Symphony of Chaos

Do you play an instrument? I’m sure many of us have dabbled in some kind of instrument at one point in our lives – but how many of us are actually capable of creating music?

When I started piano as a kid, it was only about hitting the correct notes at the right time – to me, playing music was no different than playing DDR or hitting those moles with the big rubber mallet at the arcade. But what happens when one learns perfect technique? Is the song finished?

At eight years old, I’d happily agree and run off to show my star sticker to my mom after I got home from lessons. More than a decade later, however, I’ve realized that technique isn’t even the half of it. It’s kind of a bunch of high school seniors applying to Harvard – almost everyone has flawless grades and test scores together with their long list of clubs and activities – so why do some get the nod over others? It’s because they’re not just able to play their instrument, they make that thing sing.

Which brings me to Nodame Cantabile – the new anime by the same studio that brought us Honey and Clover months before. There’s this guy named Chiaki who’s a stickler on technique, and this girl named Nodame, who’s got a cowabunga technique but a sort of chaotic genius to her – personally, I saw Nodame as the anime version of Beethoven, with the same Stevie Wonder jerkiness and the same crazy Einstein hair…but of course, female, and voiced by seiyuu empress Kawasumi Ayako. The rub on Chiaki is that he’s trying to be a conductor but thinks everyone’s technique sucks…but let me stop there.

At this point the show seems pretty predictable already – Nodame will probably continue to worm her way into Chiaki’s mind and eventually loosen him up enough until he’s able to appreciate everyone’s individual flair, and somehow mold them into one unit as the composer of an orchestra. Standard stuff…but why am I still so excited about this show?

To use Honey and Clover as an example, much of the first season was about this emo kid Takemoto and his self-discovery journey that he just randomly decided to take. It’s not like he ended up somewhere else – dude went right back to where he started – but the journey itself was the highlight (not to mention it took a good seven or eight episodes). Do you complain that a rollercoaster ride was stupid because it just goes in a loop? No way – why wasn’t the ride longer? It definitely takes one of “higher moral standards” than the typical Naruto-faring crowd (I’d say Bleach too but I hear Omni’s a fanboy) to enjoy shows like this, but to me, there’s just so much more substance when a show is driven by its characters and their relationships rather than the plot surrounding them.

And just like the start of a rollercoaster ride, we’re getting pulled up for that first big rush in these early episodes – I can only hope that Nodame lasts long enough to satisfy!



  1. Eh? My comment was cut off!

    But what I was saying, this show is good, but the animation drives me nuts sometimes. Occasionally I can’t tell if my computer is lagging, or if their hands are actually not moving. But I’ll put up with it for the sake of a entertaining show

  2. i like Nodame Cantabile, my piano teacher recently told me that i have potential to really excel in music, though i’m just too lazy to practice all the time. xP like Nodame sometimes i guess

  3. I use to play the flute though I was never that good at it despite private lessons and playing the concert band. With me, playing music never became my thing so I stopped but I still enjoy classical music. And having just fallen in with the Princess Tutu fandom recently, I have a deeper appreciation for classical music.

    Nodame Cantabile is interesting to me both because there’s the promise of some really nice music and the interaction between its cast of characters. Nodame is such an oddball yet she’s a certified music genius. Chiaki is pragmatic though a bit too stiff as a person. It’s fun watching the two of them play off each other. 🙂

  4. Had piano lessons when I was a kid, though I only wanted to play for fun rather than for performance. At least I got to learn to read notes. When computer technology got to the point of being able to play music, I actually tried my hand at songwriting. It started with the Amiga 500 at the end of the 1980’s, which was already making waves playing realistic sound without the need for a soundcard (remember the IBM PC back then needed a sound card for even the simplest sounds like MIDI, otherwise it would just beep). Then with a software named OctaMED, a MIDI interface, and a Yamaha PSR-400 synthesizer keyboard, I put my piano knowledge to use and started making my own music (as in a complete 1-man-band from drums to bass to background to lead instruments; OctaMED was used as a Sequencer, the PSR-400 did all the sound output with the Amiga 500 managing everything). Was fun during its time, and I ended up writing I think a bunch of songs (including 2 for a girl! though that situation fell over), some with lyrics, others just instrumental (kinda like Narada music). Unfortunately I lost interest as I got busier with work. I do miss it though.

  5. My? Music, no way in hell!

    I really suck for everything that has to do with playing instruments, the only one I could manage to play fearfully right was flute (if the song has to do something with anime). After several tries, I gave up finally 8 years ago. I do like classical music, in majority thanks that I like background music to relax my senses, and there isn’t better music for that purpose than classical music.

    Nodame Cantabile hit the spot with me. First, we have here Ayako Kawasumi (who really liks to play piano) and Tomokasu Seki; my two favorite seryuu of all times. Second, I’m a lover of Slice-of-Life series, and if you add some romance, comedy and drama, you win over me. So, as you can see, NC and I are good partners. Chiaki, who is aiming to become a conductor and Nodame, who can play with an extraordinary simplicity, is enough to keep me interested. Let’s see how good or bad this series turn to be.

    I need my ration of Nodame right now, so please… HAYAKU!! Just kidding….

    Syaoran Li
  6. Nodame Cantabile. Tis a good show. It has a great big stamp of Honey and Clover on it though, which is actually a good thing.

    Nodame’s voice really fits her anime persona. I was shocked to find out it was Ayako who has been in a billion other anime, she truly has great range and is truly talented.

    I love all the music in it. OP, ED, and everything in the middle.

  7. 1. Nodame’s technique is very good. The trouble lies in her ignoring what is written in the music score, often, as she seldom studies the scores in depth.
    2. Chiaki want to be a conductor, not a composer.
    3. >>> though i’m just too lazy to practice all the time. xP like Nodame sometimes i guess
    Nodame practices very often and almost everyday. The problem lies in her method of practice, not lack of practice.

    4. I learned to play the piano, but my parents didn’t like it and I stopped before I could become really good. I am capable of in depth analysis and knows many version of the music piece, yet just didn’t had the opportunity to develope high level technique before I got older. I am now a wanna be conductor, similar to Chiaki at this point, and have received some good reviews from some summer music programs and semi-professional music circles in the town. I am also singing tenor in a semi-professional choir which specializes in un-accompanied music, modern music, and rarely played music. You should try singing some choir pieces by Hugo Wolf, Benjamin Britten, or Gesualdo. Gesualdo, now that is a composer they should make an anime series based on his life.

  8. I never learned piano but my brother did, and now he plays beautifully.

    To be honest, I am not in awe of the piano music in Nodame Cantabile the anime. It is good… but it doesn’t sound any better than what my brother plays at home, in fact I think my brother plays better when he actually gets a piece down. Oh well, I guess that’s the limitation of anime.

  9. I play guitar, bass, and drums, and am capable of creating an entire 3 minute rock piece. 😀

    Good thing Memento was blogging the live-action version of this, or this would have gone under my radar… The H+C thing also made this work for me. Good show, hope it continues to be that way.

  10. its unlikely the studio hired some concert pianist to do their pieces… i wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t hire one at all, just had a bunch of piano cds that they mixed. that said, i don’t think the music in nodame is meant to be evaluated for their musical merit, but rather the interpretation that the producers intended for the viewers to have. it’s an acceptable route to go, considering the majority of people who watch this anime won’t be able to discern between a good piece and a great piece (i know i cant, lol) – just like how Slam Dunk was written for people who don’t play basketball, Prince of Tennis for those who don’t play tennis and uh…naruto for those who can’t do shadow clones… but that’s the great thing about anime – it can expose us to the fantastic elements of a world that we might not ever have experienced otherwise. close your ears and open your heart; stop thinking and start imagining!

  11. I don’t know about Naruto, because it does have some “rollercoaster moments” in that story as well. Though it’s buried under the shonen construct and archetypes.

    But I think the biggest thing with Nodame Cantabile is the atmosphere with the collegians searching for their purpose. I actually think the collegiate atmosphere may work a bit better than the typical anime shows that concentrate on highschoolers. Though I hear highschools are sorta work like colleges over in Japan.

    BTW, I was pretty proficient with the piano, cello and violin in my time. I was getting good enough with the violin enough to improvise on my own ala Nodame. I wish I never stopped playing. Not that I could help it because those violins cost a fortune and my family couldn’t even afford a rental.

  12. wow look at all the talented musicians here!
    i can only play piano, thus it’s my favourite instrument, although
    i’ve always wanted to try the violin.
    nodame cantabile brings out the band geek in me =)

  13. Way back when (I was 24) I took piano for a year. Worked my way from “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” up to some of Bach’s 2-&-3-Part Inventions. And in following years, slooowly back to “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”.

    I’m loving Nodame though. And my good friend Patti is back in music school studying (among a whack of things) choral conducting – I like comparing her school stories to the anime.

  14. Me am a part-time teacher for piano! Can understand why Chiaki is obsessed with technique. You need to have the right technique to play a piece well. Most of us are not genius like Nodame, so that’s when techniques are important. But I guess too much of it, also makes piano-playing boring. So it really depends on the student, if she/he has such talent, we try not to bore them down with all the ‘rules’ 🙂 Btw, Nodame’s talent really remind me of Beethoven…

    p.s. this is a personal view.

  15. I played baritone/euphonium and trombone in middle and high school. But I never practiced. I was a little less than decent. I tried teaching myself piano and better myself with the treble clef. But it’s been about a year since I’ve done anything related to music. Oh how I wish I took up piano and violin.

  16. I think Chiaki is right to go after technique, especially if he wants to be a conductor. In classical, technique is more important than creativity. The beauty is in perfecting the technique so that you can get many people to play along as one united whole. The creativity then comes into play in placing the proper emphasis in the proper places. Chiaki goes after Nodame for her lack of technique because that’s what’s keeping her from being able to play along with others beautifully.

    This is not to say that Chiaki is against creativity, as he showed at the ends of the first two episodes where he played counterpoint to their creative energies. The point is that you can do that in a small ensemble, but gets to be impossible in an orchestra.

    Something else to remember about classical music is that much of the creativity goes into the composition. Classical was developed before recording, and as such the emphasis is on getting the music consistently correct night after night. This is even more true for music that accompanies plays, ballets, and opera because the music is crucial for timing. For Chiaki to become a conductor, he will need to himself be rigorous in his technique and in making sure everyone else is as well. That’s the beauty in classical music – there is high art in many people performing complex music perfectly night after night.

    By way of comparison, look at Rock and Jazz. Both are more individualistic and creative at the expensive of technique. When you go listen to a live concert, you will probably hear something that sounds different, often very different, than what your heard on their record or CD.

  17. I played the piano since 5 years old. I started out with 2 years of music composition at a Catholic music school. The tension of the school drove me to the corner of music as I began to hate it with all my might. Only when I was 8 did I really get into it, but I never was able to give up on it. So even now, a second year at Washinton U. in St. Louis, I still play the piano.

    Alice Yang
  18. I agree with jaalin. I can’t play a musical instrument either, but watching a bunch of characters excited about classical music I can’t help but get caught up as well. The great thing about Nodame is how it shows you the finer nuances of the music that afficianados appreciate. I’m a big fan of the show mostly ’cause of the dorama series. The music really made that series and I hope the anime really incorporates the classical pieces too. Having said that, I love the OP and ED themes…

  19. I played baritone/euphonium as well in high school and college. I picked up some lousy guitar and never quite learned to play the piano with both hands. Later I did learn some half decent bagpipe and picked up an alto horn (a micro-baritone) that I have fun with. Both my sons play various instruments (trombone/baritone, etc). And we have one of the most eclectic bizarre wide-ranging music collections… I’ve never seen in any other home 🙂

    Nodame is “teh w1n” though … classy stuff, looks like excellent characterization and story development.

  20. Meh, from the manga, then the Dorama, and now the animu, Nodame never cease to make me laugh, and honestly, not many Shoujo I read/watch nowadays can make me hooked, unless it does not anything to do with male harem, which incedently, how Nodame is. And it makes classical music cool.

  21. It’s obvious to me that the “technique” that Chiaki emphasizes takes more than merely playing the notes in front of you. Chiaki’s (brief) demonstration of Beethoven’s Spring Sonata was filled with creativity and meaning – it was Mine’s version that sounded much more mechanical to me. The problem with Mine’s playing was that he tried to make each note sound distinctive, instead of letting the notes flow naturally – and as a result, he ends up making a much narrower range of sounds, compared to Chiaki.

    I also believe there’s plenty of room for individual expression and creativity, even when playing in an ensemble or orchestra. The goal is to play in such a way that makes the GROUP sound better, instead of trying to distinguish yourself from others.

    Once Mine and Noda learn this, they’ll do fine. And I’m sure they will in the coming episodes.


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