Manga: Nodame Cantabile

An anime, manga, and live-action TV series centered around the two protagonists, Shinichi Chiaki and Megumi Noda (more commonly referred to by the whole cast as Nodame). The show begins at Momogaoka College of Music where both protagonists attend. Chiaki is a talented violinist and pianist, considered one of the top students at the school, who dreams of becoming a conductor. He is extremely handsome and popular, an excellent cook, very neat and stuck-up. Nodame is an extremely talented but wild piano player whose ambition is to become a kindergarten teacher. She is a complete slob, a terrible cook, and generally acts extremely strange. The two first meet when Chiaki is thrown out by his piano teacher after an argument, and winds up being taught under the same teacher as Nodame. They later discover that their apartments are next door to each other.

The show follows the musical careers of both characters as Chiaki eventually decides to follow his dream and pursue conducting. At the same time, the relationship between him and Nodame goes through numerous highs and lows, growing ever stronger in the process. Chiaki eventually assumes control of Orchestra S, assembled by Franz von Stresemann, a conductor-in-residence from abroad.

Nodame Cantabile is a sweet slice of life drama, and both the anime and live action drama have strengths. It has some striking similarities with Honey and Clover, another show produced by J.C. Staff about quirky young people who pursue creative studies at college (art school, in that case). 2 sequel seasons were released, "Paris Chapters"/"Paris-hen" and "Finale", both of which detail the manga chapters that take place in Europe, mostly Paris. The anime in general follows the manga very closely, so much so that the season titled "Finale" isn't really a finale at all because the anime leaves the story open much like the manga did in those parallel chapters. The manga ended in September 2010 with a two-volume sequel collectively known as "Opera-hen", bringing the total volume count to 25.

The Japanese dorama was made in 2006, followed by two special episodes and two movies. A Korean Drama remake called Naeil Cantabile (Tomorrow Cantabile) also aired 2014.

Season 1 has also been dubbed in English.

The show is highlighted by its beautiful performances of classical music, as well as its seamless blending of said music into the creative lives of its characters.

Gyabo!

This show provides examples of:

  • All Love Is Unrequited: Nodame likes Chiaki, but so does the violinist Takahashi who takes Kiyora's place, Chiaki's ex-girlfriend Saiko and timpanist Okuyama. Oboe player Yasunori, in turn, has a crush on Nodame.
  • All Work vs. All Play: Chiaki is usually seen engaged in his studies, advancing his musical career, while saving an orchestra or two along the way. He's even pondering beauty and meaning of music in his life on his spare time. Nodame is a talented but unmotivated music student, often preoccupied with her favorite anime Puri Gorota and generally being a Cloud Cuckoolander. She gets better in Seasons 2 and 3 as she finds her motivation to strive for greatness, with the help Chiaki, her mentors, and her friends at the Conservatoire.
  • Always Someone Better: Famed Chinese pianist Rui, a Child Prodigy who joins the cast in seasons 2 and 3.
  • Beach Episode: The DVD special. Yes, Nodame is wearing a bikini in it.
    • "D-Cup Devil!"
  • Beautiful All Along: Nodame, when she's not making silly faces or dressing like a slob. Also see Chapter 11's cover.
  • Beautiful Dreamer: Nodame finds Chiaki asleep, and then sneaks a kiss on his cheek. Then again, he looks like this. Can't really blame Nodame.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: In the live action adaptation, Nodame always has perfect makeup on even though she's supposed to be a total slob. The make up is minimal though and justified as actors have to wear good make up due to the lighting when filming. Of course this is averted when Nodame overapplies the make-up and becomes a Cosmetic Catastrophe.
  • Beta Couple:
    • Mine and Kiyora.
    • Kuroki and Tanya eventually.
  • Big Damn Movie: The Grand Finale for the live-action series, and in two films at that.
  • Bilingual Bonus: The live-action drama features English, German, and French lines with Japanese subtitles.
  • Bishie Sparkle: Usually for remarking a well performed music (both around the performers and the audience). Played semi-straight around Professor Auclair (perhaps to emphasize his different way to teach?)
  • Blank White Eyes: Used pretty frequently, especially for Nodame.
  • Blue with Shock: Happens a lot to Nodame — and everyone who gets involved with her.
  • Bookends:
    • The first anime season uses these expertly, with the first scene of episode one, a flashback, running alongside a "narration" (words appearing an otherwise blank screen) about memories, and the final scene of the last episode continuing the thought to reflect one of the series' big themes and the development of the characters. Makes an already touching finale so damn-near perfect.
    • In the live-action drama, the first song that the group together as an orchestra was Beethoven Symphony No. 7, as well as being the first time Chiaki conducted. At the end of the series, they played this song again, being the last time Chiaki would conduct in Japan with this orchestra, since they were all graduating and going their separate ways.
    • In one of the final events of the story, Chiaki encourages Nodame out of her slump by getting them to play the piece they first performed together, Mozart's Sonata for Two Pianos in D major.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Most of the maestros featured in the series are like that, such as Stresemann with his pervertedness and Viera with his obsession for toys. Even Nodame's teacher in Paris, Professor Auclair, is pretty quirky too.
  • The Cameo: Hige Danshaku in season two during Nodame's recital at a French castle. Hige Danshaku is a manzai duo whose theme is that of a French-born Japanese nobleman (Louis Yamada LIII) and his butler (Higuchi-kun). In the manga, the microbes from Moyashimon make an appearance in Nodame's curry!
  • The Capital Of Brazil Is Buenos Aires: When Chiaki goes to São Paulo, in Brazil, the guy that received him in the airport takes him to the beach. Almost everyone knows that city has no beaches so near. Some other related stereotypes are also shown, played straight and Lampshaded.
  • Catch Phrase: "GYABOOOOOOO!"
  • Chain Letter: Masumi sends one to Nodame when he first hears about her closeness to Chiaki, and orchestrates several bad luck pranks on her.
  • Chekhov's Gift: The pocket watch Stresemann left with Nodame turns out to be instrumental in helping Chiaki to overcome his phobia of flying.
  • Child Prodigy: Several, unsurprisingly. Nodame herself used to be one as a little girl, Season 2's Sun Rui started performing internationally at age 10, and Luca is a child also accepted into the same conservatory as Nodame. Of course, neither compares to the real life child prodigy in season 2, Mozart!
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Plenty of them, ranging from Nodame to Yadovika, the Hungarian composer and Theremin player girl.
  • Compressed Adaptation:
    • The first series had 23 episodes to cover the first nine volumes of the manga and didn't leave out much. The next series had 11 episodes to cover the next seven - yes, people noticed. The third season drops a storyline completely to fit the rest of the material in.
    • The Japanese drama took minor stories out but otherwise covered the first nine volumes. The two specials that followed covered the next seven volumes - while the first special episode covers the conducting competition arc fully and accurately, the second episode cuts out even more than Paris-hen. The following movies also cut out a lot of stories, mostly ones relating to the supporting characters.
  • Concert Climax: Many episodes culminate with these, especially milestone concerts for orchestras and its performers.
  • Conspicuous CG:
    • Close-ups of musical instruments are clearly computer-rendered.
    • Same goes for the characters playing those instruments. Sometimes it can make a concert scene look realistic in ways that normal animation just can't pull off.
  • Contrived Coincidence:
    • Earlier Chiaki initially decides to live in Prague when he learns Nodame was going to Paris. Then it's revealed that his father is relocating to Prague, and his mother knows that Shinichi would not want to make contact with him - sure enough he also moves to Paris with Nodame.
    • Nodame hears Ravel's Piano Concerto in G Major for the first time and is inspired to perform it with Chiaki. However, that is also the same piece Chiaki is to perform with Rui. It absolutely breaks both of them when they find out separately.
  • Cooland Unusual Punishment: After taking first place during his first conducting competition in France, Chiaki is kidnapped by Elise, Franz von Stresemann's agent and manager, with the goal of forcing him to sign on with her publicity agency. When he refuses even after being beaten up by one of her bodyguards, she resorts to tickling him with backscratchers until he submits.
  • Covers Always Lie: Most of the manga covers show Nodame playing instruments she does not play.
  • Covert Pervert:
    • Quite a few, whether it be Nodame trying to take Chiaki's shirt off or the replacement violinist Takahashi watching Chiaki take his off in the change room. Though it’s mostly all played for laughs.
    • Chiaki surprisingly exhibits some aspects of this too, such as his reaction when he discovered Nodame is actually a Hidden Buxom and his reactions to girls with revealing chests in his face.
  • Demoted to Extra: Almost the entire supporting cast of season one less Kuroki the Oboe player don't come back to season 2-3. Some of them return in Finale's episode 0 DVD special as well as a few cameos in the season itself. Justified by the setting change from Japan to Europe.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Quite a few due to the many All Love Is Unrequited instances, such as Kuroki for Nodame, Nodame for Chiaki (sometimes), Masumi for Chiaki, Son Rui for Chiaki...
  • Dojikko: Nodame's clumsiness is often quite over the top.
  • Dream Team: The Rising Star Orchestra is formed as this, in which the members from fellow schools were selected.
  • Elegant Classical Musician: Almost every female character, and almost all of the guys, too. A given since they all play classical music and look awesome by default when playing.
  • Flower Motifs: The usual emotional changing of the background to flowers, feathers, or whathaveyou. Do mongooses and fake anime characters count?
  • Forgets to Eat: Both Chiaki and Nodame do this when engrossed in serious practice or study.
  • Genre Shift: Although a romantic comedy, Nodame Cantabile focuses a great deal on classical music appreciation.
  • Homage Shot: The reference to Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind in Finale series of the anime, episode 10.
  • Host Club: Gender-inverted with the club "One More Kiss" which Stresemann frequents.
  • I Was Quite a Looker: The college director in her younger days. So much so that she could attract both the then upcoming conductor Stresemann and violinist Kai Dunn.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: In the 1st Season, episodes are numbered "Lesson". In the latter 2 seasons, they are numbered "Leçon" (Lesson on French)
  • Imagined Innuendo:
    Nodame: "Do you remember what happened last night?"
  • Josei
  • Just Friends / Better as Friends: Stresemann and the school's principal decided to be this after the principal had an illness that stopped her from playing the piano when she was younger. Stresemann's assistant Elise mentioned that if not for this illness, the two of them may have become lovers.
  • Kotatsu: Proves to be the bane of Chiaki's existence. IT TURNS PEOPLE INTO LAZY SLOBS! He has Nodame to thank for introducing it to him, and almost ruining his life there and then. When he finally gets the chance to clean up his apartment and throw the table away, Nodame takes it from the trash and mentions how someone threw out a perfectly good Kotatsu. Chiaki was less than thrilled about it.
  • Last Minute Hookup: Implied to be getting there with Son Rui and Frank.
  • Lethal Chef: Nodame and Son Rui displays all the usual traits, although Nodame can at least manage rice balls.
  • Level Scaling: Chiaki's competitions and Nodame's exams. They overcome their challenges in Japan, move to France, and find out everyone in France is ten levels higher.
  • Literally Loving Thy Neighbor: Nodame and Chiaki are next-door neighbors in their apartment complex.
  • Live-Action Adaptation: A Japanese drama adaptation aired in 2006 followed by two special episodes and two movies, and a Korean adaptation "Naeil Cantabile" started airing in 2014.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: There's a few orchestras to deal with, so naturally, there are a lot of characters.
  • Local Hangout: There's Uraken, the Chinese restaurant owned by Mine's father and is close to the university.
  • Love Bubbles: Featured in Mine's hilarious Imagine Spot of Chiaki.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Nodame to Chiaki. Chiaki takes a while to warm to Nodame, though.
  • Manly Tears:
    • Everyone, including Chiaki and Kiyora, get a bit teary as they realize this may be their last concert together before they all go their separate ways.
    • This is also the response that the music critic in Season 1 gives for one of Chiaki's performances.
  • Misfit Mobilization Moment: The S Orchestra's performance at the school festival, going from dead-lasts to impressive performers and shocking everyone who's mocked them.
  • Missed Him by That Much: Nodame and Chiaki frequently go through this when looking for each other (or one of them doing so anyways), such as when Chiaki is out drinking with his new orchestra and just passes a distraught Nodame who's looking for Chiaki for comfort.
  • Mistaken Identity: A non-comical example when the Roux-Marlet Orchestra is lacking members for a concert, so Chiaki calls up Nodame to play the celesta. Nodame is incredibly overjoyed, but when she arrives at the theater, Rui takes her to the entrance—and Theo recognizes the world-famous concert pianist instead, assuming that Rui was the one Chiaki called in.
  • My Hovercraft Is Full of Eels: Subverted. As Nodame learns French, she's taught "everyday phrases" that are anything but everyday. Nodame being Nodame, however, is fully aware of the translation of these phrases and is confident that they will be useful.
  • Noblewoman's Laugh: Chiaki's agent from the second season. Amusingly, in the anime's second season, Nodame adopts this laugh (as well as a new voice) as she passes herself off as Chiaki's wife to the orchestra staff.
  • Not What It Looks Like: Nodame encounters Saiko and Chiaki in what appears to be a compromising situation at one point. Subverted later when Saiko wants to turn it into exactly what it looks like.
  • Odd Couple: Ambitious perfectionist Chiaki with the wild and uncontrollable Nodame.
  • Official Couple: Not hard to figure out that its Chiaki and Nodame. For starters, they appear together in every anime opening and every credit sequence. And during the course of the show, not one of the other suitors that appear, for either character, pose any serious romantic challenge. Furthermore the main premise and appeal of the show revolves around the evolving relationship between them. Opposites Attract indeed...
  • Official Couple Ordeal Syndrome: Even after they've achieved the goal of going to Europe together, Nodame and Chiaki still discover the importance of their relationship in addition to furthering their own goals and aspirations.
  • Once More with Clarity: It's established that Chiaki's fear of planes came from the sudden emergency landing he experienced returning to Japan. Then Nodame uses hypnotherapy to cure his phobia, and it's revealed that a young Chiaki was drawn to the elderly couple next to him because they had also attended a performance conducted by Vieira. During the landing, the husband started to suffer from a heart attack and Chiaki was the only one who saw his medicine bottle roll away out of his reach. The old man died shortly after and Chiaki believed he was guilty for being the only one who saw this and couldn't help.
  • Opposites Attract: A few.
    • Nodame, a carefree ditzy girl, with Chiaki, a serious and stern guy.
    • Tanya, a flashy and fierce Russian, and Kuroki, a calm and socially-awkward Japanese.
  • Otaku:
    • Nodame, who is a big fan of Puri Gorota, and Frank who also owns a lot of anime merchandise, although soon after he admits he's nothing compared to Nodame.
    • The owner of the castle Nodame stays at for her recital is a masive Mozart geek. He practically has his significant dates and exact length of his lifetime memorised.
  • Paper Fan of Doom: Harisen-sensei is named after his paper fan, which is instrumental in causing the rift between him and Chiaki. He later gives it up in order to convince Nodame to take lessons from him.
  • Pastel-Chalked Freeze Frame: The anime uses these a lot during concerts to save the energy of having to animate every single movement of the instrumentalists.
  • Pimped-Out Dress:
    • Masumi wears one, which he made himself, for the S Orchestra's performance of "Rhapsody in Blue" in Episode 10.
    • At the feasts on the night of Nodame's first recital, everyone dresses up in the same clothes as Mozart's time, so we have the ladies including Tanya in all sorts of pimped out dresses. Except for Nodame, who opts for a male outfit to mimic Mozart in her recital.
  • P.O.V. Boy, Poster Girl: Nodame is the titular character, but the story is mostly told through Chiaki's perspective and inner thoughts.
  • Product Placement: The show is sponsored by Yamaha. Guess what brand every piano is. It's not that surprising since a lot of music-school pianos are Yamahas even in France.
  • Race for Your Love: Chiaki has two instances of this, although he is not in danger of losing Nodame forever — he just has important revelations regarding what she means to him.
    • The first one has him going all the way from Tokyo to Kyushu to find Nodame, who returned to her hometown.
    • Then later in the Europe story arc, after Nodame has had her own doubts about performing and goes to play with some local schoolkids, Chiaki runs over to see her.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits:
    • The S-Orchestra is this. When they are recruited by Stresemann, many of the members are so-called underachievers, and Chiaki especially got frustrated during their practices. Their delivering smash-hit performances in concert is a classic Zero To Hero story.
    • Then there's the Roux-Marlet Orchestra, when Chiaki is to become their permanent conductor and finds that the members are in disarray.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Nodame - red, Chiaki - blue.
  • Running Gag:
    • Chiaki purchasing canned food whenever something is troubling him.
    • Stresemann trying to cop a feel on Nodame.
  • Save Our Team: Of the musical variety with the orchetra. Starring Chiaki in his first full-time conducting job with Paris' Roux-Marlet Orchestra. The orchestra itself has a storied and prestigious 150 year long history, and was conducted in the past by Chiaki's famous mentor, Franz von Stresemann. But when Chiaki becomes it's regular conductor, he finds it has fallen on harder times. Its short on members, and those who remain are unmotivated and demoralized by a recent streak of lacklustre performances. After an absolutely dismal concert with Chiaki conducting, he vows bring the orchestra back to its former glory. He did it before with the S Orchestra in Season 1, and he'll do it again.
  • Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl: Nodame the Energetic Girl, due to being the bubbly Genki Girl, to Chiaki's Savvy Guy, the uptight Only Sane Man.
  • School Festival: Which leads to an absolutely brilliant performance by Nodame and the "S Orchestra".
  • Secret Test of Character: Tanioka's first assignment for Nodame and Chiaki is to perform Mozart's Sonata for Two Pianos. Chiaki thinks it is a lesson for the technically inept Nodame, but after the performance is a success, it's revealed that it's also a lesson for himself, in learning to cooperate and work with others.
  • Sequel Escalation: In the second season, Chiaki and Nodame move to Paris. Yes, it's harder than Tokyo.
  • Sequel Goes Foreign: The original story arc in Japan concludes with Nodame and Chiaki being set to go to Europe, and their adventures continue abroad.
  • She Is Not My Girlfriend: Even when she is, Chiaki still treats Nodame this way. He still has trouble saying it on a whim, but eventually he stops correcting people who refer to her as his girlfriend in the Paris seasons.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Live-action, end of third episode: "SIEG ZEON!!!".
    • In Paris-hen, the next door neighbor, Frank, is an otaku who collects merchandise of Shakogan no Shana, another JC Staff anime.
  • Show Within a Show: Puri Gorota - Type 2 (Nodame is a huge fan of it) and 3 (the very existence of that show made a difference).
  • Shy Finger Twiddling: Done by Nodame when she asks Chiaki out.
  • Single Issue Psychology: Played with; Chiaki had a bad experience on a plane as a kid and developed a crushing fear of non-land based travel as a result. It only takes one hypnotherapy session with Nodame and he's "cured" - however she just makes him completely forget the incident, instead of curing the fear. It's seen afterwards that he's still comically afraid of non-land based travel, it's just that he can take it when there aren't any other options.
  • Single Girl Seeks Most Popular Guy: Nodame towards Chiaki. Fortunately, they are neighbors and opportunities come for both of them to greatly help each other.
  • Slice of Life
  • Stalking Is Funny If It Is Female After Male: Nodame, of course. And, yes, in season two it's shown she does have those sort of photos of Chiaki and she does want to do that with Chiaki. One does not want to know how many times she sniffs him.
  • 10-Minute Retirement: There are several instances where Nodame loses focus and seriously considers quitting piano lessons. Sometimes she recovers herself, sometimes Chiaki needs to help her regain her focus.
  • This and That: When Stresemann first meets Nodame, he attempts to seduce her, and refers to this when going to a love hotel. Nodame is oblivious as to his meaning, but Chiaki, still within earshot, gets it and steps in to intervene.
  • Training from Hell: Working with Chiaki is like this, as people like the S Orchestra and Nodame find out the hard way.
  • Train-Station Goodbye: A brief, accidental one when Nodame goes with Chiaki to the station intent on accompanying him to Prague. Chiaki kicks her off, only to realize his rival Jean is accompanied by his girlfriend Yuko. He is only able to share a last glance with Nodame as he leaves. Averted because Nodame goes to Prague with Frank for an anime festival and she stays with Chiaki for the rest of his competition.
  • Translation Convention:
    • Kai Dunn of the Berlin Philharmonic arrives in one episode, but has only a limited grasp of Japanese. While the episode renders everything in Japanese, handy notes appear whenever the characters are in fact speaking German.
    • The second season takes place in France, so all the characters in France, including Russians and Chinese, are speaking perfect Japanese in a fansub with English subtitles.
    • Lampshaded and justified when the live-action series shifts to Europe. It is explained a short way into the two-part special and the two films that the characters will speak or be dubbed in Japanese to reduce the need for subtitles on-screen.
  • Trash of the Titans: Nodame's apartment. Chiaki just can't resist cleaning it up. He hilariously faces deja vu as he visit Rui's apartment in France and sees she's just as bad as Nodame, and he has to stop himself from instinctively trying to clean it as if it was Nodame's.
  • Tsundere: A few characters especially toward their love interests - Chiaki to Nodame, Tanya to Kuroki, Kiyora to Mine. They all get snappy or somehow provoked by said love interests but deep down they really cherish them.
  • Unsound Effect:
    • Not exactly a sound effect, but, in the manga, you can't hear the actual music. The manga simply states the name of the song being played — and if you aren't familiar with the song, you're stuck with just the pretty pictures. It's also hard to know how well or badly the characters are playing.
    • Nodame's badger, whose presence is seen in Nodame's emotional outbursts.
  • Uptight Loves Wild: Chiaki, the neatfreak who is very technical with his music, to Nodame, a very wild and spontaneous pianist who has a Trash of the Titans apartment.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: The end give some insight of what happens to some characters.
  • Will They or Won't They?: Nodame and Chiaki. In the first season of the anime they seem to get together in the end. For the second season this apparently has been reset with Chiaki constantly denying they are dating.
  • Work Off the Debt: An interesting variant when Nodame has her first recital; the owner doesn't want the others to dine in their feast for free and so makes them dress-up the same way as Mozart's time and also makes them perform.
  • Worthy Opponent: A few which helps characters set goals and strive to become better.
    • Despite displaying some traits of a musical Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy, french conductor Jean Donnadieu is this during Chiaki's first conducting competition in France. Its actually his girlfriend Yuuko who does most of the trash talking, much to his chagrin.
    • Rui and Nodame towards each other. Nodame's in awe of Rui's talent and prestige and her ability to play with Chiaki, and so she often strives to be as good as her. Little to her knowledge, Rui also views her as one - despite being a Cloud Cuckoo Lander, Nodame's interesting, erratic and spontaneous playing and her ability to draw people with it is what makes Rui jealous herself.