badzphoto May 02, 2011
Nodame Cantabile won the 2004 Kodansha Manga Award for best shojo manga. It ran in Japan’s josei Kiss publication from 2001-2010. With the fall of Del Rey we lost the ending to this series. However, don’t let that stop you from experiencing one of the few josei mangas that we received in the states. Nodame Cantabile inspires the musician in all of us with its glamorous depiction of classical music performance. Memorable characters, detailed artwork, as well as a storyline that tugs at the heart strings makes this manga a fun and enjoyable read.
The Gist: 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. In hopes of one day playing for Chiaki as a conductor, Nodame begins to develop her musical skills and challenges herself to become a professional pianist. With the help of Nodame, Chiaki overcomes a phobia and is able to leave Japan, where he is able to pursue his dream of becoming a conductor. Both students end up at the conservatory in Paris where they strive to make a name for themselves in the birthplace of the classic music stage.
The Characters/Romance: 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. Nodame is very eccentric. She can’t cook, her living quarters are constantly in shambles, and she relates many events in her life to manga and anime. Chiaki is quite the opposite. A neat freak who grew up in Europe, he has a menagerie of recipes for fantastic cuisine. With the amount of life experience he has in the music world, he comes across as very mature compared to the rest of the students at the music school. Although he is the heart throb on campus, many students shy away from him because of his judgmental attitude when it comes to music. He is a harsh critic and thinks himself way above others. Which he is, but his people skills need a lot of work.
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. I enjoyed watching Nodame challenge herself with inspiration from Chiaki. But I supremely enjoyed watching Chiaki fall from his high horse, as his feelings grew towards Nodame and he began to relate to others more. Also watching Chiaki admit to himself that he cares for Nodame was rather fun. He doesn’t take it well when he first realizes it. 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.
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. Many of the chibi expressions of Nodame and Chiaki will have you laughing. 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. Ninomiya has done many pieces of colored artwork for this series. Online you can see scans of CD inserts, manga covers, and even a calendar from 2009. She does a great job of backgrounds as well as clothing and characters. The images of Italy and Paris are wonderful.
The Media: Nodame Cantabile is available here in the states up to volume 16 from Random House. Originally published under Del Rey, copies are still available at some stores and online. The manga was turned into a three part anime – Nodame Cantabile, Nodame Cantabile Paris, and Nodame Cantabile Finale. The manga also spawned 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.
I may have rated it higher if I had gotten to view the entire story.