Here you will find honest, intelligent manga reviews for shojo fans of all ages.

Jun 3, 2009

First Impressions - Nodame Cantabile

Nodame Cantabile won the 2004 Kodansha Manga Award for best shojo manga. It is currently serialized in Japan's Kiss publication and has been running since 2001. Considered a josei manga aimed at young adult women, the story is centered around a group of college students at Momogaoka Music College. Megumi Noda, known as Nodame throughout the series, is an eccentric piano student who wants to be a kindergarten teacher. Although she plays with great passion by ear, Nodame lacks technical skills such as site reading a score, playing a piece exactly as written, or basic music theory. She lives next door to music student Shinichi Chiaki, a pianist/violinist who desires to become a conductor. His father being a famous musician, Chiaki has spent most of his life in the music world, even growing up in Prague. The two students meet by accident, but slowly become acquainted through the piano department. Nodame falls for Chiaki in short time, seeing as he often cooks her dinner and helps her practice. Chiaki slowly develops an appreciation for Nodame's musical passion and accepts her little quirks. A visiting professor at the school, Stresemann, decides to challenge Chiaki by having him conduct a student orchestra. Because of Nodame, Chiaki learns how to work with the struggling musicians and is able to make a name for the student orchestra. In hopes of one day playing for Chiaki as a conductor, Nodame begins to develop her musical skills and challenges herself to play better. With the help of Nodame, Chiaki overcomes a phobia and is able to leave Japan, where he becomes the conductor of a more well known orchestra in Paris.

The strong point of this series is Tomoko Ninomiya's brilliant ability to create unusual, unique characters. Her main protagonists are far from any stereotypes. The depth of development of Nodame and Chiaki, from their backgrounds to their quirks and phobias, really ground this series to a more realistic, believable experience. The two seem far from a compatible couple, with Nodame's immaturity and Chiaki's arrogance. Yet, the mangaka uses these weaknesses as the growth point of her characters; something they each must overcome with the other's help. The story seems slow at first, but picks up quickly after Ninomiya's exposition of Nodame and Chiaki. As for the artwork, Ninomiya has a definite style. She has a good sense of anatomy and perspective, and is very detailed in drawing the instruments - even the sheet music. The toning is simple and fits the mood of the event. I find it interesting that she doesn't go for the "hot and sexy" or "gorgeous babe" character designs that a lot of artists incorporate. Nodame can be characterized as maybe cute, and Chiaki is attractive, but not a hunk. A refreshing change that leaves the characters standing on their personalities, and not necessarily their looks. As for romance, this series has some sweet moments. There are kisses exchanged, but more than the physicality of the relationship, the mangaka focuses on the emotions.

My first impression of this series - fantastic! It well deserved the award. Especially if you have any kind of musical background, I highly recommend it.

Nodame Cantabile is currently being released by Del Ray publishing here in the states, and is on volume 15, with volume 16 due to be released in July. There has already been an anime, a video game, and a live action production in Japan. Also released were CDs that contain all the music that is played in the manga. It will be interesting to see if Nodame Cantabile gets a dubbed anime here in the states.


Lorena said...

Ah, it's like we're on the same wavelength -- I just started reading Nodame Cantabile, too! I love this series, as well, and agree a lot with what you have to say.

And I'm glad to hear CDs were released with the music from the series, I found myself wanting to find the songs played so I could listen to them as I read along. As a former piano player, it's also made me want to take lessons again.

Laura said...

It actually got me on a classical music kick for a couple months. My guy, who has a bachelors in music, was trying to figure out what hit me...why was I suddenly listening to classical music. It was kind of funny. But it was fascinating to hear a piece on the radio and then realize, oh, so that's what Chiaki was conducting. :)

Shojo Flash said...

Hey, I was wondering if you got the email I sent your way! Let me know, or email me at lthomas42@gmail.com I used the 'contact me' button on your blog

Laura said...

Yes - found it this morning. I didn't check my inbox yesterday. I'll be replying soon. Thanks!

Keri Bo Beari said...

I've heard good things about this series too, but I'm really hesitant after being disappointed by Primo Passo. I enjoyed the music aspect of the series but I hated the story.

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