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.
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