Genre: Comedy, Romance, Slice of life
Age rating: 13+
Episodes: 23+1 (that’s a special episode, the latter)
A die hard otaku friend from Germany was full of praise about a certain shoujo anime, which was odd considering the guy loved blood and gore in his platter. So I was left with two options; either my friend has gone mad, or the anime is exceptional. But before passing a verdict, here’s a little plot overview:
Born into a musical family, Shinichi Chiaki is a talented pianist with a desire to become a conductor, and happens to be the top student of his music school in Japan. But due to his fear of airplanes and the sea this arrogant perfectionist ends up ‘trapped’ in Japan, and was unable to pursue his musical dreams abroad.
‘Musician extraordinaire’ had almost taken it for granted that his entire career was going down the drain. But one fine evening he discovers a girl playing the piano with natural finesse – and that too in a junk-cluttered apartment (how romantic). The girl Nodame is the polar opposite of Chiaki – impulsive, candid and fickle in her enthusiasm. Chiaki wonders, what will this uncanny encounter imply – a musical mismatch? Or perfect harmony?
Romantic comedies usually consist of two individuals who are essentially made for each other. However in Nodame Cantabile, it’s not quite the case. How does the weirdest woman in the world end up with the most venerable student on campus? Their interactions are the farthest thing from romantic. They aren’t that similar enough to elicit an argument like that on a regular basis. All these negative indicators leave you scratching your head while you, the viewer, try to put the pieces together.
However, magic happens and there is no stopping it!
You’ll find the artwork in Nodame very refreshing – not only is it free from clutter and background distractions, it also has simply and lovingly drawn characters that are easy to concentrate on. Jumping from character design to development, I found it steady and relatively subtle. It’s really the interactions between these characters that drive the story; hence everyone is important in Nodame’s world.
The makers decided not to overdo the music score, leaving us with the exact experience of a live orchestra. Fans of classical music are definitely in for an auditory treat with the music of Rachimaninov, Liszt, Brahms, Gershwin, Beethoven and Chopin. Musical sequences are the dramatic high points of the story, complete with all the details about what the students went through to prepare for them, and what they mean to each individual. Likewise, after graduation, the story realistically shows the uncertainty and fear we all have at that point in our lives; will I get a job? Will I make it? Opening and ending themes aren’t very catchy, or so I thought. I found myself humming ‘Tokyo et Paris’ in the shower, so there really must be some charm.
Perhaps the greatest strength of the anime is Nodame herself. Of course she is hyperactive, unkempt and just plain dumb at first glance, but she lives by a definite set of principles that are tailor-made to suit her needs. For Chiaki and other people who are important in her little world she’s ready to sacrifice anything. Nodame lives in an elevated plane, and Chiaki’s life gets a whole new meaning. In a word she grows on you, a lot.
Nodame Cantabile walks the line between refreshingly simple and boring; it could fall to either side, depending on how severe your personal case of ADD is. Don’t look here for fast-paced action or heart-wrenching drama, but if interesting characters and a complex, realistic story are what drives your interest, then you can’t help falling in love with the quirky cast of this series. And yes, there are three seasons – you’ll love them all the same.
A rating perhaps? 7.8 out of 10