The cover of one of the Nodame Cantabile books (Tomoko Ninomiya / KODANSHA)
A comic about classical music has become hugely popular among children who used to think that this type of music was too difficult and hardly ever listened to it. Nodame Cantabile is a serial manga (comic) that has appeared in the girls' comic magazine Kiss since 2001. The manga is a comedy about a group of students at a music academy who study classical music, including instruments like the piano, violin, timpani, and oboe, as well as conducting.
The main character, Noda Megumi, whose nickname is "Nodame," has been a piano prodigy since she was a child, but she finds reading music very difficult. Though she has a bright, amiable personality, in her daily life she tends to be a bit of a slob. She hates to take baths, for example, and her room is always messy. Nodame is in love with Chiaki Shinichi, a handsome young man whose father is a famous pianist. The "prince" of the school, Shinichi always comes top in his class, and his ambition is to become a conductor. The story is based around the love relationship between the two, which seems like it should work but somehow doesn't. Nodame Cantabile also features commentary on famous pieces of classical music and conveys the enjoyment of playing instruments. The comic looks at an orchestra from the perspective of the musicians.
This manga has become a big hit. The 13 paperback volumes of the series that have been published so far have sold over seven million copies. There has even been a sharp increase in the number of children who want to listen to the classical pieces that appear in the series. The manga is so popular that a CD compilation of music featured in the series quickly sold out. The CD includes a Rachmaninov piano concerto and Chopin's "Fantasy Impromptu." In addition, a CD of Brahms' Symphony No. 1, presented as if conducted by Chiaki Shinichi, was released in September 2005. And live musical performances featuring pieces played by the main characters in the manga have also been held.
Hitomi, a high school student and manga fan who enjoys Nodame Cantabile with her mother, says she started listening to classical music as a result of reading the series. "I bought a Rachmaninov piano concerto CD, and listening to it with my mom, we both said 'Wow, so this is the music that Chiaki was playing," she said.
Unique characters, a compelling story, and beautiful music that seems to emanate from the pages: These are the secrets of how a comic series captivated ordinary children who formerly had no interest in classical music.
(Updated in January 2006)