Nodame Cantabile Vol. #03 (Mania.com)
By:Eduardo M. Chavez
Review Date: Saturday, December 24, 2005
Release Date: Thursday, December 01, 2005
Translated by:David Walsh
What They Say
Student prodigy Shinichi Chiaki just can’t shake Nodame, no matter how hard he tries. Now he is forced to tutor her and Mine all night. So much for music being comforting!
Then Chiaki gets a golden opportunity: the chance to temporarily fill in for Maestro Stresemann as conductor for the S orchestra. But after an unfortunate mishap, the maestro defects to the A orchestra and challenges Shinichi to a public-performance duel. With only weeks to prepare can members of the inexperienced S orchestra pull themselves together to rival the confidence of the A orchestra? It’s going to take a lot of hard work – and inspiration form a certain free-spirited girl with a crush. The battle Shinichi can’t afford to lose has begun!
This has to be the best presentation I have seen from Del Rey. Once again they use the original cover art, but the little things the have done have won me over. First as I said before they use the original cover art. This cover has a close up of Noda Megumi (NodaMe) conducting in a low cut red dress!!!! The image is a little misleading considering how she does not know how to conduct, but that is really irrelevant for it does a decent job presenting her loose, laid-back personality as well as her unique talent for improvisation. The logo is placed on some music bars just like the Japanese logo. Very nice. On the opposite cover, there is a long volume description on a green background with Chiaki and his gang of musical misfits in their smugglers outfits. (notes: smugglers outfits are three piece suits and boots like those worn by Canada’s drunkest horniest BC punk band… the Smugglers!)
I am not a fan of the arch use Del Rey. Upon further inspection, this presentation has the cover art creeping over the arches, instead of the other way around which was the case on early Del Rey releases. The spine has two half ellipses, each containing the studio name - one in kana, the other containing Del Rey's studio logo.
Inside the printing looks sharp. I did not notice any tone issues and the alignment looked fine. This volume also includes translation notes, a thank you page from Ninomiya, a cryptic soccer message from the mangaka at the start of the GN and an ad for A Perfect Day for Love Letters.
Ninomiya's art is perfect for this series. I have seen her art in her other title GREEN (by Kodansha), and she seems to use thicker lines and much more detailing in this series. This is an appropriate move when considering how this title has so much potential crossover appeal. Ninomiya uses good shape and form to make her characters stand out. On top of that she also has a good sense of style, which adds to the individual characteristics. The strongest aspect of her art is how she draws the expressions of her cast. With so little detail in her faces, she still is able to put in a good amount of emotion in them. Shading and extreme looks make her characters stand out, and who can forget Nodame’s make-up incident… classic!
Her backgrounds are pretty good for josei. They can be stale, but she uses them more often than most josei artists so I applaud her for that. The layout is surprisingly good. I thought it would be hyper, considering how fast the humor is. But she paces the story well and uses good perspective. Manpu is kept to a minimum, but that is pretty standard for mature titles.
As is Del Rey's policy, SFX are subbed. Their subs tend to be of a small font usually placed below the original SFX. Because of the font size original art is not compromised, but with the lack of SFX in this series (which is common for a shojo title) one might not notice them at times. Still, I appreciate the effort and the more I see this done the more I find myself liking it (font size and placement can make a big difference).
The translation is great. This title is a little tricky considering how there are so many music references (most of them they leave in Italian). The strongest part of the translation is how the characters seem to standout as individuals. The character personalities are almost perfect. Maybe that was because of how the Walshes worked together on this title, but whatever it was I felt the dialogue used really made this reading experience very enjoyable and easy to follow.
Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Chiaki is at a crossroads in his life at the moment. For a variety of reasons right now during final exams, he is contemplating his future and what he wants to do with his life. Sometimes Chiaki wonders about what he is doing in college. He knows he really does not want to be there; his goal is to go to Europe someday and become a great conductor. He knows that by staying at his school he might be preventing that from ever happening. He can only do such by taking piano lessons and violin courses with professors that are nowhere near the level Chiaki wants to eventually conduct. Not even his friends can help him right now for some of them have their own problems to overcome.
At school, Chiaki has basically turned into more of a TA than an aspiring talent. Everyday means going to his boring classes and hours of practice before being hit by a barrage of requests from his classmate. At first, this was a relatively small task for he had only a few "students" to "work" with. While those two really demanded quite a bit from him with their eating his time and mooching off his money, space and energy. Moreover, while he initially had his reservations he has slowly realized there is no way for him not to help. Unfortunately, this new gig suddenly became a quasi-full time job. Two students quietly became three (including a fangirl and a fanboy). That somehow turned into five and overnight he had an entire college orchestra under his guidance. And because of powers much stronger than he, Chiaki does not have the ability to back out of this. In some ways, his hopes and dreams have come to tie into this unwanted project.
For Chiaki this has become a litmus test. A chance to change the way his musical world was starting to fail him. Now with the power to lead his own orchestra and have music played the way he wants he can make his own rules. Along the way, he finds out that everyone that needed his help was feeling the same way. They all wanted to take their craft and their lives in a different direction while still moving towards their ideal future. However to accomplish a goal like this there would need to be a leader, a lot of compromise and some inspiration. They will be able to find all of that in their version of Beethoven's Eroica one that can show the world their frustration, their solidarity, their revolution and their triumph.
Chiaki might not be living his ideal life right now, but with a little support and some imagination, he might be on his way.
If you are wondering how a random title about a college music program can be one of the most popular titles in Japan, you are possibly not reading this title. Simply put, this title literally has the world against it. There is no hot timpanist boy-love or pianist yuri action to bring in the masses. If you are looking for action, it comes in the form of baton-waving and rock orchestra poses. There might be some swordplay in this volume, but the sword featured here looks a lot like a vegetable knife. The romance is all a part of one woman's delusions. There are battle scenes but they are set in music halls and test rooms. And the lead character, known best as the school reject/lunch box thief, might be ditzy like a magical girl but her magical powers only consist of making messes and mooching food off classmates. Add all that up and you have, well, something near the opposite end of the spectrum from say... Naruto. Yet, I would not hesitate to purchase Nodame Cantabile before any title you will find in the BookScan Top 10.
I honestly do not know what it is about Nodame Cantabile. This is a very simple concept - college kids going through the everyday grind. With a dysfunctional cast, Ninomiya has been able to make typically mundane moments like exams, practices and school performances into laugh riots where the ordinary is extraordinary (ie ROCK ORCHESTRA!!!). This title is filled with characters like Noda Megumi are very much like people you know that despite their tremendous talent just cannot get their lives together. Yet, despite their quirks and their problem, together these characters bring life to a generally slow-paced title.
Like the best sitcoms Nodame's pacing is such where there seems to be a punch line building up after page after page before it hits you. And when that happens all the irreverent moments in between just provide a change of pace to what are essentially slice of life moments. What makes this volume unique is how there is a continuous arc throughout this volume. Moreover, this volume also revolves on a single musical piece - Beethoven's 3rd Symphony "Eroica". I am not sure if I was seeing too much into this, but I felt the concepts behind Beethoven's gift to those who were involved in the French Revolution were present in this volume. For example how the cast is in an old tired system were they are restricted by the class structure (in this case the professors). The students revolt with their music and one person ends up leading the masses who were looked down upon into freedom.
On the surface, Nodame just reads like a silly romance-comedy, but upon peeling the layers Ninomiya has penned a masterpiece herself. And while some might think you need a refine taste in manga to enjoy this title, I say if you have a will to change manga you have to be reading this title.
Mania Grade: A
Art Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Text/Translatin Rating: B+
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Released By: Del Rey
Orientation: Right to Left