Nodame Cantabile: Paris Chapter

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Sequels are always a bit of a problem when it comes to matters of continuity, depth of story, character development, and sometimes even the look and feel of a show. All too often will the viewing public find the first season of a given franchise to be very good, only to be served a huge helping of mediocrity when the sequel comes around.

There is hope though, as while there are plenty of shows that let the viewer down in this way, there are a growing number that actually manage to equal, if not better, the original series, and one such example is Nodame Cantabile: Paris Chapter.

Now as fans of the franchise will already know, the story is about the eccentric (or slightly mad, whichever takes your fancy), and thoroughly otaku musical genius known as Noda Megumi (Nodame is her nickname), and her reluctant, long suffering love interest Chiaki Shinichi. As the title of the series suggests, this time the pair have moved to Paris to continue their studies. Nodame will attend the music conservatory under the tutelage of the reknowned Charles Auclair, while Chiaki will continue to his apprenticeship under the erstwhile maestro Franz von Stresseman.

Unlike the original series, the plot is far less derived in Paris Chapter. The main reason for this is because a good portion of the original was spent setting the scene and introducing the characters, so by the time Paris Chapter came around much of the hard work had already been done. The story is thus able to continue from where it left off at the end of Nodame Cantabile, however the second series is also reliant on firsthand knowledge of the original as there is very little time spent on pointless flashbacks scenes. While there is a degree of scene setting and character introduction, this is handled in an expedient manner that helps to maintain the flow of the plot.

As far as looks go, Paris Chapter is actually a little better than the original series. While both retain the same atmosphere, the second series has a far more continental look due to the location, which is also reflected in style of clothing. Both Nodame and Chiaki look much the same as they did at the end of the original anime, while the new characters (Tanya, Frank, Yunlong, etc), follow the style of the series to a tee (i.e. highly expressive yet slightly “cartoony” features). The animation is a step up from Nodame Cantabile in that the strange CG used during the musical set pieces is actually smoother and more fluid than before. That said, much of the remaining character animation is pretty much what one would expect from the franchise, and many of the visual gags are well timed and choreographed.

Once again though, the areas where the series really excels are with the sound and music. The voice acting is as good as before (if not better), especially in the roles that continue on from the first series. The newcomers manage to fit in to the cast rather well, and while their performances are loaded with expression, they manage to capture that quirky, eccentric atmosphere that is a hallmark of the franchise.

In terms of music, Paris Chapter is far more focused on delivering set pieces than the original series, and the difference is palpable. This show literally oozes classical music from every pore, so much so in fact, the variety of tracks on offer in Paris Chapter easily rivals that of the first season.

As before though, this is very much a character driven show, and while season one managed a good degree of development for both Nodame and Chiaki, Paris Chapter takes it to a whole new level. In addition to this, the show spends a fair amount of time developing the supporting characters in much the same way as the original. The downside though, is that where the first series had 23 episodes to play with, Paris Chapter only has 11. Now one would think that there is no way to provide any meaningful growth to new characters in such a short time, however this is not the case as the nature of series two is to follow directly on from the original. The benefit of this is that both leads only need to build on their development from the first season, so more time can be spent refining the characters and strengthening their presence in the story, as well as focusing more on the supporting cast. Ironically, this is also the main reason why it is essential to have watched the first season beforehand as much of Nodame and Chiaki’s characterisation in Paris Chapter is dependent on the viewer knowing their history.

Now it should be fairly obvious that I enjoyed Paris Chapter, and to be honest I found it to be as good as the original series. While the show continues to develop the plot and characters, it also manages to retain the eccentric charm of the original without miring itself in melodrama. The new characters are a boon to the series as they complement the story in some novel ways that may not be obvious at first. One example of this is Frank, a music student and European “otaku”, who learns firsthand what otaku power is really capable of (thanks to Nodame and an episode of PuriGorota).

What I’ve always liked about the Nodame Cantabile franchise are the lengths the anime goes to in order to stay true to the manga, and Paris Chapter only serves to reinforce this. The plot is literally taken straight from the pages its paper based counterpart, and while there are some differences due to time constraints (amongst other things), anyone who has read the manga should find themselves on very familiar ground.

As far as sequels go, Nodame Cantabile: Paris Chapter is pretty much everything fans of the original could hope for.

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