Nodame Cantabile Rewatch and my introduction to Japanese Live Action

by eternal on September 21, 2009

Nodame Cantabile live action

A few months ago on Twitter, Moritheil of Anime Diet proposed one of those ever popular communal rewatches that always seem to make the experience more fun. A couple posts have already been done to get the ball rolling , but I was busy drowning in my backlog toward the end of the summer and so I’m more than a little late to the party.

At any rate, there’s one aspect of modern Japanese media that I’ve always been illiterate in: live-action dramas. Admittedly, I’m not even well-versed in Western live-action films, favouring video games as a child, and I’ve only seen a couple anime-irrelevant Japanese live action movies (although one was directed by Hideaki Anno and the other was scored by Joe Hisaishi.) Most of my knowledge of the medium comes from little clips I’ve seen on my classmates’ computers and Hinano‘s screencaps. Needless to say, it’s about time I took a look at the medium for myself and figure out what I’ve been missing.

Besides, there’s promise of GYABO in here. How can it go wrong?

Nodame Cantabile live action (3)

The first ep begins with a pleasant shot of Prague. There are points in which it felt more like a cheap tourism ad than anything else, but it builds anticipation nicely. European imagery and motifs (and, well, music) is ever-present in the series, and it was one of my favourite aspects when I first watched the anime.

Nodame Cantabile live action (4)

As the introduction continues, Chiaki’s very own Vieira is conducting an orchestra in an impressive concert hall, which is apparently the norm over in Prague. The music plays in the background as we’re introduced to Young Chiaki and told of his early encounter with the Maestro.

Nodame Cantabile live action (5)

Nodame Cantabile live action (6)

The plane should tell you enough about the show’s quality of special effects (it looks even worse in motion), but I was impressed by the introduction of Chiaki as an adult. Lots of dramatic fades and transitions accompanied by the orchestra from his past, and a light-drenched room that feels like someone forgot to close the camera’s shutter – which is exactly the kind of thing that I like. The scattered sheet music on the ground is quick and careful exposition, moreso if you don’t already know him as a character. He might be a little untidy, but he’s no slacker.

Nodame Cantabile live action (16)

Moving along, I thoroughly enjoyed the short campus scene as Chiaki discontentedly dismisses the unskilled students around him. It was almost the same as in the anime, but it reminded me of what a distinctive character the guy really is. He can be a little on the pretentious side, but he’ll always remain as one of the few bishounen I can genuinely respect.

Nodame Cantabile live action (7)

Nodame Cantabile live action (9)

Nodame Cantabile live action (8)

And of course, the turning point. Like in the anime, there isn’t much talk about music theory; it’s portrayed in a light that anyone can understand. In this case, Nodame’s piano almost feels like a visual performance rather than an aural one. The slow transitions work well in all of the piano and music scenes, but Chiaki’s narration as he finds brilliance in the sloppiness of her performance in this scene is the icing on the cake.

Nodame Cantabile live action (10)

Nodame Cantabile live action (11)

Anyway, when you’re not in it for the music or light slice-of-life romance, there’s definitely one element that glues the whole story together: hijinks! And it’s here, all right, to the same degree that you’d expect.

By the way, she’s holding his belt. Make of that what you may.

Nodame Cantabile live action (12)

I still wonder how she manages to walk around without crushing anything.

Nodame Cantabile live action (13)

I honestly can’t remember Afro-tan’s full name (or gender), but she’s here, and she’s as awkward as she should be.

Nodame Cantabile live action (15)

Suffice to say, I LOL’D. They managed to pull off both this and the subsequent Chiaki KICK as if it were the most normal thing in the world.

Nodame Cantabile live action (14)

Oh yeah, he’s German. At least he does the accent pretty well.

Nodame Cantabile live action (1)

Nodame Cantabile live action (2)

Finally, with the usual comedy aside, we reach the climax: the real turning point in Chiaki’s musical career, as he plays successfully with Nodame and remembers the fun in music. As fans of the anime would know, it’s the beginning of an extremely unlikely and all-around awkward relationship, but we all know that those two need each other, even if they seem like complete opposites.

– – –

All in all, I’m pleased with the first episode, though that’s largely due to the fact that I liked the original series. The romance undertones are nice, but personally, the setting will always be the biggest draw. The whole concept of a music academy is alien to me, and the sheer novelty of an anime centered around a group of classical music students is…well, music to my ears. The best thing about Nodame is that they use the setting to their advantage, playing ample music in the background and spending enough time talking about the concerts and rehearsals, without making it feel like you’re actually at school. The biggest danger with shows like these is that they introduce a novel concept and promptly forget about it a couple weeks later, but luckily I know that won’t happen here.

As far the live action medium goes, I’m mostly neutral to it. “Apathetic” sounds negative, but really, the medium didn’t make much of an impact on me. Maybe it’s because it felt considerably lower budget than your average Hollywood movie (as with my prior experiences with Japanese film), but the directing and acting didn’t feel too different from an anime, aside from the obvious differences. On the plus side, it always looks better to have real people perform musical instruments than to try to animate it, and it’s doubly funny to see Chiaki’s and Nodame’s rom-com hijinks acted out.

In conclusion, I can see myself enjoying this rewatch, and I’d recommend the drama to anyone who wants to re-experience the series but still wants to try something new. At the very least, I know that Nodame can whet my appetite for classical music without forgetting to keep things fun.


{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

RP September 21, 2009 at 10:42 pm

It took me a few episodes to really warm up to the live action version, mostly because it took me that long to realize that I should watch it like I was watching a live-action version of an anime, and not your normal sitcom. I thought the most striking thing, initially, was how over the top everything is, especially all of Chiaki’s angry expressions. At first, I just chalked it up to the typical asian comedy overacting. But then I realized that they were trying emulate the wacky facial reactions from the anime (or so I think).

I thought the casting for Nodame was great. Mine, Masumi, and of course, Stresseman too (lol’d at the accent everytime). I thought Chiaki looked the part, but it took me about half the season before I liked his performance, because I think the early episodes made him seem more angrier than I thought he was in the anime. Plus, until he finally cracks a smile during the S-orchestra episode, most of the time he didn’t look at the other actors or at the camera while he was speaking. I’m guessing that was to show how annoyed he was with everyone, but it just pissed me off. But eventually he won me over.

I did like the actors performing the instruments, but they were so out of sync in the earlier episodes, I think I preferred the panning images in the anime. But to their credit, they did improve as the season went along. And I guess they got a real orchestra for the Paris special, because that was fantastic.

Overall, nitpicks aside, it was a real fun ride. I think I still prefer the anime, but I have nothing but kudos for the live version for giving off the same vibe that the anime did.

Whoops, sorry. TL;DR: I need more GYABOS! or MUKYAAS! in my life =D


Ryan A September 21, 2009 at 11:38 pm

Twas mah first Nodame experience, and it was grand. Another notch for 2006 <3

The plane should tell you enough about the show’s quality of special effects

lol, yes. Many dramas are made of cheesy things as such, but at least the acting goes well for this one (sometimes dramas can have some cheesy acting also, but I guess they’re getting better… haven’t watched anything recent O.o).

It’s pretty nice that you started this around the same time it originally aired 3 years ago :) Though I love some Nodame live-action in the Winter time.

Keep going! I’m feeling compelled to do the same.


moritheil September 23, 2009 at 7:09 am

I’m actually working at it from a slightly different angle of attack. This pleases me; like proverbial blind men, we’ll each take one corner of the giant elephant that is Nodame, and sexually harass our way into enlightenment.


animemiz October 5, 2009 at 11:35 pm

Ahhh the memories of watching Nodame Live Action.. well this is my preferred format of the other formats – anime or manga.. excellent casting for most of the roles. Matsumi is acted by Koide Keisuke who is in Rookies, and what I wrote before on Cyborg She


ghostlightning October 12, 2009 at 7:59 am

I couldn’t enjoy the anime because I saw this first. I love this show OH GOD I love this show. Because of my relentless, repeated viewings of this show and the specials, I can easily identify whenever the 4h movement of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony would appropriately score a battle in Legend of the Galactic Heroes, or how the 2nd movement of Beethoven’s 8th piano sonata would score a (melo)dramatic moment in the same…

I went to Cecil Licad’s concert where she played Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto #2. It was every bit as stunning as I thought it would be after watching and listening to Chiaki play it with the A Oke again and again and again and again.

This show changed my musical taste forever and I can’t thank you enough for making me remember love.


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