Nodame Cantabile

January 19, 2008

Fancy an anime with classical music? Then Nodame Cantabile may just be your cup of tea. Don’t worry. The entire series won’t be filled with classical music concerts from start to finish. It wouldn’t make sense to turn it into an anime, right? I mean, if you’re really a classical music enthusiast, wouldn’t it be better to attend the real live concert? To get more viewers to be interested in classical music especially otakus, you say? Maybe. But I wouldn’t bet on it. I feel it’s an acquired taste if one really wants to appreciate such music.
 
Though classical music is the main music theme of the series, the anime’s storyline is mainly driven by comedy, romance and some slice of life bits. Not that you’d get to see how classical music students go about in their daily lives. I mean, it would be plain boring just to watch them practicing their instruments day in day out, right? They’re just like any other college students, trying to strike a balance between their study and social life and of course thinking about their future career. And most important of all, their love life. Okay, maybe not all of them.
 
The series main protagonist as seen in episode 1 is Shinichi Chiaki a piano student at Momogaoka College Of Music, who is an expert in playing piano and violin. However, his dream isn’t to be like Richard Clayderman or Vanessa Mae, but rather an orchestra conductor. Chiaki looks up to some famous conductor, Sebastian Viera, when he was young and would like to follow in his footsteps. However, his fear of flying and even stepping into an airplane (not to mention taking a ship) has prevented him from following in dream and has since been ‘trapped’ in Japan. Thus Chiaki finds and questioning himself how far he could go in music as he watches everyone surpasses him. Even so, Chiaki still hasn’t lost his musical touch and at times still strut his stuff whenever he has to. Because he’s the son of some famous pianist, it’s no wonder there are other girls swooning over him and other guys admiring him.
 
Probably because of this attitude of his and recently being dumped by his songstress girlfriend, Saiko Tagaya (she did admit she hate losers), is Chiaki’s life gonna take a turn for the worse? Well, that depends on how you look at it. But definitely Chiaki’s life will undergo a transformation when he meets a free spirited student, Megumi Noda or more fondly known as Nodame. Note that it’s a short of her first name and surname together and no, it doesn’t stem from that famous French cathedral. Because Chiaki’s depressed from his recent break-up, he somehow slept outside his apartment and that’s when Nodame found him sleeping in the hallway.
 
Chiaki wakes up the next day to find himself in a room filled with garbage everywhere. Is this really a room or a dumpster. However, among the filthy stench, Chiaki hears a nice piano piece being played by Nodame. Of course Chiaki is still shock to find himself in this endless piles of trash but wait. Isn’t this his room or what. It’s Nodame’s room alright and just like fate itself, Chiaki’s room is just next to hers. With that fated meeting, thus begins the quirky and weird relationship between the duo.
 
Nodame is practically my favourite character in every aspect. Her ‘dreamy and naive’ voice makes her sound unique in addition to those funny sounds she make when she’s surprise like "Pukya!" and "Gyabo!". Hahaha. Her personality is really quirky and amusing. Though she may be a person who lives in a pig sty-like environment and doesn’t know proper hygiene, Nodame is a bloody good pianist. Though she can read music notes, her true forte is that she’s able to play a difficult piano piece perfectly at first go after hearing the entire song once! That’s fantastic. I really envy people who could play by ear. How I wish I was like her. Unfortunately, I’m just a rogue pianist, meaning someone who’s not destined to play a piano no matter how much I try :'(. But that’s the good part about her piano skills. There is one bad habit though. Since I’m not a classical music enthusiast nor have I heard most of the classical pieces before, all of Nodame’s pieces sound really good and I couldn’t tell the difference. However, since Chiaki is a maestro in this area, he seems to notice that Nodame’s peculiar habit of adding and deleting some notes of her own when playing such masterpieces. So much so he gets pissed off and hits her as he tells her not to ‘rewrite’ the entire piece herself. Yeah, Chiaki spots a talented girl and in a way decides to give her a little piano lesson.
 
So you could also say that it’s the start of a one-way love relationship. Nodame falls head over heels over Chiaki but her love is unreturned. Why, Nodame even claims Chiaki to be her boyfriend but the latter just gives her the cold shoulder everytime. Poor girl. And sometimes when Chiaki’s in a bad mood, he’ll abuse Nodame with weird items if she becomes too bothersome. Yeah, not to mention throw things at her. Because Chiaki is giving a little piano lesson to Nodame, he can’t stand the pig sty of her room and even took the liberty to clean up her room! I suppose he doesn’t want to do that but maybe it’s just his reflex. Not only that, since Nodame is a horrible cook, Chiaki too has to cook for her sometimes in order for them both to get a decent meal! Oh the irony.
 
Just like the odd Nodame herself, the entire series has only 23 episodes. I was wondering why not 24 or 26 or recently the trend of 25 episodes. Maybe the producers want to catch viewers off guard when the series ends at that episode. Maybe the number 23 is related to some piece like Opus or Symphony number 23. Dunno. Just speculating. Besides, there’s a live action version of the series and though I read many viewers prefer the live action one, it has only 11 episodes and it’s not a very popular series either.
 
In most of the episodes, there will be at least 1 classical music piece being played. There will be a display on the screen to prompt when this happens by spelling out the name of the piece and its composer. I’m thinking and sure the producers didn’t go to great lengths to record a live orchestra just for this anime. I mean, that would exceed the budget, right? So while the excellent music is being played, you’ll just see the calm faces of the audience and some even giving their acclaimed opinions about it. Uh huh. I feel that such scenes provide more ear candy rather than visual. So I suppose it’s best just to close your eyes and enjoy the music.
 
Back to the storyline, episode 2 introduces another weirdo who’ll be part of reluctant Chiaki’s group. He is Ryutaro Mine and is a violin student (more towards rock music and he’s currently looking for members for his own band) and his dad runs a Chinese restaurant which is right next to the college. Mine is going to take a practical exam in which he once failed and he needs someone to be his piano accompaniment. Since Chiaki once disliked his playing style, he’s out of the question. During his practice, Nodame accidentally trips and unplugs on his electric violin’s cable. Thus the start of another fateful meeting. Mine asks Nodame if she would want to be his piano accompaniment for his exam. She agrees. Thing is, Nodame hasn’t learn the piece they’re gonna play at the exam yet. So over the episode we see and hear more classical pieces being played and… more food. Yeah, I guess Nodame’s a glutton since every darn food also she likes. Still Chiaki isn’t too fond of Nodame proclaiming herself as his girlfriend so much so Mine gives her some advice like being sexy in order to sleep with Chiaki. I don’t think that’ll work. But it’s hilarious to see Nodame putting too much make-up. So after much practice and talk, we see Chiaki replaces Nodame at Mine’s exam because Nodame comes down with a cold. However, since the duo’s combination is flawless, the examiners are impressed and Mine passes the exam with flying colours. In the end, because of his earlier chat with Chiaki, Mine decides to break up his band and go into classical music as he joins Chiaki and Nodame’s circle. Well, two’s a company, three’s a crowd. Wait, it’s been rowdy even with Nodame alone.
 
Episode 3 introduces yet another weirdo. This time the timpanist student, Masumi Okuyama. What’s so weird about this guy? Besides being claustrophobic and sporting an afro hairstyle, he’s actually the kind of guy who thinks he’s a woman born in a man’s body. In other words, a ‘pondan’. Furthermore, Masumi’s in love with Chiaki and with Nodame butting in, the competition is really heating up. Most of the time (especially when it involves Chiaki), Masumi and Nodame don’t see eye to eye (I like it especially Masumi calls Nodame ‘No-Dummy’ and ‘No-Dame’ meaning not good. Haha), other than that, they’re just fine. Thus in this episode, we see Masumi pulling off several pranks on a hapless Nodame as revenge. But since it’s getting no where, Mine suggests to see who can get to date with Chiaki on Christmas Eve. I believe Chiaki isn’t homo and if he has to choose I’m sure he has to pick the lesser of 2 evils. Anyway, those 2 losers failed. As the duo reflect on it, we find out Masumi has been kicked out of his orchestra group and has no where to go. Nodame suggests for him to join them and form a 3 piece ensemble. Though the usual bickering ensue between Nodame and Masumi, the trio starts their practice session. And soon Chiaki joins and helps them in their jazz-like piece, since he doesn’t mind to lend an extra hand, making Masumi extremely happy. Earlier on, Chiaki and Saiko did had a walk together but that Chiaki guy refuses whatever Saiko had offered him. Didn’t she dumped him? Yeah, looks like deep down Saiko still loves him but there’s no turning back now. Better be with a unhygienic weirdo than an obnoxious selfish b*tch.
 
Nodame meets another weirdo in episode 4. A foreigner from Germany by the name of Milch Holstein. This is by far the worse weirdo ever. Why? He’s a womaniser and a pervert. Probably Nodame’s naiveness got her to bring him around here and there and eventually to Chiaki’s room, which Nodame claims to be her boyfriend’s room. I didn’t know Chiaki’s good in German because he can see that Milch guy’s a fake. He’s actually Franz Von Stresemann, a highly reputable and respected conductor who comes to visit the college as a guest instructor. And yes, the part of him which womanizes is still true. Stresemann visits the college next day and meets Chiaki. He claims to know Viera and asks him if he wants to be a conductor, in which Chiaki affirmed he wants to. I suppose it’s Chiaki’s intuition not to let Nodame go out with that dirty old man rather than he has feelings for her as Chiaki makes up excuses or attempts to get Nodame away from him. Of course Nodame would choose Chiaki and everytime this happens, Stresemann gets jealous and would be plotting something against Chiaki. In addition to teaching the college’s A Orchestra, Stresemann’s here to form an orchestra of his own and would consist of students he’ll personally pick. Mine and Masumi or on his list (Nodame is in too… as their mascot. Huh?) and with that, Chiaki decides not to transfer to the conducting course. Of course Stresemann didn’t allow this and rips apart his transfer letter.
 
So a little flashback when Stresemann met Viera 15 years ago (that guy’s still flirts around and with Viera’s wife!). Though Stresemann’s S Orchestra has gathered in the hall and waiting but Stresemann arrives late and wants to get to know them all to some drinking party. It’s his excuse of flirting around. Is he really a world famous conductor he claimed to be? Nodame also finds out that if Chiaki transfers to the conducting course, his graduation will be delayed by a year and this means an additional year to be with Chiaki. So Nodame tries to persuade Stresmann to approve the transfer but to no avail. Because of that, Chiaki thinks of quiting college but Nodame rips his letter and forcefully brings him to the principal’s office to sort things out. Seeing a pitiful Nodame in tears pleading, Stresemann admit he lost but will approve Chiaki’s transfer on 1 condition, that is, Nodame has to kiss him. He’s still a pervert right till the end, isn’t he?
 
Well, Nodame didn’t make the kiss in episode 5 because like any other girl’s reaction, she gave him a sucker punch right in his face. Who’d want to kiss an old geezer like you. Meanwhile the S Orchestra is getting tired of waiting for Stresemann and decides to leave when Nodame comes in and says Chiaki will take over. Though Chiaki thinks he’s just filling in, he can’t let this chance pass up, since everyone else is eager to know how good is Chiaki’s conducting. Mine is acting like the concert master because he said Stresemann picked him, much to the dissatisfaction of others. As they practice, Chiaki realizes that this whole bunch of misfits in S Orchestra are awful players of the college. Yeah, the cacophony and no synchronization. Why, Chiaki could even pick out and sharply criticise those wrong notes or playing just by hearing. He’s good. But it all sound normal to me. Chiaki has had enough so much so he quits. Stresemann, who’s watching from the audience seat stands up and says Chiaki has failed. Why? Because Chiaki made a girl cry. Doesn’t it feel like American Idol here? Yeah, harsh words, crushed dreams. Don’t worry, she isn’t kicked out yet. Stresemann takes over and starts from the top with his gentle persuassion, everybody feels better and cooperates. Yeah, probably it’s part of his plan to make Chiaki look bad.
 
Next day, Chiaki again tries for his transfer but Stresemann rips it apart but Chiaki mentions that he’s gonna keep on trying till he accepts him. Stresemann notes that his talents are being wasted by being Viera’s student and that he should continue with his piano course. When he’s not doing so, he could try being at Stresemann’s side. Stresemann invites Chiaki to a place where he could get some girls when Nodame barges in and protest and says she’s not gonna let Stresemann have Chiaki. But Stresemann isn’t perturbed because he thinks by getting Chiaki, he’ll get Nodame as well.
 
Stresemann lets Chiaki know in episode 6 that the S Orchestra is going to play against the A Orchestra in an upcoming concert. Thing is, Stresemann is busy missing in action flirting and the S Orchestra hasn’t practice much under him so much so Chiaki has to be the substitute conductor. Other than that, we see one of the S Orchestra members, Sakura Saku, facing a few difficulties of her own as Nodame tries to help her out. Eventually Chiaki and Nodame visits Sakura’s house and learn her father’s an avid collector of violins, which in a way contributes to the family’s bankruptcy. Uh huh, he should’ve sold off all those violins to lift the family out from trouble since he himself can’t play them. Well, he took Chiaki’s advice to sell them all and Sakura’s family is doing well again. Something about that violin being cursed too.
 
Beside Mine creating some weird trademark movement for the S Orchestra (whereby everyone lifts up their instruments in the air), Stresemann drops the bombshell by quitting the S Orchestra and decides to coach A Orchestra and leaves everything to Chiaki. Why? Because the previous night outing, the girls especially Nodame, ignored him. I mean, Chiaki’s surprised to learn from Nodame that Stresemann thought her how to be seductive. And to see Nodame trying to be all over Chiaki, he can’t take it anymore. Be careful, he’s such a vengeful creature. Though Mine feels it’s their chance to show their true potential and overthrow A Orchestra, Chiaki is feeling depressed with the responsibilities he’s shouldering and thinks he can’t win against Stresemann, so much so Chiaki evades and ignores Nodame’s attempts to kiss him while he’s in deep thinking. He didn’t even realized she’s trying to do that. As usual Chiaki continues his usual criticism on everyone’s play which made everyone to think Chiaki’s like a dictator akin to Napolean Bonarparte.
 
With that everybody’s confidence is shattering as Chiaki himself is having a hard time trying to keep the orchestra together in episode 7. Meanwhile a student who looks a bit like Chiaki, Oukouchi, who’s a student of Stresemann wants him to allow him to conduct the orchestra in his absence. But Stresemann pisses him off saying that he could only swing chopsticks. Oukouchi decides to go see himself how good Chiaki is but is stopped by Nodame who thinks he’s a spy from A Orchestra. While the duo are arguing, the door to the orchestra door opens and slams Oukouchi and we see lots of girls streaming out crying. Even Mine! Can’t take the heat any longer. Later we find out Nodame is an obsessed fan of some movie called Puri Gorota. I’m not sure what it’s about but she pissed off Chiaki when she commented how he’s similar to 1 of the characters. Yeah, he’s gonna kill her.
 
Next day, Chiaki notices his S Orchestra members aren’t paying attention to him and Nodame wonders if they’re boycotting Chiaki. Later Mine and the rest apologizes for not doing so as Chiaki does the same for his selfishness. With that, they continue practicing. On the day of the performance, Chiaki is shocked to see his orchestra wearing black t-shirts with ‘S Orchestra’ printed on it. In the end, S Orchestra pulls off an astounding performance and the audience are thrilled as they give them a standing ovation. As for A Orchestra, they did badly because of a last minute sudden change in conductor. Uh huh. Stresemann decides to leave it to Okouchi to conduct. But in the end, that loser ran away, claiming stomach ace. Later the S Orchestra thanks Chiaki as it was him which made them pushed harder and promised to try their best in the future. Then we see Chiaki sleeping on a park bench and this time Nodame sees an opportunity to kiss him. She successfully does and quickly runs away in ecstasy. Well, it seems Chiaki purposely let her do so as gratitude. And that Stresemann is burning in jealousy as he watches from his window. Chiaki will always be number 1 in Nodame’s heart, pal.
 
Stresemann tries to go back to the S Orchestra by inviting them to that party again in episode 8 but they rejected him since he abandoned them before. However, Stresemann says who wants to have a feel on Chiaki’s chest, made all the girls change their minds. I suppose let bygones by bygones as we see the S Orchestra members having a swell time with Stresemann at that restaurant. That guy still wants to flirt, especially with Nodame. Later Chiaki does some research on Stresemann and finds out that he’s supposedly missing after some public performance in London and that police are searching for him. Next day, a helicopter lands in college and Stresemann recognizes the woman coming down from it as Elise and starts running away. Elise orders her henchmen to capture Stresemann in which they successfully done so. Yeah, he’s gagged and bound. Chiaki finds out that Elise is Stresemann’s secretary-cum-manager and the reason he’s here is because of a woman, Mina, which is his ex-lover and is also a director of this college. So Stresemann becomes a topic among them to talk about like his true intention and such.
 
While Stresemann is rehearsing with the S Orchestra, Mina comes to see him and Stresemann even seriously asks her to marry him, which she just brush it off as a joke. Uh huh. He got dumped so fast. With that, Stresemann decides to conduct the S Orchestra for a while. Chiaki thinks he’s just doing it to gain Mina’s attention. Stresemann spots Nodame playing 1 of her pieces and asks what are her ambitions. Nodame replies that she wants to be a kindergarten teacher and marry Chiaki. But Stresemann says at this rate she can’t marry Chiaki. Besides that, Chiaki hears from Elise a little about Stresemann’s past and Stresemann and Mina discussing things about Chiaki with the former suggesting to take a trip to Nagano as there’s a music festival over there. We also see Nodame frantically clinging on to Chiaki because she believed what Stresemann said to her.
 
We see Chiaki, Nodame, Mine and Masumi in a car on their way to Nina Lutz’s musical festival in episode 9. This festival is held yearly whereby each participants take lessons from famous musicians to further enhance their music skills. While Mine is overwhelmed by the many talented musicians, Nodame gets Nina herself. But Nodame fails in her eyes because she’s lousy at note reading and partly because she’s thinking about Chiaki. So much so Nina loses her patience and tells Nodame to get out of her class. Meanwhile Chiaki and Stresemann are attending the festival’s party and Elise gives Chiaki Stresmann’s schedule and even a book on how to deal with that guy! Must be like an animal. But isn’t that Elise’s job? Yeah, she says she’s on vacation now and as expected Chiaki ends up becoming Stresemann’s P.A. Poor guy.
 
Later Nodame is relieved that she gets to see Chiaki after a long time and touches his hand, freaking him out. He finds out Nodame got kicked out and tells her to go home if she’s scared of the teacher. Because Stresemann again has a hangover, Chiaki has to play temporary conductor for Stresemann’s pupils. Yeah, more harsh criticising and correcting their playing style. Chiaki notices a violinist, Miki Kiyora, the only one among the pack which sounds different and talented. On the final day of the festival we see Stresemann conducting while Nina performs with a special orchestra. Also, a couple of reporters seem interested in Chiaki because they think Stresemann’s student should be newsworthy. Nodame on the other hand is behaving strangely like an orang utan (as said by Masumi) and can’t be found anywhere. Chiaki went to ask Nina but she said she lacked passion and was excused from class. But Nina later heard a beautiful piano piece (by Nodame) and by the time she reached to room to see who it was, nobody was there. Finally that girl hit the right notes. What’s this? Chiaki bringing back Stresemann on a train instead of riding back with his pals? Ah, the lesser of 2 evils. Besides, he is his assistant for the day, right?
 
The college will be holding a cultural festival soon in episode 10 and Mine wants the S Orchestra to do a costumed orchestra for it. However, Chiaki won’t be joining them because he’s busy practicing with the A Orchestra. At the same time, Stresemann is still fooling around and this didn’t make Mina happy because she thinks he’s not taking Chiaki seriously. Mina nearly ‘kills’ Stresemann and tells him not to belittle her students and the festival before leaving. A letter opener can be a deadly weapon too. On the day of the festival, the S Orchestra comes dressed in some traditional Japanese costume, except Masumi who’s in some lady’s attire. Why did they dress so? Something about a chance to beat Chiaki. Anyway if you’re wondering that weird costume thingy at the end credits, worry no more because it finally made it’s appearance. Well, it’s a badly made mongoose actually and Nodame is wearing it. Uh huh. Some unrelated blabbings about mongoose from Nodame, stumping everyone. Funny part is that it appeared on stage as the S Orchestra is about to perform and though Chiaki can’t see who the person is behind it but has a strong feeling it’s Nodame. A mongoose playing a melodian? The S Orchestra does another astounding performance even though they pulled off that weird trademark move of theirs. Though Nodame is the orchestra’s mascot, she still feels she isn’t really part of it and wonders why a piano isn’t included in an orchestra. Good question. Maybe it’s because piano pieces sound better on its own in classical music? On the final day of the festival, everyone is anticipating with excitement a performance of Chiaki with Stresemann. However, Stresemann informs Chiaki that he’ll soon be leaving Japan.
 
The combined performance of Chiaki and Stresemann begins in episode 11. One thing I notice is how darn smooth the animation when they show the person’s fingers playing the piano. It made me go wow. I don’t know if they simply just move the fingers without any correlation with the music, but that’s a different story. You’ll see this smoothness everytime a piano piece is being played. Talk about providing eye candy now. Of course the duo’s performance was the best so much so the S Orchestra comes in second place. Nodame is awed by Chiaki’s performance so much so she frantically tries to search and play that piano piece Chiaki played that day. She’s more like panicking. Then some advice from Stresemann to Nodame saying that she has to take music face on or else she won’t be able to truly enjoy music, which makes Nodame a little angry.
 
This episode also sees Saiko trying her opera voice part as she still reminisces about Chiaki. Though she still loves him, she realized that Chiaki had all along loved her voice only. Funny part is that she decides to go peek at Chiaki and ‘the other woman’. Since Nodame is practicing that piece non stop, she looks like a zombie! After Nodame is instructed to take a bath by Chiaki, the latter fixes her some food in which Nodame refuses to eat so much so Chiaki has to force feed her! Saiko must be really shock to see those 2 like that. Especially Chiaki on top of Nodame trying to forcefully feed her. Haha. Also, you won’t see Stresemann anymore and that perverted old man has made his last appearance. Is that a good or a bad thing?
 
Besides the continuation of the force feeding frenzy, in episode 12, Nodame is still adamant that she wants to play that piece but Chiaki notes that it’s impossible since she can’t read notes but Nodame says she has heard the song several times and is able to. Thus Chiaki decides to bring Nodame to college and try it out in a room with 2 pianos. As expected, while playing, Chiaki notes Nodame’s haphazard playing style and isn’t too amused. Their playing attracted the attention of a teacher, Kouzou Etou, and other students. Everybody’s saying how Chiaki is playing with ‘his girlfriend’ prompting Saiko to be shocked and soon leaves. This episode also has a little more on Saiko and sees how she gets teased and such. Some Dorabella thing. But I’m not going into that. Besides that, we see the rest of the S Orchestra planning about their future careers as some of them will be graduating soon. Also, Keiko and Sakuma, writers from some magazine is doing a story on why Chiaki is still in Japan. It seems they’ve become a fan of Chiaki after that performance at Nina Lutz’s festival. Chiaki gives his reasons for not going as he can’t possibly tell about his phobia on flying. In the end, Chiaki is surprised to learn from Nodame that she’s gonna be a kindergarten teacher and not enter competitions. He thinks it’s a waste of her talents even though her personality is one kind. Chiaki also wonders why such a good pianist like her won’t aim for higher goals. However this prompts Chiaki to remind of his own case. Yeah, can’t leave Japan because of fear of flying. Right back at ‘cha.
 
Graduation is just around the corner in episode 13 and Mine asks Chiaki if he wants to set up their own orchestra with he graduates since after graduation the S Orchestra will be disbanded. Chiaki declines the offer but Mine is still persistent. Not till Kiyora comes in and suggests the same thing to Chiaki, did Chiaki immediately accepts. Double standard? Probably Kiyora has more talent compared to those weirdos. With Chiaki accepting, Kiyora says that oboe player Kuroki and cellist Kikuchi will join too if Chiaki asks them. After Kiyora leaves, Mine Chiaki to allow him and his friends to join in but Chiaki throws him a condition that if he could be in the A Orchestra in the next exam, he would allow it. With that, Mine rushes off to practice. Besides that, we see a little flashback from Masumi how he met Chiaki and ‘fell in love with him’ when Chiaki stopped him from falling downstairs while Masumi is carrying some drum. Also Masumi is in ecstasy when Chiaki invites Masumi to join his orchestra if he has the time. Finally, the S Orchestra gathers for 1 last outing together. Funny to see Nodame and Saiko bumping into each other at the ladies and Saiko proceeds to ‘torture’ Nodame like trying to drown her head in a water filled basin because Nodame’s drunk. While the nearly the whole S Orchestra becomes drunk and annoyed Chiaki with their horrible karaokeing sessions before parting, it ended with Chiaki and Nodame walking home as they waltz through the night streets.
 
Chiaki goes back to his family in episode 14. It all started when Nodame picks up Chiaki’s ringing handphone and Chiaki’s uncle, Takehiko, thought it was Saiko. Nodame gives the handphone to Chiaki and Takehiko tells him to immediately come home… and bring his girlfriend along too. It then dawned to him that he had spend the night in Nodame’s room after last night’s outing. Eventually Chiaki has to bring Nodame along and we hear a little family background from Chiaki like how his parents are divorced and that they’re going to his mom’s parents’ home. Upon arrival, we see Takehiko has a son, Toshihiko, who in a way is jealous and hates Chiaki, and a daughter Yuiko, the kind who wants Chiaki to be all hers and doesn’t like Nodame too well. But before you know it, Nodame and Yuiko hits off on the right note and become best pals. Yeah, like the terrible twins causing a little ruckus here and there.
 
A reason for Takehiko to call Chiaki back is to cure Chiaki’s flight phobia through hypnotism. Didn’t work. Probably being with weirdo Nodame has ‘numbed’ his senses. During dinner, Takehiko tries to persuade Chiaki to give up his music and come join his company, which is what Toshihiko is doing. Yeah, that guy once loved to play the violin and even looked up to Chiaki. Something must’ve gone wrong. During this conversation, Toshihiko snaps and in his sarcasm tells Chiaki about a failed plot to knock out Chiaki to force him to board an airplane. Scary. Before he leaves the dinner table, he tells Chiaki that he should join the company. That night, Yuiko asks Nodame to sleep with her and the duo had a little chat. Since Chiaki had a nightmare, he decides to come down to listen to some music. Nodame too can’t sleep and since she’s amazed by the huge music collection, Nodame decides to play them along with Chiaki. Soon the rest of the house occupants are awaken due to the harmonious melody of the duo.
 
I suppose their music could really heal ties and make them realize things. In episode 15, because the family are amazed by the duet, Takehiko and Toshihiko thinks Chiaki should continue with his music while Takehiko says Toshihiko can do anything he wants and if he wants to carry on continuing the family’s business, it’s up to him. So as the family bid farewell to Chiaki and Nodame, Takehiko tells Nodame to come again so that she could meet Chiaki’s mom, Seiko. However, everyone agrees and persists that Nodame should be a pianist and not a teacher because Chiaki quipped that she’s dangerous and would hurt children, pissing Nodame off. So much so Nodame tells Chiaki he can go home alone. Well, I guess it’s okay with Chiaki too. While Chiaki takes a taxi, poor Nodame is still fuming and walking back.
 
Back at college, Chiaki meets with Kiyora, Kuroki and Kikuchi and discuss plans about forming their orchestra. As for Nodame, things must be getting worse for her as she finds out to her horror, her usual teacher, Hajime Tanioka, has been replaced with a more stricter one, Etou. It’s like those 2 don’t click. I suppose under Tanioka, Nodame could play all those children and Puri Gorota songs but when she does this under Etou, he quickly smacks her with a paper fan. So much so this punishment has become his trademark. Yeah, Nodame’s acting like a stubborn student while Etou tries to change her and make her listen to his ways. So futile. Don’t worry, Etou isn’t a bady guy. He just want to bring out the best from his students. But too much is no good as Nodame eventually snaps and storms into Tanioka’s room, pleading him to take her back. However Tanioka has engaged another student and is unable to do so and Nodame finds out this transfer was done at Etou’s request. Gyabo! Pukya! Oh the horror. Is it a conspiracy? Nodame is so depressed that she goes to find Chiaki but can’t find him anywhere. She finally arrives at Mine’s dad’s restaurant, in which Mine’s dad tries to cheer her up but to no avail so much so he contacted his son. Mine thinks there’s nothing wrong with her until he realized his dad told him how she refused free food. Uh huh. Where’s Chiaki? He’s at some get together outing with his newly formed orchestra members and notices how they’re more ‘civilized and cultured’ than the S Orchestra. Though Chiaki wants to go home and check on Nodame, the members want to for another outing.
 
In episode 16, Chiaki’s new orchestra, dubbed the R-S Orchestra (that stands for Rising Star), starts practicing for their first performance. Mainly the first half of this episode sees how Chiaki tries to understand the playing style of the newly formed group. Chiaki notices that Nodame is with him and wonders why isn’t she at her own class. Nodame tries to make an excuse like how Tanioka is sick when she actually doesn’t want to be in Etou’s class. Chiaki doesn’t believe her and tries to call Tanioka but Nodame stops him. Before Chiaki can pursue the matter further, Kuroki interrupts and Nodame uses this chance to escape. Looks like Kuroki has a crush on Nodame. Well, love works in funny ways. At the same time, Mine is impressed by Kiyora’s violin skills and asks her to take him as her student, in which she refuses. Meanwhile Etou is searching for Nodame who is hiding from him. Funny to see Etou chasing Nodame who’s frantically trying to get away from him. So much so, Etou got stuck in some narrow lane. Haha. With Nodame managing to escape, she bumps into Kuroki and asks him if it’s weird being a kindergarten teacher aiming for a higher goal. Since that guy has no clue what she means, he says as long as he can play his oboe, he’s happy. Later Chiaki gives some advice on how to handle Nodame, which is to buy some Puri Gorota figures. Nodame falls for that old trick by picking up a trail of Puri Gorota figures which leads to Etou. She freaks out and tries to run away when she finds out he’s behind all this. However, since she can’t get away anymore, Nodame agrees to be Etou’s student on 1 condition. If he helps her compose a song and promise not to hit her with his paper fan again. Okay, so that’s 2 conditions.
 
Mainly episode 17 is about the R-S Orchestra trying to get a hall for their first performance and also some publicity. Keiko and Sakuma plans to help some guy Kimura with the publicity thing. Mine is still trying to get Kiyora to be her student and as usual she turns him down. There’s this funny part whereby Kuroki buys a pot of flowers as gratitude for Nodame. Chiaki asks what does this guy see in Nodame and Kuroki replies that she’s cute, bright and such. How ironic. He should try living with this girl for once. Chiaki listed to him her not so good qualities like surfing erotic websites and peeping while he’s changing. Wah! But Kuroki doesn’t believe him and ignores Chiaki. During practice, everyone laughs off Mine when he criticized everyone for not concentrating enough. Though Mine is betting his future on this orchestra, the members seem to have intentions of going overseas and do better staff rather than seeing a future in this orchestra. Though Chiaki believes what Mine is saying, he didn’t say anything and feels depress. So much so his cooking is affected and Nodame can only have can foods.
 
Since some of the orchestra members have their own competitions, Chiaki decides to call for a break until the competition is over. But because Chiaki is also so obsessed with his orchestra that he didn’t bath or eat for 3 days. Wow. He’s becoming like Nodame. Meanwhile Nodame has finished completing her children song ‘Moja Moja Suite’ with Etou and must now honour her end of the deal. He gives Nodame 3 songs to learn the next time they meet. But Nodame is more concerned about Chiaki and tries to buy some stuff for him to eat. Kuroki spots Nodame and tries to chat with her but since she’s in a hurry and the way she says things, Kuroki realized that she’s in love with Chiaki. Another depressed guy. So much so he soaked his oboe reed to long, damaging it. Also Kiyora’s stiff neck causes her to get 2nd place at some competition. Though Kikuchi gets 1st place, it’s funny to see his 3 girlfriends finding out that he triple-timed them, earning their wrath. It’s getting catty.
 
R-S Orchestra’s practice continues in episode 18 and Chiaki once again rear his ugly head with his harsh criticisms. In the end, everyone is dead tired because they practiced for a marathon of 5 hours! Keiko and Sakuma comes by to tell them that they’ve already sold some tickets for their debut performance and even has a poster of it. Kiyora punches Mine when she finds out that he and his dad came out with that Rising Star name for their orchestra. Also, Chiaki has a little dream which may reveal about how his flight phobia came about. Funny part was when Nodame tried to do her hypnotism with the clock watch Stresemann gave to her before he left. Though it didn’t work at first, Nodame is persistant and finally surprised when Chiaki actually falls asleep soon after! Later that night, Chiaki gives Nodame a special ticket to the concert. On the night of the performance, the R-S Orchestra does another splendid performance and one of them features Kuroki as the main player. He’s thankful to Chiaki that even though he didn’t perform well in his previous competition, Chiaki still believes in him and vows to do his best. Keiko and Sakuma did their usual reporting and finds out not many people know of Chiaki’s conducting skills. Not only that, they find Kiyora’s teacher, Kai Dowin, at the concert too. Though his peers are praising the concert, Kai says otherwise. Sounds like an obnoxious dude.
 
The performance continues in episode 19. As expected, the R-S Orchestra receives a standing ovation. Mainly this episode is about how Chiaki developed his phobia. Well first, we see Nodame successfully hypnotizing Chiaki again! Chiaki is asleep and is dreaming about the time he was small and on a airplane trip back from Vienna to Japan with Seiko. Nodame is like a pyschiatrist listening to Chiaki’s words. An old man who’s sitting to the right of a young Chiaki loves music and wants to go see Viera’s performance again next year. But the airplane experiences turbulence and that old man got a heart attack. His wife tries to get some medicine for him but it fell off her hands and rolled down the aisle. Chiaki tries to grab it but couldn’t reach. Back in present time, Nodame tells Chiaki that it’s not his fault and he can board an airplane now. Before Nodame leaves, she tells Chiaki to open his eyes when the alarm goes off and forget everything during the hypnosis.
 
I guess that hypnotic treatment works because we see Chiaki at the airport but since he’s still too scared to board the airplane alone, he drags Toshihiko along with him. Hmm… Still some signs of fear but you could say he’s relatively cured thanks to Nodame. So why a trip to Hokkaido and not Europe? That’s because during the hypnosis Nodame asks Chiaki to go there to buy some crabs and souvenirs. Wow. Her therapy is effective. When Chiaki returns, she doesn’t find Nodame around. She’s currently practicing her piano with Etou at his home for an upcoming Maradona Piano Competition. Chiaki decides to visit Nodame but without seeing her. He can’t believe that girl studying under Etou when Etou’s wife, Kaori, spots him and invites him in. Chiaki just wanted to hand over the crabs and souvenirs before leaving when Kaori tells her about Nodame’s participation in the Maradona competition, which surprises Chiaki. He thinks that Nodame’s style of playing isn’t suitable for such competition and wonders how Etou will fix her weaknesses. Soon Chiaki decides to leave so as not to disturb Nodame’s practice. Later Nodame finds out that Chiaki did indeed went to Hokkaido to get the crabs during dinner time. Also, Chiaki’s family celebrates his cure of his flying phobia.
 
Nodame starts her Maradona preliminary competition in episode 20 and even wonders if there’s a way to cheat here like bribing the judges. Don’t worry, she won’t stoop that low. Meanwhile Chiaki is busy with another rehearsal when Kai comes in and joins them as their concert master. Kai is telling everyone how to play! So Chiaki, how does it feel to have a taste of your own medicine. Chiaki finds out that Kai has been invited by their college directors just like Stresemann’s case. The R-S Orchestra does another wonderful concert so much there is a guy who comes to them and decides to join them. He is Noriyuki Takahashi, a handsome looking guy enough to be Chiaki’s rival in terms of girls swooning over him. Noriyuki too has a sharp tongue in the sense that he openly says how he’s better than Kiyora and can even replace her because he listed his outstanding results of competitions he participated. Kiyora is gonna kill him only to be restrained by Mine. I think this Noriyuki is gay because he got distracted and fantasizes when he sees Chiaki changing his top. Must be. He even asks Chiaki to strip down! I suppose they got enough of Noriyuki as Kiyora and Masumi violently tie this gay guy down.
 
Meanwhile Nodame herself has passed her preliminaries and is on to the next round. Though she has trouble with some pieces, it’s enough to captivate 1 of the judges and sends her qualifying to the next. Etou must be having a roller coaster ride. Later, Kaori and Etou mentions Nodame’s next rival which is Segawa Yuuto, which somehow brings shivers to Nodame whenever she hears that name. I think it’s her childhood friend or something (perhaps bully). I like the funny part whereby Kaori is putting make-up on Nodame and giving her some advice on her next piece. Something to do with love. Kaori goes on to mention "Sometimes I see Kouzou-san surrounded in roses" and a picture of Etou’s face appears being surrounded by the red flowers. Nodame replies "That’s scary". Hehehe. But Nodame receives an SMS from Chiaki telling her to do her best and that he’ll come to attend her final. With that, Nodame is happy and starts playing her next piece on stage.
 
Episode 21 starts off with Yuuto giving an astounding performance while Noriyuki demonstrates his violin skills to the other R-S Orchestra members. Noriyuki tells them that he’s here to be the concert master and is sure he’ll get even though he has an offer to work in some entertainment industry but turn it down. Noriyuki explains his reasons of wanting to join this orchestra so much so it touched Mine as he tells Kiyora to got to Vienna like she wanted so that when she comes back, she can show off her several awards to be better than Noriyuki. Kiyora agrees. Mine even says she won’t cheat on her while she’s away because he’ll be practicing his violin so hard. Then it dawned to Chiaki that Mine and Kiyori are in a relationship. I too didn’t know they’re seeing each other. Chiaki soon gets an SMS from Nodame saying that she’s got into the finals. But because Nodame is practicing too hard, she falls ill. Kaori sensed that Nodame was acting strange so much so Etou didn’t believe her at first. Uh huh. He said something like this "She always act weird. So I didn’t even notice when she was really acting weird". Hahaha.
 
While Nodame’s resting in bed, she’s restless and has a weird dream about her mongoose suit (it’s been some time I’ve seen that outfit), Puri Gorota and Yuuto. She eventually wakes up and reflects on Yuuto’s words what would happen if she make mistakes. On the performance day, since Nodame is better and has no time to learn the score, Etou gives her a CD to listen. Then a funny thing happen on the train. As Nodame and Etou are riding it, Nodame is practicing the song in her mind while listening to it in order to memorize. Then some guy’s handphone’s ringtone starts ringing and disrupts her concentration. At the stage, Nodame dresses like Scarlett O’Hara of Gone With The Wind fame and starts playing and impressing the audience as usual. Suddenly she stops halfway and goes blank. What happened? Remember that ringtone part in the train? It seems Nodame can only remember the ringtone after this part. Oh oh.
 
Nodame tries to be innovative in episode 22 as she tries adapting and playing that ringtone on the piano, shocking everyone and even Chiaki who’s there. Not only she goes back and forth with that earlier piece and ringtone, she even create her own lines during the play! Though the audience are still happy with her performance, the judges decide to set aside Nodame even though her performance was amazing. In the end, that Yuuto guy got second and nobody got first place? What the? Shouldn’t the 2nd placed guy get first. Perhaps that place is for Nodame who could’ve won. Chiaki manages to catch Nodame who has left the hall. So the 2 had a little chat like how Chiaki wants to invite her to go study in Europe with him but she declines. But in the end, Nodame gets a little mad at Chiaki as she questions him what’s wrong with playing the piano freely.
 
Next scene is about Mine and Kiyora and something about their upcoming Christmas performance. Just when Kiyora decides to take Mine as her student, her refuses and instead prefers Chiaki, which he got rejected as well. Then on New Years Day, Nodame is seen at her family’s home and a flashback of how she plays the piano her way. When she was young, she was hit by the piano teacher for not playing the way she is instructed to. As a result, Nodame hits the wall and ended up bleeding. She stopped playing piano for a long time and was traumatised. No wonder she’s such a rebel in piano. Other than that, Nodame’s familyt is just as wacky as her. It’s all in the genes. Meanwhile Chiaki and Sakuma meet up and the latter tells his reason why he’s being supportive of Chiaki all along. Something to do with music not only needing talent but an important partner as well if that musician is to go down in history as being famous. Furthermore, Chiaki and some of the members are leaving R-S Orchestra, thus he got this guy Matsuda as his replacement. Soon Matsuda conducts a performance with a few R-S Orchestra members which Noriyuki is in.
 
Chiaki begins his final performance for R-S Orchestra in episode 23, a piece which he was consider a failure by Stresemann 2 years ago. Later the R-S Orchestra are having a drinking party and 2 twin ladies are expressing their gratitude as they hug Chiaki. Masumi decides to join in, not wanting to be outdone by the duo. Just when Noriyuki decides the same thing too, Masumi does some submission move on him. Chiaki tries to contact Nodame but doesn’t have her handphone number and tries to search for it through a package Nodame’s send her but could only find her address. Etou is also looking for Nodame to tell her an urgent news but is also having a hard time locating her. Back at Nodame’s family, Nodame is impressing the neighbourhood with her piano. Her grandma praises her playing after she’s done. Later Nodame finds 23 SMS from Etou! Then there’s 1 which is from Puri Gorota which she excitedly opens. Actually it’s just a heading Etou disguises as in order for Nodame to read his message. Haha. Tricked. Etou informs that Nodame has been recommended to study in Paris. Since the exams are in February, she has to contact Etou as soon as possible if she wants to go.
 
Chiaki is taking a cab to Nodame’s family home when he receives an SMS from her saying that she’ll go study abroad. To his surprise, he also sees Nodame walking by as the cab passes by. Chiaki tells the driver to stop. Unexpectedly, as Nodame continues with her SMS, Chiaki hugs her from behind! Woah! Didn’t see that one coming. Though Nodame is a little embarrassed (finally her dream come true), she wishes him Happy New Year. However, it seems Nodame’s dad is watching them while sailing his boat along the river, much to Chiaki’s horror. And Nodame’s loving it. In the end credits, we see Nodame’s family welcoming Chiaki with their weird pranks. Yeah, it really does run in the family. Back at college, Nodame bids farewell to her friends and Mine, who promises to keep in touch. Also, Nodame decides to hug Tanioka instead of Etou, leaving that guy depressed. Chiaki even ignores that fellow. Then a short conversation with Chiaki and his dad about Nodame’s past and strict piano instructor. Chiaki says Nodame will be okay and that he loves her playing the piano.
 
Overall, I still find the whole series rather enjoyable. Though I have to admit that it started off quite interesting in the beginning then I kinda felt it was a little drag after that Nina Lutz’s festival. It gets a little serious after that though there are still some of their usual jokes here and there. The end came of a sudden surprise to me because I actually anticipated this to be a 26 episode anime, at least a 24 episode one. But still, it’s quite okay actually. I still like the parts whereby Nodame tries to win Chiaki’s affection but that sadistic jerk returns her efforts with abuses and things. Not that I’m a sadist too. But poor Nodame, it’s bloody hilarious. As because of so, Nodame still remains my favourite character as mentioned earlier. But I’m glad Chiaki is more receptive of Nodame of who she is and her playing style in the end.
 
The drawing, art and animation seems to remind me of the anime series Honey And Clover. Yup, it kinda feels ‘bleached’. Yeah, that’s because the producers, J.C. Staff are the same people behind that anime. It never ceases to make me smile everytime the character goes into their shock or surprise mode. With their mouths opened wide, their eyes will be totally white and blank. Still the best animation is when they animate those finger movements while playing the piano pieces.
 
Ayako Kawasumi does a great job voicing Nodame as she’s done famous roles before like Osaka in Azumanga Daioh, Aoi in Ai Yori Aoshi and Hime in Kaibutsu Oujo. Tomokazu Seki is the voice behind Chiaki who also did Sagara in Full Metal Panic, Kyo in Fruits Basket and Pierrot in Yakitate! Japan. Mamiko Noto too play a role here as Sakura. There are many other characters as well but somehow I don’t really seem to think of them as memorable. Not that they’re bad, it’s just that, in an orchestra, there’re too many members so it’s hard for me to keep track.
 
The first ending song, Konna Ni Chikaku De by Crystal Kay is still my favourite theme song for the series. Whereas the opening theme, Allegro Cantabile, sung by SUEMITSU & THE SUEMITH (not a typo error) has heavy piano pounding and is quite upbeat. They also did the second ending theme, Sagittarius, which is a much more slower ballad. If you like your opening and ending credits to be filled with orchestra instruments and music notes and symbols, then you should really enjoy this.
 
However each of the episode titles are only listed as Lesson 1, Lesson 2, Lesson 3, etc. It really doesn’t help me ring a bell what happened in that episode. I thought they could get creative by putting in some musical terms. The next episode preview too isn’t that much. It lasts around 2 seconds and shows some random picture of the next episode while some character say some short random lines, which I don’t think would give you a good idea what’s to come in the next episode. Besides, during the end credits, there’ll be clips of the next episode itself.
 
So whatever your taste in music is, I believe it’s best that you enjoy your kind of music. Since there are many kinds of music, I’m sure not everyone will have the same taste. Classical music is just another genre. And playing or creating music has to come from one’s heart and passion. It cannot be forced upon. Classical music enthusiasts should give this anime a go just for the pieces featured even if not so the storyline. Meanwhile, I’ll be sitting back and relax, listening to my anime songs. Now that’s music to my ears.
 
Nodame Cantabile

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