Nodame Cantabile Vol 4 by Tomoko Ninomiya Manga Review

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Title:  Nodame Cantabile Vol 4

Author:  Tomoko Ninomiya

Publisher:  Del Rey

ISBN:  9780345482419

May Contain Spoilers

Forced to participate in the Nagano Music Festival, Chiaki’s plans for a peaceful summer break are ruined.  First he’s dragged to the beach by Nodame, Mine, and Masumi, and he’s forced to confront his fear of the ocean.  Then, he gets to play nursemaid to the moody Milch when Elise, Milch’s secretary,  abruptly takes a vacation.  Suffering through all of these trials, Chiaki doesn’t feel that he’s any closer to realizing his dream of becoming a conductor!

Ah!  Don’t ever go to the beach with these guys!  First, Nodame and Masumi playfully ruin the sleeping Mine’s quest for the perfect tan, and then they try to drown Chiaki!  Unwilling to open himself to the teasing of his classmates, Chiaki refuses to confide his fear of the water with them, and instead finds himself stuck on an inflatable boat in the middle of the ocean.  When he’s made the prize in a tug of war between Nodame and Masumi, things don’t end well.  Poor Chiaki!  Both Nodame and Masumi annoy the hell out of him, and they both seem determined to kill him in this chapter.  Chiaki’s ego has a lot to blame for his misfortune.  If he wasn’t so concerned about looking like a coward, he never would have found himself in the very situation he was trying to avoid!

At the music festival, Nodame is so busy pining for Chiaki that she can’t play the piano.  Combined with her poor command of English, she’s quickly tossed out of the class.  Chiaki finds some of the success that Nodame fails to attain after Milch is too hung over to conduct.  Put in charge of the rehearsal, his ambition to become a conductor flairs to renewed life. 

This was another solid installment of Nodame Cantabile.  The art may be a tad on the unattractive side, but the character interaction makes this a series worth reading.  Tomoko Ninomiya doesn’t hesitate to put her characters in some really embarrassing situations, which results in some delightfully funny moments.   

Also included is a humorous peek into Nodame’s childhood.  For somebody so gifted at the piano, she sure knows how to get out of having to play!  I was feeling so sorry for her instructor.  I am starting to suspect that Nodame is a space alien.  That can be the only explanation for her outlandish behavior.

Grade: B+

Rated for Older Teen

VS Versus #5 by Keiko Yamada Manga Review


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Title:  Vs Versus #5

Author:  Keiko Yamada

Publisher: CMX

ISBN:  9781401210724

May Contain Spoilers

Reiji is accused of attacking Nachi’s brother, and to protect his friend, he refuses to reveal the details of their fight.  To prevent him from being expelled, Nachi must confront her brother and drop her carefree facade.  When she confesses her love to Reiji, he’s caught totally off-guard.  Blind to her feelings, in love with Mitsuko, he rejects her.  Wounded, Nachi declares that she’s giving up the violin.  Will Reiji be able to keep her friendship, and convince her to play again?

Life for Reiji is filled with so many upheavals, it’s a wonder he gets anything done!  First, he’s got Nachi turning all girly on him and declaring her undying love for him, and then he’s got Aoi putting himself at death’s door every time he plays the violin!  Why can’t a guy just have normal friends?  Oh, wait, Reiji would hardly be considered normal himself.

I didn’t like the way Nachi just caved after Reiji spurned her affections.  I thought she was stronger than that.  Sure, she had a lot on her mind, what with her lecherous brother being thrown out of the family home and the love of her life pining for another woman.  She became a lifeless shell, and she even turned her back on her family, thinking that she, and by extension, her violin,  was the reason her step-brother turned into such a rotten egg.  Hopefully someone will whack her with a bow and set her straight again.

Now Aoi has an entirely different problem.  Back in New York, when he collapsed during the concert with the Hakuto Philharmonic, he made his heart condition even worse.   Now he struggles to keep the severity of his illness a secret.  Reiji helps him cover up his condition, selfishly wanting to continue to compete with him, but also ignorant of how poor Aoi’s health really is.  When Mitsuko reveals the truth, that Aoi’s doctor told him to retire from performing, Aoi lashes out against them, refusing to give up his music.  For Kenzaki, his violin is his life,  and the prospect of living without it is unbearable. 

Reiji is finally forming some relationships in this volume, even though they are shaped with his own selfish purposes in mind.  He has respect for the skill Nachi and Kenzaki possess, and he wants to compete against them, because they bring out his own abilities. He is again causing Mitsuko grief, and in this volume, Aoi is causing difficulties for her as well.  Everyone in Versus lets their emotions carry them along on a tide of self-created turbulence.  While I’m enjoying the series, I’m so glad that I don’t have to deal with these people in real life.  It would be so exhausting! 

Grade: B

Rated for Teen +

This review is based on a galley provided by the publisher, CMX.

VS. Versus #4 by Keiko Yamada Manga Review

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Title:  VS. Versus #4

Author:  Keiko Yamada

Publisher:  CMX

ISBN:  1401210716

May Contain Spoilers

In New York to perform with the Hakuto Philharmonic, Reiji has fallen under the sway of conductor Bartholomew, despite Hane’s objections.  Reiji learns that Bartholomew was with her when she had her crippling accident, and the damning circumstances behind the tragic event.  When Hane doesn’t appear for the concert, Reiji fears that Bartholomew is up to his old tricks.  As he races off to his apartment to rescue her, is he forfeiting his chance to play with the orchestra?

I am enjoying the heck out of this series.  So many dramatic moments to savor! Reiji dashes hither and yon to have violent confrontations with villains, while Aoi, stepping into the spotlight for his first violin solo, courts death to play the music he loves more than his own life.  Even carefree Nachi has a dark past that she hides with an artificial smile.  I have to say that Hane is the most pitiable character – even after being cruelly abandoned, she still harbors an almost cancerous love for the man who helped destroyed her career.

The focus turned to Nachi in this book, and her reluctance to return home for the weekend.  She coerces the bewildered Reiji to come and pick her up later in the evening.  When he finds her being molested by a family member, he confronts her attacker, and later, berates her for keeping quiet about it.  She is finally allowed to display emotions other than her constant cheerfulness and silly grins.  I thought that the scene with her playing the violin with Reiji accompanying her on the piano was really well done.  The art, from the moment she dashed into the room on her scooter, captured her infectious joy as she performed music created by her favorite composer. 

Grade:  B+

Rated for Teen +

Vs. Versus #3 by Keiko Yamada Manga Review

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Title:  Vs. Versus #3

Author:  Keiko Yamada

Publisher:  CMX

ISBN:  1401210708

May Contain Spoilers

Reiji and Aoi face off as rivals for a soloist spot with the Hakuto Philharmonic.  Reiji displays his inability to work with other people right off the bat.  Offending the entire orchestra with his attempts to achieve the perfect sounds for Sibelious, he is now consumed with anxiety that the musicians won’t play their best for him.  Then he meets the conductor of the New York Philharmonic, Bartholomew A Asakura, who promises to teach him the most effective way to manipulate the orchestra.  Why is Hane so set against Reiji spending time with Asakura?

This volume goes back to the over the top drama that I like about this series.  Reiji, in his pursuit to play his music the way he wants, sets the orchestra members against him.  Aoi, on the other hand, immediately wins them over with his charming smile. As Reiji comes to grips with his inability to get along with others, he and Hane share a tender moment, which causes my biggest gripe with the series.  Reiji is too young for a romantic entanglement with Hane to be believable.  Suspending disbelief is painful, but I struggling to accept it so I can continue to enjoy the series.

Introduced in this volume is Asakura, a ghost from Hane’s past.  After the tragic death of her mother, young Hane falls into an emotional void.  With even her music lost to her, she comes under Asakura’s spell. Promising that he’ll help her play the violin again, Hane soon finds herself in love with the young conductor, only to be discarded after her career ending accident.  When Hane warns Reiji to stay away from the cunning Asakura, he demands to know why, but Hane avoids giving him an answer.  When Reiji learns that the two were once an item, he’s consumed with jealousy.  Why does he feel so cold at the thought of them going out, all though years before?

This read was an emotional roller coaster.  Hane’s relationship with Asakura is shown though teasing flashbacks, without giving any details to their breakup, or why Hane feels such hatred for her ex-lover.  Reiji, now the object of Asakura’s attentions, is bewildered by Hane’s violent reaction to his interest in the conductor.  When he presses her for information about their relationship, she refuses to discuss it.  Mixed into this is Aoi’s sacrifice to play the violin.  With his health problems, the grueling performance of Sibelious might cost him more than he bargained for.  Is he willing to give up his life so he can taste the sweetness of his music? 

I am really surprised by how much I’m enjoying this series, as I totally dismissed it when it was first released.  Violinists?  Bah!  Oh, but how wrong I was!  This is now a series that I read as soon as a new installment hits the mail box.  Volume 4, where art thou??, why does it take you so long to ship my orders?

Grade:  A-

Rated for Teen Plus

VS Versus #2 by Keiko Yamada Manga Review

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Title:  VS. Versus #2

Author:  Keiko Yamada

Publisher:  CMX

ISBN:  1401210694

May Contain Spoilers

Reiji’s sister, Miruka, has been sent to America, safely away from their abusive father.  Suddenly despondent, he no longer has the will to play the violin.  Mitsuko takes away his violin and determines that he’ll not touch it again until he wants to play from the bottom of his heart.  When he learns that the other teachers have already found a replacement for him, Reiji snaps.  He breaks that case containing the school’s most famous instruments.  Have the teachers finally found a reason to keep Reiji for competing in the Nationals?

I was disappointed with the direction that this volume took.  Instead of simply focusing on Reiji and his fiery personality, and all the problems it causes, the author introduces a new character, Sakurada, the violinist the teachers are grooming to be Saioin’s replacement.  On his way to the music hall, Reiji is kidnapped by Sakurada’s henchmen, so that he’ll be a no show for the contest.  Though certainly dramatic, the series of events that followed just didn’t seem plausible and some of the impact of the story was lost on me. 

Things got back on track after the contest, as Hane sends Reiji to escort his new rival, Aoi Kenzaki, from Kyoto.  The son of famous musicians, he’s decided to turn his back on the piano and embrace the beauty of the violin.  He argues violently with his grandfather about his choice, and he’s told if he follows through with his plans, he’s no longer welcome in the family home.  Hmm… He sounds like he could be as emotionally unstable as Reiji!

I really enjoy this story when it spotlights Reiji’s battle with his inner demons.  He’s a flamboyant, contentious character and despite his gift for playing the violin, he’s a social dimwit.  Whether Hane can reform him before he self-destructs is what interests me most about this series. 

Grade:  C+

Rated for Teen

La Corda d’Oro #1 by Yuki Kure Manga Review


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Title:  La Corda d’Oro #1

Author:  Yuki Kure

Publisher:  Viz

ISBN:  1421505835

May Contain Spoilers

Kahoko is a student in the General Education department at Seisou Academy.  Her life is turned upside down when she catches a glimpse of Lili, the fairy that lives on campus.  He gives her a magical violin, and before she knows it, she’s been selected to participate in the musical competition that’s held every few years.  Surrounded by the gifted students of the Music department, what chance does Kahoko, with her lack of musical talents, have to win the contest?

Based on the Koei video game, La Corda d’Oro seems like an excuse to surround a cute heroine with a group of gorgeous guys.  Kahoko’s ability to see the school fairy gets her into a situation where she’s hopelessly over her head.  Even with the magical violin, her efforts to play the instrument yield less than the desired results.  Chastised by Lili for not genuinely appreciating the music she’s attempting to play, Kahoko learns that her emotions are what influences the violin’s music.  If she doesn’t play with a true effort, all the violin produces is ugly noise.

The personalities of the other contest participants are only briefly touched on in this volume.  Ren is an overbearing jerk and Yunoki reminds me of Yuki from Fruits Basket with his fastidious manners and glowering fangirl groupies.  Not much is revealed about sleepy Shimizu in this installment.   Of the contestants, I like the trumpet playing Hihara the best, because he seems like a fun guy.  Oh, and he’s nice.  Unlike Ren, who’s a jerk.  Wait, I said that already.

The art is clean and pleasant, with attractive character designs.  The layouts are easy to follow, and Yuki Kure uses a variety of panel sizes and shapes to keep the pages interesting.  Also included are initial character sketches, character interviews, and a glossary.

While this was a pleasant enough read, I didn’t feel that there was much about it that set it apart from other books in the same genre.  I’ll stick around for a few more volumes, though, to see how the story progresses.

Grade: B-

Rated for Teen