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?
StoryFans 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.AnimationThe 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.SoundThe 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.CharactersApparently 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.OverallFew 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.
Nodame Cantabile: Paris is the second season of an 11 episode Josei (female equivalent of seinen) comedy anime, with some romance about adults in classical music. When I first saw a clip of the first season, I wasn’t very interested. Then, due to my laptop dying, I had few options for anime, so I started watching Nodame Cantabile. Boy was I glad to be wrong, that anime cheered me up and was both funny and interesting, even if I had no interest in classical music. This is one anime that folks beyond the scope of the intended demographic may enjoy. This sequel moves on the story to the next phase in the lives of Chiaki and Nodame, where they are in Paris, as the title suggests. I never got a chance to review the original series since my laptop died, but I remember wanting to do so. Animation First of all, I’ll state that the animation hasn’t changed from the first 23 episode season. The animation quality for a 2008 anime is okay. It’s not completely immaculate, while I did watch it in 720p it seemed a bit soft and lacking in definition. This may have been due to style, but as far as anime of its time go, the quality is average at best. I will say that the attention to detail is good, the individual fingers and movement relative to instruments is very realistic, so I must commend that. But on the other hand the style… is unlike I’ve seen in any anime before. The unique way of drawing the characters initially put me off, if I’m to be honest. It think it was purposely designed in this way in an attempt to appeal to the target audience. The more I watched it, the more I got used to it. I really don’t know how to describe it, it seems like an anime in some ways, but it just feels too different. Considering how it put me off initially, it might put other people off, thus it might not be a great choice of style. But then again, I’m used to typical anime aesthetics, though I appreciate efforts made to be different, it isn’t exactly easy. Given the target audience, one would expect no weird shit and for the most part you’d be right. But unfortunately the Nodame Cantabile series has one major flaw in this regard: a scumbag named Franz von Stresemann. He had a very big role in the first season and this bastard was the trope old man pervert, flirting with women a third of his age (maybe even less!) and generally being a perverted scumbag. And what’s worse is that he had a romantic interest, so he just forgot about the woman he loved and predated on young girls? From the intro it is apparent that Nodame is one of his victims and she rightfully shrieks and runs away when he tries something funny on her. Such a shame, this was the thing I hated the most about the first season of Nodame Cantabile. So what happens in this sequel? Well other than the occasional silly bit of casual pervyness (which is just about tolerable), the old geezer returns for more bullshit. That made me sad. Oh and one last thing, a few references to a few things like other anime and Star Wars (Nodame calls her new teacher Yoda-san). Sound The sound in the first season of Nodame Cantabile was great. The intro (and outro too I think) was done by Suemitsu and the Suesmith, a J-pop band focusing on piano, which is relevant to the anime. It was so good, I went and got the soundtrack. The intros in this sequel are good too, but not as amazing as the first season, the outro is in French and thus sounds too unfamiliar to me. The good sound design of the rest of the anime returns here, background music charged with emotion (including just peaceful music for when nothing in particular is happening) results in comical music during the funny scenes and so forth. Being an anime about music, it would be a big fail if the music wasn’t good. The anime also features a lot of authentic classical music, played very beautifully and utilised so well that even someone like me, who doesn’t listen to classical music, can appreciate it. While this is Japanese only, featuring a little French due to setting, the strange thing is that the first season of Nodame Cantabile got a dub in English. I originally watched it thinking it was Japanese-only. Just as well perhaps, since this sequel doesn’t seem to have any English dubs (thus I recommend not bothering with the English dub of the original, also due to the following). The Japanese voice acting was integral to the experience, the voices of the characters are excellent in amplifying the personality of the characters. The French gets better, but a few names are stuggled with by the Japanese VAs. In the first episode of this sequel it is mentioned that Nodame has an Okawa dialect, which is apparently difficult. For the most part, the Japanese used here is quite formal and complex, probably more directed at the intended demographic and also due to the rather adult setting of the whole thing. I will also add that authenticity of the whole thing is a little off, there’s characters from all over the world and they all happen to speak Japanese as a common language. I know this was made for a Japanese audience and keeping it authentic by having every speak French would be a bad thing, but it’s just a small thing that came to mind. I won’t criticise this anime for this decision. Granted, the French that is spoken has Japanese subtitles for the original audience (and English subs for us). Megumi Noda (Nodame) is voiced by Ayako Kawasumi who has voiced Elena in Claymore, Saber in the Fate series (major role), Kaori Misaka in Kanon, Koishi Herikawa in Please Teacher, Emilia in Romeo X Juliet, Rita Ainsworth in Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo, Kazumi Yoshida in Shakugan no Shana, Ayumi Tokita in Squid Girl, Ruriko Matsunai in Skip Beat (last anime I watched by coincidence), Haruka Tanaka in Tari Tari, Laura Stuart in A Certain Magical Index (I was supposed to be watching this anime instead, but I want to read the novels first) and a whole host of characters from a bunch of anime I absolutely hate. Shinichi Chiaki is voiced by Tomokazu Seki, he voiced Igarashi in Angel Beats, Gilgamesh in the Fate series, Touji Suzuhara in Evangelion, Kenichi Shirahama in History’s Strongest Disciple Kenichi, Jun Kitagawa in Kanon, Meito Anizawa (anime store manager) in Lucky Star, Tate Yuuichi in My-Hime, Tracy in Pokemon and Enjin Hizumi/Gin Nanami in Yozakura Quartet. Frank Latoine is voiced by Shintarou Asanuma who voiced Shinichi Kodaka/Yosuke Kirie in Bokurano, Yoshiyuki Sakurai in Da Capo II, Michio Hoshino in Ghost Hound, Takeru in Minami-Ke, Kazuki Fujisawa in Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo and Chris Evergreen in Yumekui (Dream Eater) Merry. Tatiana Vishneva is voiced by Shizuka Itou, she voices Rachel in Baccano, Mayuki Kousaka in Da Capo II, Nagi Hirono in Ef - a Tale of Melodies, Luviagelita Edelfelt in the Fate series, Akiha Tohno in Lunar Legend Tsukihime, Wilhelmina Carmel in Shakugan no Shana, Kyouko tmoano in SoniAni, Boota/Darry Adai in Gurren Lagann, Kaori Kanzaki in A Certain Magical Index, Chun Hyang in Tsubasa Chronicle, Shiori Tsuzuki in Witchblade and Himawari Kunogi in XXXHOLiC. Rui Son is voiced by Sayaka Ohara, also the voice of Miko Nakarai in Bokurano, Milly Ashford in Code Geass, Irisviel von Einzbern in the Fate series, Laura in Mnemosyne, Kaede Misumi in Please Teacher, Hermione de Borromeo, Bel-Peol in Shakugan no Shana, Mahiru Sakai in Tari Tari, Yuuko Ichihara in Tsubasa Chronicle/XXXHOLiC and Selvaria Bles in Valkyria Chronicles. Yunlong Li is voiced by Satoshi Hino, he voices Yuuji Sakai in Shakugan no Shana and some other chatacters in anime I haven’t watched/didn’t enjoy. Yasunori Kuroki is voiced by Masaya Matsukaze, who is the voice of August 7 in Darker than Black, Teru Mikami in Death Note and Yuusuke Tozawa in Witchblade. Finally Roland is voiced by Makoto Ishii. Quite a mix of voice actors there, experienced folk for the more important roles and it really shows. Characters The titular Megumi Noda, or Nodame as she likes to be called, is a young woman in her early 20s (I think she said 21 at one point?) and is in Paris to further her musical studies of the piano. She has always had talent for playing the piano, but she has always lacked the discipline. She is an untamed, quirky individual, who usually plays freestyle and doesn’t read the notes, mostly because she couldn’t until a part of the first season. She makes weird noises and has the biggest crush on Chiaki. She’s a comedic character, the airhead loon who loves to run around and have fun, to juxtapose Chiaki’s serious personality. Her absolute favourite thing to watch on TV is the children’s anime Puri-Gorota, to the point where she has memorised the dialogue. I can’t remember the story with her parents, I think she either didn’t talk to them much or didn’t have them? She was Chiaki’s neighbour in Japan and attended the same music school and now she is once again Chiaki’s neighbour as he looks over her while she is trying to move forward with her music. She doesn’t have any real aims in life, other than to be with Chiaki. She can get upset at times and she doesn’t eat when she does, she can’t cook by herself and might just even be a deadly chef. Shinichi Chiaki, the lead male protagonist, is a 23 year old man from a family well known for their music and grew up in Europe. When his parents split up, he went with his mother to Japan and on the plane he had a traumatic experience due to the plane stalling/crashing. Ever since he’s been afraid to go on planes and thus has been unable to return to Europe to fully realise his musical talent, because apparently you can’t become a famous musician just by being in Japan alone. He reminds me of an old friend of mine who is similarly very widely talented when it comes to music, he is expert at the violin and in Japan he was perfecting his piano skills at the music school. But Chiaki really aspires to be more, he wants to be a conductor much like his Vieira sensei, a well renowned musician who taught music and conducted in Europe. Thus he is in Europe to further his career and debut as a man at the helm of an orchestra. He has much in the way of charisma and is so good looking, that both men and women desire him. Not just his looks, but his sheer talent is also astounding, he can speak Japanese, English, French and German, he can cook very well (resulting in Nodame often begging him for food) and can even dance. But in truth, he is a cynical strict perfectionist, critical towards himself and others, which can stress people out, including himself. He drives his musicians very hard when rehearsing and has ears so attuned to music, such that he can hear the smallest mistake made by a single person in a big orchestra, at which point he usually shouts at them. His tough personality clashes with the light-hearted comical personality of Nodame, who he seems to dislike, but in truth he’s just denying his own feelings. He probably the closest thing to male tsundere in any anime I can think of. This man seeks perfection, to become the best conductor out of Japan, heck the world! Yasunori Kuroki who plays the Oboe, is a returning character form the original series, he’s obviously one of Nodame/Chiaki’s old buddies from Tokyo, back home in Japan. He appreciates Chiaki’s work and enjoyed being in an orchestra with him back in Japan. He’s down on luck and lonely here in France, things just don’t seem to go his way. He’s having a hard time making friends, which might be because he’s a quiet individual who doesn’t really go out of his way to do much. He’s a nice person and looks up to both Nodame and Chiaki. He seems to have his own internal troubles, but the anime will show you what becomes of them. One character he meets later on and doesn’t seem to get along with is Tatyana. Tatyana Vishneva is an 18-year old pianist from Russia who attends the same school as Nodame and actually lives in the dorm owned by Chiaki’s parents, where both Chiaki and Nodame move in. Tatyana is a vain individual, she prizes her looks above all else, but only because she wants to attract a hot guy. She likes to flirt and wear seductive skimpy outfits, to show of her hot Russian curves. She also seems to want a guy who is rich, since her family back home are funding her studies in Paris. Tatyana doesn’t want to go back to Russia, she wants to meet a nice foreign (i.e. not Russian) guy and live her own life. Unfortunately for her, the immediate perfect candidate Chiaki is taken (sorta) by the over-protective Nodame and the other guys in their dorm don’t interest her. Frank Latoine is yet another pianist student at the same conservatoire (music school) as Nodame who lives in the apartment building owned by the Chiaki family. Of course, he is a native French, but can speak Japanese (not that you’d notice due to almost all dialogue being Japanese here) and is a major Otaku. Much like Nodame, he is a big fan of Puri-Gorota and gets along with her very well as she doesn’t judge him for his Otaku habits (whereas Tatyana does). A true Otaku, he is especially intrigued and loves the fact that their two new dorm-mates are Japanese and one even loves the same anime he does. Of course, he also loves other anime and has posters, figurines and even T-shirts. I noticed he has a Shana-tan (Shakugan no Shana) t-shirt. Rui Song is a famous pianist from China who already has a career and is essentially a sort of celebrity due to her small fame and success. She’s still young, probably a bit younger than Nodame and Chiaki, especially as her mother clings to her like glue and steers her career like a dictator. In truth, Rui seeks freedom and peace of her own, she wants to come to Paris to study and further improve her piano skills, she’s not that amazing and is human after all. She’s got things to do and people to meet and most of all she wants to find a dorm of her own. She treats Nodame and Chiaki like friends and she appreciates this as she is able to live the free life she never got to, when she’s with them. Of course, seeing how serious they are about their musical careers, she decides to let them do their thing and not interrupt, she’s over-considerate like that. The final inhabitant of the dorm is a Chinese pianist called Yunlong Li, but he goes to a different school to the other folks and isn’t seen much. He’s got a kinda serious yet quirky personality, one that I couldn’t quite figure out as he got barely any screen time. Roland is a violinist in two orchestras including the Marlet, he seems a bit camp and adores Chiaki, who he calls the ‘black prince’ due to his demeanour. The cheery old man Charles (or Sharurei as the Vas tends to end up saying) Auclair. Story After the events of the first season, Chiaki has moved to Europe to further his dreams of becoming a brilliant orchestra conductor (because apparently you can’t do that if you stay in Japan?!?!?), becoming the main conductor of the historic Marlet Orchestra and Nodame follows him, to further her already amazing skills at playing the piano. This season of the anime just continues to follow their antics as Chiaki is now closer to his sensei than he ever was before, he must become someone amazing so he can return to his sensei proud. Of course, the element of romance between Nodame and Chiaki continues. There is also passage of time, but it isn’t visually obvious due to the age of the characters. Young adults don’t age that fast, nor do they mature, since they already have done so. The surprising thing is that the romance between Nodame and Chiaki actually seems to progress a bit. While Chiaki might not even regard Nodame as a girlfriend, she likes to joke in front of other people and show her adoration towards Chiaki by claiming she is his wife, which is obviously a lie and Chiaki often uses this as an excuse to tell the other person she is a bit loopy. Still, Chiaki himself realises that Nodame means something to him and while there is no official relationship, it’s getting there. The romantic jokes from Nodame are there and as funny as ever. Even when Chiaki has to do something with Nodame, getting misunderstood as a couple, he usually just goes along with it. And towards the end, there seems to be another romance starting to bloom between two other characters. Conclusion I enjoyed this a bit more than the original Nodame Cantabile, mainly because the plot was starting to actually go somewhere, as was the romance and of course, the scoundrel Stresemann appeared much less. This isn't for evryone. I’d recommend it for comedy fans and folks who normally wouldn’t like anime, mainly because this almost doesn’t feel too much like an anime, due to the intended audience, the animation style and more. It’s more of an adult anime, due to both the characters, theme and plot, younger viewers may find this boring. Of course, those who enjoyed the original may also enjoy this. Try this out if you like classical music, though you don’t need an appreciation for classical to enjoy this. The comedy had me laughing out aloud on its own. Though when I say try it out, do watch the first season instead, this may be shorter but the first season introduces the characters. And if you hate Stresemann too, be glad that he features less in this season. According to episode 11 here, there is a final season, which I will watch very soon. Family-friendliness Rating: 2/5 The antics of Stresemann, Tatyana being flirty and a few jokes (lower is better) Overall Rating: 8/10 (higher is better)
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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