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If Music Be the Food of Love…

April 24, 2010

     There’s only been two anime that I’ve seen that were just so much fun, so sweet and at the same time extremely human.  One of those was Azumanga Daioh, about a bunch of high school girls but ironically written by a guy.  The other was Nodame Cantabile, the musical anime adaptation of the equally musical manga.  A rather talented, if overly critical pianist/violinist/aspiring conductor named Chiaki Shinichi, while studying at the fictional Momogaoka College of Music.  He ends up bumping into a rather messy, strange girl named Noda Megumi, nicknamed Nodame.  She doesn’t take music terribly seriously, though she enjoys it greatly, and her ambition is to become a preschool teacher.  Somehow, she falls in love with Chiaki, and she follows him around.  The two of start to get to know each other as Nodame goes through college, and Chiaki attempts to pursue his amibition of becoming a conductor, which is rather difficult, considering that he can’t travel by air or by boat because of phobias instilled in him as a child when he was living abroad.  The two of them refine their arts and get to know all sorts of odd musicians and conductors, including Franz von Stresemann, the highly respected and perverted conductor, Mine Ryuutarou, the unorthodox violinist, Okuyama Masumi, the idiosyncratic, homosexual timpanist, and Etou Kouzou, the piano teacher also known as “the Harisen” for the paper fan he carries around.  Nodame eventually helps Chiaki get over his flying fears, and they go study abroad in Paris, where more strange people, like the great pianist Son Rui, the otaku Frank Latoine, and the boy-hunting Tanya Vishneva, and many more great musical experiences await them.  However, the ultimate questions are how important music is to Nodame and what she’s willing to do for it, and whether or not the two of them can really be together.

     Even though it deals with some really big emotional problems, like Nodame’s issues with music and her personality clashes with Chiaki.  However, the characters really are adorable, and their relationship is even more adorable.  They’re such real people that you want them to be together, so when you fight, you feel like you’re emotionally invested in them and like one or the other is being stupid.  Like Azumanga Daioh, it shows human emotion very well.  I know I keep comparing the two, despite major differences between them, but there are also some striking similarities, particularly, as I said before, my reaction to them.  Also, all the music in the anime really had a personal effect on me.  It’s actually gotten me more interested in classical music and in playing the piano.  Because of all that great classical music, it really has a one-up on most other anime in terms of soundtrack.  The openings and closings are good, particularly Allegro Cantabile, a great piano/rock song that feels like it must have been written for this anime in particular.  The animation is solid, and although the characters’ faces are not the most detailed I’ve ever seen, it emulates the manga rather perfectly, and they’re actually surprisingly emotive, utilizing all sorts of genre conventions plus actual, normal emotion.  Plus, it’s got absolutely superb voice acting, including one of my personal favorites, Seki Tomokazu, as Chiaki, and Kawasumi Ayako as Nodame.  As for as shoujou anime goes, this is one of the best.  If you want something really heartwarming that will also help improve your cultural literacy, I recommend this very highly.

Story: 9.5      Animation: 9.2      Soundtrack: 9.4      Acting: 9.5      Overall: 9.5

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