Nodame Cantabile Vol. #04 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: B

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  • Art Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Text/Translatin Rating: A-
  • Age Rating: 16 & Up
  • Released By: Del Rey
  • MSRP: 10.99
  • Pages: 184
  • ISBN: 0-345-48241-7
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left

Nodame Cantabile Vol. #04

By Eduardo M. Chavez     February 11, 2006
Release Date: February 01, 2006

Nodame Cantabile Vol.#04
© Del Rey

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist: Writer/Artist:
Translated by:David and Noriko Welsh
Adapted by:

What They Say

Milch may be down, but he's back to take (or is it force?) the gang to participate in the Nagano Music Festival. In preparation for the festival, the students go to a band camp, where the students do much more than just play music. Chiaki confronts his fear of the ocean; Mine spends his time getting a tan worth singing about; and Nodame the "orangutan," after the humiliation of getting kicked out of a master class, gets set to prove that she can really play the piano. There are plenty of high jinks - and melody escapes unscathed.

The Review
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 a rose cheeked Noda Megumi (NodaMe) playing the flute. The image is a little misleading considering how she barely knows how to play piano (let alone play the flute). Nevertheless, that is 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 Megumi running with a picnic basket.

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 (not as good as it has been but fine). This volume also includes translation notes, a thank you page from Ninomiya, a tour of her workspace and a few ads.

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 hyperactive, 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). This volume has it share of German dialogue as well. Both the Italian and German were left in, with their respective translations either left as a sub or mentioned in the translator noted. 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 Welsh’s worked together on this title, but whatever it was I felt the dialogue used made this reading experience very enjoyable and easy to follow.

Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
People's motivations vary quite a bit, but one thing I have noticed in manga is how often one's memories can lead characters to make critical life choices.

Case in point, Chiaki Shinichi has been working long and hard toward his dream to become a conductor. His memories of his youth traveling across Europe experiencing the great conductors of the time perform in the greatest concert halls have influenced his life profoundly. Alternatively, take Maestro Fran von Stresemann one of the most acclaimed conductors in the Nodame universe. The vivid memories of his youth and the musician he met back then drove him to reach the upper excel on of artistry in his field. He owes all his known accomplishments to the memories he shared with one person. Now he would like to repay this person by sharing what he learned with a generation that she has raised in the field of music. 45 years of devotion to a memory... Isn't that romantic?!

So while some people in this story want to teach preschool or get married (guess who) others currently in the middle of what may feel like lifelong journeys that appear to have no end in sight. (Hopefully leading towards their dreams). To accomplish their goals the young people from Momoyama University must dedicate whole-heartedly to their dreams. The violinist must not only be proficient at leading, but they will have to work hard to follow as well. To reach the top, most people have to work their way through the journeyman stages and gain their position by standing out from the crowd. To become a good pianist knowing the tempo and rhythm is not enough. One has to learn the music, find the weakness one has when playing the piece to make it one's own. The conductor must study not just the music but the musicians as well. Even horny maestros had to put aside their one hope for real love to reach the stars.

So, the question is - can success come to those who don't on the road of dedication? And can anyone take their own road and still reach the same goal? Furthermore, if two people start off on the same path and take different roads meet together again at the right place in time?

This volume sees stars take off, stars fall and stars flicker or die. Nodame's star might be falling (in a few ways), but she does not realize why?

If reading Nodame Cantabile has taught me anything it is that sometimes the lead is not always going to be the lead. And if it has taught me anything else, it has to be that when the lead is not the lead then the "real" lead (and sometimes the manga) is in trouble.

After three volumes of some great situational comedy, Ninomiya decides to turn on the drama. Unfortunately, in doing so she comes to realize that she has wrote out her lead character. Chiaki Shinichi became the lead (and the conductor) in the middle of volume 2. With that role the story, all of it from humor to plot, revolved around his life. All of a sudden as the cast is at a turning point, coming out of their 2nd/3rd year finals and a major concert, Ninomiya decides to write Megumi back in but it is too late. It takes a whole volume for her to create a conflict to fold her back in. Even then, we hardly get to see Megumi at all (until you see the side-story).

Nodame was initially given as much time as Chiaki. She was his there for inspiration and for impact. However, along the way, she became a joke. If there was a break needed you would see her steal a lunch. If Chiaki was riding high, she was there to change his mood. Seeing her lost and depressed really struck me. After all she had gone through before, why would she feel rejected now? The Nodame I know would have shown up in Chiaki's room with homemade rice balls or she would be begging for food. This Nodame is just as Okuyama described her - No Dummy.

At its best Nodame Catabile is a complete sitcom - great cast, interesting concept, irreverent and innovative. This volume forgets two critical aspects - innovation and the strengths of its cast. If Megumi is not the cheery Nodame that brings laughs and head scratches, she is just another character. If music is not the score to each arc then the music becomes just something the cast is involved in. After reading this volume, I came to the conclusion that this was the best opportunity for Ninomiya to transition in her manga. Her characters were already at a crossroads. There already was some doubt in their hearts. The conflict was needed and while it might not compliment the mood prior to this point, it starts a progression to where the cast and the story takes on a slightly different feel. If the cast really was concerned about their future, sometime Ninomiya had to take them seriously. Have to say, that is like a good musical score, but you really have to pay attention to notice it.


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