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Nodame Cantabile: Birth

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We start the series with a rather blue reflection from Shinichi Chiaki (Hiroshi Tamaki), one of the two main protagonists of Nodame Cantabile. Scarred from a childhood accident, Chiaki has been unable to leave Japan for the past ten years, and because of this, his inner world is one of frustration, confusion, and perhaps regret. For an elite student of Momogaoka who seemingly has the entire world at his doorstep, he is ironically an isolated existence; his life is a cold womb above and beside so many, but co-existing with few. Continually holding onto the instructor of his childhood, Vieira, Chiaki has avoided his desired path in music, to become a conductor, possibly through idea that Vieira is his one true instructor and the only one he wishes to study under. In this light, he has continued on a parallel path in the piano division, yet it is not truly what his heart desires.

Chiaki’s initial dilemma is not a matter of capability, for he is not a shounen hero needing change to become stronger or more enabled, but existing in such irritation and isolation, he has grown incomplete as a person. He can be likened to a shell of pure talent; dazzling, beautiful, and full of potential, yet he possesses a limited range of human qualities in this state; he is nearly perfect[1]. In this perfectness, his existence is almost that of a newborn and adored similarly, and like a child, he is verging on the course of what it means to be human.

To put it simply, Chiaki lacks a dynamic range of emotion. His feelings are dominated by his isolation in a perpetual wonderland of darkness, with sadness, anger, and frustration being his most apparent attributes.

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The start of Chiaki’s journey begins in his first piano scene, where his frantic playing brings about a conflict with his instructor, Eto “Harisen,” instructor of the elite at Momogaoka. Pressed for Chiaki to be serious about the coming Maradona piano competition, Eto finds score among Chiaki’s items which forces the argument in the direction of Chiaki’s presence as a piano student. Fiery words leave no survivors, and in this clash, Eto yields his position as Chiaki’s instructor. In his 4th year at the academy, Chiaki is abandoned, but I believe it is this specific point where Chiaki, as a character of transformation, is born.

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Leaving campus with the stale taste of an apathetic sunset, Chiaki hears the sound of a piano in the distance. He pauses for a moment realizing the piece, Beethoven’s Pathetique, and gives the sound an early dismissal, but suddenly he readjusts. Turning back towards campus, he runs with intrigue to find this mysterious and unexpected playing in a room filled with warm sunlight. As Chiaki stands looking through the door, he is unaware that Noda Megumi (Juri Ueno) is the one who has entranced him, yet her vibrancy is that of a world filled with feeling and color and through Chiaki’s senses, like a child, he is inquisitive. The light surrounds her and the piano, as she blends her sonata with the sunset, but Chiaki is interrupted and stolen away by Saiko Tagaya, an elite beauty and his girlfriend, before he can enter the room.

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In an upscale bar, Chiaki and Saiko discuss the matter of Eto’s dismissal, and despite being temporarily enlightened by Nodame’s playing, Chiaki still finds himself in a pitiful state, frustrated by his world of closed doors. Drunk and exhausted, he wavers in his will and suggests to Saiko that perhaps he should quit music and find a job with her father’s company. In mild disgust, Saiko breaks up with Chiaki and leaves, potentially the right thing to do in the moment, but this undoubtedly sends Chiaki even further down the spiral. Into the darkness of night, Chiaki is alone.

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Within the first 15 minutes of the episode, we find Chiaki at this point of inflection. He has stumbled and must only wallow or elevate from here onward. In my opinion, this is a natural beginning to his journey in learning to become a more complete being, yet even especially for a gifted individual, such learning is a battle which requires effort and practice as well as a supportive context through relationships and responsibilities. It turns out Chiaki’s most horrid day is actually a gift, for it is Nodame who discovers him lying passed out at their apartment complex and takes him in for the night.

While Chiaki’s contempt towards his world aligns the situation for change, Nodame is the primary catalyst facilitating action. Through her free attitude and addressing of Chiaki, their enrollment in the same academy and division, and even the fact that she lives next door, Nodame is completely unavoidable, much to Chiaki’s dismay. Beyond this notion, it is intriguing to acknowledge that Nodame is Chiaki’s first lesson upon his journey, for soon after Eto’s dismissal of him, Chiaki is reassigned to Nodame’s instructor, a patient and observant man named Tanioka.

The first lesson with Tanioka is a Mozart sonata for two pianos, in which Chiaki and Nodame are to play together as senpai and kouhai. While both pianists possess undeniable talent, their abilities are on completely different wavelengths with Chiaki’s well-structured mastery and Nodame’s play-by-ear improvisation at opposing poles; opposites attract. Nodame’s inconsistency lasts only a short time against Chiaki’s frustrated disposition and elite pride backed by ability, and it is soon apparent Chiaki is intolerant to her nature. If not for the graded recital, Chiaki would never submit himself to such circumstances, but this is his lesson beyond the piano.

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Though I have avoided discussing most of the episode, the general content primarily concerns the development and chemistry between Chiaki and Nodame as an odd couple, with and without the piano as a focus. Chiaki is continually attempting to keep Nodame in line, yet Nodame can only sense an attraction for Chiaki and easily accepts his will. In many ways, I feel Chiaki pays more attention to Nodame than the reverse, for his nature is meticulous and critical, but it is precisely his attention which opens his eyes and fosters a light understanding towards her.

Pressing and practicing the sonata, Chiaki molds Nodame’s skill of the piece into something desirable, yet Chiaki, in a fit over Nodame’s play, soon realizes his overbearing intensity is precisely what he hated about Eto’s instruction. Chiaki seems to have modified his cruel attitude in guiding Nodame’s practice, but it is not until the recital that Chiaki succeeds his first important lesson.

In the moments before their recital, Chiaki sacrifices his hard line and tells Nodame to play as she likes, and for the record, it the first time he addresses her by Nodame. Chiaki’s first lesson is that of learning tolerance towards the inadequacies or individualities of others, and Nodame, being quite the individual spirit, is most fitting for this lesson.

Afterthoughts

I completely avoided the appearance of Milch, his merrymaking, and the most interesting note mentioned about Chiaki’s aligning of Nodame with Vieira. The aspect I’ve discussed about Chiaki is perhaps only one non-independent layer of the narrative, but this is an interesting theme I see in Chiaki’s character; his trials towards being human. I feel most who experience the story will realize that it is much more integrated and detailed than it comes off, but I’m not the one to fully analyze every aspect, and so I’ll leave them as part of the mystery, or whatever.

Also, I should probably note that this series of posts is almost entirely a winged creature…. because I like winging it, and with that I look forward to next week.

Cheers

Notes

1 – I would align Chiaki’s existence to the concept of contractors in Darker than Black; hollow and almost other-worldly.

Categories: Drama.

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5 Responses

  1. What I enjoyed here is how while Chiaki is brought down, grounded, humbled, there is no diminishing of his genius. He really does possess remarkable ability, and what this show does is find ways for it to manifest entertainingly and interestingly.

    • Such a good point, and I feel there’s a pretty awesome message about the split between talent/genius and success.

      There was more to this episode than I suspected ;;

  2. I love the dynamic between Chiaki and Nodame. It’s nothing new, but as often with such pairings, the “genius” learns something from the odd one. Yet this still manages to make it sweet, heartwarming, and entertaining.

    • I like to think that Chiaki and Nodame reach for each other higher and higher. Each brings the other up almost perpetually. Chiaki reaches for Nodame, she brings to light the benefits of inner freedom, while Nodame reaches for Chiaki, for her to become a greater pianist and honest with herself towards the music.

      Brings a nice smile thinking about this pair.



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Continuing the Discussion

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Kanata, Ryan, A Heaven. Ryan, A Heaven said: Nodame Cantabile 1: http://is.gd/g7I3M (Birth) and in case you missed the forward http://is.gd/g7I8p Cheers~ [...]