Fans of the original Nodame Cantabile, don’t start squealing yet. Actually, let’s just pretend the sequel never happened. As one wades through this eleven-episode piece of thick blancmange, it will feel like meeting an old friend, only to behold that friend very much changed.
The show brings its share of giggles -- but only if you're paying attention. Compared to the snappy, energetic hilarity of the original series, Paris unfolds into a mélange of slow, drowsy filler, torpid characters, and charmless bursts of narrative. Despite promising beginnings, the plot quickly retards into a tempo largo, inviting questions like, “Why am I still watching this?" or "What happened to the good old school days?” Somehow, studying at a music conservatory just doesn't look exciting anymore. Moreover, Nodame and Chiaki’s relationship mutates into a weird pseudo-romance, complete with kisses, fights, and insecurities, yet emotionally offering nothing.
Not only is the requisite charm lacking, but the story itself buzzes along like an aimless shoujo, lacking any dramatic moments. In the original Nodame, concerts are euphoric climaxes, and romantic moments cute teases of things to come; in Paris, events resemble the impersonal ticking on an electronic metronome. Let’s face it: even a hardcore classical music enthusiast like me isn’t going to be too excited about the inner facets of Chiaki’s conducting career. It’s as if some soft pedal is filtering out intrigue and padding the whole thing with an inexplicable dullness. Quelle horreur.
The art in Nodame Cantabile is strange enough to begin with, but it's pulled off well. In Paris, however, the light, faded colors only heighten the show’s sense of dryness. I do applaud J.C.Staff’s efforts on recreating the ornate architecture of the Old World; while sometimes appearing cheap, it casts a completely different atmosphere from the original Japanese setting. Unfortunately for me, the exotic locale wasn’t enough to appease my longing of once again seeing those crowded telephone lines and whitewashed walls of tranquil suburban Tokyo.
Paris’s portrayal of instruments and use of CGI animation remain, alongside Piano no Mori, the best among classical music anime. Still, I am disappointed with a noticeable lack of effects compared to the prequel. Before, lightning would electrify Beethoven's violin sonatas; flowers and blended colors would enrich Debussy's L'Isle Joyeuse; heck, even mongeese costumes would spice up Rhapsody in Blue. Now, orchestra is orchestra, and piano is piano: Classical music becomes plain old classical music. As Beethoven once said, "Putsch, putsch!". Much of those aesthetics from the bygone days appear to have been abandoned for the sake of perhaps a more realistic, yet also more forgettable, concert performance.
The musical selections derive from a lesser known, yet very agreeable, corner of the classical music library and aptly focuses on the compositions of the French greats. Unfortunately, the show chooses to only skim over these works. They are drained of deserved value, and in the end, one could forget what these selections were even called, let alone what they sounded like. The musical standouts of Paris happen to be the opening and closing themes – clever pop-renditions of Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto and Ravel’s Bolero.
Paris soft-pedals the voice acting as well. Ayako Kawasumi and Tomokazu Seki perform incredibly as Nodame and Chiaki in the original version, but perhaps the change of scenery gets to them in Europe and makes them think it's vacation time. Excepting a few moments of brilliance, their voices do nothing more than reflect the aftereffects of a sleepy storyline. They aren’t the only ones. Voice acting for the other characters is done decently, but with not nearly the verve of what I was expecting.
Apparently the characters, along with everything else about the show, have been suffering a sort of perpetual jetlag. Chiaki finally starts paying attention to Nodame, and with their relationship’s neat lead-up back in Japan, one would expect an explosion of quirky, entertaining romance in "La Ville d'Amour.” Instead, we receive a heaping plate of mood swings, missed long-distance calls, and mundane conversations. Both Chiaki and Nodame mature and settle, which is understandable, but it takes a huge toll on their likability as characters. While they retain their superficial qualities, they seem to have relinquished the extremes of their personalities, transforming them from zany, multifaceted lovers-haters to mildly boring versions of their previous selves.
The supporting cast fades from both importance and memory, as most enjoy one or two brief scenes of glory before melting into the oblivion from whence they came. This is excepting the Russian student Tanya and the oboist Kuroki, whose own romantic side story presents the best of Paris’s character development. The screen time on Nodame and Chiaki tires so easily that I literally sat up straighter when Tanya and Kuroki emerged to rouse me back to a waking state.
Few streaks of cleverness aside, the show, in the end, proves to only be a studio faux pas. Perhaps if Nodame Cantabile didn't reach such Bach-like proportions, Paris might have escaped its predecessor's shadow. If you listen to classical music, and if you are curious about musical study in France, this eleven-episode series could still be worth the watch, but no doubt we'll be looking towards the final season to make up for this disappointment.
I was disappointed to hear so many people didn't enjoy this season as much as the first and so going into it I was both a bit cautious and concerned. I'm glad to say that those who didn't think this season was as funny or believe that it had somehow lost its magic were totally wrong.
NC: Paris is a great follow up to the first season and while short has continued to fuel my love for the characters and story.
Positives: Again Chiaki and Nodame bring something magical to the anime world with both their quirky relationship and their music. There are some complaints that their relationship is thin and nothing more than fighting and a few trite moments. I'd beg to differ and suggest that their relationship is alot more like real life although it's been compressed into a few short moments of a short season (WHY didn't we get a 25 episode season! Argh!)
As both Nodame and Chiaki begin to realize what it is in life that they care about their relationship continues to evolve and to me it was both believable and a whole lot of fun.
Another big concern I've seen is that a lot of the secondary characters aren't nearly as developed nor interesting as the past season. I'd say this is in a sense true, but there is a much more limited time frame to develop them in and there are a few standouts where necessary. Ultimately though, this is a season about the two main characters figuring out what they want from life and trying to decide how they really relate to each other.
Negatives: Too short? Seriously I'm dying for the third season to come out and I am hoping that it's a fitting conclusion to the story that has been woven.
I didn't really enjoy the theme song this season in the way that I loved the first season's and I've often wondered why Japanese anime have to change their theme songs. I don't think that sort of thing would ever fly here in the US as your theme song is too much a piece of the heart of a show. I know I could start humming themes to hundreds of songs and most of you would know them in just a few notes...but anyhow, the closing theme was great so I guess in the end it's ok.
All in all a great second season that could have been much longer and hopefully we'll be seeing that third season soon and get a solid and fitting end to the Chiaki/Nodame tale.
In this second season, Nodame and Chiaki are both accepted into a conservatoire in Paris, which is a huge culture shock for Nodame, who has never set foot outside of Japan, but is old hat for Chiaki, who spent most of his childhood travelling around Europe. The first few episodes are really funny and quite sweet: Nodame misreading her French phrasebook was hilarious (saying 'J'ai besoin d'aide, j'ai été violée!' rather than ordering her dinner), but soon the pacing hit 1kmph (got to be kilometres - continental, that) and just crawled towards the end. (Like, er, how you Eeenglish say, uh, ze 'escargot'.)
If there was ever an anime series that was an enormous love letter to France, then this is it. From Paris to Saint Malo and Mont Saint Michel, all the top Japanese tourist destinations in France are covered. Obviously, they are all very highly romanticised views of these tourist hotspots - no mention of 9€ pints of beer in Paris or how rude some Parisians can be (to the point where most French people consider Paris to be almost like a different country), no mention of how dreary Brittany is, and no mention of how little there is to see in Mont Saint Michel.
But of course, I wouldn't expect this series, which skips over a lot of how the hardships of being in an orchestra or learning various instruments, to provide anything less than a picturesque view of la France. We want to see Nodame and Chiaki walking back from practice with the Eiffel Tower glittering behind them as they walk back to their apartment in Île-de-la-Cité, rather than seeing Nodame and Chiaki walk home on a fairly bland Parisian evening, and Nodame and Tanya enjoying their time on the beach in Saint Malo, rather than having to stay in the hotel while Brittany has yet another rainy day. It's perfectly fine to cover up the dullness of la vie quotidienne, but if ever an anime needed a disclaimer beforehand, this one was it. XD
I might have said a few paragraphs ago that this series is slow, but there's a strange energy to it that kept me watching. Contradictory as that sounds, I wanted to see these goofballs, two Japanese, one Russian, one Chinese, and one Frenchman, continue their lives in my neighbouring country, and it wasn't too much of a drag. But towards the end of the series the pace sped up quite a bit, and often characters just got shoved on the wayside. Yunlong, the aforementioned Chinese guy, only appeared in a handful of episodes, as the 'extremely-committed Chinese student', before writing him out of the picture. Frank, the French nerd who helps Nodame learn French with episodes of his favourite childhood anime, was a strong presence for most of the series, but then disappeared towards the end. ;;
The romance in this series was still pretty well-done. Nodame and Chiaki had their problems, as does any relationship, but luckily they were never overblown. It took until near the end of this series for them to actually kiss, at which point I cheered, considering there's a Chinese girl called Rui Son who is brought in halfway through the series as Nodame's rival for Chiaki's affections, who unfortunately didn't add much to the series. She was pretty much just dragged off by her pushy showbusiness mother. Ah well.
Now, while I love the first series of Nodame Cantabile, I don't consider it to be perfect. It's not a very appealing show (of all the friends I've shown it to, only one enjoyed more than one episode), and there are times when it does drag, story-wise. While I love the episodes that basically consist of nothing but an epic orchestra concert/piano solo, lots of comments and reviews I've seen tend to say that more story and character development could have been added instead of playing an obscure classical music piece, but I don't think I'd have enjoyed this series as much had those scenes been cut out, though I do see their point. If anything, I'd give the first season a 4.5/5.
Paris Chapter, on the other hand, will drop down a number to 6/10. Now, it's a good series, and worth watching if one has become completely enamoured with the first series. It's funny, sweet, and still takes itself seriously despite having those moments of ridiculously feelgood comedy. But unfortunately, there are times where you are trekking through a swamp of treacle, storyline-wise, and then speeding up before having a fairly unsatisfying ending, and character writing issues that really got on my nerves after a while. So, the rating is fairly just.
When I finished Paris Chapter, I didn't really want to watch the third season, Finale. Not because I felt the third season would have the same problems, but because apparently that series focuses on minor side-characters and their relationships rather than Chiaki and Nodame. Sorry, Nodame Cantabile. Looks like I'll be sticking to your manga and live-action drama from now on.
This is a wonderful sequel. We get to see Nodame and some other minor charaters, mature with their instruments. Also, Nodame and Chiaki's relationship futher progresses. There is a lot more romance in this one. Nodame is still hilarious with "Gyabon". Also, the music is wonderful. I never had a thing for classical music, but ever since this anime, I really LOVE it. Definately recommend finishing this series out.