December 27, 2008
I usually don’t expect much out of sequels, but slice-of-life stories seem like they should have an advantage in that department, don’t they?
STORY – This Paris Chapter picks up pretty much right where the first season leaves off. Chiaki is still working to advance towards his goal of being a renowned conductor, and even Nodame seems to have something more concrete in mind for an end result. The general idea of the story is more or less the same, but unfortunately, I think a lot of the charm is lost in the overseas transition — mostly because their dreams don’t seem quite so distant anymore. Chiaki is already fairly well known and well connected; as such, the things that stand between him and what he wants don’t seem to be that big a deal anymore. We all know he’s capable. This second season gives a little more spotlight to Nodame and her development, but even she seems to have made peace with herself for the most part, so the progression just doesn’t seem as interesting.
Episode-to-episode, since it remains quite slice-of-life, the series is still pretty fun and entertaining, but the depth and relevance of the over-arching plot isn’t nearly what it was in the first season. It feels more like a continuation of antics because the story had already matured to its height and there’s no where else to go. I suppose that’s a little disappointing, but at least it doesn’t take away from the original series.
CHARACTER – Like the story, I feel like both Chiaki and Nodame had finished all their significant growth and development in the first season and that there wasn’t much else to address in the second season. Despite having become an official couple somewhere along the way, there were only small differences in the way they interacted with each other. It was still ridiculously adorable for sure, and it could be said that we do gain some insight on Chiaki’s regard of Nodame and their relationship, but I don’t really feel much was explored beyond what we could have already figured out on our own. I suppose slow and gradual progression was part of what made their relationship so appealing in the first place though.
Sadly, most of the secondary cast from the first season stays in Japan, and we’re greeted with a mostly fresh assortment of support characters in Paris (Kuroki the Oboeist is the only character that reappears). And they aren’t nearly as interesting or entertaining as their predecessors. I don’t really think there’s a specific reason though, honestly; I just had a much harder time caring about them…maybe because they weren’t featured as prominently and because none of them really seemed motivated? If they don’t care about themselves, then why should I care about them? It also bugged me a little that almost all of them were pianists; variety is good!
ARTSTYLE & ANIMATION – At first glance, Paris-hen seems to have gotten a step-up in budget as far as animation goes. Where season one had still frame after still frame for musical performances, season two has none of that whatsoever. Instead, we’re met with a lot of computer-generated music-playing that’s fitted in rather awkwardly with the cel animation. Every single performance is animated in the Paris Chapter. Violins move! Fingers glide over piano keys! Chiaki’s arms actually wave around when he’s conducting! It’s pretty neat; I was excited to see instruments move, but after a while, you really start to notice how awkward it looks.
The difference between the CG animation and everything else is too obvious. Chiaki’s arms are too stiff. The pianists’ fingers are look strange when they move; they’re robotic. It isn’t terrible, but it’s noticeable, and it becomes a little distracting. I think the general character animation took a hit because of it, even in scenes that didn’t involve performances. More proportions were off than usual, etc. The animation was never amazing to begin with, so those small things stand out. I’m not really sure whether the still frame panning is better or worse than the awkward CG, but at least they’re trying.
MUSIC – You know, for a music anime, Nodame Cantabile Paris Chapter has a pretty terrible opening theme. The animation is uninspired, and the song is just… not good. Thankfully, the ending theme is much cuter, and I really enjoyed the multilingualism of it all. We don’t see as much variety in musical selections throughout this season as in the first, but that’s probably because it’s half the length. Almost all of the performance scenes are also markedly shorter, which may bode well for those that got a little bored before, but I was actually kind of disappointed. Even though most of them had been still pans, it took these shortened pieces to make me realize I did really enjoy all those long performances in the first season. I think there’s just something cool about seeing characters perform. It’s inspiring. In all though, there really isn’t much to complain about.
VOICE ACTING – Tomokazu and Kawasumi are still doing a great job with their leads. Chiaki’s noise of disbelief is just priceless every time, as is Nodame’s “gyabo!” It really impresses me that they manage to find that perfect middle where she says it just enough times to be endearing, but not enough times to be annoying. The rest of the cast’s voice acting was pretty average.
One thing I really wish they addressed better was the bilingual nature of the story though. Sure, they’re Japanese characters and thus speak Japanese, and obviously, a show airing in Japan will be in Japanese, but still. The way the series starts off is actually really neat as far as this goes — Nodame is learning French through dubbed anime and it’s really hilarious. There are captions indicating when conversations are actually taking place in French but are being “dubbed” in Japanese. But after a while, these indications disappear, and I get confused, especially when random sniplets of French get woven in to the spoken Japanese. Especially when French characters speaking in Japanese weave French into their Japanese!
I have to admit that it was pretty fun hearing the Japanese butcher another language besides English though. XD
OVERALL – Nodame Cantabile Paris-hen was enjoyable. It didn’t quite live up to the standards set by the first season, but it was far from being a straight-up failure. As I haven’t read the manga or seen the drama, I’m not quite sure how all this matches up with the events there, but it is a smooth follow-up to the original anime. The story doesn’t move much, but the characters are still fun and their interactions cute. The visual aspects could stand a bit more improvement, but the sound is still pretty damn solid (excepting the opening theme).
I’m pretty excited for the third season, anyway. Slice-of-life could conceivably go on forever, and I know I said that both the story and characters feel like they’ve matured to some kind of climax… but despite that, I’m still having fun with them. There’s always room to grow. Maybe there wasn’t much movement in this season, but who knows what the third season could bring? I have faith. For sequels, that’s a pretty rare thing.