Day 30: A Drama You Wished Never Ended and Continued On

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Well, here we are at the final entry of this challenge! For me, I’d love it if Nodame Cantabile went on for at least a couple more seasons. Not only will we get to see more of Tamaki Hiroshi and Ueno Juri, there’d be lots more music, lots more fun and zany scenes with the rest of the Nodame cast, and still plenty of character growth to mine. The Nodame franchise (live-action) ended at a point where Chiaki and Nodame are ready to embark on the next stage of their musical careers and personal lives, and I’d love to see what happens next. We could also get a peek into what is going on with Kiyora and Mine after her return to Japan, and if the RS Orchestra has hit big time.

I also wouldn’t mind an extra season, or even just SP, of Love Shuffle. I’m curious to see what Kei is up to now that he has taken a giant step ahead in life. And I would have liked some closure to Detective Investigation Files IV, because god knows that cliffhanger left viewers clamouring for a season V for yonks. The fervour has died down now because most of its stars have gone on to other things, but something finite would have been nice.

So there’s the end of this challenge. Thanks everyone for sticking with me and all your nice comments!

junny@5.40pm

 

Day 28: Favourite Quote

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I don’t know if it’s my all-time favourite, but this is definitely memorable. Only Chiaki can make a threat of rejection into something totally romantic and beautiful. In episode 11 of Nodame Cantabile, Chiaki goes to Nodame’s hometown and while on the way to find her, she happens to call him and tell him that she’s decided to study abroad in France. She’ll have to take an exam for the music conservatoire there. As she’s telling him about her dreams of them performing together, he runs up and hugs her from behind ❤ Nodame is totally stunned by his sudden appearance as he tells her she must pass the exam.

Chiaki: Let’s go to Europe together. If you reject ore-sama for the second time, I definitely won’t forgive you.
Nodame: Umm… (smiles) Merry Christmas!
Chiaki: Merry Christmas! (tightens hug)

Precisely because Chiaki is so sparing with his affection that this whole scene, complete with the gorgeous sunset and riverside backdrop, is so precious and squee-worthy. Mr Hotshot Conductor knows how to hit the right romantic notes at the right time!

junny@11.30pm

Day 8: Favourite Drama Couple

Yikes, this calls for some repeating again, haha. I have quite a few couples that I really ship, so here we go. Spoilers included.

1. Chiaki Shinichi & Noda Megumi (Nodame Cantabile)

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Well, I’m sure the reason why I love this couple is obvious. They love music and are just awesome sauce and complement each other in the ways that matter. Besides, Tamaki Hiroshi and Ueno Juri look so fantastic together and had such amazing chemistry, it’s a shame they aren’t dating in real life.

2. Suga Eiichiro & Asaoka Kyoko (Love Revolution)

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Whenever he calls her Kyoko-san in that half-teasing, half-flirty manner, it makes her knees and that of the audience go weak. They’re both workaholics and true professionals, but y’know, even hotshot journalists and brainy doctors make time to kiss their way to a sizzling romance.

3. Kuryu Kohei & Amamiya Maiko (Hero)

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Strictly speaking, they were never a couple in the original J-drama (whatever comes after isn’t worth a mention, really). But Kuryu and Amamiya were a powerhouse and wacko legal team, mostly because of his unorthodox methods, and their chemistry was off the charts.

4. Sena Hidetoshi & Hayama Minami (Long Vacation)

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Long Vacation is a classic J-drama everyone should watch, because it’s one of Kimutaku’s best works. Both friends and lovers, Sena and Minami show age difference is no barrier to true love. Bonus: there is classical music!

5. Hirokawa Eiki & Egi Toko (Koori no Sekai)

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This is a couple blighted by her traumatic past, but Eiki is nothing if determined to uncover the truth so Toko can finally get her life back. As they say, true love will overcome everything. Takenouchi Yutaka and Matsushima Nanako had some pretty sizzling chemistry here.

Some honourable mentions (or this will never end):
Takano Seiichi & Amemiya Hotaru (Hotaru no Hikari)
Kuga Tatsuhiko & Kasahara Natsuki (Over Time)
Usami Kei & Aizawa Airu (Love Shuffle)
Kudo Junpei & Tanaka Chiharu (Kekkon Shinai)
Tsui Fei & Quin (Detective Investigation Files IV)
Kang Tae-bong & Oh Dalja (Dalja’s Spring)
Hyun Jin-heon & Kim Sam-soon (My Name is Kim Sam-soon)

junny@11.40pm

Day 6: Favourite Movie

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I don’t have an outright favourite film, so I’ll just go with one (or two?) each for Japanese, Korean and Hong Kong. I think the two Nodame Cantabile films will probably count as my favourite Japanese films, haha, since they have Tamaki Hiroshi. I really love the music featured in the entire franchise, and everyone just stepped up a notch in the films, it was awesome to watch. I also really liked Kurosawa Akira’s Stray Dog (Nora Inu), which I think is very underrated since most people prefer his more famous works such as Seven Samurai and Rashomon. Stray Dog is a detective film, but pretty unusual in the way it plays out since it’s more character-driven than your usual cop films. Mifune Toshiro, a stalwart of Kurosawa films, played a detective who had his gun stolen by a pickpocket and teamed up with a more veteran colleague to hunt it down. Apparently, Stray Dog is considered a precursor to the police drama and suspense films we see now.

I am also very fond of Il Mare, which starred Lee Jung-jae and Jeon Ji-hyun. It was a beautiful and intricately crafted film, very thought-provoking and showcased some wonderful acting by Lee and Jeon (I admit, I shipped them for quite a while). Even though there were two different timelines and the actors rarely shared the same screen, one could still feel their chemistry just from their correspondence.

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As for Hong Kong films… where do I start? I grew up with them and have enjoyed so many over the years, but it’s really difficult to pick a favourite. Perhaps I’ll go with these two from my childhood: the Aces Go Places spy spoof series and the original All’s Well Ends Well. I loved the original pairing of Karl Maka and Samuel Hui in Aces Go Places – the former was bumbling detective Albert, who spoke with a hilarious accent, while the latter was a master thief. Sylvia Chang was Albert’s hot-tempered wife and also their “supervisor” of sorts. The series was pretty mo lei tau and probably one of the earlier examples of the genre.

All’s Well Ends Well (the original was the 1992 version, which later spawned quite a few lame sequels) had all your usual Hong Kong stars who were by then starting to become household names: Stephen Chow, Leslie Cheung, Raymond Wong, Maggie Cheung etc. It was about three hapless brothers and their women troubles, with each brother eventually learning that love has to be gradually nurtured instead of taking it for granted. In Cantonese with all the wordplay, parodies and jokes, it was even funnier.

Writing about these films makes me want to watch them all over again!

junny@9.23pm

Day 3: Favourite Male & Female Character

Even though I have a clear top two for favourite male character, I’m going to add a couple more just to have a little bit of variety, haha. For a very long while, my favourite male character was pretty much Suga Eiichiro from Love Revolution, because of how Fujiki Naohito portrayed him to perfection. Hotshot journalist with a hidden righteous streak, great kisser, charming and easygoing but not sleazy, and an all-round nice guy in the end… it is arguably Fujiki’s best role (yes, it even outranks Buchou!)

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Suga is still one of the sexiest male characters of any drama, but recently he’s had to take a backseat to Nodame Cantabile‘s Chiaki Shinichi, who’s now No 1. Tamaki Hiroshi’s Chiaki is simply irresistible – that incredible talent! the looks! he cooks and cleans! them white shirts! – how can one not love this guy? I just love it whenever Chiaki is immersed in his music and even though he has very high standards for music and himself, he’s not afraid to admit he’s wrong about things – he does appreciate and respect people who care about music, once he gets round to realising it. He’s a bit slow regarding things not concerning music, but half the fun’s seeing him lose his sanity trying to figure out other (nutty) humans, haha. Even though Chiaki is supremely grudging with showing affection, when he does show it, he pretty much knocks it out of the park.

Chiaki might seem very different from Suga but at heart, they’re really passionate about what they do and are just two guys who don’t recognise love until it threatens to slip away from them. I tend to be a sucker for tropes like this, and both Tamaki and Fujiki were pretty much kanpeki in their respective roles.

Other male characters I really like are Kuryu Kohei of Hero, and Akiyama Shinichi from Liar Game. Before Kimura Takuya’s drama choices went south in the latter 2000s, he had a string of hits and Kuryu is arguably his most memorable (well, enough to spawn a 2014 sequel). I think the role fitted Kimura to a T and he got to display the character’s quirky, misfit charm to the max. He also had wonderful chemistry with Matsu Takako in Hero, which made their pairing particularly memorable. As for Akiyama, I’d never quite liked Matsuda Shota in anything else – he was okay in Love Shuffle, but I think the Akiyama role suited him so well I couldn’t imagine any other actor doing it. Matsuda brought out Akiyama’s know-it-all smirks, trademark laid-back pose, arrogance and confidence perfectly, and made me root for him to outwit his opponents no matter the odds.

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Oddly enough, I don’t have a favourite female character – that’s not to say I don’t like any, but none of them stands out as strongly as the males. But I’d probably go for Quin from Detective Investigation Files IV and Oh Dalja from Dalja’s Spring.  I was a huge fan of this Hong Kong drama and Quin was portrayed by Jessica Hsuan, one of my favourite Hong Kong actresses. I thought Quin was pretty kickass in how she dealt with being in a difficult relationship – she loved Tsui Fei, but constantly had to battle with his memories of his ex-girlfriend, who’d gone missing. She was pretty much the logical and sane one in the volatile relationship, and I really rooted for her. It’s probably my favourite Jessica role, and also because she had such chemistry with Louis Koo, who played Tsui Fei.

Dalja is one of very few k-drama heroines I like. She deals with things in a logical, if amusing (and sometimes feisty) manner and I like how she decided to make the best of a failed crush on her colleague by becoming pals with the guy. While fairly inexperienced in love, she’s not one for bemoaning her fate too much and just gets on with it after a while. I love her relationship with Kang Tae-bong, and it helped tons that Chae Rim and Lee Min-ki had oodles of chemistry to successfully sell the older woman-younger man romance. This is one rare k-drama that I’d totally recommend.

junny@10.11pm

Day 2: Favourite Drama

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Hands down it’s got to be Nodame Cantabile. It’s pretty much perfect, from the cast to the music, right down to the manga-esque humour. Ueno Juri and Tamaki Hiroshi were fantastic as Nodame and Chiaki, and had such amazing chemistry that many people still ship them together till this day. No other actor could have brought Nodame and Chiaki to life the way Ueno and Tamaki did. The acting was solid throughout and you could feel the camaraderie of the cast shining through in the drama and behind-the-scenes videos. For an 11-episode drama, character development was rich and logical, and every scene meant something in the bigger scheme of things. The music selection was spot-on and delightful, and added much to both plot and characterisation. You don’t have to know your Beethovens or Mozarts to appreciate the drama, but it might just make a classical music fan out of you!

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I do have to give a shout-out to Love Revolution, which before Nodame Cantabile was probably my favourite drama, and still ranks very highly on my must-watch list. Japan doesn’t really do rom-coms like these anymore, where adults behaved like adults and weren’t afraid to get intimate with the people they liked. This was an all-round eye-candy cast, with plenty of kisses done right to go round, and the added bonus of these people being able to act (can’t say the same for the supposed eye-candy these days). Esumi Makiko and Fujiki Naohito were so winning in this drama, and their chemistry so pitch-perfect, that I’d shipped them for many years and still hope that they, like Ueno and Tamaki, would reunite on screen for just one more time. Dear Japan, time to give us some proper rom-com goodness!

junny@12.30pm

Nodame & Chiaki: Rachmaninoff

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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

Nodame & Chiaki: Sonata for Two Pianos

Nodame: Senpai's playing is so accurate! It was really according to the score! Chiaki: ......

Nodame: Senpai’s playing is so accurate! It was really according to the score!
Chiaki: You’re just too sloppy!

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.

Continue reading

Fanvid: Hard to Love – Chiaki & Nodame

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.

junny@11.20pm

Redefining sexy

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

junny@2.45am

A bolero or three

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.

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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.

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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.

junny@11.55pm