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Dated 14 January 2007: Nodame Cantabile

Nodame Cantabile caught my attention because has been pushing the manga on me for years. Also, AYAKO DOCTRINE. Seeing as how I was one of the few people to enjoy Piano a few years back, it was pretty much a no-brainer that I was going to give the Nodame Cantabile anime a try.

Nodame and Chiaki
Nodame vexes her senpai, Chiaki.

Kawasumi Ayako voices the titular Noda "Nodame" Megumi, an unconventional pianist at a music school. This is a very chipper Ayako at work here—quite a welcome change of pace from what seems like a significant block of serious characters. For those of you who watched Piano, Nodame is the anti-Miu. Kawasumi Ayako probably does not play the piano here for Nodame, though; I'll be quite impressed if she's this accomplished.

Nodame and Chiaki
Chiaki vexes Nodame.

Nodame Cantabile is basically Honey and Clover III. Both shows being J.C. Staff productions, I'm sure the familiarity is deliberate. Hopefully, Nodame Cantabile will be as good as Honey and Clover. I'm not too worried since the source material is supposed to be good, and I found the first episode to be entertaining and funny. No doubt there will be love triangles and more serious fare down the road, but I'm confident J.C. Staff will handle them with aplomb.

In related news: Dang, I'm going to start buying classical music CDs again, and it's going to be Nodame Cantabile's fault.

Dated 13 October 2007: In praise of the Girl Next Door

Kyo and Kaminagi
Kaminagi is a Girl Next Door because her apartment
building is only an apple's throw away, okay?

Among the many moe stereotypes, you'll frequently find the Childhood Friend. She is a staple of harem comedies and pretty much anything related to dating sims or eroge. One study suggests that the Childhood Friend does quite well for herself, even if she does not necessarily have the inside track.

Nodame and Chiaki
Sometimes you're taking your chances with the Girl Next Door.

In addition to the Childhood Friend, you'll also find the Clumsy Girl, the Class Rep, the Athletic Girl, and the Shrine Maiden, among others. Curiously, you won't find the Girl Next Door quite as often.

Calling Naru a Girl Next Door might be a stretch,
but the floor/ceiling hole convinces me.

Perhaps the Girl Next Door is a convention foreign to Japan, at least compared to her stature in American culture. You'll remember that Hugh Hefner built his empire on her charms. He explicitly states that his Playboy centerfolds represent the Girl Next Door. (I would argue that the typical centerfold has looked less and less like "the girl next door" over the years, but you get the idea.)

A Childhood Friend, Winry is also a Girl Next Door,
even if her house is kinda far. They live in sugei inaka.

But where ranks the Girl Next Door among anime cliches? When she does appear, she's sometimes also the Childhood Friend or some other more common cliche. It's like she's just the Girl Next Door by happenstance.

Kasumi and Kazuya
Kasumi might be the best Girl Next Door in all anime.

So, while I can't claim the Girl Next Door is rare, she is uncommon where anime is concerned—uncommon and under-appreciated. All glory to the Girl Next Door. When you're with her, it feels like home.

Dated 2 March 2008: Nodame Cantabile and True Tears similarities

Saiko waterboards Nodame
Noe waterboards Shinichiro
It's okay. They both deserved it.


Dated 15 March 2008: Nodame Cantabile

You're such a slob, Nodame.

So it turns out finishing Nodame Cantabile doesn't inspire me to buy more classical music records. However, it does make me want to go to the orchestra more often. That, and possibly start seeing a really sloppy gal. Well, provided she's a musical genius.

Really, this is all Ayako's fault.

Dated 8 November 2008: Nodame Cantabile: Paris Chapter ~Battle Royal~

Nodame thrashes Chiaki
Nodame takes two out of three.

Nodame Cantabile: Paris Chapter contains the best fight scene J.C. Staff has ever managed. It's even better than the Azumanga Daioh snowball fight. Maybe. Probably.

Dated 3 January 2009: Nodame Cantabile: Paris Chapter nearly passes Kannagi on the homestretch

Nodame and Chiaki
Noda Megumi and Chiaki Shinichi, paper doll edition.

Nodame Cantabile: Paris Chapter started out as my favorite show this season and would have finished first in my End of Season Rankings (more on that later) were it not for a very solid season of Kannagi. Others offered some complaints about Nodame Paris, mostly regarding the new characters (and absence of old ones) and the look of the 3D orchestra. These issues don't bother me because my primary interests surround Nodame herself.

Nodame and Chiaki
It is unwise to toy with Nodame. She'll fuck you up.

It is nice to see her relationship with Chiaki has advanced. These are baby steps to be sure, especially if they've known each other four years already, but by anime standards they are leaps and bounds. At least they're officially a couple now. Granted, they aren't especially affectionate, but compared to other shows where couples act like total strangers even after one of them literally fucks loves the other one into a coma, Chiaki and Nodame are practically playing grab ass in the street. Okay?

Chiaki and Nodame
Chiaki helps Nodame relax.

I'm okay with new characters. It's better than keeping the original cast around forever and adding more and more new characters with each succeeding episode, diluting the screen time for all of them. StrikerS, I'm looking in your direction. Plus it wouldn't make sense for Nodame to feel homesick if everybody she knew in Japan happened to follow her following Chiaki to Paris. Pari-Hen is very much about Nodame adjusting and maturing as a person and a musician, and keeping her alone serves to promote that goal with the additional benefit of revealing just how needy and lonely Chiaki can be.

Arima and Miyazawa
Gainax and J.C. Staff try to save a little money.

The 3D orchestra does look bad, and I hope J.C. Staff learns from its previous partnerships and uses some of Gainax's cost-cutting techniques during season three should the budget get tight. E.g., paper dolls, still frames, and black & white scenes. I find those to be better options than re-using stock footage or leaning on brutal CGI. That's right, there will be a season three (really just season two part two, seeing as how Paris was only 11 episodes. I have every confidence the next Nodame Cantabile will be a must-see show and I'm looking forward to it already.

Dated 7 January 2009: End of season review, Autumn 2008

Nodame is more than a little imperfect, but
she makes up for it by being a sweetheart

Autumn 2008 did not produce any stellar shows1, meaning there wasn't a Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu, Honey & Clover, Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann, or the like. There wasn't even a Lovely Complex. However, it did have some very solid titles and a few shows that demonstrated mid-series potential as they resume during the Winter 2009 season.

Not fully pictured: Saki's ridiculously enormous hammer.

Final rankings for shows I watched this season follow:

Kannagi > Nodame Cantabile: Paris Chapter > Hyakko > Toradora! > Shikabane Hime: Aka > Gakuen Utopia Manabi Straight OVA > One Outs | Dropped: Kemeko DX (4) > Kurozuka (4) > Akane-iro ni Somaru Saka (?) > Casshern Sins (1) > Mouryou no Hako (1) > Toaru Majutsu no Index (4) > Michiko to Hatchin (1) | Worse Than Cosprayers: Kiss x Sis (1) > Macademi Wasshoi (1).

Amagasa and Torako
Torako is more than a little imperfect, but
she makes up for it by tormenting people.

Two big surprises this season. First, I had dismissed Kannagi based on its pre-season description, but it proved to be the cream of the crop. Second, I wasn't expecting to still be watching Shikabane Hime at this stage. Thankfully, it has kept shounen jive (e.g., too much standing around talking about powers instead of fighting) to a minimum. By the way, I totally called that Yui Horie twist even before I finished watching episode one, just so you know.

I went 10 episodes before noticing Makina's bare ass in the OP.
Now I can't not see it. It's Shikabane Hime's FEDEX arrow.

To give you an understanding as to how much I loathe shounen jive, bear in mind I dropped To Aru Majutsu no Index after episode four despite fully supporting the Shizuka Itou character's decision to wear half a pair of jeans with her kid sister's t-shirt. I just couldn't take any more speeches about Not Thinking About Other People's Feelings or any more boasting about fine nuances of Special Techniques and Powers. Criminy.

I think I've actually seen people in L.A. dressed like this.

Many of the shows I dropped early on (for example, Casshern Sins) might actually be very good, but just didn't capture my interest. This is the same reason why I dropped Kaiba a couple seasons ago after watching no more than two episodes despite almost universal acclaim, for example.

Note 01: I'm not counting any of the Kara no Kyoukai movies as belonging to the Autumn 2008 season. Any of the films in this series would certainly qualify as stellar.

Dated 14 June 2009: Summer 2009 preview

Goro, Shimizu, and Miho
Suddenly, a Mamiko appears!

Chances are I'm going to be watching nothing but baseball anime this summer. For starters, I need to finish the fifth season of Major. Presumably, Cross Game will continue airing, seeing as how the manga isn't finished yet either, and neither Touch nor H2 were short series. And now Not Idolm@ster Baseball is here! Err, I mean Taisho Yakyuu Musume.

Akaishi, like everyone else, is way too hung up on Wakaba.

This is not to say there aren't any other interesting shows airing this summer, but I admit the lineup doesn't seem as compelling as summer schedules tend to be. I'm generally disdainful when people complain an upcoming season doesn't look very interesting, because people say that every single season, but maybe it's my turn this time.

I know nothing about Canaan or 428, but it
looks like TYPE-MOON except with funk.

Aside from Taisho Yakyuu Musume, I'll watch Canaan out of general principle because of its TYPE-MOON influences. I'll watch Fight Ippatsu! Juuden-chan!! because it looks terrible. I'll watch the Nodame Cantabile and Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei sequels based on the strength of the originals. I'll give Aoi Hana a try because of J.C. Staff, but abandon it if it turns out to be yet another lesbian otaku fantasy. I think there's supposed to be more Kara no Kyoukai and the final episode of Shikabane Hime is due out in August.

Fight Ippatsu! Juuden-chan!! is my low-brow show of the summer.

Chances are there will a show or two that defies all expectations and plays way out of its league. For example, nobody expected much from Kannagi initially. Moreover, nobody hyped Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu during its pre-season, and the latter turned out to be the 800-pound gorilla whose second season doesn't even require mentioning. (Yeah, I'm guaranteed to be watching that this summer, too.) Naturally, I didn't break down even half of the Summer 2009 season; there are other1 resources2 I recommend if you haven't found them already.