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Nodame Cantabile: Surrounded


Leaving episode two, we witnessed signs of change in Chiaki’s persona regarding his perspective of those who are less than elite, and beyond his harshly critical tongue, there is a shimmer of hope, a pulse for those who have not been blessed with his genius or classy lifestyle. Yet deeper down the rabbit hole we must travel, for Chiaki’s blinding elitism is clearly on the agenda of his benefactor, Milch. As it was the case for Chiaki and Mine to inadvertently find agreeable ground, Mine was but a single soul, and in the course of the third episode, we realize Chiaki’s next challenge goes beyond that of a one-on-one relationship.

Surrounded, Chiaki is left to conduct the select orchestra after Milch was knocked unconscious by Nodame. There’s no way Milch would have known how well Chiaki played into this position, but he took advantage of the situation as an opportune time for Chiaki to rise into an observing light.

In the moment, Chiaki flashes his technical brilliance alongside his utterly capsizing social disconnect. His failure is separable from his skill, and Chiaki’s immense capability, no matter how good, is dwarfed by the absence of compassion and social elegance outside his class. Milch flashes sensibility, yet Chiaki cannot learn simply through verbal explanation as a true understanding of his vacancy is beyond Milch’s words.


It is unquestionable that most of the S-oke are rough or unpolished, but given the Maestro’s guidance, they strike an alarming balance to Chiaki’s notice. Chiaki has much to learn, and Milch, for one reason or another, decides to take him as a pupil and at times, a scapegoat. Soon after Chiaki comes under Milch’s wing, he is left to stand-in as the practice conductor. This is the perfect combination of oil and water, and I’m sure Milch was quite pleased with this tasteful predicament1. I find the allegory of oil and water amusing in a sense that oil will never dissolve or ionize, but with Chiaki as oil surrounded by water, he can one day become water himself.

The friction between Chiaki and the oke is highlighted primarily by his fierce instructions, which may typically be accurate, but his words often instigate defense, causing the players to freeze or tuck away. Chiaki’s trouble comes with the lack of understanding in normalcy, perhaps driven by his wealthy padding, and through the oke he is forced to see this conflicting side of himself. Though the tension falls on everyone, Sakura’s story uniquely interacts with Chiaki through Nodame’s attentiveness to her, and it is because of Nodame’s defiance towards him that we begin to see Chiaki second-guess his understanding of status.

Sakura is a struggling contrabass student struggling to find practice time while a growing financial issues lingers at home. Even among these students, she is falling behind though as a viewer it is difficult to immediately pin the blame. Chiaki initially takes small note of her, and the friction between them stems from a discrepancy in perspective, for he can only understand from his own black-and-white shoes.

Both Mine and Nodame bring an undermining pressure to Chiaki based on their view of his reaction to Sakura’s situation. Mine, with a new respect and friendship for Chiaki, makes a striking statement in lieu of Chiaki’s monochrome vision, and it is difficult to contest. Mine’s allegation is that Chiaki’s justification comes from a lack of understanding what it means to be on the outside, the underdog. It’s a beautifully frank assessment from Mine, and I feel it’s a well-planted seed coming from someone whom Chiaki is starting to befriend2.

Nodame’s place in the conflict is more integral than Mine’s, for she’s has advanced her position in Chiaki’s life and coincidentally crosses paths with Sakura. Sakura’s woes instantly strike a sympathetic chord with Nodame, and soon we find this duo scrounging for food at Chiaki’s door. His life would be easier if Sakura were out of sight, but the girls grind on Chiaki with a brute intention, perhaps the only method in which to edify a stubborn character. Eventually he reaches a point of realization in how little he understands, and to disregard any further would be blatant ignorance. The grey state of Sakura’s stress between home and music begins to flourish on Chiaki’s conscience. Nodame intensifies the point by directly addressing Chiaki’s lack of real insight into the world of those existing somewhere in the middle; he has never known what it’s like to be poor or needy. Nodame’s argument is distinctly different from Mine’s, but just as sufficient.


Still, maybe one of the greater points we can take from this episode is the way Chiaki’s image changes among the oke. Dark and furious, but suddenly approachable. I think having Masumi, Mine, and Nodame, friends, around him have something to do with his raised accessibility. Chiaki may have sensed he could carry on without the attention of each and every musician of the oke, but it is a crucial step Chiaki is forced into. No, he was never fully on the outs with Mine or Nodame, but they made sure he was aware of their friction, and truthfully, Chiaki is just the type to need a shove forward into another kind of light.


1 – Read: to teach by trolling.
2 – This is crucial because Chiaki is not the type to be vulnerable to those outside his circle, but it is easier to reach his heart once inside.
* – I am hopefully going to formulate a shorter, less comprehensive format in this journey, as the energy required of these posts is draining without a proper muse.

Categories: Drama.


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4 Responses

  1. I love that you point out the importance of Chiaki’s relationship with the S-Oke. Nodame is the person who initially draws Chiaki out of his shell, and from her interaction, he is able to later forge a relationship with Mine. Where Nodame overcomes Chiaki’s reluctance to forge relationships in the first place, I feel that it’s the S-Oke that makes him realize that such relationships are worth cultivating. A side effect of this is that suddenly the other students in the school, particularly the S-Oke members, begin to see Chiaki as a human being who is, as you said, now far more approachable. Not only was Chiaki holding himself back from forming relationships, but he demeanor and others’ perception of him were preventing them from attempting a relationship with him as well.

    Anyway, good post! I look forward to your future ones.

    • Yes, there is great texture in this story, and my primary focus is on Chiaki and his transformation from cold to warmth. Each episode moves him towards that being, though later in the series we do see Nodame more in focus (I’ll likely reformulate the transition). TBH I have watched this series a dozen times and had never examined Chiaki’s dynamics. Everything was enjoyable, but I’m hoping for enrichment in seeing all the little pieces which push Chiaki along.

      Thanks for reading!

  2. It’s been a while since I watched this, and memories are getting hazy about what happened in this episode. But definitely agreed that Chiaki needs to be shoved into positions to grow. He seems to be a pretty passive guy at times (perhaps due to his sort of cold demeanor that opportunities just don’t open for him), so having been injected into things is certainly just what he needs to grow, whether it’s with conducting or with social interactions. The combination of the odd Milch and Nodame is perfect for this.

    • That is one attribute of Chiaki I can identify with, the need to sometimes be pushed at the right time. Although it works much better for him I think, he’s more visible. For some reason, people often believed I always had a more ambitious and secluded schedule in my everyday life during school, which was the case at times, but not always. Luckily there were a few cherished friends who weren’t afraid or intimidated by me who would regularly try to push me into various “opportunities” that I would typically pass on out of the need to roam and chill elsewhere. Perhaps kuudere, Chiaki is the same way I think… cool on want.

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