Manga of the Month
Nodame Cantabile by Tomoko Ninomiya
When John Fuller of New York’s branch of Kinokuniya was asked which manga sold best in Japanese but did not do anywhere near as well in English his answer was Nodame Cantabile. At first he thought it was because there was no English language version of Nodame Cantabile but Dallas Middaugh of Del Rey pointed out that they where in fact releasing the English version of Nodame. So why is Nodame selling like hotcakes in Japanese but not here is the U.S.? It’s clearly another example of the difference between Japanese and American tastes but I’m not so sure it should be. They are missing out of a hysterical manga.
Nodame is the story of a eccentric, slovenly piano student named Megumi Noda. She is in love with the genius piano student Shinichi Chiaki who wishes to become a world famous conductor. The story itself is of how their mismatched personalities interact with other equally bizarre student as they try to make their mark in orchestral music world. I feel this is the perfect transitional manga to go from the world of shojo to the world of josei. It has much of the humor and feel of a shojo manga while retaining the story structure and emotional maturity of a josei manga.
There is a live action TV series, an anime, and several video games all based on the manga as well.
The interesting thing about Nodame Cantabile is that Nodame and her story is loosely based on a real person. Apparently Tomoko Ninomiya saw the a picture of a messy piano student’s room and was inspired to pitch the idea about the life of such a student to her publisher. Ninomiya dedicates each book to the real-life Nodame. In fact, she keeps in contact with her and even bases certain story lines on her real life adventures. I think this is partially why the characters in Nodame feel so real. Rumor has it that Narutaki is loosely based off of Nodame as well.
Anime of the Month
BECK Mongolian Chop Squad by Madhouse Studios
Koyuki saves a strange looking dog and much to his surprise it changes his life. He meets Ryusuke, a quite talented guitarist for his young years, who inspires him to learn guitar. He also later meets Maho who eventually encourages him to sing because she recognizes his talent being a singer herself. As Koyuki grows and finally enters a band with Ryusuke at the helm we become part of the struggle to get discovered. Any story involving music can be greatly enhanced by a medium with sound, especially when it is done well. BECK is a great example of this, it really comes to life on the screen as Koyuki discovers his love and talent for song. You can feel the uncertainty of stepping on stage and the triumph as the crowd cheers. The interaction of the characters boasts angst but also truth, and as friendships are formed and tested a mighty cast appears. The last few episodes of the series are incredible uplifting and you can’t help but want BECK to succeed. The animation is good, the story is honest (albeit over the top), and the music is great (gotta love that opening by Beat Crusaders which sets a great tone for the series). And you can buy the series in a little min-amp box, how cool is that?