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This is a past article published in Hiragana Times. Each Japanese paragraph is followed by its English translation or vise versa, and furigana are placed above each kanji to make Japanese study even easier. [Magazine Sample] [Subscription Page]

Comedy Depicting Music Students

[From December Issue 2013]

201312-6-1

The cover of issue 1.
Written by NINOMIYA Tomoko.
Published by Kodansha Ltd.

Nodame Cantabile

Set in a music college, “Nodame Cantabile” was serialized between 2001 and 2010 in the women’s manga magazine “Kiss.” “Nodame” is the nickname of protagonist NODA Megumi who is studying at the piano studies department. “Cantabile” is a musical term that means “songlike.”

Living in a room filled with junk, Nodame is an eccentric character who sometimes emits strange cries, such as “hagya” or “mukya.” She dreams of becoming a kindergarten or elementary school teacher in the future, but she is not a diligent student at college and her grades are not so good. In fact, CHIAKI Shinichi, who attends the same college, sees that she is exceptionally talented.

Shinichi is one year senior to Nodame and is also taking piano studies. His father is a famous pianist, so he spent his youth in European countries. He gets the best grades in piano studies, and although he is better at playing the violin, he wants to become a conductor in the future. He hopes to study abroad, but has become traumatized because of an accident in the past and is unable to travel by either airplane or ship. He is secretly anguished by the fact that he may never leave the island of Japan.

Shinichi is handsome, is talented musically, and is good at cooking. Living in the room next door to Shinichi, Nodame forces herself on him. Other eccentric characters include a drop out from violin studies, a male timpani student who has a crush on Shinichi, and Shinichi’s proud ex-girlfriend who enrolls for choral studies and is still in love with him.

Musical performances and classical pieces are featured in many scenes. Just as in a real college of music, the dialogue is peppered with musical terms. However, it’s been said that the author, NINOMIYA Tomoko, having no knowledge at all of classical music, thoroughly researched the subject before beginning the series. As a result, although the work was intended to be a comedy, it is also realistic. Some believe that the author is a graduate of a music college herself. The manga is popular with music students.

However, the story centers not on music, but on the development of the characters of Nodame and Shinichi; on how Nodame changes from being a person who does not take the piano seriously, despite having had her talent recognized from an early age. It also deals with what Shinichi, who is unable to go abroad, should do in Japan. It’s an inspired work that seriously gets to grips with the world of music, while delivering laughs at the same time and is widely appreciated, even by people who have no knowledge of music. There are 25 volumes of this manga. With more than 36 million copies printed, it was a huge hit.

When the story appeared on TV as a live action drama and animation, the number of people interested in classical music increased. On the day following a broadcast, CD shops would receive many inquiries about musical pieces used in the program. Seven sets of Nodame-related CDs were released. Increasing numbers of people attended classical concerts and purchased classical CDs, on top of the classical music fans that already existed, and a boom got underway.

Text: ICHIMURA Masayo


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