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Vol.6 - Page 1

Manga-Drama Review and Requests

The most common kind of TV dramas in Japan are made into a series of 10-12 episodes, airing one each for an hour every week. The highlight stories are aired either at 9:00 or 10:00 in the evening, 9:00pm on Mondays being an especially special slot. Mondays are the special day for TV broadcasting stations to air whatever they want to bring forward as their top feature because it is the only day throughout the week that doesn’t have a baseball game shown which means that the program would never be affected by other shows (what often happens on other days is that because of the long games the following programs are delayed or postponed). Then 9:00 is special because people tend to or at least like to get home early on the first weeknight and relax just watching TV. Naturally, Mondays 9:00pm becomes the best slot to gain high viewership and the magic timeslot produced so many masterpiece TV dramas in the past decades that the slot on one of the major broadcasting networks Fuji TV became a brand named “getsuku” or “gekku” (getsuyoubi = Monday, kuji = 9:00).
Winning the special slot last season (October – December 2006) was Nodame Cantabile, one of the recent hit manga in Japan. The original piece by Ninomiya Tomoko started back in 2001 and the story still continues with 17 volumes on sale at the moment. Before going on to the review of the live action TV drama, let us briefly go over the outline of the story.

Main character Chiaki Shinichi (Chiaki) is an elite, handsome and perfectionist student at a music academy in Tokyo excelling in piano and violin skills but actually has a dream from his early childhood of becoming a conductor. However, due to several phobias about travel means he feels himself to be trapped in Japan – a rather poor environment for classic music – never being able to achieve his dream to become a world-class maestro. Chiaki was a genius that couldn’t fly. One day by chance he gets to know his neighbor Noda Megumi (Nodame) who is also a talented piano student at the same school, but rather an odd one by her piano skills moreover personality. Nodame, as opposed to Chiaki, was wasting her talent playing the piano for her pure pleasure only in freedom but never to compete nor to polish up her skills. She was a genius that didn’t fly. The two of them were soon drawn to each other though not always in a peaceful or a romantic way, and with the appearance of the supposedly internationally known maestro Stresemann who turned to be, in personality, a perverted stranger, they start to mature as individuals and musicians.

Ninomiya does a superb job in creating the story by turning classic music, a fairly difficult and politely avoided material to handle into a magnificent piece of casual manga. She does this by throwing in loads of comical elements most of it belonging to the character of Nodame herself who is not only always disorganized but also problematic in hygienic terms, kind of stalkish, gives out strange sounds and always shows affection to Chiaki. The comical elements are also added to the characters of other figures mainly those belonging to the orchestra that eventually became Chiaki's.
In the live action TV drama, these comical factors were overstated though in my sense, with positive effects. Whilst many of the smash-expecting dramas tend to become romantic and nice-looking avoiding factors that could degrade the handsomeness of the appearance, this drama did not hesitate from showing the silliness included in the original. CG effects exaggerated the speedy and powerful movements inside the drama, moreover added abundant special visual effects like heart marks floating in the air, cheeks reddening, steam rising from the head etc. (mostly having to do with Nodame). Actors and actresses were devoted to bring out the taste and personalities of the original characters, too, making the story live and rhythmical, though I would say that the drama ver. Stresemann was too much.
Some fans of the original and those who demand a sense of seriousness in live-action might have not liked so much of this use of very visual CG, but the quality of the drama as a story was by no means degraded because of the CG because the drama was being true to the parts that had to do with the music.

Perhaps the most distinguished part about the drama was the excellent and effective use of the classic masterpiece music. Certainly, the manga alone is a great work that has lots of laughter as well as lessons on classic music thrown in and of course as an entertaining manga, but the most important element of the story, music, cannot be fully expressed on paper and print. On that point the drama did an excellent job blending classic masterpieces from Beethoven, Mozart, Rakhmaninov, Dvorak, Schubert, Brahms, Chaikovski to Gershwin into the comical and casual world of Nodame. Having sound alone makes a huge difference in the first place, but choosing mostly major pieces that many of the people have at least heard of, and making even the music by the historical figures a kind of sound effect to reinforce and direct the significance of each scene, allowed the drama to succeed in recreating the world of Nodame in an exquisite manner.

The drama had an average viewership of about 18%, and brought a greater latent economic effect (those that are believed to have come from the drama rather than the original manga) ending up as one of the representative recent social phenomena among a wide range of generations and genders.


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