Nodame Cantabile is one show not to be missed if you are a manga fan.
January 30th 2008
By MELODY L. GOH
THERE is no doubt that classical music is prestigious, and an important part of history. For most people, though, classical music is too complicated and sophisticated to listen to on a daily basis.
But through the Japanese TV series, Nodame Cantabile, classical music somehow becomes more accessible to people who can’t tell the difference between a Beethoven and a Mozart piece.
Nodame Cantabile is originally a manga by Ninomiya Tomoko. Published since 2001, the ongoing manga now has 19 volumes, and has received numerous awards in Japan.
From left: Okuyama Masumi (played by Koide Keisuki), Ryutaro Mine (Eita), Noda Megumi (Ueno Juri) and Chiaki Shinichi (Tamaki Hiroshi) in Nodame Cantabile, a Japanese TV series based on the popular manga of the same name.
There are two TV adaptations of the manga – one as an anime series that began last year, and another as an 11-episode live-action comedy that aired in 2006 (which is now on 8TV).
Videogame maker Nintendo has also adapted the series into a game that was launched last year.
Nodame Cantabile is basically a cute romantic comedy that revolves around the lives of a group of talented music students at the prestigious Momogaoka College of Music in Tokyo.
At the core of this group are Chiaki Shinichi and Noda Megumi, or better known as Nodame (a portmanteau of her family name Noda and the first syllable of her given name Megumi).
Chiaki, already in his fourth year, is the school’s top student. He was born into a wealthy family and grew up in Europe, where he first took up playing the violin and, later, the piano. Because of his talent and noble upbringing, Chiaki is a perfectionist and somewhat arrogant.
He dreams of becoming a conductor but when he expresses this wish to his piano teacher/ mentor Etoh in Lesson One (each episode is considered a “lesson”), Chiaki gets “dumped” by Etoh instead!
Meanwhile, third-year piano student Nodame is the total opposite of “Prince Chiaki”, as he is known by his myriad of admirers at school (which includes the flamboyant male timpanist, Masumi Okuyama).
She is hopelessly messy (Chiaki sometimes calls her “garbage girl” because her apartment was so full of trash in Lesson One you couldn’t even see the floor!), loves to eat but can’t cook to save her life, and loves playing the piano by ear, rather than by reading the score sheet. Nodame is also sweet and friendly, while Chiaki is very choosy about whom he talks to.
Though he thinks Nodame is annoying and silly, Chiaki lets her hang around him, mainly because they are neighbours. Of course, Chiaki is a little reserved at first but, as days go by, one can see his softer side emerging.
So far, Chiaki has cooked for Nodame, let her use his bathroom when her water supply was cut, and even allowed her friends to speak to him.
However, Chiaki sometimes treats Nodame like a dog (as some of the female students put it) but Nodame is too enamoured of her prince to notice anything amiss.
Chiaki’s growing affection for Nodame may also have to do with her sincere efforts to help him fulfil his dreams of becoming a conductor and, ultimately, a better person
With Nodame’s help, Chiaki is chosen as the conductor for the S Orchestra, comprising a group of wayward musicians handpicked by the college’s mysterious visiting lecturer, Maestro Franz von Stresemann.
The S Orchestra is considered a joke by most of the other lecturers, and by the musicians in the A Orchestra, the school’s main orchestra.
Chiaki is at first appalled by the situation, and even more disgusted with the musicians under his charge, but his strong determination to succeed overcomes all obstacles and he does his best to whip the S Orchestra into shape. However, things aren’t as easy as it seems because there is more to being a conductor than merely waving a baton.
With a very subtle lesson from Nodame, and the help of the S Orchestra leader Ryutaro Mine, Chiaki discovers a new kind of feeling for music that he has never felt before.
What is fascinating about Nodame Cantabile is that the show manages to keep its manga qualities intact without appearing too silly. These manga qualities are depicted through over-the-top actions and the usage of icons or cartoons to depict emotions.
For example, whenever Chiaki pushes Nodame out of the way, her exaggerated reaction is complemented by cute sound effects. Or, whenever Nodame or Masumi looks lovingly at Chiaki, a small cartoon of a beating heart appears near their faces!
While “cute” best describes Nodame Cantabile, the script itself is both funny and poignant. Couple that with the seriousness of classical music, and you have one entertaining show. Of course, the actors should be given credit, too.
Ueno Juri is perfect as the lovable Nodame, managing to capture the character’s carefree spirit, sincerity and yes, even klutziness. Ueno was named best actress (the series won best drama) in Japan’s top TV award – equivalent to the American Emmys – for her role as Nodame.
Tamaki Hiroshi, who plays Chiaki, is no less wonderful. Through Tamaki, one really believes that Chiaki, though proud and harsh with his words, has a softer side that is just waiting to come out.
Other actors include Eita (who plays Mine), Koide Koisuke (Masumi), Takenaka Naoto (Stresemann) and Mizukawa Asami (as A Orchestra violinist Miki Kiyora).
The show is definitely worth watching, especially if you’re a fan of Japanese manga or anime, or one who simply loves cute, funny shows with even cuter actors. Oh, and also if you’re someone who is trying to understand classical music more.
Nodame Cantabile airs at 3pm every Sunday on 8TV.