Nodame Cantabile Book 1

Although containing more subtly-drawn characters than many manga series, Nodame Cantabile left no significant impression on me after reading.

Shinichi wants to be a conductor, but he’s currently studying piano to improve his overall skills. (He also turns out to be quite the violin virtuoso when the plot demands.) Nodame is the girl next door, an untrained piano genius with a pigsty of an apartment. She’s driven by appetite, stealing other people’s lunches and loyal to whichever boy gives her dinner.

Nodame Cantabile Book 1 cover
Nodame Cantabile
Book 1
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In pages thick with background tones, Shinichi’s purpose is reaffirmed through taking care of Nodame. His discipline and her talent together will overcome her sloppiness to produce great music. The conflict between technical proficiency and playing with emotion creates a tension that I suspect will be more resonant to the Japanese reader than the American.

The subject matter is immensely difficult to pull off on the printed page, since music can’t be conveyed through a silent medium. As a result, we have to rely in many cases on the words of one character praising another’s skills on piano or violin. It has to be about telling, not showing, which pushes the reader further away from involvement.


  1. Interesting. I haven’t yet read this, although it’s sitting on my bookshelf waiting for me.

    I recall many years ago, Dave Sim (before he went completely nuts) discussing why there was dancing in Cerebus, but never any musicians. His rationale was much the same, indicating that any attempt to portray music in a soundless medium just wouldn’t work.

    I contrast that with something like Scott Pilgrim, where I think that Brian O’Malley effectively conveys rock band performances. Or Para Para, with Andy Seto bringing musical theatre to life on the page.

    But then, rock ‘n’ roll & musical theatre are as much about the physical performance as the musical, whereas in most cases classical music is much more about the music than the performers.

  2. I’d agree — I think O’Malley does a great job capturing energy, but that’s different from music.

    I remember Megan Kelso doing a piece in Queen of the Black Black that beautifully captured reactions to music, but I still had no idea what the music sounded like, only what emotions it raised in the listeners.

  3. i wonder who’s the main character, nodame or shinichi? if the last, the title should be change into “shinichi’s cantabile”.all in all, it’s worth reading comic

  4. […] I’m going to try LA CORDA d’ORO, because the music setting sounds intriguing. It didn’t work for me with Nodame Cantabile because those characters got too weird and unbelievable, so maybe this will fit my tastes better. […]

  5. I suppose that musicians are the ideal readers. If you don’t get the music through paper it only makes sense to educate your senses. It’s a step up that most people aren’t capable of. The character’s are amusing although unnecessarily silly at times. But the whole gist about truly loving music and its essense can only be appreciated by the true music lover. Though the art is simple one should not have such high expectations for music (especially classical) to escape the pages to an uneducated reader.

  6. […] Nodame Cantabile — As David suggests, I’m not listing books where I sampled a first volume and didn’t care for it, because that’s outside the scope of this exercise. I mention this one only because I tried it twice, again after reader encouragement, and it’s just not for me. The pigsty lifestyle of the lead put me off. […]

  7. […] by Tomoko Ninomiya Publisher description Previous review of Book 1 […]

  8. i love this series a lot. Well i think this have to do for my love for music as well =)

  9. […] to me that I’m forgetting some. Does Del Rey have any women-targeted manga? Update: Yes. Nodame Cantabile is considered […]

  10. […] one title that can be considered josei, although none are labeled as such. For Del Rey, it’s Nodame Cantabile, about music students falling in love as they pursue their careers. Digital Manga put out Antique […]

  11. I havent read the manga yet, but the drama was extremely good.

  12. I wouldn’t denounce the series merely on the fact you can’t hear the music. You can easily see the satisfying feeling and enjoyment that the characters have while playing music. I don’t need my books to sing to me.

    The humourous and quirky style, non-flashy artwork, and character growth are all major selling points for this series. If you complain because you can’t hear it, well, that’s just missing the point entirely.

  13. “The conflict between technical proficiency and playing with emotion creates a tension that I suspect will be more resonant to the Japanese reader than the American.”

    I would re-phrase this by replacing “Japanese” and “American” to “Artistic” and “Non-artistic”. Your above quotation basically states that Americans don’t value the struggle between technical proficiency and playing music with feeling. I’m sure many do, in fact. Many musicians and non- can identify to this struggle.

    I implore you, if you’re open to it, to give volume 10 a try. It starts a new arc, and you can see how the series has developed. It is a stark contrast to the “messy room” beginning and the art has smoothed out.

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