Monday, January 4, 2010

Nodame Cantabile... the Motion Picture

It's fairly new to me, but you probably know all about Ninomiya Tomoko's famous manga Nodame Cantabile (available from Del Rey), the story of Chiaki Schinichi, a promising young musical genius who's stuck unhappily in Japan because he's afraid to fly and Noda "Nodame" Megumi, the bizarre girl next door who lives in filth but can play piano like nobody's business. I bought the first volume yesterday, and how I came to do so makes for a very boring story. But you're so very into Nodame Cantibile you're just dying to know how I came to buy it. You're obsessed, a veritable Nodame Cantabile maniac so anything related to the manga has your rapt attention. Right? Am I right?

Eh, probably not. But here we are anyway.

It seems as long as I've been in Japan, I haven't been able to escape Nodame Cantabile. A few of my students are big fans of this series, and especially the TV drama adaptations, which were big hits in 2006 and 2008. And the anime. Still, I resisted for the longest time despite their breathless recommendations. We even have an ex-student who's off living the Nodame Cantabile lifestyle, studying music at a special music university and living in an apartment with a grand piano as her main piece of furniture, just like Nodame herself. Although I imagine this real-life Nodame keeps a nicer place; she's as fastidious as she is studious. But while I like Takahashi Rumiko, Kazuo Koike and everything Nana, I'm just not that susceptible every single manga that comes down the pipe. Some people are obsessed with Japanese comics as a genre; I only go apeshit over individual creators and their works if they meet my exacting standards.

However, I am very susceptible to the charms of Ueno Juri. For about a month now, her smiling image in character as Nodame has been gazing down upon us from front windows of the local Mister Donut franchises. I recognized her immediately, and understood from her pose (she's sitting at a piano as if she's energetically playing it, yet can still make eye contact with passersby) she wasn't selling doughnuts as herself, but as some TV or movie character. But who?

Oh, Nodame from Nodame Cantabile. Thanks, Internet!

Juri is the perfect choice to play Nodame. She has the looks and she's already shown some musical talent-- she had to learn to play the saxophone for her lead role in 2004's comedy hit Swing Girls. So this Ueno "Nodame" Juri/Doughnut campaign ties in with the brand new Nodame Cantabile big-screen adventure, the first of two sequels to the TV dramas. What do doughnuts and music have in common? Well, other than a doughnut slightly resembling a whole note on a music staff, I have no idea. But thanks the wonders of cross-marketing, doughnuts and Nodame Cantibile have been joined in holy matrimony and no "defense of marriage" proposition is going to split them asunder.

As I've said before, Japan is a wonderful place-- perhaps the best-- for comic fans and fans of comic book-based movies. Practically every single popular comic book, no matter the genre, becomes a TV show or movie at some point. Since I've been here, I've watched a TV drama adapted from Suenobo Keiko's Life (the theme song of which became a huge pop hit for Nakashima Mika, who played the punk-Nana in the movies based on that comic), had the plot to the movie 20th Century Boys related to me several times by various people, watched the hit first version of Nana, avoided the flop sequel and gone on a movie date to watch Rookies. Drama, sci-fi, romance. And of course, the Hollywood comic book adaptations invariably make their way here. Superheroes and crime. Now this. Nodame Cantabile starring Ueno Juri has caused me to try the manga.

Although now that I've watched the trailer, I think Ueno Juri acts like nothing resembling any type of human I've met in my all too short sojourn here on planet Earth. She's more than a little scary.

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