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Nodame Cantabile: Paris Review

August 21, 2009

story 4.5/10

Nodame Cantabile: Paris screenshot

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.

animation 7/10

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.

sound 6.5/10

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.

characters 5/10

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.

overall 5.5/10

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.

Anime Info

Chiaki and Nodame have both made it to Paris in pursuit of their futures as musicians. Chiaki begins his training as a world-class conductor and, in typical fashion, is quite successful; yet on the other hand, Nodame struggles as she starts to seriously learn about music for the first time. However, even though the two have worked tirelessly to meet the demands of their newfound musical lives, their relationship continues to progress slowly and frustratingly. Can Nodame and Chiaki balance both their new careers, and each other?


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About the Author

babyeinstein12's avatar

babyeinstein12

When I first stumbled upon the anime scene, I demanded only slice-of-life high school romance and Naruto (Weird combination!). I've opened up a little bit since then, but I suppose the high school shoujo type will always be my "comfort zone."

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comments

dorkopatamus avatar dorkopatamus
Sep 20, 2012

I loved the chiaki nodame drama! I really didnt think u could make a character like nodame upset in a way that wasnt just amusing, but when chiaki conducted his first concert with a girl that wasn't her my heart exploded. i was so upset i couldnt stop watching until there was a happy ending because i felt that bad for her. i know i know, she's not real. nonethless i felt for her. 

Vinniesama avatar Vinniesama
Feb 11, 2011

I was very disappointed with this. The characters wade in and out for no good reason (...what the heck did Yunlong bring to this series except from being a pointless character?), and it is SO advertising the Japanese tourist hotspots of France.

Oh, the realism of this series... Nodame and Chiaki must be pretty rich to live in what looks like Ile-Centre (near the Notre Dame - I know Chiaki is rich, but come on, could Nodame pay that sort of rent? Or the girl who came from Russia with no money at all?), and there's no mention of any of the bad parts of Paris, they always walk home arm in arm with no distractions, and Nodame learning French is hardly ever mentioned. To top it all off, they went to Saint Malo/Mont Saint Michel for a vacation at the end of the series! If you've ever been anywhere near there, you'll see a pretty large amount of Japanese tourists. XD

You hit the nail on the head when describing it as wandering through blancmange. I watched the series hoping we'd have more sweet moments from Nodame and Chiaki, but no... Chiaki just wanders in and out of the plot and the anime just grinds to a halt.

In short, a great review. :D

Aro avatar Aro
Dec 26, 2010

It was definitely poorly implemeted. I could understand it in the first season, but they didn't need to show the step by step progress of the protagonists toward becoming succesfful. It was especially irritating because of nodame's sudden escalation to fame in the end. I felt that was unrealistic. It was very roughly rounded off. But nonetheless, Nodame was an interesting and enjoyable character.

cherrywolfchan avatar cherrywolfchan
Jan 19, 2010

I'm just about to watch the last episode of Paris, and I have to say... I agree yet disagree with your review. I think that this sequel could never compare to the original Nodame Cantabile, but I felt it was still enjoyable and a believable route for the characters. At the end of the first season, they were heading to Paris anyways. The other side characters had their own lives and their own goals and dreams, they wouldn't follow Chiaki and Nodame, so of course we'd get new side characters.

They didn't feel like "filler characters" to me. They felt like proper side characters that Chiaki and Nodame were bound to meet in Paris.

As for Chiaki-Nodame relationship; why wouldn't they be a little closer now? At the end of the first season they pretty much recognized each other as 'boyfriend & girlfriend', so showing a little bit of "shoujo romance" was kind of to be expected. But maybe that was just me.

Either way, I've never read the manga, so I could just be blinded with my love for the series. I do recognize it not being as good as the first season. But like many other comments above mine, it's still enjoyable none-the-less.

orangeflower2490 avatar orangeflower2490
Jan 19, 2010

Yeah, the first one was definitely better; I still kinda liked it though. But the live-action version of this was waaaay more entertaining for some reason, which was really unexpected. o_o

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