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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Manga Review: Nodame Cantabile GN 1

Nodame Cantabile volume 1
Author: Tomoko Ninomiya
Del Rey Manga
208 pages

The son of a famous pianist, music student Shinichi Chiaki dreams of studying abroad and becoming a conductor like his mentor. Unfortunately, his fear of flying grounds his lofty plans! As he watches other classmates achieve what he has always wanted, Shinichi wonders if he should quit music altogether. Then one day he meets fellow student Megumi Noda, also known as Nodame. This oddball girl cannot cook, clean, or even read a music score, but she can play the piano in incomparable Cantabile style. And she teaches Chiaki something that he has forgotten: to enjoy his music, no matter where he is.

Read my review of this musical manga after the jump!

Playful Kiss set at a music school – that might be the best way to describe Nodame Cantabile to the newbie wondering what it’s all about. We have our closed-off quiet male protagonist, Chiaki, and our scatterbrained love struck female protagonist, Nodame, and due to various circumstances the two are practically living in the same space and learning how to deal with each other’s quirks and issues while staying on top of their respective musical studies. But unlike in Playful Kiss, Nodame is not a total ditz; her unorthodox piano playing has Chiaki wondering if he’s living next to a secret musical genius or someone with extremely dumb luck. One thing he is sure of, though, that Nodame is a certified mooch and slob who won’t leave him alone!

One volume in and Nodame Cantabile reads like an instant classic. It’s a musical slice of life that is still approachable by people unfamiliar with the inner workings of classical training, a romance that is atypical in its choice of love interests, a manga that is both humorous and sometimes heartbreaking (especially when we see glimpses into Chiaki’s past). The art style, while not exactly beautiful, gives the story that extra layer of friendly intimacy that just makes Chiaki and Nodame’s particular situations even more entertaining. Fans of the more BL-friendly Alice the 101st will definitely like this book as it is a similar mix-up of musical know-how and humorous entanglements between young people seemingly destined to be ‘together’ by series end.

One minor caveat: by the time you finish the last handful of pages, you might want to spend the rest of your day listening to nothing but classical music! Or am I the only one who gets greatly inspired by reading certain works to listen to the music mentioned in them? Still, it would surprise me if Nodame Cantabile isn’t responsible for at least a couple dozen new classical music nerds in the world.