Before anything else, I would like to put it out there that I am a big Nodame Cantabile fangirl in any of its forms (manga, anime, live action) so if you’re not into these type of things, you might think that this post isn’t your cup of tea. Okay, now that you have been warned, let me continue. 😀 If its not your first time in this blog, you may have noticed how I gushed about the finale of the live action and it was pretty much my entire feeling across the board for the series based on the popular manga by Tomoko Ninomiya. Recently, I discovered that the manga was being rerun on Animax, a marathon of four episodes every Sunday night and it got me hooked to the series anew. As the result, I’ve rewatched the live action Finale, the Paris Special, the first series of the anime and now the original 11 episode Jdorama featuring the beginning of Noda Megumi and Shinichi Chiaki’s quirky relationship in Momogaoka Music Academy in Japan.
A short synopsis: Shinichi Chiaki is a top piano student at Momogaoka Music Academy. Growing up in a family of accomplished musicians, he has developed a perfectionist attitude towards music in general and feels bored about the level of education in his school. The problem is, he has no way of pursuing his dream of becoming a world class conductor in Europe because he is afraid of airplanes due to a childhood trauma developed on his return flight from Prague 10 years before. When Chiaki hears a mysterious girl playing Beethoven at school, he is moved and captivated by the sound, despite the fact that the Beethoven version was not precisely according to the score. He finds out that this mystery girl is actually his next door neighbor, the hentai Noda Megumi, who falls in live with him at first sight and becomes a permanent fixture in his life from their first interaction. The second series and the finale both take place in Paris, Prague and London, while the last part of the manga — the Opera Hen marks the duo’s return to Japan to participate in an opera with the RS-Oke with the original gang.
The thing I most love about this series is that firstly, it appeals to the hentai/otaku in all of us. The reason why people are drawn to the lead character Noda Megumi is the fact that she is guileless, an innocent with raw talent, whose simplistic dreams are really short of her true potentials. But at the end of the day, her heart shines through and touches each person that she comes across. First, Chiaki, who fell in love with Nodame’s piano from the first encounter, allowing him to endure her lack of hygiene and her quirkiness — a running storyline throughout the series; Ryutaro Mine, Chiaki’s best friend and conscience, who was drawn to Nodame first because of her kawaii (cute)-ness, then her soulful piano before they eventually became friends; Kasunori Kuroki, who fell in love with Nodame’s kindness and innocence (of course, he later realized he was no match for Chiaki); the Frenchman Frank, who was attracted to Nodame’s hentai personality, and even Lucas, who harbored a crush on Nodame from boyhood to adolescence. Nodame is a character that draws not only fellow characters in the series but also the audience to fall in love with her.
Each of the characters are also bigger than life, relateable and remarkable in their own ways. They endear themselves to the viewers so effectively that each moment spent watching them is like becoming part of their gang.
Another thing about this series is its sense of vulnerability. Each of the characters have their own internal struggle to wrestle with and how they resolve each of their issues is a marvel to watch. Because the characters are so identifiable, viewers want to cheer them on. Nodame’s struggle to catch up with Chiaki, Chiaki’s struggles to start his conducting career, Kuroki’s struggle to adapt in a foreign country, Mine’s struggle to keep the RS Oke together, Rui’s struggle to have a life of her own away from her reputation as prodigy, Franz’s struggle to convey his love for the girl of his dreams, and countless other journeys that each of the characters have to take. They don’t always get it on the first try, but with each other’s help and support, they somehow emerge from their ordeals as different, better characters. My favorite scene in the manga is actually Nodame’s moment in Greece in a storage room alone, crying out for Chiaki while clutching his shirt. It was such a moment of vulnerability that was so moving and so pure that its such a perfect epitome of Nodame’s love for Chiaki.
The steady progression in the storyline is also something that I love about this series. Now that I’m rewatching the series from the beginning, after seeing the finale, I notice how different Nodame’s playing was from the first. It was mentioned countless times in the various stages that Nodame played sloppily at the beginning and it occurred to me how raw her performances were at the beginning, when she was playing Beethoven’s Sonata for Two Pianos and Rachmaninoff to her debut with Stresseman in London. Chiaki’s conducting style also changed from the beginning but continued to be as intense as ever. Their story has also evolved from a master/pet relationship in the beginning, to a denial and gradual capitulation on the part of Chiaki, and his understanding of Nodame as a budding artist, and later on his acceptance of her true feelings for her. This while they struggle to individually make their own way in the music industry on their own and eventually find their paths merging together in the end. I was a bit frustrated about how insensitive Chiaki has mostly been to Nodame but when his point of realization came, and he was even willing to sacrifice allowing Nodame to stop pursuing piano to do as she liked and still stay with her despite that, I was totally won over.
Another thing that got me hooked into this drama was the continuity of the presentation. True, that since the anime had more episodes, it followed the manga more religiously, but all of the versions had the same focus and the same heart as the original material, generally conveying the same idea and the same message, envoking the same feelings and emotions in all of its forms.
Finally, the music. I must say I’ve learned a lot about the classics and the great composers watching this series and it has been an education of sorts. It gave me a better appreciation of the classics and the sheer joy of simply listening to the pieces as the orchestras come together in perfect harmony. The purity of the sound was astounding, relaxing and simply amazing. Compared to songs with lyrics, the classics are so different but has a different appeal. It also gave a peek into the world of music students and the passion involved in mastering their craft. Respect, is pretty much all I can say.
All in all, this series made me fall in love, with the story, the characters, the music, and the world… Chiaki and Nodame share an unconventional relationship but their journey was so touching. Learning from each other, together and apart. It was a journey all right, and in the end, they came full circle. But Nodame was not only a story about romance, its a story about friendship, about growing up and reaching one’s potentials. Its about kindness and love and positivity and at the end of the day, these feelings are infectious. And that is why I love it so much.