First, just a quick link to a review of mine over at Manga Recon’s Otaku Bookshelf column, for the second and third volumes of DMP’s The Guilty, a series of yaoi novels I had extremely mixed feelings about. And now, a quick review of something a bit more my style!
Nodame Cantabile, Vol. 1
By Tomoko Ninomiya
Published by Del Rey Manga
Shinichi Chiaki is an arrogant young music student and son of a famous pianist, who resents having to study in Japan rather than in Europe where all his real musical dreams reside. Frustrated with his piano teacher–the most prestigious in the school–he gets himself thrown out of the studio and ends up studying with the teacher who is known for taking on the school’s dregs. One of these students is Megumi Noda, aka Nodame, a very talented young pianist with poor music reading skills and no discipline. Living next door to each other in the same apartment building, the two of them start to form an unlikely bond. Chiaki cleans Nodame’s apartment (entirely out of frustration), cooks her meals, and works with her on the pieces she’s practicing, while Nodame gives Chiaki a taste of real spontaneity and inspiration, helping him to refocus his dreams.
This manga has been ongoing in Japan since 2001, and though it’s a shame I’ve only just picked it up now (thanks to the used section at my local comic shop!) I can see I have a great treat in store. These characters are so wonderfully odd and idiosyncratic, it is impossible not to fall immediately in love with them even when they are at their very worst, which is quite often. Nodame is charmingly simple and open, though she lacks awareness of her effect on others. Her childlike personality is delightful and rare, but it is hard not to feel embarrassed for her at times, especially when she is at her most thoughtless, such as in her ongoing habit of stealing a classmate’s lunches. Chiaki is horribly arrogant, ungrateful to his teachers, and unpleasant with his peers, but underneath his love of music shines like the glow of true love, giving him the unexpected capacity to be actually kind to someone like Nodame, which is not at all what you’d expect of him.
As the volume progresses, at least one other student comes into the picture, seemingly to join the main cast. He is a punky violinist who at first wants to quit classical music to focus on his rock band, but is eventually influenced by working with Chiaki and Nodame. Each of these characters is so fresh and charmingly flawed, I honestly can’t wait to see what is in store for them.
Another lovely element of this manga is the obvious research done on the musical aspect of it. Unlike something like La Corda d’Oro, this story evokes the atmosphere of a real music school, where the students aren’t simply exposed to “Your Favorite Classical Music Hits” and contains little tidbits like (regarding Beethoven’s violin sonata, “Spring”), “Even though Beethoven wrote this when he was depressed about his hearing and was sleeping around with girls, it sounds like a happy song.” Not that things are all classical seriousness by any means. After all, at the beginning, Nodame appears to be writing a piece about farting.
The art is terrific, with lots of movement and expression, and the ability to make the music feel real, which is no easy feat.
With its fantastic oddball characters and deep musical focus, Nodame Cantabile seems to have been written exactly with me in mind, and I honestly can’t wait to run back to the comic shop to pick up the second volume. Let’s hope it’s still there!
Michelle Smith saysApril 25, 2009 at 10:59 pm
I really, really need to read this. It’s about music, it’s josei, it’s charming… I just keep buying and hoarding it.
Melinda Beasi saysApril 25, 2009 at 11:04 pm
If the rest is like the first volume, you will love it. I am so happy I picked this up.
sutlers saysApril 25, 2009 at 11:39 pm
This is one of my favorite manga ever. It only gets better. I’m thrilled you’re reading it.
The live-action adaptation isn’t bad either. >_>
Melinda Beasi saysApril 26, 2009 at 7:51 am
Oh, this makes me feel even more excited about going forward! Yay!
Grace saysApril 26, 2009 at 12:19 am
This one’s on my list, too. I read another series by her, Tensai Family Company, ages ago and really loved it, so I have high hopes for this one.
Melinda Beasi saysApril 26, 2009 at 7:52 am
So far, I have nothing but praise!
duowolf saysApril 26, 2009 at 7:45 am
I watched the anime for this and it was brilliant. I wasn’t too sure about picking up the manga as, as much as I like the characters and story I wasn’t sure it would work well without the music being actully present but I think I might well give it a go now.
Melinda Beasi saysApril 26, 2009 at 7:52 am
It works in the first volume, at least, and I feel like that will continue. I think when characters can speak passionately about music, it makes it seem as though the music really *is* there.
duowolf saysApril 26, 2009 at 8:36 am
it might give me an excuss to buy some more classical cds as well which is always a plus point.
Melinda Beasi saysApril 26, 2009 at 8:39 am
That is, indeed, a very big plus! :D
Ed Sizemore saysApril 26, 2009 at 12:04 pm
This is a series that consistently gets good reviews from people I respect. The way you describe the characters makes me sure I’d love it.
I wish I had the time to fit it in my schedule. It’s on my reading list. I think somewhere around page 250 or so. I really need to get cracking on that list. At this rate it will be a multivolume set that will published posthumously called, “The Best Books He Never Read.”
Melinda Beasi saysApril 26, 2009 at 7:52 pm
I think there is no way for any of us to ever read all the series we want to. :)
Oliver saysMay 1, 2009 at 10:03 am
OMG, I can’t believe you’re reviewing this series!!! I wonder if it’s because I mentioned it to you or not? I’m soooo glad you’re reading this!! I’m up to volume 10 now and you are soooo in for a treat. It just gets better and better (volume 1, while amazing, pales in comparison to the rest of the series).
Let me know when you get to volume 10, there’s something great in store for these characters and it’s so wonderful to know someone out there reads this series, too. Can’t wait to catch your reviews as well. You must get as many people as you can reading this series (your assignment, heh heh). I’ll be waiting…
Melinda Beasi saysMay 3, 2009 at 6:33 pm
Your enthusiasm is infectious! I can’t wait to read more! :D
Cassandra saysMay 2, 2009 at 6:41 am
Nodame Cantabile!!! I have Volume 1 already, and I’ve been meaning to get #2, but its out of stock at the moment. =( In a way, that’s good news because that means lots of people have it in their bookshelves now. Heh.
I wish there were more music manga. Being a lover of music myself, I jumped for joy when I saw this manga for the first time a few months ago. I discovered it like 2 years ago due to the live-action drama. We watched episode 1 at maths class at the end of the school year. =P I’ll never forget that- I watched it when I got home.
Anyway, its so cool because when I read the manga, which is an audio-less medium, I still feel like I can hear the music. Ninomiya did a really good job. Obviously it helped that I watched the drama first, but even so. Nodame Cantabile is on my “to-buy-all-volumes” list.
Also, being not-so particular to classical music as such, Nodame Cantabile has opened my tastes and now I actually quite like it. :)
Melinda Beasi saysMay 3, 2009 at 6:37 pm
What’s interesting is that it’s so well-written, I feel like *I* can hear the music, and I’ve never seen any of the drama or the anime!
I just managed to pick up volume two, and I hope you’ll find it soon as well!
Cassandra saysMay 6, 2009 at 7:11 am
Lucky! Volume 2 is sold out around in Sydney right now. It’ll be months before they restock, though if I was smart I would have asked if they could order it in. =|
Even though I’ve already read up to Volume 6 or so online, this is one series I want to finish..even though it’s a pretty long series.
Are you going to be reviewing Nodame Cantabile Volume 2 soon? I’ll be looking forward to it! :)
Melinda Beasi saysMay 6, 2009 at 2:57 pm
I definitely will be reviewing soon. I’m trying to space things out a bit so that I’m covering a variety of things, and right now the way I’m measuring that is by what appears on the front page. As soon as the first volume makes its way off the front page, the second will soon follow! :D