Title: Nodame Cantabile: The Final Score – Part 1
Directors: Takeuchi Hideki
Format: Movie; 150 minutes
Dates: 19 Dec 2009
Synopsis: Fresh from winning the Platini International Music Competition, Chiaki Shinichi becomes the new resident conductor of the Roux-Marlet Orchestra, an orchestra with a long history which was the breeding ground of Franz von Stresemann’s talent. To his dismay, he finds Roux-Marlet in shambles, and has to work desperately to rebuild the historical orchestra to its former glory. At the same time, Nodame continues to strive hard at the Paris Conservatoire, pursuing her dream of eventually “catching up” with her beloved Chiaki.
Characters: The spotlight is mostly on Chiaki; Nodame doesn’t get much time, and other characters get even less, though they make good use of what they have.
Pacing: Director Takeuchi has a talent for making time-compressed plot adaptations look concise instead of butchered; a remarkable feat.
Story: Some aspects fall short in the face of the time constraints of the movie format, but other aspects actually thrive.
Music: Classical masterpieces drive the themes and character motivations, just like in the TV series.
Ending: Cliffhangerriffic; this is clearly intended as a setup for more to come.
Being a sequel to the multiple award-winning TV series of 2006, Part 1 of The Final Score is naturally meant for the numerous fans of its predecessor and is not meant to be a self-contained movie in its own right. So how does one work around the tight time constraints of a movie format to cater to the many Nodame Cantabile fans who have fallen in love with the excellent TV series and manga? If you are director Takeuchi Hideki, you do so by serving up a satisfactory piece comprising of what made the series so good in the first place, and then top it with promises of better yet to come.
With only a couple hours to play with and the Chiaki-centric story arc to adapt, something has to face the axe. And so it does. Chiaki hogs the spotlight of the movie, which focuses mainly on the troubles he faces in rebuilding the Roux-Marlet Orchestra on a tight deadline. This comes at a cost; the titular Nodame herself is sidelined for the most part, and the supporting characters come off as almost peripheral, despite the best attempts of the movie to give them their moments. Even the Chiaki-Nodame dynamic, which is a big draw of the series, doesn’t get too much time either. Although to be fair, Nodame and the other characters do make the best of what time they do get to themselves.
That said, Takeuchi appears to have a talent for working around the time-compression problem wonderfully. The plot of The Final Score Part 1 actually comes across as concise, which is particularly remarkable considering it’s an adaptation of an easily-butchered story arc, as its approximate anime equivalent, Nodame ~Paris~, shows all too well. While it is focusing on the main storyline, the time compression is actually an aid to the movie for driving its themes forward; from the harsh realities of life impinging upon the desire to make music, to the dedication of all involved towards making that music regardless, to the estrangement of two people on very different life paths, the movie uses its time continuity over the episodic format of the TV series to its advantage, developing its themes smoothly into a well-executed conclusion near the end, like any good movie worth its salt.
And part of that thematic development is, undoubtedly, the music; the feature of the works of such classical luminaries such as Ravel, Tchaikovsky, and Bach, and the way the characters relate to the music that they perform, truly proves that Nodame Cantabile is nothing without its classical music. Combined with the outrageously theatrical comedy, as well as the juxtaposition of truly dramatic moments, the movie truly is a worthy, if flawed, sequel to the original TV series.
I will not offer a “Bravo!” for The Final Score Part 1 this time around; partially because of the necessary flaws present in the movie, but mainly because the cliffhanger ending underlies its status as a setup, for what is potentially an explosive Final Movement for the Nodame Cantabile franchise to come in April. It would be rude to applaud prematurely after all; let’s save that for the Grand Finale.
The Rating: 8
Reviewed by: Ascaloth