Anime: Nodame Cantabile

Josei is a genre very close to my heart. I’ve grown to love it immensely. It may because I love the maturity and realism that comes with the genre, or it may be because I myself have grown up quite a bit. I’ve come to appreciate many josei titles so much so that if an anime has the genre listed as josei, chances are I will watch it. Of course there has been some exceptions, Sakamichi no Apollon didn’t strike the right chord with me, but for the next month or so I want to talk about a series that introduced me to the genre. It’s a series that I hold in very high regard, and have recently started rewatching.

This review is going to be a little different. It will contain spoilers, simply because there are some things that I want to say that can’t be said without spoilers. With that said, let’s get on with it!

As you probably would have guessed, I love Nodame Cantabile and I would seriously recommend it to women who are above 18 years of age. That’s not to say that younger viewers won’t appreciate it, I’m sure some of them will, but there’s an appreciation of the show that does come with age as well. And of course, I’m sure some men like it too, it’s still more directed towards women. Also if you happen to be a music lover (classical music) then all the more you should watch it.

Truth be told, I’m not a huge fan of classical music, but this show has broadened my musical horizons so to speak. I’ve heard some of the music featured before, but a lot of the orchestra pieces were new and exciting and when mixed with the animation, it was really brought to life. So yes, music plays a huge part in this anime and I love how they place such emphasis on the music. It’s something that was sorely lacking in the manga and really shines in the anime. I also really respect the amount given to the music itself. I don’t think it’s something a lot of anime are willing to do. Dedicating 3 to 5 minutes of the show to the music is rarely done. It’s beautiful and would have been even better if the animation was better. The beginning few episodes are especially telling in terms of how little animation is being done for the music scenes. Only later in the anime did they start using CGI (or something to that effect) to animate the finger movements. I will admit that it’s not easy to follow fingers flying on the piano keys or on the violin, but it does make a huge difference and if, if Nodame Cantabile is ever remastered in 10 to 20 years time, I do sincerely wish they would update the animation during the music scenes. It would make the anime perfect.

Moving on to the characters and the story. The two main characters of Nodame and Chiaki are unique. Both are talented individuals who are passionate about music. Both have some form of childhood trauma which makes them stop short at fulfilling their dreams. This first season looks at how they meet, how they become a couple and how they pursue their dreams and overcome the challenges they meet. It’s a wonderfully written story about pursuing your passion. It teaches that it’s not just talent but also hard work and a certain amount of luck. I love how Chiaki is so driven to become a conductor, despite his talent he puts in an insane amount of work to get to where he is, which is brilliant to watch and is also an inspiration. Nodame on the other hand is raw talent, and begins as someone who is squandering her talent without having a purpose or goal in mind. We eventually learn her reasons for this and the theme of her working hard to catch up to Chiaki is slowly introduced. She may seem like the usual heroine of a story that is chasing the good looking, talented guy, but at the same time you realize that it takes two hands to clap. Nodame has so many quriks and traits that make it hard not to love her. When these two individuals are put together, they really just grow on each other and you see how hard Chiaki works to hold on to Nodame and also Nodame’s undying love for Chiaki.

The whole relationship aspect is not really impressed on the audience. It’s masked under a veil of comedy that lures you into the sense that this show shouldn’t be taken seriously. Or for that matter, none of characters should be taken seriously. And yet despite all the funny moments that pepper the anime, the story that it tells is one that will ring true for many a university student. Some of us know where we’re going and know what we have to do to get there. Some of us are just floating true, not entirely sure of what we’re doing in university. Then of course there are the smart ones, or the ones that work really hard, or those perceived as bad apples, but everyone is unique and it’s this portrayal of different characters that makes this show so interesting. I feel a lot of it is dumbed down to a level of Chiaki obsession, and yet, you realize that there are people like him. People who are brilliant and driven, who attract people towards themselves.

Chiaki and Nodame are a brilliant couple. From the moment that they meet, until the end of season it’s never made explicit that they are a couple. Sure it’s super obvious that Nodame is head over heels in love with Chiaki, but whether that love is reciprocated is left hanging. Yet when you do reach the last episode, you realize that Chiaki has grown so used to Nodame that at some point, some unclear and indistinct point, they did become a couple even if neither realized it. Their relationship aside, the cast of characters introduced in this anime is quite vast. But they are all such unique individuals that each stand out on their own. There’s no confusion between the characters and even if they are only shown for a short period of time, they still linger in your memories. And special mention goes to the maturity that every character possess (except maybe Nodame). It’s the reason why I love josei so much. These are not people who have no thought or dreams, they are students who have plans for the future. Unlike shoujo, the relationships and the romance in josei are much more realistic. None of them, of perhaps few of them are going to throw away their life’s work to run off with the love of their life. And at the very same time, the love of their life isn’t going to expect them to. There’s a balance and a mutual understanding, compromise and love. There is love, sometimes it’s  understated, but it’s there blooming all around. Yet where the relationship leads is always a question of much interest and is something that is explored in josei. It’s not just the process of getting together but also what happens after that is important.

There’s a lot that can be said for this anime and I find it hard to express some of my thoughts and feelings. I absolutely love how it’s hilariously funny, yet the characters have a certain maturity. I love how music is it’s focus and how much love for the music is displayed. Nodame Cantabile has many laugh out loud moments, they exaggerate many things which makes surprisingly good comedy, at the same time there is a full appreciation of music, and the characters as well as the story allows the music to shine. If you haven’t already watched it, please do. If you have, I have to ask what your thoughts were?

I’m quite sure that at this point I sound slightly obsessive over this anime, I am not. But I am looking forward to watching the rest of the series!


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