Nodame Cantabile Vol. 11-12 (Del Rey)

nodame-header.jpgParis is a city for lovers and musicians, but what happens when you’re both? Megumi Noda struggles to balance her love life and conservatory studies, but it’s not easy when your conductor boyfriend becomes a star and starts touring all over Europe!



190 pgs. black and white; $10.95

(W / A: Tomoko Ninomiya)



Megumi Noda (Nodame to her friends) is a piano prodigy from Japan, who,  though extremely talented, has one weakness—she can’t sight read! She’s managed to win a seat in the prestigious Paris Conservatoire along with Shinichi Chiaki, her sort-of conductor boyfriend and roommate. Things seem to be going great, especially when Chiaki wins the Platine International Conductor’s Competition. Nodame knows it’s Chiaki’s ticket to establishing himself, but it comes as a surprise when he announces he’ll be touring with the world-famous Franz von Stressman—the very next day! Suddenly Nodame finds herself alone and thrust into the ferocious Parisian academic world, where even a little kid can analyze music scores better than she can. Too structured, not structured enough—Nodame struggles to let her love of music flow through all of these rigid rules. Can she keep up with her classmates? Will Paris kick her out in disgrace?

The cover to Nodame Cantabile Vol. 11. Click for a larger image.These questions, along with many, many others that I had, are not answered in the eleventh and twelfth volumes of Nodame Cantabile. Heck, who a lot of the characters are in these volumes wasn’t really explained, but I don’t fault Tomoko Ninomiya. After all, I’m pretty much dropping in on the middle of a story with just these two volumes. Given that a lot of stuff has surely gone on previously, it is a credit to the author that I was able to follow along at all. Ninomiya is kind enough to provide readers "The Performers in Nodame’s Rhapsody" at the beginning of the books, so you’re able to glean enough background to figure out both who’s who and what’s been (roughly) happening. Still, she doesn’t mess around with long recaps at the beginning of each volume. Hop on the train or let it pass you by! This author has a story to tell and she’s sticking to it.

As for exactly what the story is, although I’m fuzzy on the details, near as I can figure it’s an "innately gifted person seeks recognition and stumbles on love" scheme. I’m not clear if Nodame and Chiaki are actually boyfriend and girlfriend, or if that’s what they’re trying to figure out. There are a lot of other characters on the scene, and each of them also has their own backstory and reason for interacting with Nodame and Chiaki. Although I was mostly lost as to who everyone was, I was interested enough to continue to forge ahead blindly. In fact, it speaks well of Ninomiya’s writing that I wanted to learn what was going on, and was even willing to throw in some of my own guesswork to patch up storytelling seams. I have a feeling that, if started from the beginning, Nodame Cantabile would be an incredibly engaging story, leaving one dangling on edge volume to volume. The one caveat I have is that (at least in these two volumes) the manga is heavily inundated with musical references, analysis, and even actual sheets of music in the backgrounds. This can leave the casual reader’s head spinning, and might be a turn-off for those seeking a simpler relationship story. I did find all the musical technicalities rather distracting from Nodame’s story, but at the same time I could also identify with her complete confusion with the music analysis classes.

The cover to Nodame Cantabile vol. 12. Click for a larger image.Ninomiya does a great job with Cantabile’s artwork as well as it’s story. Her backgrounds are rich and well-researched; the reader will feel as though they’re in Paris. For some novice manga readers, her character style may come as a surprise. It’s a much more realistic interpretation, which meshes well with the meticulous backgrounds. You won’t find googly eyes or gravity-defying hair in Cantabile, and the characters’ outfits are authentic and contemporary.

For busting in on the middle of a story, I was impressed with Nodame Cantabile enough that I’d want to start from the beginning. The characters are all engaging (if numerous and therefore confusing to a first-time reader), the storyline intriguing (seriously, are they boy/girlfriend or not?!), and the art lovely. If these two volumes are any indication, though, errant readers beware of the heavy musical references. Overall, it looks to be a very promising series. | Elizabeth Schweitzer

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply