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Anime Info

Creator: A J.C. Staff Production
Director: Ken'ichi Kasai
Genre: Comedy/Slide-of-Life
Length: 23 Episodes, 1 Special

Anime Not Licensed

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Summary

+ Beautiful Animation
– Characters are sociopathic freaks
– Too much comedy, not enough romance

Overview

There is also a live action series based on Nodame Cantabile. Fans of the manga may want to watch that rather than the anime. Watching the anime is a schizophrenic experience, the series is almost evenly split between beautiful scenes of the characters playing music and awful scenes of the same characters behaving bizarrely towards one another. Occasionally, some nice moments do occur in the series such as when Chiaki finally realizes that Megumi is an excellent pianist in spite of her outward slovenly behavior. These moments are lost, however, in Chiaki and Megumi's nearly psychotic outbursts.

Public Rating

Our Rating

Score of 3 out of 5
3 out of 5

Nodame Cantabile Anime Review

Written by: Frank B. Chavez III on 2/18/2009

Introduction

It is said that music is a universal language. While it is a language of sorts, it is one that is difficult to master. However, when created by a master, it can communicate ideas, emotions, and spiritual beliefs that are understood by everyone listening regardless of national origin. Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven are but a few of the master composers of Western Classical music whose work is studied and played throughout the world. Those who play and conduct their music in orchestras throughout the world are considered the crème de la crème of world class musicians. Nodame Cantabile takes the audience inside the ultracompetitive world of one of the many conservatories where young musicians are molded into the elite musicians and conductors who create classical music. It introduces us to Megumi Noda, a talented but messy pianist and Shinichi Chiaki a talented but fussy pianist and violinist from a famous family who dreams of one day becoming a famous conductor just like his boyhood idol. When they are paired together, the series asks whether two opposites can work together without self-destructing.

Review

Nodame Cantabile is bizarre. It is fairly well made for what is essentially the Odd Couple set at a music school. Each episode of the series is structured as a "lesson" with the characters learning some essential truth about their fellow students as well as some aspect about music that they were overlooking or missing. However, like many anime series it has a tendency to give its characters more flaws than the average human being would normally have and in the process ends up showing the audience some thoroughly repugnant human beings. For example, when we first meet Shinichi Chiaki he is a talented but highly critical perfectionist, fussbudget, and would-be conductor, marching around campus thinking about how everyone else at school sucks. He even thinks he is better than his teachers and never has his mind on his practice -- instead he daydreams about becoming world famous. However, in spite of all of his talent, he is held back by his fear of flying which prevents him from traveling to music festivals, schools, and gigs outside of Japan -- limiting his ability to meet those who might provide him with important opportunities.

Megumi "Nodame" Noda is a brilliant but excessively messy pianist who learns music by ear rather than by sight reading. Her major flaw isn't that she is a slob -- many famous and creative people have had less that desirable housekeeping abilities -- her biggest problem is that she is insane. Megumi is instantly drawn to Chiaki; she falls in love with him and even claims to be married to him after they've only known each other for about a day. Chiaki is both fascinated and repulsed by her, he finds her cantabile style piano playing beautiful but her messy behavior upsets his delicate sensibilities. At first he can't see past the garbage to the person. They met by accident when a drunken Chiaki passed out in front of her apartment and Megumi took him inside. Chiaki is shocked when he realizes that not only are they next door neighbors but because of a falling out with his last piano teacher, in the same teacher's music class. Worse than that, it's a teacher with a reputation for only taking students who are falling behind -- a blow to the ego and his sense of the aesthetic. However, when their teacher pairs them together in duet during their first week together in class, Chiaki and Megumi soon discover that in spite their opposite lifestyles and approaches to music they are actually perfectly matched -- as musicians anyway.

Show More The first episode establishes the tone of the rest of the series. By the end of the episode, the characters aren't just learning about one another but also important lessons about music. For instance, by pairing Chiaki the technical perfectionist with the free spirited Megumi, the music teacher was showing that simply by listening to each other's playing, seemingly opposite musicians can merge their styles to create beautiful music. Chiaki passes this lesson on in a later episode. Eventually they development an unusual friendship where, in spite of himself, Chiaki cooks and cleans for Megumi and helps her learn the piano pieces she's supposed to be practicing.

Like most other, romantic comedies, Nodame Cantabile can't help but add a rival to the cast. The second episode introduces not one but two rivals. Ryutaro Mine is the son of a Chinese restaurant owner and also a 4th year violin student. The opposite of Chiaki, Mine is hard rocking and hates Chiaki because Chiaki quit as Mine's accompanist for Mine's juried exam. He is on the verge of giving up on classical music for rock when he meets the free-spirited Megumi and asks her to be his accompanist. However, she is broken hearted by the sight of Chiaki hanging out with his ex-girlfriend Saiko and unable to concentrate on her playing. In an interesting twist on the usual cliché, Chiaki, although he won't admit it, isn't jealous that Megumi is seeing another man but rather he's jealous that Megumi is playing with another musician, he misses playing with her and actually seems to miss her company at dinner when she starts eating at Mine's restaurant. Ryutaro shows Megumi how to seduce men by wearing sexy clothes and wearing makeup. However, Chiaki is turned off by her makeup and Megumi gets sick wearing skimpy clothes in cold weather and is forced to quit as Ryutaro's accompanist. Chiaki subs in for her and Ryutaro passes his exam with ease having finally realized what it means to play in an ensemble.

Show More
One of the major problems with Nodame Cantabile is that it is a romantic comedy that places too much emphasis on the comedy and not enough on the romance. And unfortunately, most of the humor comes from over-the-top behavior unrelated to the way actual human beings would behave. While the acting style in anime, as with most Japanese films, is derived from Kabuki theater which is not known for subtle, nuanced performances, no characters in Kabuki every behaved as bizarrely as the ones depicted in this series. For example, most of the time, the two main characters, Chiaki and Megumi, the ones we're supposed to be rooting for, act like complete sociopaths towards one another. Megumi chases after Chiaki, blathering on and on about how much she loves him, loves his music, and loves his cooking. His reaction is to scream at her at the top of his lungs and throw something at her or push her out the door. In a live action series the audience would probably go through each episode frame-by-frame trying to spot her stunt double. In real life, Chiaki would be a candidate for anger management class and have an arrest record for assault and battery. Megumi's reaction to Chiaki's abuse is to cry, pout, and pine away for Chiaki. She has issues, scary issues. The original manga series was created by a woman. It is surprising and bizarre that a woman would create such a brainless ninny for a female lead character. You'd be hard pressed to find an anime series with such a disgusting female lead. In the Bible, St. Paul is known for his misogynistic diatribes and not even he was as hateful towards women as this series. Not only are the two main characters totally repugnant, most of the supporting characters are over-the-top stereotypes. For example, in the third episode, we are introduced to yet another rival for a character's affection. This time it is Masumi Okuyama a gay student with a crush on Chiaki. Ok. However, Masumi is an effeminate gay man with an afro who's so flaming he sets off smoke detectors. When we are introduced to him, he's in a practice room finishing up his session on the timpani, but because he's claustrophobic he runs screaming from the practice room as soon as he's finished. His idea of dealing with the fact the he and Megumi have a crush on the same man is to attack Megumi with a series of childish pranks. Ryutaro intervenes to end the pranks by proposing an equally childish contest to see which character will the first to get Chiaki to agree to a Christmas Eve date. Megumi tries to woo Chiaki with a homemade cake. This is reasonable, this is what a real person would do. Masumi, on the other hand, can't think of a better thing to do than showboating for Chiaki during a rehearsal in hopes that Chiaki will notice his passion. All he gets for his trouble is Chiaki calling him a dumbass and his Conductor kicking him out of rehearsal. These characters are not teenagers, they're in their twenties. They're supposedly adults on their way to becoming professional musicians. Most music students are fun loving people but at the same time intelligent, mature, and thoughtful individuals. The characters in Nodame Cantabile are completely divorced from reality. They're sociopathic freaks whose behavior isn't funny, but rather frightening and a distraction from what could have been a cute and entertaining story demonstrating that opposites attract.

His idea of dealing with the fact the he and Megumi have a crush on the same man is to attack Megumi with a series of childish pranks. Ryutaro intervenes to end the pranks by proposing an equally childish contest to see which character will the first to get Chiaki to agree to a Christmas Eve date. Megumi tries to woo Chiaki with a homemade cake. This is reasonable, this is what a real person would do. Masumi, on the other hand, can't think of a better thing to do than showboating for Chiaki during a rehearsal in hopes that Chiaki will notice his passion. All he gets for his trouble is Chiaki calling him a dumbass and his Conductor kicking him out of rehearsal. These characters are not teenagers, they're in their twenties. They're supposedly adults on their way to becoming professional musicians. Most music students are fun loving people but at the same time intelligent, mature, and thoughtful individuals. The characters in Nodame Cantabile are completely divorced from reality. They're sociopathic freaks whose behavior isn't funny, but rather frightening and a distraction from what could have been a cute and entertaining story demonstrating that opposites attract.

The best thing about this series, the aspect that redeems the stupid humor and makes the series watchable is the music. Each episode of Nodame Cantabile is scored with beautiful music including Classical, Jazz, and Hard Rock. Not only is the music beautiful it is well used in the series, the scenes where the characters are rehearsing their music are often reminiscent of Disney's Fantasia with the animators interpreting the music visually. One excellent example is in the first episode when Chiaki and Megumi are rehearsing Mozart's Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major. When the two pianists are finally playing together as one, they are depicted as the only people in the world, drifting through the clouds as they play. Another excellent example is in the second episode when Megumi thinks of beautiful flowers to remind herself that the piece she is rehearsing is meant to be about the spring.

Conclusion

Megumi and Chiaki Nodame Cantabile is a romantic comedy about repugnant people behaving repugnantly. Chiaki and Megumi are loaded up with so many issues and emotional problems that their behavior is no longer recognizable as human. They are like Warner Bros. cartoon characters set loose in a music school and behaving like mean, petty sociopaths towards one another. This series' redeeming quality is its use of music and the way the animators playfully interpret it. In fact the segments of the series involving music are so beautiful they almost make up for the characters insane behavior. Almost.

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