Note: I have decided not to do plot summaries for the time being. They take me too long to do, and I have a lot of schoolwork to finish.
This show inspired so much narcissistic nostalgia in me, the review will probably be more about me than it. Oh well…
Like many other Asian-American youths, I was forced to take piano lessons as a child. I think I stuck with it a little longer than a lot of my peers, partly because I finally got the point where it stopped being a parent-enforced thing and became enjoyable. (It also helped that I started playing jazz in high school, not just the classical music staples everyone learns–some of which are featured in this anime.) I still even play once in a while, and consider myself fairly music-literate, and am thankful now for my musical education. So when I heard about an anime that would talk about classical music, hopefully in a knowledgeable way, my ears perked up. Would they get it right and maybe even inspire people to pick up an instrument, the way Yakitate Japan! got me to start breaking bread?
The problem with many classical musicians–especially child prodigies, of which there are WAY too many in the Asian-American community…
This show, which has already received a live-action adaptation, isn’t the greatest in terms of plot or character yet; despite having the same staff and style as Honey and Clover, it’s not nearly as immediately gripping. It begins, to my slight disappointment, with a Ben Folds-style rock song rather than something more classical-sounding. The two lead characters, an arrogant technically gifted pianist named Chiaki and his slovenly but naturally talented junior (Nodame, the title character), are fairly standard romantic comedy types. The comedy is amusing, especially with Nodame’s slob habits, but that joke is going to get old fast and it’s pretty easy to see where the plot of this show is probably headed. (Oh, how I wish it would be more like in Amadeus where Chiaki would try to subvert and destroy Nodame while pretending to be her friend…) No, that’s not the reason I’ve decided to pick this one up and continue watching it this season.
This is the first anime that, in the character of Nodame, managed to capture just a hint of the joy of playing music. Even though Nodame is a fairly standard character type–she doesn’t have technical precision and her tempo is off, but she has “soul”–the truth of the matter is that classical music is just as much about feeling as jazz or blues or rock or any other kind of music. Plus the writers got the music right. I’m sure of this is nostalgia, but the first piece we hear Nodame playing, Beethoven’s Sonate Pathetique, was the last classical piece I ever learned how to play, and indeed her timing and feeling were “off”–but not off in a way a beginner (like me) would play. And when the two duet on Mozart’s Sonata in D-major (played correctly), the Honey and Clover style directing which so effectively explored emotional states in that show really gave me a little bit of the tingle I got whenever I heard myself play something just right. Plus, they got the sheet music right–I actually tried playing the bits that you can see on screen, and it matched what they were playing! All that makes the show worth continuing, if only beecause it actually got me to play again!
So I’m going to be blogging new episodes of this from now on. It doesn’t seem so original in the plot and character department (yet: I hope to be surprised!), though the powerhouse creators of JC Staff were able to turn H&C into a masterpiece. The show didn’t make me cry or consider my life yet. But it did make me dust off my keyboard, download the sheet music to the Sonate Pathetique–which I hadn’t played in years–and, with many missed fingerings and wrong notes, make some music.