomokazu fits effortlessly into the role of Chiaki, but the star is Kawasumi Ayako, who brings the title character to life magnificently. When I hear performances like this from Kawasumi, it compels me to say that she is easily the most underrated seiyuu in the business at the moment… and arguably the best.

There are few flaws in a series of this caliber, but I felt that, while the main characters were given a wonderful amount of focus and development, there were too many side characters that contributed nothing and fell by the wayside. I didn’t understand why, every now and then, the show decided it wanted to momentarily tell the story from their point of view, when they were just going to completely disappear in the next episode. I’m nitpicking here, but the impact of the orchestral performances waned slightly in the latter part of the series, and Chiaki’s main character flaw was “cured” a little too neatly for my liking.

Despite these minor flaws, Nodame Cantabile is an excellent anime, and one of the recent pinnacles of the josei genre. Even though the year is not over yet, I can already say with certainty that Nodame Cantabile is going to be among the best anime of 2007. I knew from the first episode that this was going to be a good series. I never could have predicted it’d be this good.

The Rating: 9

Reviewed by: Sorrow-kun

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