If you don’t know this song, you ain’t no J-drama fan!
If you don’t know this song, you ain’t no J-drama fan!
It’s not often that a drama has a theme song that’s meaningful and reflects the spirit and essence of the story it tells. Fortunately, 浮生若水 by Raymond Lam is that song. This is the ending theme song for the TVB drama The Master of Tai Chi (太極), and I love the melody and meaningful lyrics. Raymond has sung theme songs for quite a few dramas but I feel this is the best of the lot. I also liked his performance in the drama – although he was the second male lead, it was a meaty role that allowed him to show his range. The drama was about a young man Mo Ma (Vincent Zhao) who after a series of events reunites with his mentor and begins to seriously learn tai chi and the Way from him. It had a decent storyline, a very good cast (some of whom are martial artists themselves) and some solid fight choreography – Vincent Zhao is a martial artist and I appreciated that he got to show off some really nifty moves sans stunt double. If there’s one thing Hong Kong has a near permanent advantage over Japan and Korea, it’s the quality of its martial arts scenes. Some of the fight scenes, such as the ones below, were pretty neat: Continue reading
This song has been on my mind for the past two weeks, and is a timely reminder of how much I loved Jang Hyuk as Lee Dae-gil in Chuno. The song, 바꿔 (Change) by Gloomy 30s, typifies everything I liked about Chuno – swashbuckling fun, reckless adventure, solid fight choreography, and plenty of style, substance and oomph. While I disagreed with the direction Chuno eventually took, among other things, it doesn’t take away how awesome Jang Hyuk’s portrayal of Dae-gil is. That smirk, that swagger, the intensity, the choco abs… totally to die for! Perhaps a rewatch is on the cards…
The unique and wonderful thing about Nodame Cantabile is that characterisation is not only shown through action, it is also reflected in the use of music. It might not be obvious at first glance, but Nodame Cantabile is a drama that stands up to repeated watching and each time it brings new insights. When Nodame and Chiaki played the Mozart piano duet, the character growth was largely on Chiaki’s part. While Chiaki went on to learn how to better work with an orchestra, piano-wise it was not until the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No 2 in C minor, Op 18 that we see not only a major breakthrough for Chiaki, but the stirrings of one for Nodame as well. Continue reading
As I revisit episodes of Nodame Cantabile, I always find something interesting and new about the relationship between Nodame and Chiaki. I love that a huge part of their relationship is about the piano. It’s a very special instrument, the piano, with its black and white keys and the wondrous, crisp music it produces. I’ve always loved piano music above all else, so watching Nodame Cantabile and having the two lead characters be this intimately involved with the piano was an absolute delight.
Found a really sweet fanvid of some classic Chiaki and Nodame scenes – the song is Hard to Love by Lee Brice, and the lyrics are super apt for Chiaki! I couldn’t stop grinning as I watched the scenes unfold. Maziltu, the person who made the fanvid, chose really good scenes that reflected the lyrics all too well. There are many lovely Nodame Cantabile fanvids out there, but this one really gets me right there and gives me that warm, fuzzy feeling. Every time I rewatch it, I relive the good times that are Chiaki and Nodame.
It’s funny how I’ve had a soft spot for Tamaki Hiroshi for yonks, but I never found him outright sexy – he was adorable and a real sweetheart in Kekkon Shinai (especially when he smiles!), but it wasn’t until I watched Nodame Cantabile that it hit me like a ton of bricks just how hot he really is.
I think it’s got to do with how Chiaki is styled – he’s always dressed simply in one of four colours: black, white, blue or grey (he does, hilariously, sometimes wear a red apron when cooking, lol. I think there’s also a dash of brown in the movies). Given Tamaki’s tall, slim frame, the monotone colours work like a charm. He looks polished and confident, and the colours somehow add to his no-nonsense character. Tamaki in white shirts is near irresistible, he just looks so gorgeous in them for some inexplicable reason. Besides, Tamaki can do arrogance so well, he totally looks the part of a preppy university student (in the drama, that is) who knows he’s head and shoulders above everyone else in terms of musical talent. Compared to the other characters’ more flamboyant outfits (Mine and Masumi, for example), Chiaki’s understated dressing is really quite easy on the eye and sort of reflects how he is – substance over style.
What is truly mesmerising, however, is when Tamaki takes to the stage as a conductor or pianist. It’s interesting that because he played Chiaki throughout the live-action, specials and movies, the character became like a second skin for Tamaki. As Chiaki went through character and musical growth, so did Tamaki in terms of acting. In the live-action, you could tell how his confidence grew with each performance and how he became more assured that he knew what he was doing. It wasn’t perfect, sometimes he missed a beat or wasn’t quite in sync with the music, but it symbolised Chiaki’s continuing growth as a musician.
But by the time of the movies, Tamaki was totally imperious as a conductor – re the Beethoven Symphony No 7 in A Major at the beginning of the first movie, and Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture with the Roux-Marlet Orchestra. He totally owned that stage with his incredible screen presence – the intensity, the passion, those eyes… each time I watch the Tchaikovsky scene, I love how Tamaki has made the character his very own and given Chiaki his own distinctive conducting style that is so wonderfully expressive. It was a powerful performance and surely one of Tamaki’s best scenes in the entire Nodame franchise. Watching someone become so involved in what he is doing, throwing his entire being into something he loves… it takes your breath away. Intensity has never been sexier, and you don’t even need to bare skin while you’re at it.
The piano scene that follows the Tchaikovsky totally reinforces the sexy quotient. I’ve always loved Chiaki playing the piano – Tamaki has those long artist fingers that are just made for piano playing – and the Bach piano concerto in D minor BWV 1052 remains one of my favourite Chiaki piano scenes. In the live-action, you could tell he had no experience on the piano, but in the Bach piano scene, it was totally believable that Chiaki’s piano talent would make Nodame cry (and not in a good way). It was the overall package – the hair, the tux, the intensity and concentration, and how his fingers danced away on the keys like a pro. His whole posture exuded the inner confidence of a man who knew what he was doing – Tamaki was truly riveting at the piano. I love the Bach piano scene so much, it’s just so incredibly sexy, both on an intellectual and sensory level.
Dang and blast, I need to rewatch this… for the nth time. More Tamaki is always good!
One of the best bits of Nodame Cantabile was the classical music used – I’d read somewhere that when the live-action aired, it got a whole crowd of drama-watchers interested in classical music, and that’s no mean feat. Besides featuring the masterpieces of the various greats, it was also fun for me to figure out the classical pieces used as background music. One obvious example was the use of Ravel’s Bolero in episode 8 – the music started from Nodame’s arrival for RS Orchestra’s first concert to Kuroki’s entrance as the oboe player for Mozart’s delightful Oboe Concerto in C Major.
I love this bit because the music starts out soft, and then has a mini climax when Kiyora makes her entrance as the concert mistress and lead violinist. It then reaches a powerful finale with Kuroki’s entrance and ends off beautifully as Chiaki steps up on his conductor stand, surveys his orchestra (in fantastic slow-mo, Tamaki Hiroshi is awesome every time he does this) and exchanges quiet, firm nods with Kuroki. I’ve watched this segment any number of times and still love how the bolero was timed so well for the entrances of the various characters of the orchestra. The “first” crescendo heightened Kiyora’s anxiety because she wanted so desperately to perform well in front of her teacher, and the finale emphasised Kuroki’s confidence and determination to repay the faith everyone had in him.
Ravel’s Bolero is a wonderful piece of music (it reappears in the first film for Chiaki’s ill-fated first performance with the Roux-Marlet orchestra), a one-movement orchestral piece that is probably his most famous work. It starts out soft, but as the music builds and the various instruments come together, you have to marvel at the magic, the beautiful synchrony of it all. I think the most difficult has to be the snare drum in keeping the rhythm consistent throughout.
Another example is in episode 1, when Chiaki tells Nodame (after the fiasco with Milch) that he sees no point in continuing the charade of guiding her because she doesn’t want to practise and he’s not interested in teaching her either. Nodame senses there’s more to it but can’t voice her concerns and leaves dejectedly. Chiaki then slumps to the floor, defeated. In this segment, Beethoven’s Pathetique was used to perfection to show Chiaki’s despair at never being able to achieve his dreams of being a conductor. I love how it captured Chiaki’s desolation in that scene, and how it was first used as the music that drew Chiaki to Nodame. It’s just brilliant how a piece can be employed for two very different scenes with varying emotions. But then that is the wonderful world of classical music, and of Nodame and Chiaki.