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Review: Nodame Cantabile

Nodame Cantabile is fundamentally an exploration of the qualities that a person needs to rise to the very top of a competitive field. Ultimately, it requires both natural talent and intensely devoted hard work, but is the payoff of being the best worth the personal penalties associated with such obsessive attention? Might it not be better to just be very good, and really enjoy the work, without seeking total perfection? A simple approach to these questions would result in some sort of persuasive essay being written. Instead, the author chose to produce an anime series, and ended up with a rather good one.

This series is about student musicians in a good conservatory in Tokyo. All of them are both skilled and talented, but in varying degrees, and they each want to get better. Each character explores the consequences of a particualr approach. Does this sound boring? Consider then the characters: a genius who’s been working since he was 3 to increase his skills, but who can barely deal with the rest of the world because they can’t compete with him. A person with huge natural talent, but no inclination to develop it to its full potential. A person with no real talent, but ambition enough to drive him to work for his success. These characters, and the rest of them, feel interesting; they feel real. It’s hard not to care about what happens to them.

When I was young, I took several years of piano lessons. Though I was taught to sight-read music, it was always much easier to listen to a piece a few times, then just recreate what I had heard. One week, my teacher assigned me a new song to learn to play. I came to the next lesson proud that I could play it perfectly. Much to my dismay, my teacher was unimpressed with my efforts; I had unconsciously transposed the piece from G into C. This sort of memory, plus my own life experience with respect to professional learning versus career choices, have lead me to empathize tremendously with one of the characters. This may well have biased me in favor of the series.

This series spends a tremendous amount of time on orchestral and piano versions of various classical pieces. If you actively dislike classical music, you may want to stay away from this, but I wouldn’t take that too far; the music is a lot of fun to listen to, even to someone who doesn’t take an active interest in the genre.

There’s not a whole lot else to say. This series has nice characters and an interesting theme; an unusual romance subplot and unique characters. The only thing which keeps it from getting a top rating is the relatively narrow range of people who will probably enjoy it most.

genre: semi-professional musician drama
emotion: I should have kept up with my piano lessons
BTFS: .86

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