Flash Review: Cantabile Tomorrow

To be honest, I had a false start or two, when it came to watching this show.

Try as I might, I just couldn’t get into it enough to get through the whole of episode 1, which meant that this show was slowly but surely sliding off the mile-long watch list, and into drama oblivion for me.

And then my friend Jo started talking about how she really did like this show, overall. She assured me that it gets better after the initial episodes – in particular, that Shim Eun Kyung’s delivery gets toned down – and that I would very likely enjoy the show.

Well, whaddya know. Jo knows me – and my taste in dramas – pretty well, after all. 😉


There were 2 main things that made it hard for me to get into this show.

The first was, I’m not into shows that are overly campy and OTT, and the first couple of episodes of this show tested my OTT limits quite soundly.

The internal logic in this show seemed to be that there was none, and characters regularly behaved in nonsensical, illogical and completely OTT ways. It all felt a little intense to me.

Adjusting my lens helped with this, which I’ll talk about in a bit.

The other thing was, I found Shim Eun Kyung’s delivery of Nae Il overly exaggerated and broad.

I generally have a good opinion of Shim Eun Kyung as an actress (loved her So. Freaking. Much in Miss Granny), but I hafta say that I was really quite underwhelmed by her OTT take on Nae Il as a character, at least in the initial episodes.

I found Nae Il’s behavior generally hard to watch, in all of its extremely-socially-awkward, cringeworthy, blithe glory. I also found it difficult to connect with Nae Il as a character, coz I felt I could neither understand her nor appreciate her odd behavior.

Thankfully, Shim Eun Kyung’s delivery settles into something relatively more restrained as we get deeper into the show, so that sort of fixed itself (except for Show’s finale episode, which I’ll talk about later).


It helped a lot, to think of this show’s manga roots every time characters behaved in illogical or nonsensical ways. I realized pretty early on, that the plot and character logic in this show really only works with a manga lens on.


Like in episode 1, when Yoo Jin (Joo Won) furiously cleans Nae Il’s disgustingly filthy apartment himself, or when he drags her to the bathroom to personally wash her hair himself.

Or like in episode 2, when Nae Il immediately jumps into a cloud of happy stupor with Maestro Streseman (Baek Yoon Shik) just because he complimented her once, then promptly brings Streseman to Yoo Jin’s house to eat Yoo Jin’s food, unannounced, and then agrees to go to Streseman’s hotel with him.

Without a deliberate and focused manga lens on, it all makes no sense whatsoever. Thinking of it as a live-action manga though, it becomes a lot more acceptable.


Thanks to the manga lens, and thanks to Show’s general tone settling into a more restrained version of itself after several episodes, I eventually found myself getting sucked into this drama world.

By around episode 6, I actually enjoyed visiting this drama world with each episode, which was a welcome surprise.


Joo Won as Cha Yoo Jin

Hands-down, Joo Won as Yoo Jin was THE highlight of the show, for me.

Yes, it’s partly a fangirl thing, coz I just can’t deny that Joo Won’s very lovely to look at and even rather swoony, but really, his appeal in this show goes so much deeper than that.

He grounds everything

In the midst of a manga-inspired world where characters behave in bemusing ways as a norm, Yoo Jin stands out as a character that’s played straight. When the other characters don’t make sense, he’s the character whose feelings and reactions make sense and feel normal.

In Joo Won’s capable hands, Yoo Jin’s character, played straight yet faceted, is what grounds the entire show and gives it an emotional center that’s easy to relate to. Because I cared about Yoo Jin, by extension, I cared about the world around him.

In the midst of lots of OTT campy in this drama world, Yoo Jin’s journey of resolving his inner conflict and angst, while learning to care not just about music, but about the people who play it, was one of my favorite storylines in the show.

He’s actually really nice

Despite Yoo Jin’s prickly aloof outer shell, we see flashes of niceness and gentleness about him from early on in the show. I loved watching those brief flashes of niceness and kindness in him grow into something larger and more consistent, as we got deeper into his journey.


There were so many occasions in the show, when Yoo Jin’s niceness stood out to me, in the midst of his grumpiness.

Like the time in episode 2, when he carried Nae Il even though he clearly didn’t enjoy it. And when he volunteered to accompany Il Rak (Go Kyung Pyo) on the piano, even though he didn’t have to.

Or the time in episodes 7 & 8, when Yoo Jin chooses to play with A Orchestra, because he’s told that that’s the only way he can protect S Orchestra.

Or the time in episode 11, when Yoo Jin gets through to Joon Hoo (Park Bo Gum), and shakes him out of his cello requiem fixation. Yoo Jin’s tough-love approach is very much in his prickly character, but it’s easy to see that he comes from a place of care.

Or, the time in episode 13 when Yoo Jin believes in Il Rak when Il Rak doesn’t believe in himself, and goes to Il Rak’s home to coach him daily.

I particularly loved that Yoo Jin doesn’t belittle Il Rak’s emotional manner of playing, and in fact encourages Il Rak not to let go of his emotions, but to use them in his playing.


The more I saw Yoo Jin’s niceness playing out, the more I liked him. So yes, by series’ end, I liked him a lot. 😉

It’s in his eyes

Joo Won’s gorgeous bedroomy eyes are arguably his best feature, and he puts ’em to good use in the show. Not in terms of showing how swoony Yoo Jin is, but rather, in showing how kind he is.

Even in the early episodes when Nae Il really gets in his face in rather obnoxious ways, Yoo Jin typically responds with a softness and gentleness in his gaze. I felt so drawn to him, because of that.

Throughout the show, there is just so much vulnerability and feeling that Joo Won channels through Yoo Jin’s gaze – whether it’s compassion for a fellow musician, or encouragement to Nae Il – that I couldn’t help but love him.

And because I liked him, I wanted to see him succeed; I felt invested in his journey and his world, and that made all the difference for me, while watching this show.

The hodgepodge orchestra

There’s something about the story of the earnest underdog fighting hard to overcome obstacles, that gets me every time.

I grew to really enjoy the underdog story of S Orchestra, and I really liked a number of themes that their journey brought to the surface. By extension, I grew to enjoy a number of key secondary characters as well.


Perhaps my favorite thing about spending screentime with the orchestra members, was seeing them forge bonds and help one another overcome their perceived limitations.

I loved that Yoo Jin helped Il Rak to break through his mental barriers to see that he’s a better musician than he thinks. Of course, I also love how Il Rak luffs Yoo Jin even more, as a result. Hee.

I loved, too, that the S Orchestra members nonchalantly show the A Orchestra members how to make time for their passion, even when official privileges aren’t available to them.

I also loved the grudging bromance between Yoo Jin and Yoon Hoo, as both boys push each other to do the needful thing. Yoo Jin pushes Yoon Hoo to suck it up and get surgery, and Yoon Hoo pushes Yoo Jin to suck it up and get Nae Il back. It’s reluctantly symbiotic, and I really like it.

In episode 15, Yoo Jin quite perfectly sums up the relationship among the orchestra folks in this beautiful voiceover:

“In an orchestra, dozens of instruments gather to make one sound. No, dozens of people gather to make a melody.

Violin, viola, contrabass, trumpet – when they play their parts from each of their seats, Mozart sounds like Mozart, and Tchaikovsky sounds like Tchaikovsky. One by one, they must guard their places and play together to complete the music.”

Ahhh. So true, in music, and in teamwork as well. <3


Special shout-outs to:

Go Kyung Pyo, who shows great comic timing as well as lots of heart in his portrayal of the goofy, good-natured and slightly dim Il Rak;

Min Do Hee, who is adorable as Min Hee the tiny contrabassist with a big passion and a big appetite; and

Jang Se Hyun, who is endearing as the super enthusiastic and fiercely loyal timpani player, Soo Min – who also happens to idolize Yoo Jin.

Special mention to Il Rak and Shi Won (Bae Min Jung), for turning out to be quite the cute couple. I liked watching their cute couple antics, especially since those were often combined with mock-disapproval from Min Hee and Soo Min.


Here are some of the themes and ideas that resonated with me the most:

  • The idea of enjoying and loving music, versus simply pursuing excellence in it. It’s so gratifying to see these underdogs press on in the face of any and all obstacles, not for the sake of ambition, but for the pure love of music, and to see them have fun with it, and infect others with their enjoyment of it.
  • The idea of enjoying music, rather than simply striving to be technically excellent, which in turn gives the music that flows through your fingers, life and heart.
  • The idea of second chances and new paths, that are just as good as old ones that you have to leave behind.
  • The idea of needing not just skill alone, nor passion alone, but holding onto the best of both worlds.
  • The idea of stepping out of your comfort zone, for your own good, as well as the good of others.

As our orchestra members banded together to face their difficulties head-on, and grew in the process, I couldn’t help but feel a vicarious sense of achievement and pride.


To be honest, for a good stretch of the show, I didn’t think there was a whole lot of chemistry between Joo Won and Shim Eun Kyung. In fact, at about 7 episodes in, I didn’t actually care whether the writers planned to develop the OTP romance properly.

But as slyly as Nae Il grew on Yoo Jin, so did this couple eventually grow on me.

Of course, it did help a lot, that as we got deeper into the show, that their interactions mellowed out into something sweeter and more thoughtful, than the initial frenetic shouting and bickering that we got in the initial episodes.

Admittedly, we don’t get a lot of skinship with this OTP, but Nae Il and Yoo Jin connected in other, arguably more meaningful, ways, as they started to help and understand each other in their shared passion for music.

I really liked that as they learned to understand each other, that they each grew and matured in the process.


I enjoyed watching Yoo Jin becoming more understanding and empathetic as a result of his relationship with Nae Il. That he could be understanding of Nae Il’s nerves in episode 11, was growth, and growth that enabled him to empathize with his orchestra members too.

I really liked that despite Yoo Jin being “the smart one” in the relationship, that Nae Il taught him many things too.

I loved the moment in episode 13, when Yoo Jin acknowledged that Nae Il had been right all along; that one should enjoy the music that one plays, so that those listening will enjoy it too. (I couldn’t agree more on this point, by the way)

What I really appreciated in our OTP’s relationship, is that this growth flowed both ways.

On her side, we see Nae Il stepping out of her comfort zone, to battle her fear of the stage and of competitions in general. It’s for Yoo Jin’s sake, sure, but ultimately, she’s the one who battles and defeats her demons.

Eye-rolling noble idiocy in episode 15 aside, we do also see Nae Il working through her personal desire to be near Yoo Jin, and choosing to do the bigger, more compassionate thing, which is to help him break free from his pain, and allow him to go wherever he wants to go.

In all of this, although we don’t get much in terms of skinship, we do see Yoo Jin and Nae Il learning to look beyond their personal desires in order to love each other with empathy and compassion. That that’s part of their individual journeys of growth and maturity, is just bonus.

Another bonus (and back on the skinship track), is that lovely, heartfelt backhug that Yoo Jin swoops in to give Nae Il at the end of episode 15. Aw, really sweet and swoony. Now just imagine if there’d been kisses too. <3


This show’s characters had snuck up on me and endeared themselves to me in the slyest of degrees over the course of its run, so much so that I found the finale episode – major chunks of which had been filmed in the beginning, when the production had gone to Salzburg – uncomfortably jarring and dissonant.

Once the scenes changed over to the ones shot in Salzburg, I found myself feeling some distinct drama whiplash, thanks to Nae Il’s character not having “settled” yet when these scenes were filmed.

I was starkly reminded of why this show – and Nae Il’s character in particular – had been hard to watch in the beginning.

This effect was further aggravated by the fact that we had ended episode 15 on that melty swoony backhug that I just mentioned.

To then now see Yoo Jin recoiling from Nae Il’s (admittedly cringeworthy) advances in the finale, after that heartfelt backhug, felt out of character. Worse, it felt like our OTP relationship had regressed in serious ways.

What. A. Bummer. This totally felt weird and off, and made the finale feel very uneven and stilted.

On the upside, we do get some warmth from the other characters, and that helped to create at least some cohesion in our final episode.

Thankfully, the orchestra’s finale performance in the school lobby reminds me all over again, of the stuff that I do love about this show. It hits the perfect sweet spot, of having everyone together, performing not for an audience, but for the love of music – and each other. Love. <3


A weak beginning and ending, mitigated by a heartwarming, mellower, more understated center stretch – and Joo Won’s gorgeous gentle bedroomy eyes.




I don’t actually remember hearing this song playing while I watched the show, but I couldn’t help but feature this MV. Coz, Joo Won. Being melty. With those gorgeous, swoony bedroom eyes. ❤️

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
1 year ago

I had to say to myself that the main female lead was on the spectrum. Even so I loved her playing but I kinda wish they let her grow up.

6 years ago

I found this site because I just watched the Kdrama with optimism after loving the Japanese anime, the Japanese live action drama, the specials and movies. So I was looking forward to another version of a drama I loved and was inspired by. I enjoyed the kdrama version as adecent kdrama however it does not compare to the spirit of the jdrama. I missed some aspects of the jdrama so much so that I decided to go back and watch it again after watching this version.

Yes the cultures are different but the Kdrama lacks what the Jdrama emphasized. THE MUSIC. It was about the love of music and it introduced me to music I had no understanding of and turned me into a lover of classical music. Had I only ever seen this Kdrama version I would have missed out on this love of music. Everything about the Japanese version brings joy. It is OTT but it is fun, the comedy is slapstick but the music is serious. I like the slick sophistication of Korean dramas but I always go back to Jdramas if I want a more vivid slice of life drama. The plots are often more eccentric and they are not afraid to show the quirks of humanity.

I always think of Nodame as being on the autistic spectrum but still managing to carve out a life in music, with true friends and a lover. The Korean version makes her just a spoiled baby. The trendy Kdrama lacked most of the electric charm of the original but I was able to enjoy it for what it was. I kept watching and waiting for some of my favorite moments from the original only to be disappointed over and over. So much so that I searched google to find a review to see what other people thought of it just in case I was missing something. I am glad to learn that other fans of the original found this version as tepid as I did. To me it was just pastel where the Jdrama was neon. Once I finish watching the jdrama I will re-watch the anime too.

6 years ago
Reply to  Romancefantasy

I didn’t watch the J-version nor the anime, but I know the fanbase is nothing to sniff at. Even without seeing the source material, I get the sense that the k-version fell short, so I can imagine your disappointment, and I can totally understand your need to wash away the disappointment by revisiting the other versions. I did manage to enjoy some bits of this, but I wouldn’t consider this a very good drama overall.

8 years ago

Great review!

I totally understood what you meant by putting on your manga lens on. For me, I watched Nodame Cantabile first and I had to force myself to go beyond the 1st episode because I just couldn’t get why fans were raving so much about it. It was so OTT and campy and insulting to the female gender in general. I have a beef with how women are portrayed in dramas and movies, not that I am a feminist. Although Chiaki slowly changed towards Nodame, I found Yoo Jin a lot more convincing. Joo Won is the best at making viewers care about the character. As you said, he is the highlight of the show.

I enjoyed this a lot more than Nodame Cantabile which was quite funny once you get used to the wackiness. But it never made me feel for the characters or the orchestra like Tomorrow Cantabile did. Music wise, I am no expert so I can’t tell who played better. Tomorrow Cantabile’s selection were pretty spot on in terms of capturing the mood and feels. Joo Won was as awesome in conducting, I can’t believe he just picked it up for the drama. Park Bo Geum was also a natural. Stresemann was terrible though.

All in all, I love this show, enough to rewatch. The only part I skipped and hated was the Salzburg finale. Aaarrghhh…it was costly but really, that belong in the editing bin. Such a bummer after the nice backhug and cuteness.

8 years ago
Reply to  D

Thanks D, I’m so pleased that you enjoyed this review, and that you have the same view of this show! 🙂

It’s really interesting to me, what you said about not feeling for the characters in the J-version the way you did in the K-version. I think you basically hit the nail on the head! One of THE things that I enjoy about kdramas, is that they are always striving to connect emotionally with the audience. Sure, sometimes logic fails in spectacular ways, but the reason I keep watching, is because kdramas (many, though not all) manage to make me feel. If I had to choose between a drama that makes me think and a drama that makes me feel, I’d choose the drama that makes me feel, in a heartbeat (unexpected pun unintended!). And yes, Joo Won’s take on Yoo Jin, is really what grounds the show in that emotional space. He made me care, and that made all the difference <3

Agreed that Stresemann was terrible.. I have no idea what that weird accent was about. My best guess is that it's because the character isn't supposed to be a native speaker of Korean. And YES that Salzburg footage should've been kept far, far away from our finale. That undid all the backhug feels in a big hurry, which was such a bummer indeed.

8 years ago

Your review, as always is on point. And I get a shout out too? How cool is that?! 🙂

Will expound more on my feedback soon. Just know that the Salzburg finale scene was shot in the beginning, hence the jarring out of OTP character behavior.


8 years ago
Reply to  j.d.e.

HUGS BACK <3 Yay that you like the review.. you're the one who guessed that I'd grow to like this show, so kudos to you! 😉

Yes, I did mention that the Salzburg scenes were filmed at the beginning. What a huge pity, that in choosing to use the footage, Show basically undid all the gentle intricate relationship development that had been built up over the course of the middle episodes. I felt it was a huge pity, to be honest. I almost want to forget that Salzburg ever happened! XD

8 years ago
Reply to  kfangurl

I agree completely. Hahaha yes, knowing you, you would know that Salzburg was one of the first eps filmed. It was painful. The beautiful episodes leading up to the second to the last one were truly wonderful.

However, the last episode is not TOTALLY a loss as it gave us one of the most tender exchanges between them. Or at least, the most loving I’ve seen Yoo Jin towards Nae-Il. This was in the holding room when she was nervous and she thought her name was called. She stood up only for him to take her wrist and her hand to stop her. And he kept holding her hand, rubbing his thumb over her skin while he calmed her nerves with conversation. The look he gave her then… melt.

Here are my other favorite heart squeezing moments:

1. the whole name thing on his cell phone,
2. him taking care of her after her panic attack at her old teacher (the “let’s stop now” scene. sigggghhhh)
3. him taking care of her at home, feeding her, telling her it’s cool she didn’t win so she gets to stay… with him
4. OH MY GOD THAT SCARF SCENE AT THE ARCADE. Why in the world was there. no. KISS?!?!??!?!
5. Of course, the backhug.
6. And of course, the hypnosis scene. That killed me.

Besides the OTP though, I sincerely like the story development and the friendship. (I luff them all)

Well my dear friend, given my hiatus from k-drama, this post makes me want to re-watch most of the series. The feels!!!

8 years ago
Reply to  j.d.e.

YES. The Salzburg scenes made the finale episode feel disjointed, like some kind of haphazard Frankenstein of an episode, where stuff was just stitched together with big, ugly stitches, never mind whether it all fit or not. XD What a waste of a lovely build-up, honestly!

I remember that scene, where Yoo Jin rubbed his thumb over her hand! I remember swooning, hehe. I second pretty every single one of your scene shout-outs, with my favorite of the lot being his empathetic response to her, after she’d encountered her old teacher. I mean, he had no real clue of what was going on, all he knew was that she was feeling anxious. And that was enough for him to make a decision. Melt.

And yes, I really enjoyed the friendships in this show, especially among the S Orchestra kids. The underdog nature of their characters just added to the heart-tugging feels, as they helped one another to do better and be better. Loved it!

Lol. Every time I start a drama coz you’ve been watching it, you always end up in rewatch territory once I’m done and we’re talking about it again! XD At the very least, I hope this gets you back in dramaland for a bit! Hugs!

Felicia Sue Lynn Reviews

I LOVED this anime so I was looking forward to watching this when I got a chance. Glad for the heads up on pushing through the first few EPs!

8 years ago

Ah, I’ve not seen the anime nor read the manga, so I can’t say if this adaptation is at all faithful to the source material. If I remember correctly, I heard some viewers say that this version doesn’t stay that close to the source material. But yes, I found this show settled quite nicely after the initial episodes. So just push through those, and be prepared that the finale episode is uneven as well. I still liked it, despite the rocky beginning and end 🙂

8 years ago
Reply to  kfangurl

The k-remake doesn’t understand the source material. Romance is not a central theme of Nodame Cantabile, which is a lot about personal growth via and with classical music. Chiaki and Nodame had such different personalities yet were so complementary in the ways that matter – they root for each other, help each other grow, and are each other’s inspiration. Romance was just an aspect of their already rich lives, one they didn’t really make a huge fuss about. Ditto with other characters. There was no blah third party or screechy exes, no silly school politics or noble idiocy, no snivelling rivals or whatnot. But there were a lot of heartwarming friendships and relationships between oddball characters – Mine & Chiaki, the S-Oke, Kuroki and Tanya etc. The J-drama and anime managed to capture the essence of the manga very well and the use of classical music to emphasise character growth was superbly done in all three mediums.

Everyone was wacky and fun in the original manga/J-drama/anime, including Chiaki, so Nodame being the way she is did not stick out like a sore thumb. Also, Nodame is insightful in her own ways – she notices and grasps things differently from Chiaki, but she’s not dumb. In the k-remake, everyone was normal and staid, so Naeil’s orabang antics made her look stupid and village idiot-worthy. I thought Joo Won’s conducting was pretty ridiculous and he obviously copied Tamaki Hiroshi’s facial expressions, while Shim Eun-kyung was very OTT as Naeil – neither she nor the director understood Nodame’s character, though Shim was slightly better when Naeil was allowed to tone down. Also, drama-wise, the Japanese live-action used a completely classical soundtrack, right down to the background music. Poppy songs in a drama about classical music just seems wrong. For me, the k-remake fails as an adaptation of Nodame Cantabile, but as a normal k-drama about a bunch of kids who happen to do music, it probably seems somewhat passable.

8 years ago
Reply to  junny

Sorry, I forgot to add the k-remake Stresemann is horrendous. I don’t know why Bae Yoon-shik played the character like this, he’s normally not a terrible actor. His romance with the principal was also pretty dumb – that lady looked like she was dressed to go to a costume party every time she appeared. Also, there’s no proper build-up to key character scenes – the k-remake skates by on assuming either people have some knowledge of the source material or don’t really care. The scene you mentioned – Yoojin accompanying Ilrak in his exam – did not build up their relationship enough to show why it should be such a huge thing for Yoojin to do that for Ilrak, and for Ilrak to decide from then on to be Yoojin’s friend.

Okay I shall keep my mouth shut lest I get chased off this site! Just want to add that your kfangurl avatar is super kawaii!

8 years ago
Reply to  junny

Lol. Don’t worry, as a general rule, people don’t get chased off this site! ^^ Thanks for sharing your insights and thoughts from comparing the source material to this k-version, junny. I don’t have very extensive experience with anime but have seen a couple of J-drama adaptations like Hana Kimi and Hana Yori Dango, and I conclude that no one does manga adaptations like the Japanese. I think they have the advantage of coming from the same culture and therefore have the perfect sense of the manga feel.

At the same time, after watching kdramas for a fairly long time, I’ve also come to appreciate the Korean sensibility. It’s just different from the Japanese sensibility, despite some strong Japanese influences in the Korean culture. I think the manga/anime sensibility is difficult to adapt to the Korean sensibility which is feelings and heart focused a lot of the time. That’s probably why you felt like this version emphasized the romance a lot more than the J-version. I noticed the same slant in To The Beautiful You, the K-version of Hana Kimi. I suppose there’s no one right way to go about an adaptation, although I do think that creating something that resonates with your target audience is a big priority. In that regard, I do understand why the writers chose the emphasis that they did. I watch kdramas almost exclusively, and the interpretation of the characters and their relationships in the middle stretch sat well with me. I think in that sense, the K-version managed to find a connection point between its characters and its audience. 🙂

Given that I’m not familiar with the source material, I can’t comment on how that scene about Yoo Jin accompanying Il Rak compares. I’m sure it could’ve been been given a richer context. In fact, that would’ve been great. Coz I love me some context 🙂 Without it, though, I thought the show did give me enough to appreciate that Yoo Jin wasn’t obligated to help Il Rak, but did. And I got enough of a sense that by doing so, he saved Il Rak in a pretty big way. In that sense, I didn’t have a problem accepting Il Rak’s sticky best-buds attitude with Yoo Jin. In fact, I thought their friendship arc was really cute 🙂

I suppose at the end of the day, k-remakes won’t actually ever be much like their Japanese source material, for the simple difference in sensibility between mediums. And keeping that in mind when approaching any remake (coz there are so many, these days!), would probably make it all a lot easier to accept and possibly even enjoy ^^

8 years ago
Reply to  kfangurl

Haha, well I have strong opinions about this, so I tend to offend people. But this is a nice site so I am trying not to be bad XD I agree nobody does manga adaptations like the Japanese, although there have been a few live-actions that didn’t quite make it as well). Nodame Cantabile has been adapted into a Japanese live action with a drama, two specials and two films, and of course the anime. I’m more familiar with the live action and not so much the anime, although I’ve been assured the latter is excellent as well. In any case, if you watch the J-drama, it’s like the manga writ large, and for me that’s even funnier. But it’s very well-grounded despite the wackiness, and the character growth is so well-charted throughout the 11 episodes (and through the specials and films) that I did not find any superfluous scene.

I do agree with finding something that resonates with local viewers and I understand the difficulties in adapting something from a different culture, but I think they chose the wrong source material to do it. There are plenty of shoujo manga and even Korean manhwa that would probably have done a better job in the romance department. That’s why I don’t get why people harp on the lack of romance in Nodame Cantabile because it’s not even a priority for the characters. Artificially inserting something that goes against the essence of the source material is a big no-no in my book. I mean, Kuroki got over his one-sided crush on Nodame midway through an episode – the cello dude in the k-remake spent the second half of the drama moaning about Naeil not liking him back.

Anyway, for context, let’s take the Yoojin-Ilrak scene we were talking about. I’m sorry this will be kinda long. In the J-drama, off the bat we establish Mine (who is Ilrak in the k-remake) dislikes Chiaki because he thinks Chiaki is just living off his famous father’s fame (Chiaki’s dad is a famous pianist). This in the midst of everyone swooning over Chiaki’s talent and looks makes the dislike more jarring. Mine is a bit of a primadonna and thinks very highly of his violin skills. In episode 2, it’s revealed Mine’s friends got Chiaki to accompany Mine on the piano for Mine’s re-exam, but Chiaki was so put off by Mine’s playing that he left. Mine is even more pissed and after finding Nodame to accompany him, thinks it’s Chiaki who is a lousy pianist who doesn’t have “soul” and can’t understand Mine’s playing. Nodame’s playing is so haphazard and at will that Mine has difficulty keeping up with her. Then of course the scene at Nodame’s apartment where Chiaki storms in demanding to know wtf is the terrible noise they’re making, and thoroughly schools Mine in the violin, then offers to coach him if Mine wants. Mine storms off, insulted but Nodame later tells him Chiaki never thought Mine had no talent, just a different way of expressing music. Chiaki told Nodame that while Mine sucks at ensemble (playing as part of a team), he is good at being a soloist and just needs that something extra to truly shine. Mine is inspired by Chiaki’s advice (via Nodame).

Nodame falls sick on the day of the re-exam (from wearing sexy clothes in a duel with Masumi to gain Chiaki’s affection), so Chiaki offers to play the piano for Mine. While waiting for his turn, Mine laments about the guy ahead of him who’s playing brilliantly, Chiaki says confidently they’ll be a better team and beat the guy, but Mine scoffs that Chiaki can talk big without putting in effort. Chiaki then reveals he’s been studying the piano and violin since 3 years old and although he’s worked hard all these years to become the best, he’s not had any form of reward because his dream is actually to be a conductor. When it’s Mine’s turn finally, Chiaki tells him to play as he likes and not to bother too much about technique, but to listen to his (Chiaki’s) piano. So Mine walks into the exam confident about playing his own style, but also carefully listening to Chiaki’s piano, which harmonises perfectly with his violin. Their “Spring” is what Mine had earlier described to Nodame as “the joy and lightning of shining youth” but as he and Chiaki harmonise and he realises how Chiaki is conducting the whole thing, he finally understands the essence of the Beethoven piece. Mine walks out of the exam hall ready to dedicate himself to classical music, and also to be Chiaki’s friend. He even tells Chiaki he’d have liked to be part of an orchestra Chiaki conducts, and for the rest of the franchise, is Chiaki’s staunchest friend other than Nodame (despite the occasional hiccups).

As Chiaki plays during the re-exam, he also realises that Mine is like another Nodame, that people like them are at their best when they’re allowed to express themselves. Chiaki also draws hope from the Beethoven piece, that just as the composer battled deafness to create wonderful music, so too the winter of Chiaki’s own situation will pass and then spring would come. Their playing also inspires Masumi to stay on at the music academy – he’d been on the verge of leaving after realising Chiaki would never like him, earning a lecture from Kiyora about how little music meant to him (Masumi). Later on, Masumi runs up to Chiaki promising to work harder at his music.

I find this whole characterisation very well done because ultimately, it focuses on the two musicians first and foremost. At no point in this does any evil teacher or whatnot interfere – Mine and Chiaki’s battles were with themselves and they overcame them after learning how to accept and offer help. It was a huge thing for Chiaki to help Mine the way he did, and for Mine to walk out of the exam hall wanting to be Chiaki’s friend and work at classical music again. The growth went both ways and the implicit trust Mine had in Chiaki during the re-exam despite their lack of practice together was lovely to watch.

I’m so sorry this went way too long! I tend to ramble when it comes to Nodame Cantabile XD

8 years ago
Reply to  junny

Lol. You do have a point about selection of source material, junny. As in, if the people making the show specifically want romance in it, then they should probably choose a source material where they don’t have to create something from nothing, or something from not very much. I totally agree that Yoon Hoo’s crush on Nae Il went on for way too long. And there have been kdramas where romance either didn’t feature much, or didn’t feature at all. For example, Misaeng didn’t really have much romance at all in it, and was a big hit. Which means that audiences are quite capable of loving a show that doesn’t have romance. I would’ve liked this show just as well, I think, if the writers had chosen to focus more on the relationships among the orchestra members, and less on the romance. Coz I genuinely enjoyed watching the friendships blossom among them.

Thanks for describing the scenes in Nodame to me, it sounds quite lovely, actually! I like how, as you said, the focus is on overcoming the self, and growing beyond your weaknesses. That’s the kind of theme that I could really get behind. Maybe one day I will check out Nodame, when a J-drama mood hits. 🙂

7 years ago
Reply to  junny

Thanks I am another N C addict and I absolutely understand why you ramble.

Kao Javier
7 years ago
Reply to  junny

I know my comment is more than a year too late; first off want to thank you junny for putting this out there. I don’t want to hate on Cantabile Tomorrow, instead I’d like to encourage the fans of this show to watch Nodame Cantabile when they have time, but I have to admit I have an axe to grind about this adaptation. I’m currently dragging myself into completing the series on Netflix before it disappears, but I’m having a really hard time. This site’s reviews always help me look at dramas with a different lens, I guess I also want to contribute to that effect. I hope people who liked this drama would take time to learn more about the original material and appreciate the work the author put into her research to create what was Nodame Cantabile. And I guess enrich their experience with the story, and remember it with a much deeper understanding and less about it being one of Park Bo-gum’s earlier acting stints (or something) 😛

My biggest critique on Cantabile Tomorrow is how artificial the setting is. I’m still on episode 7 so I’m not sure how realistic the school will be, but having read the manga, and watched both the anime and Jdorama, I’m pretty sure the plot was about Music College life, and the struggles and successes of talented student musicians. The audience who has little to zero idea what’s it like in the music world was being educated of this culture–why it’s an issue from the very first episode that all of them are not studying in Europe? I think somewhere in episode 6 or 7 Bo-gum’s character was revealed to be a student in Juilliard who wants to take some units in this fictional school–what? I didn’t try to analyze that part as I was already convinced a lot of the lines were written that way to set-up the love triangle. This version is more centered on romance, I get it.

And Subway…the 3rd time I saw a sandwich being passed for obvious product placement I decided to take a break.

I always saw Nodame Cantabile as this intelligent story, with a refreshing romance sub-plot among eccentric yet extra-ordinarily talented young people. I just felt that the potential of making an updated version of it with Tomorrow’s Cantabile was squandered by a lack of understanding of the source material and sponsorship restrictions.

6 years ago
Reply to  junny

I just dragged myself (very hard) to finish EP1, and immediately get here to check the review. Glad to hear from kfangurl that it’s getting better later on. (I am always grateful to your review.)

Nodame Cantabile is my all-time favorite manga, so Junny totally speaks my mind. (I was like WTH WTH through the whole episode.) I surely love music, but their OTP acting and expression are overdone. To be honest, I started this show because I am a manga fan who want to have more of Bogummy. (=^.^=) Now I afraid that I will feel upset with the show for ruining my favorite manga if I continue watching. How do you think??

6 years ago
Reply to  GiFTest1985

I personally haven’t read the manga, so I can’t compare it with this drama adaptation. What I will say is that this show gets better after the first episode or so.. BUT, the ending does feel jarring because it was filmed at the same time as the first episode due to location shoots. So the evolution of the interpretation of Nae Il as a character, which happens after E1 and into the mid-to-late sections of the story, is lost in the final episode. Which really is a pity. So, if you feel like this would spoil your appreciation of the story too much, it might be better to shelve this one. I hope that helps! 🙂

6 years ago
Reply to  kfangurl

Thank you so much for your reply. =) It’s very good to know about the filming and stuff. If I have some spare time, I will put on K-drama lens and watch the series as its own story.

6 years ago
Reply to  GiFTest1985

Oh yes, it definitely helps to know a bit about the context of the filming & stuff.. makes everything easier to comprehend. Otherwise, I’d have been SO bemused at the sudden shift in characters at the finale episode. So definitely, if you’re planning to check this out, a fresh kdrama lens (vs. a manga lens comparing this to the original material) would probably work better 🙂