May, the season of flowers and fires (if you live in SoCal). It’s also the season of ~love~. The Let Us Remember Love project where bloggers talk about anime that holds special places in their hearts is taking place this month for four Sundays, and I decided to take some (more) time off from studying and share some love for my favorite series.
I watched Nodame Cantabile for the first time about four years ago, way back when I was only starting to get into anime/manga. As the brilliant 12/13 year old I was, chances are I only picked the show because of the romance tag. Though Nodame and Chiaki do admittedly rank among my favorite anime couples, the show definitely goes beyond and succeeds at much more than just the romance.
The basic story revolves around Chiaki, a bit of a tight ass piano major who dreams of being a conductor but feels limited by his crippling fear of flying, and Nodame, his eccentric neighbor who attends the same school and plays the piano extraordinarily well, albeit a bit erratically. Along with their odd-ball group of friends, Nodame and Chiaki move through the course of the show learning more about themselves and growing into people they never imagined they could become.
One of the great ironies about my initial watching of the show, I suppose, is how slow boiling the romance is. Though it’s pretty obvious that Nodame and Chiaki are going to hook up, it takes the entire show for it to actually happen. The chemistry between the characters, though, keeps you from not really minding. Don’t get me wrong, I hate having to play the will-they-won’t-they game, and it irks me to no end when anime wait until the last possible moment to shove the mains together. With Nodame, though, it’s not so much a question of when but how and that’s what makes the wait worthwhile and ultimately unnoticeable. What I mean by that is everything in between their first meeting and the “confession” is completely necessary. The Nodame and Chiaki at the end of the show and the Nodame and Chiaki at the start are different people in the sense that, as people, they have different goals for themselves and have developed in ways that have left them better than before. They both needed to change, and they both needed the other in order to do so which creates an absolutely fantastic connection between the two in terms of how they gradually go about doing so.
Though the comedy and music, two aspects of the show that are prominently featured, are really well done, what really shines for me, if you couldn’t tell already, are the characters themselves. Nodame and Chikai, as I mentioned before, develop a lot throughout the course of show. Though Chiaki’s development is practically a given considering how much screen time he takes up early on the show and how much he grows in the first 5 or 6 episodes alone, Nodame’s growth is a bit more of a surprise. For a good part of the show, she usually serves as Chiaki’s encouragement and as a character whose random outbursts make her out to be more silly than serious. The second half, and especially the last third or so of the show, though, is where Nodame really shines.
The silly and confident person she initially comes off as is increasingly replaced by someone who isn’t as certain of herself anymore. She thought she wanted to be a teacher. She probably didn’t expect much from her piano playing. However, after meeting Chiaki and seeing his determination and growth, all her plans end up changing. She ends up seriously entering a piano competition, pushing herself to her limits, and trying her hardest to prove she’s just as talented as the man who she’s fallen in love with. Her new-found desire to prove to herself that she is deserving of being by Chiaki, someone trying to so hard for his own dream, is something that actually complements the romance aspect of the show really well. Both push themselves to be better because of what they see in the other. They’re both individuals who have their own separate dreams and goals, but look to each other at times for inspiration and encouragement. It really takes the romance to a whole new level that makes it all the more enjoyable to see unfold. Going back to Nodame, though, despite the fact she’s probably not as developed as Chiaki, she has, by the end of the show, has an unexpected level of depth that has made her into someone you want to root for and who you want to succeed both in love and music.
As for the side cast, they’ve got to be one of my favorites. Depth of character is probably somewhat lacking among them, but they’re entertaining as heck to watch. Their eccentricity makes them shine and makes me laugh more often than not. Despite all the laughs they’re usually both the cause and subject of, they all have some sort of goal they want to accomplish which they continually work toward. Seeing them accomplish their respective goals is as satisfying as seeing Nodame and Chiaki do the same which is pretty special for a side cast. I mean, how can you not laugh and cheer for the S Orchestra when they “imitate” Napoleon, or when Stresemann manages to ridicule and teach Chiaki simultaneously?
Admittedly, I could probably go on and on and about why I love this show, but I won’t bore you all to tears (I’ll just stick it in my next post. Ha!). Simply put, Nodame Cantabile is one of favorite series. Every episode makes me smile. Every character wins over a little piece of my heart. Each re-watch uncovers something new to love. The question of whether this can survive the test of time has long been answered, and the only one remaining is how much more this show can teach and show me. I love this show with all my heart and can’t thank that starry eyed kid four years ago enough for watching it and falling in love. It’s for the silly, fangirly love that this show invokes that I keep watching and loving anime.