Nodame Cantabile

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Arcanum's avatar
Oct 3, 2007

Story

How long would it take to teach a normal person with little or no exposure to classical music how to understand and appreciate the fine nuances of a Mozart sonata, or a Rachmaninov piano concerto? How much longer would it take to convince such a person that his preconceptions about classical music were totally unfounded and that classical music might actually be...interesting?

Apparently, all it takes is 23 episodes of Nodame Cantabile. Actually, in my case, it was far less than that. By the second episode, I was already dusting off my piano, untouched for ages, and digging around for old books of classical pieces my teacher used to make me practise.

Nodame Cantabile tells the story of the unlikely college romance between the meticulously clean Chiaki Shinichi, a perfectionist and star pupil of the Momogaoka Academy of Music who aspires to become a conductor, and Noda Megumi, (who prefers to go by Nodame) a complete slob, but a brilliant piano student who can barely read sheet music and plays almost exclusively by ear.

In every romance, there is that fine line between a captivating love story and oversentimentality: make the plot too pedestrian, and the audience loses interest; make it too fanciful, and it becomes a sappy soap opera. Nodame Cantabile strikes a wonderful balance, creating a capriciously charming tale with its full share of priceless moments.


Animation

Apart from feature-length productions, generally associated with the likes of Hayao Miyazaki, Satori Kon or Shinkai Makoto, which I deem to be in a different category than conventional televised anime, truly few titles offer the visual quality of Nodame Cantabile. The overall aesthetic appeal of the series is extremely high, especially when one considers how much screen time is devoted to showing the playing of various orchestral instruments. I cannot speak for the animation of other instruments, but certainly, the playing of the piano sequences is faithfully portrayed.

What really sets Nodame Cantabile apart from its peers, though, is the absolute undeniable genius of the animators in finding a way to visually convey the beauty and emotion of a piece of classical music. I will not even attempt to describe this in a review: it must be seen for oneself. I was equally blown away by the use of spectacular hand-drawn glamour shots with accompanying sparkle effects to emphasise dramatic moments of the anime.

My one gripe about the visual aspect of the anime was that certain secondary characters were drawn too similar to Chiaki. On several occasions, I had to look twice to determine whether it was really Chiaki on the screen. While this is a small issue in the grand scheme of things, I consider it mildly sloppy, given the extremely high quality of the rest of the production.


Sound

Ironically, as an anime about music, Nodame Cantabile has very few opportunities to showcase original compositions. Rather, the vast majority of music played throughout the series are brilliantly performed pieces or excerpts from various classical composers. The one original piece which stands out is the catchy title theme, Allegro Cantabile, which is reiterated in many forms throughout the series.

One would think that the sound team had an easy job, simply recycling recordings of famous classical works. This could not be farther from the truth. As it turns out, every piece was re-recorded to fit the context of the anime. This is particularly evident when characters are learning a new piece of music – the improvement and accuracy of a performance from day to day is quite observable.

The seiyuu selection could not have been more ideal. I am not one to use superlatives lightly, but I have a hard time imagining how this anime could be the same without the prodigious performances of all the seiyuu. I attempted to watch the live-action version of Nodame Cantabile, but could not continue past the first episode. The live-action felt totally lifeless without the dynamism and energy of Kawasumi Ayako in the role of Nodame, the frustrated retentiveness of Seki Tomokazu as Chiaki and the perverted insanity of Ogawa Shinji as Maestro Stresemann.

Nodame Cantabile is the strongest candidate to date for a perfect score in sound. However, in all objectivity, I was disappointed not to see a higher standard of music choreography within the anime. No one can dispute the beauty and the quality of the music, but there were a few scenes which left me wondering why the audio team were being so parsimonious with the background music. As a contrast, I mention Someday's Dreamers, in which practically every scene is paired with an atmospheric soundtrack. The result is clear: a style which gives the anime a rich and mellifluous feeling, which I felt was sometimes lacking in Nodame Cantabile.


Characters

The characters in Nodame Cantabile really shine. Each is their own unique person, with quirky but believable defining characteristics. Characters of quality are a rare breed, as the common mistake committed by many an anime is to create memorable characters by giving them exaggerated caricatural traits. I thus consider myself fortunate when I come across a cast of rich and complex characters such as the one in Nodame Cantabile.

Nodame is without question one of the richest and most colourful female lead characters in any anime I have seen. Far from a picture of perfection, she is a piano genius placed in the body of a sloppy, dirty, possessive, selfish and childish girl. Yet, with her adorable attempts at haute cuisine – a fish accidentally burnt charcoal black garnished with a string of pink, heart-shaped mayonnaise – as well as her peculiar mannerisms and bizarre expressions, "Gyabo!" or "Mukya!", she wins over her audience with the same unforgettable charm with which she wins over Chiaki.

In fact, all the main characters in Nodame Cantabile have distinct and often clashing personalities. Of course, it is the interaction between these conflicting character traits which are the source of all the hilarity. At one point the anime notes that "the mind can be freed by new encounters", and nowhere is this more acutely observed than through the changes we see in the main characters as they grow and learn from each other.


Overall

A quick browse through YouTube for videos of classical music pieces featured in Nodame Cantabile – Rachmaninov's Second Piano Concerto, for example – reveals comments like "Nodame!" or "Gyabo!". It is practically unthinkable that an anime about an arcane topic would garner such strong and reverent support, but having watched all 23 episodes, it is easy to see why.

Quite simply, this is a superbly produced anime. Few titles are able to keep audiences watching merely with good pacing alone, but Nodame Cantabile has certainly attained grandmastery of the art. Fewer yet can inspire audiences worldwide to appreciate the beauty of music written centuries ago. And only Nodame Cantabile can do it with the perfect dose of humour, drama and energy to make it appealing to all viewers.

8/10 story
8.5/10 animation
9.5/10 sound
9/10 characters
8.5/10 overall
Moparty's avatar
Aug 30, 2013

Review is solely opinion so please don't hate


STORY: 7.5

The story is fresh and original. You will never encounter an anime absolutely like this. It is truly one of a kind. The relationship aspect of the story moves a bit slow but its a nice slow pace that doesn't anger you but may not have you intrigued either. The focus is mostly on the music in the anime but you can't help but feel left out when you watch this anime. As soon as you're finished, you aspire to play an instrument but reality is not as easy as it seems. The overall moral of "follow your dreams" has been experimented with many times before but this was a fresh and enjoyable take on it. 

ANIMATION: 8

The animation is refreshing. The overall goofiness and rather serious moments all fit well with the animation. The animation doesn't hinder the anime at all and it's easy on the eyes. It doesn't enhance the anime too much and after you watch it you won't be blown away. It's textures and background settings may not be as extravagant but they still pull you in the setting. 

SOUND: 9

The sound is what ultimately makes this anime great. People who play instruments or actually listen and analyze classical music may not like the sound mixing as much, but I ended up enjoying it nevertheless. Nodame Cantabile introduced me to classical music and I would not have grown into the genre without it. The op is a happy tune that I often can't ignore. This is one of the op's that I usually would not skip because it was a good song to listen to and really set me in the mood. The ending song is fantastic as well. The break into the song is refreshing and often times I would sing the first few words along with it. It has a very Disney esque feel to it that fills you up with warmth. And I can never forget that beaver walking on the rainbow wheel.

CHARACTERS: 9

The characters are very interesting. The whole focus is on Nodame and Chiaki. Nodame is a fun soul and its often hard to hate her. And although Chiaki may be blunt and a bit strict and bold, he is still very lovable in a way. The chemistry between Nodame and Chiaki are interesting and fun to watch. The side characters all set the mood very well and bring out the best in the main two. So much depth gets put into Chiaki and Nodame to the point where it is really hard to forget about them. 

OVERALL: 8.375

This is a fun anime to watch and although classical music may not be your jam, you should still try this anime out. The romance, drama, and comedy all melt together pretty well and I hardly ever complained when watching this. The music pulls you in and you find a new found love in classical music. This anime is very intriguing and keeps you wanting more after every episode. This anime was a joy to watch and I would definitely recommend the avid anime watcher to watch this anime. 

7.5/10 story
8/10 animation
9/10 sound
9/10 characters
8.4/10 overall
JVAnimeReviews's avatar
Sep 8, 2015

For a video review, check out my Youtube channel. Link on my profile page.

This review will cover the three seasons of Nodame Cantabile.

Positive

*First of all I want to address the background art, especially when we get into the second season: Paris hen, I found the backgrounds to be very good. The way that the Parisian buildings and the city as a whole were drawn was very artistic and it perfectly showed the beauty of Paris.

*The next thing were the many minor story lines in this anime. There are a lot of characters and I mean a lot and together with that there are also many different side stories. And in Nodame I found them very well done, they didn’t interfere too much with the main storyline of Chiaki and Megumi. 

There are other anime’s where the side stories bothered me since they pulled too much time and attention away from the main storyline. But that’s not the case in Nodame, the side stories like for instance the one between Kuroki and Tatiana get told but not in a way that the main storyline gets pushed to the side.

*Speaking of the main storyline, being the one of Chiaki and Megumi. I found their relationship to be very interesting and realistic. Don’t go into this anime expecting a very lovey-dovey relationship between the both off them, mainly because Chiaki doesn’t want to give in to his feelings completely. 

As soon as we get into Paris hen it is clear that Chiaki and Megumi are in some kind of romantical relationship but it’s almost never explicitly shown. And that’s what made their relationship so realistic: the struggles, the almost unrequited love of Megumi and the slow growing process in stead off the usual love at first sight.

*Then we get to the music, the main theme of Nodame Cantabile. And the best to describe this anime’s music is that too me it is was an absolute treasure. From my Shigatsu review from 2 weeks ago, you know that I’m a big classical music fan and this anime is filled with classical music. 

Every single episode is drenched with classical pieces off all the great composers: Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Mozart, Rachmaninov, Brahms,… You name one and he’s probably mentioned in this anime.

*And a last positive point that I want to address was the overall set-up and story of Nodame. This is slice of life at its best, I mentioned before that Toradora! is the unkrowned king of slice of life, well Nodame comes pretty close to stealing this title. 

Where Toradora! still had a lot of comedy, Nodame Cantabile doesn’t go overboard with anything, there’s no over the top comedy, no over the top romance, drama. Everything is kept very low key.

Negative

*And that’s also a bit the problem with this anime. It’s not a problem that I had since the more realistic an anime is the better for me. But I think that a lot of people will find Nodame quite boring to watch because it’s not like a lot of exciting things happen. 

You have to be a big slice of life fan in order to enjoy this anime. I know that I never have to recommend this anime to my best friend because he will probably fall asleep after a couple of episodes.

*Another problem with Nodame was the comedy, it had it good moments but also a lot of times the comedy was really silly and that’s not my kind of humor. So to me the comedy could have been done better.

*And a last negative point was the animation of the instruments. Let’s start in the first season: the problem here was that was that we don’t get to see a lot of animation of the instruments or the conducting. We get a lot of still shots when we see the instruments or the conductor. 

Moving into the second season, we do get to see animated instruments but here the problem was that the animation looked very robotic. Especially with the string instruments. The piano animation was ok, it didn’t reach the level off Shigatsu but that was than also extraordinary. 

But the animation of the string instruments like the violins or cello’s looked very robotic and unnatural. Most of the time the bow would be the only thing that moved while the rest of the musician remained perfectly still and that’s something that looked very unnatural too me. 

But it seemed that JC Staff learns from their mistakes because in the 3rd season, Finale, the animation is a lot better, the string instruments didn’t looked as robotic anymore and now there was expression and emotion when the musicians played. So a good recovery their by JC Staff.

Conclusion

So as a conclusion, I had a really good time with Nodame Cantabile. I enjoyed it so much that I watched the whole second season in a single day. The music was astonishing and I as a true slice of life fan wasn’t bored a single minute with this anime. 

That’s why I’m going to rate Nodame Cantabile at 4,5 stars. But as I said before this is an anime for the true slice of life fan, if you’re not a fan of a) classical music or b) slice of life anime’s than you’re probably gonna be bored quite fast.

9.5/10 story
6/10 animation
10/10 sound
9.5/10 characters
8.7/10 overall
NanaHachi's avatar
Feb 10, 2010

This anime is hilarious.  Especially Nodame and Chiaki together.  I haven't finished the anime yet but I love it.  What also gets me going is the outro music.  I sing a long...badly but I'll get used to the Japanese soon enough.  I got the first part pretty well.  I love it!

9/10 story
8/10 animation
9/10 sound
10/10 characters
9/10 overall
kingofdemons's avatar
Mar 27, 2015

Story: This was just a nice changa of pace from the other animes ya know. There was a little of everthing in this show th music and Characters and vioce acters where great and spot on realy one of my best and favorite anime of 2015.

Animation: It was better then most I think for this anime realy loved it alot, And the CG I think it is CG but anyway that was spot on as well very very nice job guys

Sound: 4 words OUT OF THIS WORLD/ spot on with the music as well

Characters: they where the best Megumi NODA was funny as hell and her lover/lover was funny as well Shinichi CHIAKI. all the cast in this show got aprat in the show and I am glad can't wait to see the next part season 2 yyyyyyyyeeeeeeeeee

8.5/10 story
8.8/10 animation
9/10 sound
9.5/10 characters
10/10 overall
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