Nodame Cantabile

Nodame Cantabile のだめカンタービレ is an ongoing manga by Tomoko Ninomiya.  This story is based upon a real character by the same name.

The manga has been adapted to 2 seasons of anime (S1: 2007 • S2: 2008) and tv drama.

The tv drama has two movies in conjunction with the new third season, one to be released on December 19, 2009 and the final part will premier in the spring of 2010. The drama stars Hiroshi Tamaki as Shinichi Chiaki and Juri Ueno as Megumi “Nodame” Noda, who I think did a terrific job on portraying their characters – true to the anime/manga. Juri Ueno went on to win “Best Lead Actress” at the 51st Television Drama Academy Awards in 2007 for her role as Nodame.


(The manga has been put on hold in 2008 and early 2009 due to the writer’s bouts with health issues.)

Megumi Noda, aka Nodame, is an extremely talented pianist in a music conservatory, who forgets to shower for days, steals lunch boxes from friends, loves the anime PuriGorota and most of all, comes from a poor, musically illiterate family. “Gyabo!”

Chiaki Senpai

Chiaki Senpai

Shinichi Chiaki, aka Chiaki Senpai, is the school’s top music student who excels in everything except human relationship.  He is an excellent pianist and violinist who aspire to be an exceptional conductor under the tutelage of his childhood sensei but is hampered by his fear of flight. Chiaki’s favorite phrase, ”何ちゃこれ?!臭い!” “Nancha kore?!  KUSAI!” (What the hell is this!  It stinks!) – in reference to Nodame and/or her apartment.

The two opposite characters are brought together by a chance meeting, which soon develops into mutual appreciation and then love for each other. Season 1 for both anime and TV drama is set in Japan where the relationship is first developed and Chiaki gets a taste of conducting.  Nodame’s character blossoms from playing by ear to a technical interpreter of music.  She also gives him the gift of flight, finally allowing him to leave Japan to pursue his dreams in Europe, and to expand his horizons. In her heart of hearts, she never thought that she would be able to go to Paris, not with her technic or skills, and more so not her family’s financial standing.

However, not wanting to give up on Chiaki, she then joins a piano competition that promises a scholarship to Paris. After training and practicing day and night, until she fell sick, she finally passed two rounds of the competition before slipping on the final round. Disheartened, she runs away.

My all time favorite part of both anime and drama is this scene – when he realizes that he actually loves her. After she runs away from the piano competition and hides herself away at her family’s countryside home, Chiaki comes running after her. He then convinces her to go to Paris with him to train themselves even harder.

Chiaki finds Nodame in her hometown after she runs away from the piano competition

Chiaki finds Nodame in her hometown after she runs away from the piano competition

Season 2 for the anime and drama is set in Paris where the pair has an almost falling out.  Nodame is “stuck” in Paris, while Chiaki travels around Europe for conducting opportunities. The little time that they spend together ends up almost inconsequential as neither knows how to express themselves. My favorite piece of the series is Nodame interpretation of Mozart’s 12 piano variations “Ah vous dirai-je, maman,” (“Twinkle twinkle little star”) during the Mozart festival at a nobleman’s estate. There too, Chiaki falls back in love with Nodame’s boundless talent and dexterity, and kisses her at the end of the night.


Nodame Cantabile  Special Best (Japan Version)

nodame special best cover



Season 3 – Nodame Cantabile: Finale

After much delay, season 3 (and the finale) returned in January 14, 2010 and ran through April 2010. Set in Paris, where they last left off, Chiaki is pursuing his dream of being the best conductor (as good a his Viera Sensei), and Nodame is trying to live up to her potential of being an exceptional pianist to perform in an orchestra with Chiaki. Will things finally turn out well for the two?

January 14, 2010: Lesson 1

Chiaki leaves their flat to concentrate on his next performance with the Marlet Orchestra, while Nodame is loaded with new practice pieces (including J.S. Bach’s Piano Concerto in D minor BWV 1052) after she asks her professor to allow her to participate in a “concour” – a competition. She becomes disgruntled and doesn’t understand why Chiaki has to leave, but misses him so. Even then, as Chiaki falls ill she pushes on with learning her assignments. They next time the pair meet, Chiaki has another concert. Unbeknown to Nodame, Chiaki is not only conducting the orchestra, but playing a piano piece. Much to her surprise, it’s the identical Bach piece that she has been assigned to. Not only has he captured the audience as a young conductor, but he now amazes them as a flawless pianist with Bach’s technical piece. That night, after the concert, Chiaki returns to his apartment hoping that Nodame will be in his room to celebrate. But instead, she ignores him and tells him that he is being unfair. Suddenly, she realizes how far ahead Chiaki really is from her. Will she really be able to perform with him in an orchestra one day? Or will she forever be chasing his shadow?

One good news, she has a call back for a concert by the same proprietor at Saint-Malo of the Mozart festival.

In the mean time, Chinese pianist Rui has dropped her current boyfriend like a hot potato after witnessing Chiaki talents once again. Maybe she has her designs on him.

January 21, 2010: Lesson 2

Chiaki is moving out. Nodame is shocked to learn this, but quickly consoles herself when Chiaki says that she “can” visit him sometime. Immediately she asks for a key, and rattles of a bunch of nonsense about needing his shirt everyday causing him to once again think her a strange and perverted person.

Rui finally gets a chance to learn from Professor Auclair, as a private tutor, when he refused her change of professor in school. Nodame is the only person he has personally asked to be his pupil.


During their lesson, Rui barges in, begging to be allowed to sit in quietly to watch. As she watches the interaction between the student and the professor, she realizes that she doesn’t get that kind of attentive criticism and guidance. Furthermore, as Nodame plays Scarlatti fluidly and dexterously, she becomes enraptured in the light and gentle sounds traveling from the piano keys. She immediately copies the movements, but is stopped by Professor Auclair who is irritated by this distraction. “If you’re not going to be quiet, then it’s best you leave.”

With that, Rui becomes envious of Nodame and runs to Chiaki after a troublesome visit by her mother pushing her to take on a job while she is studying.

January 28, 2010: Lesson 3

Rui has fallen for Chiaki, except he doesn’t notice her, and doesn’t care for her that way. She pushes her mom to set up a concert for her in Paris where Chiaki is the conductor and she the pianist with the Wiltord Orchestra. Her wish is as she commands. Chiaki doesn’t know if it’s Rui or her mom being overbearing, but doesn’t pass up the chance to gain more experience.

Chiaki misses Nodame’s salon performance for Madame Lambert as he bumps into his idolized Sebastiano Viera conductor/teacher.

nodame at the salon

At the salon, Nodame plays Bach’s Italian Concerto BWV 971 Op. 19 No. 1, several pieces from Mendelssohn’s Song without Words and Chopin’s Polonaise-Fantasie in A flat Major, Opus 61. During the break, she receives news that Chiaki will not show up and decides to be a “professional player” and step up the plate. She performs Franz Liszt’s Deux Legendes No.1: St. Francois d’Assise, Albéniz’s Iberia Book 1, No. 3 and for encore, Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride. Her entire performance was well-received by the gentries but it feels like something is still holding her back (probably due to the lack of appearance of a certain somebody). However, without Chiaki’s presence, her final “mukya!” at the end could be a harbinger for their relationship to come.

February 4, 2010: Lesson 4

That night, he stumbles into her room drunk, after her return from the salon performance and his very pronounce absence. She chastises him, by making him sit as a dog to explain. He tells her that he met with Viera sensei, who is taking over Lippi’s conducting duties after Lippi’s untimely demise. Chiaki tells Nodame that he missed her performance for a rehearsal. She then banned him altogether from all her salon performances from then on.

Then he drops a bombshell on her in the morning, furthering their distance (as she notices, but it blatantly passes him by). It seems he will be in Italy, studying under the tutelage of Viera at an opera house where he is the music director. Besides that, there is the performance with Rui and the Wiltord Orchestra in May.

Meanwhile Nodame gets a call from Madame Lambert’s butler, who was very kind, to her to ensure her safe return home. But all Chiaki hears is a man calling Nodame, and she telling him about her bra and a zipper mishap. Next, another boy calls her up asking to pick her up to head to school together.

His “date” with her was just casually mentioning that she is invited for the next day’s memorial concert for Lippi featuring Sebastiano Viera conducting Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, Resurrection. After their night out, he tells her he will be off to Italy the next day.  It looks like this star-crossed lovers are just not meant to be.

Meanwhile, the flat mates have all return from the respective concours. Tanya, who is desperately trying to perfect her art sees Kuroki, HER oboist, talking to a Japanese girl. After much digging, she finds out that he’s just looking after a fellow countrymen after a promise to a professor. When the Japanese girl doesn’t make the cut in the exam, Tanya knows that Kuroki is all hers. At the end of the night, after Kuroki crashes under Nodame’s kotatsu, Tanya sneaks in a kiss. Not sure if Kuroki enjoyed that or not?!

February 11, 2010: Lesson 5

Tanya passes the first round of her concours, while Yun Loong with his nerves (aces his Bach piece but totally forgets the piece he is supposed to play next) fails it and decides instead to teach little rich children how to play the instrument in China. He finally breaks out of his angst and supports Tanya on her musical quest and romantic journey with Kuroki. All the joy is quickly deflated when Tanya is failed on her next performance on the whim of a judge – because she speaks louder than her art. Even though her Schumann is flawless, one judge decides her faith.

That night, Nodame strolls into Chiaki’s bathroom (I thought he was off to Italy with Viera sensei already) as he is showering and has a casual conversation with him. Standing there in the buff, Chiaki is at first shocked, but then he too carries on a conversation with her, until he realizes that once again, THIS IS WRONG!! A little humor…watching the two interact. She doesn’t find anything wrong with it, and he is too modest but at the same time, gets drawn into her carefree ways too.

Tanya now knows that she will have to leave Paris without a sponsor and without winning any competitions. However, Kuroki offers his place to her. She rejects him outright, saying that he is not her boyfriend to do something like that for her. Or are they?

Nonetheless, Nodame and Frank head to the final of the competition and there they are presented with pieces including Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G major. Nodame, on a high from the competition, runs home and plays that piece from memory in front of Chiaki, Yun Loong and Kuroki and totally blows them away. After claiming that as “their song” to be performed together, Rui emails Chiaki to inform him that their piece for the concert will be the same Piano Concerto by Ravel. Will he rebuff her? Can Chiaki save this round for Nodame? Will he be man enough to finally do something for BOTH of them after seeing her exuberance? Or will he once again, let her down?

February 18, 2010: Lesson 6

Chiaki is about to break Nodame’s heart. Her dreams of playing Ravel with him on a grand stage will be trampled on, just because he can’t say no to Rui. Instead of him breaking the news to her, Yun Loong does it, and of course Nodame is devastated. Crushed not for the song, but for the fact that Shinichi (which she sternly calls when telling him she knows of this) was not man enough to tell her, and thinks that she is too much of a “baby” (bebe – as Professor Auclair or Yoda sensei loves to call her, much to her irritation) to break the news to her. As she rambles on, as Chiaki sits in the car, too afraid and ashamed to face her, he finally goes up to the apartment and meets her head on with an embrace.

In the end, he gives up the trip to Italy with Viera sensei just to be on a boot camp with Nodame. He reasons that Professor Auclair is not letting her participate in competitions because when she actually does, the professor wants only the BEST results for her. The proof is in the challenging assignments that the Professor entrust her with. She has Beethoven, Chopin, Brahms, and even Saint-Saens all in less than a week. (Seriously, when we were in piano school it took us more than a week to learn ONE piece of music!) Chiaki then sits through and coaches Nodame on Chopin’s Piano Concerto. After that, it seems that Nodame picks up on the little hints left by Chiaki and want to move on without the help of Chiaki. A little aww-moment, when Chiaki discusses Beethoven’s 5th with Nodame. To stop him from letting out more “secrets” on the piece she is assigned to, she jumps on top of him. He then rolls her over and gives her a very gent kiss. Ahhh…! How romantic.

A little Tanya and Kuroki moment too in this episode. Tanya finally apologizes to Kuroki for blowing him off on his offer on his apartment and leaves. Kuroki calls out to her, and asks her to be his accompaniment on his upcoming recital/competition.

February 25 , 2010: Lesson 7

Nodame has finally “graduated” from being called a “bebe” to just plain old Megumi by Professor Auclair. She celebrates this promotion by hop-skipping around the school halls, thus quickly demoting herself once again. Auclair tells a fellow professor that soon, he will permit Nodame to participate in competitions, but they will have to keep this to themselves first.

Nodame’s new lesson, of taking on Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 31 in A flat Major, proves to be futile since her jubilation. The Third Movement of the piece is a slow recitative lament that speaks of pain and utter weariness. That is until she stops seeing Chiaki (since he too is busy with the preparation of the concert with Rui) and she suddenly realizes that Rui MAY just be a rival in love. She slowly sinks into depression and pain and then those feelings are transferred to her Beethoven piece. Unfortunately for her, another professor of hers assigns a light and cheery piece of Debussy, one that she can’t bring herself to achieve.

March 4 , 2010: Lesson 8

Oh boy oh boy! Where to begin with this episode?  The Chiaki-Rui concert went on brilliantly, as they played Ravel’s Concerto in G Major – much to Nodame’s surprise. She thought that Rui would flop playing such a light-hearted piece. But Nodame was proven wrong. So wrong that Nodame thinks that the only way she can “get back together” with Chiaki as a couple by proposing to him. Not knowing how to answer, Chiaki tells her to stop joking as he leaves for Italy. Somewhere during their time apart, Chiaki realizes what a jerk he is for not properly acknowledging her. In the meantime, Nodame is left alone to brood in Paris, and in walks Stresman. Stresman warns Nodame, that this is either goodbye, or something else for the both of them, as he asks her to play for him one last time. In pain and weariness, Nodame plays her mournful Third Movement of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 31 (and probably wows him over). It seems that Stresman might be taking on a pianist for his next performance. How can they be so together and yet so far apart in telling each other how they feel?

March 11 , 2010: Lesson 9

This is it! The beginning of everything for Nodame! She skips school, calls in sick for three days and for the following week. She has her friends in Paris looking for her, and even Chiaki starts hunting her down, even as far back as Japan.

Nodame runs off with Milhe/Stresman to prepare for her big début with the London Orchestra. The piece of choice is Chopin’s Piano Concerto in E minor Op. 11, a farewell to his Polish homeland. The piece has three movements, beginning with the Allegro maestroso, followed by a Romance in Larghetto and caps off with the Rondo Vivace. It is only after Elise, Stresman’s manager, calls Chiaki to verify Nodame’s info that Chiaki finds Nodame. He immediately flies straight to London from Italy to catch the concert.

As the orchestra introduces the piece, Nodame finally gets in on the action after a few bars. The first movement calls for it to be played majestically fast/lively (but slower than presto). Nodame, however, slows it down considerably, throwing everyone off, except for a quick-on-the-feet Stresman. The orchestra, even though thrown off guard, are totally in-sync and agree with her interpretation of the piece. When the piece finally ends with the Vivace Rondo, the room is up on their feet giving Nodame their roaring approval.

As the crowd pushes to meet with Stresman’s new débutante, Oliver (another assistant to Stresman) and Chiaki make their way through to be the first to congratulate Nodame on her success. Unfortunately, Nodame tells Oliver that she does not want to see or speak to Chiaki.

And there it is. The rift. Nodame has finally found her voice. Without Chiaki. If Chiaki still treasures Nodame, as the angel that SHE is to him, then he better buck up and do something.

March 25 , 2010: Lesson 10

Nodame is burnt out. After giving her all, AND receiving a roaring acceptance for her début, she doesn’t know if this is the end of the road. This début was to be saved for Chiaki. Instead, she came out and became a success overnight with Stresman. Unfortunately, she deals with this the only way she knows how. Running away.

Even Chiaki is left out in the cold. As the days go by, and everyone starts worrying about her disappearance, Nodame ends up in Egypt. After meeting someone who happens to be star-struck by Nodame’s appearance, she finally makes her way back to Europe. Of course, it wouldn’t be Nodame if she actually landed in the place that she wanted to – Paris. She makes a detour in Belgium, without any money left for a room, she sleeps in a store-room of a hotel, where she cries herself to sleep missing Chiaki and hugging his shirt.

Meanwhile, Professor Auclair heads to London for a competition judging and bumps into Stresman. There, he promptly reprimands his old friend for introducing Nodame before she is even ready. All is up to Nodame now, whether she returns to music and continues her dream of one day playing with Chiaki.

Nodame finally gets back to her apartment in Paris. Her friends are all surprise at her disappearance and sudden reemergence. But she ignores them all, and plays with the children that Kuroki is stuck with babysitting. Kuroki quickly texts Chiaki. Chiaki’s next move is surprising. Thinking he had lost her altogether for a while, he suddenly makes a decision to accept Nodame’s proposal when he next sees her. Basket! Bloody men, they only act when the realize that you’re slipping away.

April 1 , 2010: Final Lesson 11

They end how they began – Mozart’s piano for four hands. Very apt. One full circle. And how like Nodame to say, “Moshikashite, fall in love [le-bu]?!” (perhaps, I’ve fallen in love?!) Of course you did, you dolt!  No self-control.  Should have made him grovel even more.

This is a reminder for both of them how much they both and each love music. Chiaki realizes that Nodame has always been the one, and what’s more she has always been able to open his eyes and ears for music and make him love it even more. Nodame realizes that music, where ever and however she does it, will always be a part of her, which she will not be able to give up on. She goes back to Professor Auclair and begs to be allowed back into the Conservatory. He says, “You’re too late.” Dramatic pause, “…but, there is another exam this September, which means you’ll have to work doubly hard this summer.”

In the end, Chiaki doesn’t even mention the proposal. He really doesn’t have to with her. He got let off easy – for being such an ass. But then again, they were always meant for each other, from the first, “Nanchakore, kusai!” encounter (What is this, it reeks!) in Nodame’s trash-filled apartment in Japan.

It did wish for it to have a more conclusive ending though. A final concert performance with both of them would have been nice. Wishful thinking.

Opening Theme

“Manazashi ☆ Daydream (まなざし☆デイドリーム)” by Yuu Sakai (さかいゆう)

Ending Theme

“Kaze to Oka no Ballad (風と丘のバラード)” by Real Paradis with Nodame Orchestra

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