Ah, I managed to finish this one just in time for the second season that starts in October. Nodame Cantabile is a series about classical music: it follows the rise of a brilliant conductor named Chiaki, and how he spends his college years. If for some reason, you needed any more reasons as to why noitaminA rocks, then go and watch this series, because it’s among the best series that came from an already excellent timeslot.
Finally, an anime comes and pulls off an accurate portrayal of a genius. After all, it’s easier to write a stupid character than to write a smart one, let alone a brilliant one. You really need to be well-versed in the classical music-business to pull that one off, and the creators actually did it. Okay, I know hardly anything about good music, but I still could see that this “Chiaki”-guy was going to make it big someday. Through the series, you’ll get to see exactly what this guy’s thinking, and what’s pushing him forward, what he finds important and why he became so good with music in the first place. It’s for this reason that Nodame Cantabile is an incredibly inspirational anime that can motivate you in a slightly different way than most other motivational series (which are often about an underdog, rather than an already established genius).
The rest of the cast also shines in this series. Every major side-character (which are quite a few, actually) gets his or her time to shine. With the exceptions of the characters that only appear in one or two episodes or random orchestra-members, every character is interesting, and has a bit of depth. This really is a series that shines because of its characters.
The only oddball is the female lead: Nodame. She’s just about the polar opposite of Chiaki, and for the major part of this series, you’ll be wondering what she’s actually doing in this series. She feels like this series’ Yuki Cross (from Vampire Knight): she’s there, she gets admired, but she doesn’t do anything important for the story. Thankfully, as the series goes on, her purpose in this series becomes very clear. I’m not going to spoil anything but let’s just say that her character-growth is very admirable and the highlight of this series’ finale.
There’s also plenty to laugh at in this series. It’s not strictly a comedy, but that doesn’t stop the characters from having fun and providing laughs from the beginning to the end of this series. The creators know exactly when they need to be funny and when they need to be serious.
There’s a slight downside with the use of CG, though. Since this is a series about classical music, there are obviously lots of instruments being played, and the creators used a motion-capturing technique in order to show characters playing the piano/violin/oboe/whatever. This makes sure for lots of movement that would never have been possible with traditional animation techniques, but it also looks fake. The 3D hands and instruments just don’t mesh well with the 2D characters, which makes the visuals in this series rather sloppy. Thankfully, it’s able to make up for that with a downright excellent soundtrack. Not only were many classical pieces played throughout the series, but these pieces really felt like how the characters would play them, rather than a background piece that would just start on cue and sound the same everywhere.
Overall, noitaminA is a timeslot with two faces: post high-school antics and horror, all with some kind of experimental touch (save from Honey and Clover perhaps, but I haven’t seen that one yet). noitaminA is a very charming series about a bunch of conservatory-students. On paper, it’s one of the duller concepts that came from the timeslot, but it makes up for that with a number of downright awesome characters. I can understand why this series happily sat on top of AniDB’s ranking for more than half a year.