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Cantabile Tomorrow: Episode 1

Is it too early to say that I’m in love with a show? I’m both excited and relieved, because while I was hoping for the best, I was certainly aware that Cantabile Tomorrow comes with a lot of baggage, and that even in a good-case scenario, it was fighting an uphill battle. The original material is so loved that it would be difficult to measure up to its standard of excellence, much less dare to surpass it.

I always want a drama to succeed, but I approached with both optimism and hesitance, and not just because I really enjoyed the previous versions of the series (anime and J-drama; I haven’t read the manga). I will argue that perhaps the cult surrounding the show may exaggerate just how good it is, so I would encourage new viewers to go in with as open a mind as possible; there’s always a risk that the pre-existing hype may color your opinion against a show just as easily as it might color it in favor of it.

But on top of the problem of hype, I was concerned for the way in which Nodame Cantabile fundamentally tells its story differently than K-dramas usually do; it’s quite loose and character-based, letting simple plot points carry on for multiple episodes, and gives music a much bigger presence than many typical dramaland viewers have patience for. I recall watching the anime and thinking that I was essentially watching seven minutes of Rachmaninoff being played with no story advancement, and yet I was enthralled the whole time. I wasn’t sure that the same thing could work in K-drama.

I can happily report that not only does Cantabile Tomorrow honor that aspect of the series, it may even enhance the effect. Is that blasphemous to say? The plot beats were almost beat-for-beat replications of the original, and yet I still felt stirred and swept up, and felt that perhaps this version even added to the emotional depth. I’ve always loved the characters, but this drama gave my heart an extra twist, and I’m excited for what that means.

So let’s get right to it.

SONG OF THE DAY

Mozart – Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major, K. 448Download ]

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LESSON 1 RECAP

A young boy runs through the streets with a violin on his back, while his older self narrates, musing on how thoughts of his childhood always take him back to the streets of Europe, so full of classical music. As the son of a pianist, he had traveled widely in his youth and seen numerous performances, “But the greatest performance of my life was in Korea.”

That boy watches an orchestra perform, transfixed by the movements of the conductor. “The moment he moved his wand, I knew,” he narrates. “That this man would be my lifelong teacher.”

So the boy, CHA YOO-JIN, sneaks into the rehearsal hall to watch the orchestra practice, displaying his musical precocity by pointing out that a violin’s out of tune. The conductor, Sebastien Viera (cameo by Israeli conductor Yoel Levi), takes a liking to Yoo-jin and takes him under his wing, and a year later it’s time for them to part ways. Yoo-jin’s crushed, but Maestro Viera hands him his conductor’s wand and assures him that he’ll take Yoo-jin on as a formal student if he comes to study in Europe.

But when we catch up to the adult Yoo-jin (played by Joo-won), he’s not in Europe. Holding that wand, he wonders, “Teacher Viera, what am I doing here?”

Yoo-jin walks across the campus of his school, Haneum Music University, where his arrival causes a stir among his many admirers. They’re full of praise for him, but he’s got only irritation for the cacophony of mistake-ridden playing around him, as his ears pick out every little error. His forehead furrows further to read a notice announcing a conducting student’s selection to study in Berlin. He scoffs, not impressed with the student’s abilities.

The guy happens to by nearby and takes the opportunity to gloat, throwing in Maestro Viera’s name just to make it sting a little extra. It stays on Yoo-jin’s mind as he plays fiercely in his piano lesson; he envisions himself in a dream-like sequence, wandering a forest while calling upon his teacher for help. He asks, “What should I choose? It feels like I’ve lost my way.”

Yoo-jin’s teacher slaps his head with a fan, barking that he’s letting his emotions run away with his playing. The teacher’s name is Do Kang-jae, but the students refer to him more commonly as Buchae (Fan), per his method of discipline.

Teacher Do notices a score mixed in with Yoo-jin’s piano music, and that explains Yoo-jin’s curious lack of interest in competitions and indifference in his lessons; his interests must lie elsewhere. Yoo-jin argues back that he’s never been wishy-washy about his playing, though he does disdain Teacher Do’s cookie-cutter teaching style—it’s designed to get a student to win competitions and nothing more, as though he’s collecting students and their awards for his personal glory.

Furious, Teacher Do throws him out and threatens to have Yoo-jin expelled. Yoo-jin doesn’t look too devastated, and in fact fills out a voluntary withdrawal form afterward.

As he does, the sounds of a Liszt piece (Liebestraume No. 3) waft out from a studio, catching his attention. “Not bad,” he thinks. He wonders who the pianist is and heads inside to find out, but before he can, he’s interrupted.

Meanwhile, the pianist, SEOL NAE-IL (Shim Eun-kyung), continues playing, totally caught up in the music. She looks joyous, and when she finishes, she sighs, “Ah, it’s so good!” I’d laugh at her lack of modesty if only I didn’t totally agree.

Then she’s reminded that she has a part-time job to get to, and dashes off to a kindergarten class, where she plays the piano along to a funny story she tells to the class.

Meanwhile, Yoo-jin has a drink with his girlfriend, CHAE DO-KYUNG (Kim Yumi). She rips up his withdrawal form (“That again?”) and tells him to make up with Teacher Do, since he’s the best and therefore his best path to personal success. Or, he can transfer to the conducting department. Or, if he’s so keen on studying with Viera, he can go to Europe.

But it’s not so simple for Yoo-jin, who relives the horrific plane ride he endured as a child, a massively traumatic event that still plagues him to this day. He shakes off the memory and asks Do-kyung to spend the night with him since he doesn’t want to be alone, but she’s tired of him (“When did you get so weak?”) and breaks up with him on the spot. Grimly, he keeps drinking.

That night, Nae-il arrives at her building and stops short at the unexpected sight in front of her door: Yoo-jin, slumped on the ground, dead drunk. She calls out “sunbae” (so she must recognize him) and tries to stir him awake. That doesn’t work, so she looks for alternate solutions.

In the morning, Yoo-jin hears the sounds of a piano—Liszt again—and dreams of being in a peaceful, sunny field. But when he wakes fully, he screams in horror, because he’s sitting in a mountain of garbage. And he’s shirtless! When did that happen?

It’s not a dump as he first thinks but Nae-il’s apartment, which is stuffed to the gills with trash. Old wrappers, half-empty food containers, flies buzzing everywhere. And in the middle of it all, incongruously, is a grand piano.

Nae-il greets him happily, and her comments about what happened last night sound unsettlingly suggestive: “Do you really not remember, or are you just pretending not to remember?” Yoo-jin stammers that nothing could have happened, then freaks out as roaches skitter by (Nae-il: “Hi, cockroaches!”). He runs out the front door—and now realizes that his own apartment is the one right next door.

Yoo-jin tries to wash away the creepy-crawly feelings and, recoiling at the insinuation that something happened that he forgot, he wills his brain, “Don’t remember!”

At school, Teacher Do rants to the staff about expelling Yoo-jin, which the other teachers are reluctant to act on—he’s their number one student and the son of a famous pianist. The diplomatic dean, Song Mina (Yeh Ji-won), steps in to finagle a compromise—they can transfer Yoo-jin from Teacher Do (the best) to Teacher Ahn (…not the best). At the very least, it’ll send a message to Yoo-jin.

Yoo-jin arrives on campus a paranoid mess of nerves, telling himself nothing happened with Nae-il. And then, a voice screams, “Sunbaeeeeeee!” and he recoils to see her racing towards him, limbs flailing.

She pouts (loudly), “Why did you leave so suddenly in the morning! I was sad.” Oblivious to the crowd they’re drawing and the obvious misinterpretation of her words, she presents him with his freshly washed shirt. Yoo-jin tries to feign ignorance, but that just makes Nae-il try harder to jog his memory.

The eccentric Teacher Ahn checks with Teacher Do that he’s fine giving up the school’s most talented pupil. Teacher Do is done with Yoo-jin, though, and washes his hands of him. Teacher Ahn sees Nae-il off in the distance chasing after Yoo-jin and muses that he’s got “a very special student” and wonders if the could put them together in a duet. Do scoffs that Yoo-jin wouldn’t do it, so Ahn proposes a wager.

Teacher Ahn has a reputation for teaching the worst students but he’s got a good nature, which may make him the perfect fit for Nae-il. In lesson, he gamely goes along as she puts together a song about farts—they’re really two peas in a pod. Yoo-jin, on the other hand, observes his new teacher from the window and grimaces to see what he’s going to be working with.

More characters! Bleached-blond YOO IL-LAC (Go Kyung-pyo) is roused from bed by his father, restaurant owner-cook YOO WON-SANG (Ahn Gil-kang). Il-lac dresses like a rocker but plays the violin, and while he’s not without skill, his wild, emotional playing has his teacher in fits. She fails his exam, and when he begs for a second chance, she consents to a retest with an accompanied piece.

Il-lac protests, not wanting to mix his free-spirited violin playing with those stuck-up piano egos, but those are her terms. Take ’em or flunk. So he bursts into the piano department and announces that he will give a lucky student the opportunity to work with his exalted self. Heh.

At home, Yoo-jin sits back with a hypnotherapy recording, which tries to prove its efficacy by making him believe an onion is a delicious apple. It isn’t, and Yoo-jin declares the hypnotherapy to be hogwash. He steps onto the balcony for some air, but it’s not quite as fresh as he’d like; peering over to the adjoining balcony, he gags at the mound of garbage sitting there and the mysterious ooze leaking out from under the door.

Yoo-jin pounds on Nae-il’s door and bursts inside her den of filth, too disgusted not to do anything about it. He arms himself with cleaning supplies and gets to work, even as Nae-il intervenes, trying to argue for keeping everything, down to the days-old sludge passing for food. (Meta joke: There’s moldy bread in there from Kim Tak-gu’s place; Joo-won acted in Baker King Kim Tak-gu.) Finally he shoves her outside so he can finish uninterrupted, and one back-breaking day of cleaning later, her place is pristine.

Nae-il taps away happily at her piano, and while he balks at her description (it’s a love song based on their relationship, she says), he tells her to keep playing. Already she’s forgotten how she played it before, since she’s prone to improvising, but even as he corrects her wrong notes, he smiles and thinks, “She’s playing completely her own way, but it’s not bad.” He enjoys her playing, his hand starting to flick back and forth as he starts conducting along, silently.

Dean Song Mina sits in on a rehearsal of a student orchestra, and while not much happens in the scene other than this, I am always happy to listen to some Dvorak. (The longish musical performances were a favorite of mine in the original, so I’m happy to see that they’ve remained.) She’s cooking an idea in her head, because next she takes a proposal to her staff: to cultivate an orchestra to become their school’s brand.

Teacher Do is skeptical, pointing out that the students will want to focus on their individual goals like school and competitions, but Dean Mina’s plan is already underway, and she has recruited a formidable ally in her cause: world-famous conductor Franz Streseman. We see him landing at the airport, and while he’s supposed to be German, I’m rather glad to see that they’ve allowed actor Baek Yoon-shik to look like his normal self without employing strange wigs or colored contacts. He does speak Korean in a cutely stilted way, though, with a foreign accent.

Almost immediately, they lose Streseman, who either misses or evades the school’s escort and asks a taxi driver to take him away—to any place with “good water” (i.e., lots of hotties). Ha. Pervert Maestro is back!

Too bad the taxi driver takes him to a place with literal good water, and he ends up at a scenic riverbank. LOL. Streseman concedes, “Well, the water is good.”

Yoo-jin is summoned to meet with Teacher Ahn, who introduces Nae-il as his duet partner. He’s appalled at the idea, and listening at the window is Teacher Do, who was expecting a tantrum and is miffed that Yoo-jin isn’t being as difficult as he was with him.

Yoo-jin isn’t interested in the duet, though, and gets up to leave. But Teacher Ahn has a few tricks up his sleeve, saying that Yoo-jin has already been ditched by one teacher—does he want to be ditched by another? That’d earn him quite the reputation.

Yoo-jin asks, “Are you blackmailing me right now?” Teacher Ahn cheerfully replies, “Yes.” And then he dangles an irresistible carrot: If Yoo-jin complies with the duet, he’ll let him out of the rest of his lessons with an A+ grade.

So Yoo-jin agrees to the deal, and gets to work with Nae-il on Mozart’s Sonata for Two Pianos. It’s a mess right from the start, and worse than Nae-il being a sloppy player is that she hardly even knows that she’s messing up. Furthermore, she’s not very good at reading music, learning everything by ear instead.

They work all afternoon and into night, until Nae-il is complaining of hunger and whining to end the session. Yoo-jin is tired too but forces her back onto the bench, since her reading difficulties means she has to memorize it entirely. And in the moment that he forces her hand toward the piano, Nae-il flashes back to a memory—of her hand being shoved to the keys, a stern voice ordering her to continue.

Something snaps and she barks, “I said not to do that!” and then CHOMP! She bites down on Yoo-jin’s forearm. Crying, she gathers her things and leaves the room.

Violinist Il-lac, meanwhile, is still on the hunt for an accompanist for his test. He’s been looking up the students in the piano department and corners Yoo-jin on his way out of practice, making his case to a distracted Yoo-jin.

So while Il-lac busts out his violin to prove how awesome he is, Yoo-jin barely registers his playing. He’s too busy wondering about Nae-il’s outburst, and now the frustrated words he threw her way clang unpleasantly with similar words barked at him by Teacher Do. That’s an unpleasant parallelism. Yoo-jin walks away deep in thought, leaving an insulted Il-lac to roar that he’ll find a better pianist, harrumph.

Yoo-jin comes home and bangs on Nae-il’s door, but gets no response. So he sets out to cook her dinner, and when Nae-il arrives in the hallway and sees his door ajar, she can’t help but follow her nose to the smell of delicious food. The plate is laid out for her on the counter, and she falls for the bait—no sooner does she chow down than Yoo-jin appears.

She’s ready to bolt so he promises not to be mean or force her to practice, and Nae-il digs in, practically drooling when he offers to make her something even better tomorrow… if she does the duet with him. She’s reluctant because he was impatient with how slowly she was memorizing the piece, so he promises not to get angry and adds that he recorded her part to help her learn.

So he sits her down to listen to the recording—but then recoils, horrified at the smell of her dirty hair. Nae-il doesn’t see anything wrong with her two-washes-a-week regimen, while he tries not to gag too hard. It’s off to the bathroom with her, as he furiously shampoos away the filth while she insists she’s totally clean.

Maestro Stresemen, meanwhile, arrives at the Haneum campus but keeps his presence on the downlow. He surreptitiously watches students in practice sessions and lessons, which is frankly a clever way to draw our attention to our supporting cast. There’s our rocker violinist with the disregard for classical conventions, the tiny contrabassist who’s smaller than her instrument, and the timpanist who seems to be a bundle of nerves; he goes around snapping photos of them, apparently keeping tabs.

The duet is progressing for Yoo-jin and Nae-il, and while he still issues instructions at her left and right, Yoo-jin’s temper is no longer an issue. Their proficiency is better, but he thinks to himself in dissatisfaction that the feeling is flat: “The playing is more accurate, but what’s gone wrong?”

Streseman makes his unofficial rounds of campus and stops to see Dean Song Mina in the distance, his gaze softening. His memory takes him back to their younger days, when Mina was a piano student and he’d been taken with her beauty and her talent. He thinks to himself that she’s as lovely as ever, “and you make my heart race just like always.” He doesn’t approach, though, choosing to admire from a distance.

Trying to figure out the root of his dissatisfaction, Yoo-jin opts for a new approach and tells Nae-il to play the way she wants to. She’s only too happy to, but reminds him of his instruction that a duet requires cooperation. So he replies that he’ll adapt to suit her, and encourages her to play however her heart dictates.

Teacher Ahn arrives for their lesson just then, and Yoon-jin says with a smile, “Let’s have fun.”

So with a fresh burst of joy, Nae-il begins the piece, and Yoo-jin plays along while thinking, “I knew from the start—that this kiddo’s playing was special because she played her own way. I know all your habits, so I’ll match you. Only I can match you.”

His eyes remain on Nae-il as they play, predicting where she’ll flow, where she’ll hold back, “And here’s where she flies. Cantabile. Like singing.”

Now he’s thinking of his childhood learning under Viera, remembering a key piece of wisdom imparted by his teacher: “The toes are the first to feel moved. The toes, unable to cope with the rising feelings, start to wriggle.”

On the other hand, Nae-il looks over at Yoo-jin and thinks of his promise to match her, no matter what she does. She may have been goofily crushing on him before, but now she’s good and smitten.

As they play, Streseman pauses outside the practice room to watch.

Yoo-jin revists his earlier vision, where he’s tearing through the forest, lost and uncertain. He reaches the empty field of reeds, peaceful and sunny, and begins walking through it slowly, until he comes upon a clearing. In the middle of it is Nae-il, seated at a grand piano, playing her heart out.

Yoo-jin’s narration echoes his opening voiceover, of how his childhood thoughts turn to the music-filled streets of Europe. He’d considered that place, Maestro Viera’s domain, to be the only place for “real classical music”: “In this insufficient place, I’d thought I could find no meaning, joy, or value in playing music.”

But now we see Yoo-jin in the throes of the same joy that embodies Nae-il, looking positively inspired. “Teacher Viera,” he thinks. “Perhaps even here, there’s something I could do. My heart is fluttering.”

In Yoo-jin’s dream-vision, he arrives at the clearing and approaches Nae-il at the piano, playing that Liszt song again. She turns to face him and smiles. He smiles.

 
COMMENTS

I’ll be the first to admit that I was apprehensive about a Nodame Cantabile remake, while being simultaneously excited at the possibilities. I’ve gone through so many thwarted expectations and flopped adaptations that I knew better than to expect the best, and yet the best was always the hope. And with this premiere of Cantabile Tomorrow, I’m allowing myself to feel the hope of maybe getting that best after all.

I say this as a fan of the original anime and drama, a lifelong fan of classical music, and a fan of almost every single principal in the cast. That’s a lot of fandoms to potentially disappoint. There was always a greater probability that hopes would be disappointed than met, and I was prepared for that. So you can imagine how relieved I am to find Cantabile Tomorrow hitting exactly the sweet spot of what I wanted from this show—to be true to the original, but not a soulless scene-for-scene carbon copy. That’s an incredibly tall order to demand, but it’s what I wanted—for it to be not too much, not too little, and just perfectly in tune with my hopes.

On most of the major fronts, this drama met my expectations or exceeded them. I will (reluctantly) concede that one of my greatest hopes is not quite living up to its potential, which is Shim Eun-kyung in the Nae-il role, because I find her acting a bit too broad and exaggerated for what this drama is—introspective, poignant, and as thoughtful about its silences as it is about filling those beats with music. It could be that Ueno Juri was just so good that everything in this premiere episode feels like an attempt to re-create her Nodame, so I’m going to withhold judgment until we get to know her. I actually find Shim Eun-kyung more effective in the quieter, less comedic moments, and I’m hoping that the show will draw out those beats more as the story continues to gel.

(Just as a note, I don’t want to spend the rest of Cantabile Tomorrow comparing it to Nodame Cantaibile because ultimately, this drama needs to stand on its own feet, but I recognize that in a first episode some comparison is inevitable. But going forward, I’m going to make every effort to keep commentary to this drama alone, because it deserves to be evaluated on its individual terms, particularly since I’m sure a swath of the viewership will have no acquaintance with any forms of Nodame.)

I was actually expecting to love Shim Eun-kyung and felt wary of Joo-won, so it’s with surprise that I find myself completely sucked into Joo-won’s portrayal of Yoo-jin, which stirred an emotional response in me that I wasn’t expecting. I loved the Chiaki character and thought Hiroshi Tamaki was wonderful in the part, but for whatever reason I enjoyed Nodame without necessarily feeling an emotional tug. In this episode, I was caught off-guard with an actual tears-pricking-my-eyelids sensation, and this makes me excited for what’s to come.

The show is also little less manga-esque and slapstick, and while that was fine with me in the previous versions, I’m perfectly fine to see them gone here. This drama is less broad and more true-to-life, and if that means a lessening of the quirky manga-esque violence, I am ALL for it! I know that the punching and kicking and knocking over of Nodame were meant in the name of comedy, and that the series wasn’t actually promoting our hero knocking around our heroine as his personal punching bag, but it was one element that made me uncomfortable in the live-action J-drama, so I’m happy to see those beats neutralized. There’s still some element of shoving-in-the-name-of-comedy, but at least he’s not punching her in the face.

This is the third time I’m seeing this story unfold, and most of the large points are being repeated from previous versions, yet each iteration brings a new aspect that adds to the world, rather than piling on redundancies. I look forward to seeing how this production expands on its interpretation.

(Question: I toyed with the idea of compiling a list of the classical pieces being used in the drama, but there are actually so many that I wonder if it’s quite necessary or feasible. Let me know if this is something you’d like to see here, and especially if you’re willing to help identify songs and keep a list updated!

UPDATE: List is here!)

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In love with Joowon all over again!!!

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Joo Won really exceed my expectation on the first episode (definitely overshadow Shim Eun Kyung's acting which let me down in the first episode - unnatural and feel forced).

I can believe Joo Won as Chiaki and I have feeling that he practised a lot to be Chiaki because many of his expressions are just spot on. Another reason to love Joo Won more if it's even possible.

Overall, I like the tone this drama set.

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Finally the drama's out!

Well, related to Shim Eun Kyung, this is the first time I see her acting, so I don't have much to talk and compare. Talking about the over cuteness, there were [few] times when even Ueno Juri's acting cute was exaggerated to my liking, but I'm not sure whether it was from the actress or that was how Nodame was portrayed in the manga and anime (since I only saw the J-drama). However, Shim Eun Kyung's overcuteness was just too much for me ( or maybe I actually never like too-sugary cuteness/kiddoness - if such word exists, lol)

But from what you guys have discussed previously, she's great so i'll just wait how she'll become.

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But again,

maybe Chiaki is a less complicated role than nodame... hheehhee....

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Both lead actor and actress are not visually stunning, have to get use to average looking actors.

and I think the lead actress reminds me of Gyo Hye Sun acting in Boys Over Flowers.

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And I don't find Tamaki Hiroshi and Ueno Juri to be visually stunning either, so I'm not seeing the problem here.

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Tamaki Hiroshi is really hot! in my book, and about what Javabeans said: "cult surrounding the show may exaggerate just how good it is" I may have been guilty of this, but in my case it was just because it was one of the Asian Dramas that I sincerely enjoyed the most, I feel much emotion while I am kind of indifferent with lot of other dramas

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He sure has his charm, so does Ueno Juri. I also love the original drama and hope the Korean remake won't mess it up. But my point is, why do the actors have to be "visually stunning" when having the right charm and great acting is enough? Whether they are "visually stunning" or not is a very subjective opinion, so I don't see why that is a problem.

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It would really be wonderful, if you could spice up the recap with the pieces that played during the scenes (e.g. Nodame running at Chiaki - the music made the moment SO dramatic). I am not a classical music whizz, but I do greatly enjoy all the pieces Cantabile presents, so if anyone knows the score, please share! (like dermachelier - THANK YOU!)

I'm not sure what it is about this Nodame that doesn't work. Somehow I feel it is connected to the editing, because the cuts start too early or go on for too long and she is left standing there making dim-witted faces.
Or maybe Nodame just doesn't work as a serious Korean character ... But as I remember the actress was the last one to come onboard, so let's give her some time to get used to her role.

Also, for all the ones that have read the manga and watched the anime and Japanese version: I was wondering which one they were closest to with this show? Does anyone know?

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"Somehow I feel it is connected to the editing, because the cuts start too early or go on for too long and she is left standing there making dim-witted faces." - ah, that might be what I was picking up on.

Yes, something about the comic timing felt slightly off - like the character laughing too loudly and long. Not a huge issue, but I couldn't put my finger on it. I'm still adjusting to this version of Nodame, so maybe it will hit its stride soon.

A promising start, anyhow!

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True!

And let's be honest - it took quite a while to get used to the Japanese drama version. (And its sense of humor :D)

The music, however, is still grand and makes it a very very enjoyable watch!

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It took me a couple rewatch of the first episode before getting to really love Nodame Cantabile and all its OTT-ness as well..
I'm not head over heels with this version yet, but I like it so far :)

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Thanks a lot javabeans for the recap and for offering help with identification of classical pieces. :D
I am happy to see that there are more classical music fans here, because it is for sure one of the points to enjoy in this drama. This reminds me when I watched La Corda d'oro and fell in love with classical music again. :)
Music aside, I enjoyed Joo Won the most. He is outstanding at everything he does, and quickly made me fall for his performance. I can totally see the perfectionist music lover coming to life. SSK on the other side, I am not sold to her performance yet, or maybe it is the script. Is she supposed to be a sweet scatterbrained genius or just plain crazy? I find her interest in cockroaches a bit disturbing, haha!! Well, perhaps I need to watch more episodes to have a better idea.

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I knew that I got the Baker King Reference (even though I never actually watched that drama), lol!

Thank you, Javabeans, for the recap; I agree with much of your assessment and comments.

So far, I like the first episode. I was not particularly in love with the Japanese version so I was not fearful of a remake.

This show will be longer than the Japanese, so I imagine that certain plot lines may take longer to develop and certain aspects may be more fleshed out. Some parts were more emotional than the Japanese version.

After watching the first episode, I re-watched the first episode of the Japanese. Many elements were the same and quite a few were different. I like Shim Eunkyung, but some of her performance seemed a little exaggerated. I will reserve making any substantial critiques at this point. It is still early.

Like Javabeans said, I will try to look at the k-drama version without comparing and contrasting it to the J-drama. Anyway, the k-drama is following the manga source text. Has anyone here read the manga? I haven't, so I can't make any comments in that regard.

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Yes! Please list the classical music pieces if u can? I enjoy listening to them but I didn't learn music & can't identify the pieces. Would be awesome if javabeans & fellow readers can share their knowledge of the pieces? Thanks lots to everyone!:)

On another note, kinda missing the manic energy of the Japanese version. Jap version verges on cartoony slapstick sometimes but it was fun! But I've a feeling at the way it's developing this Lorean version may have a lot more heart compared to the original? K-dramas ability to pull at the heartstring?

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JB your intro only and most of your comments guys got me so excited about this drama.
I'm completely novice to the original jdrama and the anime so it will be a total discovery. But I'm excited!!

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I love it! Never watched the Japanese version. This is a breath of fresh air.

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Javabeans, thank you so much for an amazing recap. It's so great that you are also a fan of classical music, because the knowledge and appreciation of classical music allows one to enjoy Nodame Cantabile and Cantabile Tomorrow so much more.

Joo won is doing an amazing job portraying Yoo-jin. Nodame Cantabile didn't set my heart aflutter until the last few episodes and the movies, but Cantabile Tomorrow has already done so in episode one. What a way to close the pilot episode! Joo won's voiceovers and the musical accompaniment is spot on and really makes me anticipate what is to come.

I was a bit frustrated at the beginning because I wanted Cantabile Tomorrow to tell its own story, not be a scene-for-scene replica of the Japanese original. I was worried in the first half that all the expectations from Nodame fans had made the creative team unable to interprete the story in their own way, but the last few minutes of the drama has really made me hopeful that perhaps this drama could have something really special of its own.

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Actually i was worried about tha adaptation of these drama because i raeally love and still loving the japanese adaptation and the anime. when i was watching the first ep of the drama i was happy because it has same story but not really tha same ( do i even make sense??) and the story is more realistic.

Note (spoiler for someone who didnt watch the j-drama and anime) I was actually happy and grateful that we already had a glimpse of traumatic childhood of nae il.

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No gyabo, no kotatsu??????

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Yay, its here! Just coming from watching the first episode!

So overall - I like it.

However, I am VERY surprised to find myself a little disappointed in Shim Eun Kyung. I actually found myself cringing by the end the episode every time she was being all cooky and weird. I don't know if it's cause the Japanese one was just more crazy from the outset but she just seemed so out of place in the whole episode. I do think I need to give it more time before I judge but I was VERY surprised i didn't quite like her as much.

Joo Won hit the nail as Chiaki...perfect casting.

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yes please compile the pieces they used in this drama.. love it!

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When Nae Il is shown on the screen playing a grand piano, sounds of a digital piano comes out. It is so jarring ><"

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I think it was only in the apartment scene? Or perhaps in the songs she composes for children. But yes, I find that terrible too, hope they do away with it!

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The first episode isn't as funny as I thought it would be. Mainly because SEK's cringe-worthy acting. I love SEK in Sunny and Miss Granny though, so I still hope she'll get better after this episode. And I love Joo Won in this episode. I always think he's a great actor so I don't understand why a lot of people doubted him. Of course he prove them wrong so nevermind.
I'm one of those people who find the slapstick violence in the j-dorama is really funny so I feel weird watching this version of Chiaki who feels like a perfect gentleman compared to the japanese version. I'm not saying it's a bad thing though.
Overall I dont find the first episode that great but I'm willing to watch a few more episodes. I hope it will only get better.

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Me too! The slapsticky violence are so quirky and fun. I laughed out loud at all this sillys yet lighthearted moments. Yet the Jdrama has all the heart in it too despite the anime influence in the drama which is the Japnese way of comical expression.

The korean version is not bad so far...sticking to almost everything. But, the Japanese version is too special in my heart, it cannot be compare.

I will perhaps follow a few more episodes and see how it goes~

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I still can't tell if the over-the-topness will make me love it or hate it....or hate it but watch it anyway.

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I did try to finish whole episode because I like Joo Won so much, but I couldn't.

Normally, I'm not so picky for acting skills as long as I can feel the characters, but I don't feel much from Shim Eun Kyung’s acting.

Why Joo Won always get this kind of actress as his partner?

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Eh...Joo Won actually said he chose Shim Eun Kyung. You will have to read the interview in context but yeah, it seems he had some say in her casting.

Shim Eun Kyung has big shoes to fill and she may be too pressured to live up to expectations, given that this drama marks a return to dramaland and after a huge success in Miss Granny. Give her time and let her settle into the role, I am hopeful she will deliver. It isn't perfect yet but she does make me laugh.

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I have a list of all the pieces in it already if you'd like it. One thing having a degree in music is good for!

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The story NAE-IL is telling to the kindergartners is "Peter and the Wolf" by Prokofiev.

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I guess that mean to say. Yes, I would help catalog the music.

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I like it!
When I say the name Chiaki I don't necessarily think of Hiroshi tamaki but rather just chiaki, from the manga and live-action and anime. But when I say Nodame i just remember Ueno Juri, she was great because she felt like she came off the pages of the manga and she gave a human face to the anime. So I was a little dissapointed when i didn't like Nae-Il as much, maybe we'll need some time. Apart from that i love the changes and i felt that i want to know more about these same yet different characters, I loved the ending, that dream sequence was one of the only dream sequences which I feel was not just to fill airtime but rather it was meaningful and beautiful. And i like joo-won's portrayal.

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Hi, I was wondering what was the ending song or ost at the end of this episode? Or has it been released yet?

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Yes to the classical music compilation... PLEASE. That was my favorite part in the original too, that and the female lead made the story so much fun for me.

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I just finished your intro, JB, and I have a tear in my eye. I'll wait to read the entire recap until I get a chance to watch, but I'm so relieved to read that it at least lives up to the legend. Or the possibility of~

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Shim Eun Kyung can't win, she would get flack no matter how because Nodame is a difficult character to play and we never had a Korean heroine like her in dramas (plus the pressure from the original drama/anime fans is huge so i'm sure she didn't want people to say she's not Nodame, that's why she tried to act a bit like Juri), I'd say give her more time for her to tone down a little to match Korean/fans tastes.

I really like the first episode so far, so thanks JB for the recap!

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Honestly, I hate the fact that either of these actors/actresses watched the original before performing this series. I hope the Korean cast don't spend any time aping the original, but just play the parts as themselves like Joo-won is.

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Loved the original J drama version of this. Having a very difficult time watching the rather overacted version by Shim Eun Kyung. Loved Ueno's version so much. Joo Won's portrayal is more watchable. He is afterall easy on the eyes. But I must say I also prefer the Japanese actor of the Chiaki(Yoo Jin) character. This K version is a bit more realistic than the J version in its portrayal but the J version is more true to its manga origins which I loved.

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I know there were a LOT of expectations for many people going into this drama, but I had none because this is the first I've seen of any adaptation. That being said, I was excited for the premiere though because of all the hype. I knew that it would have to make it or bust. And just like you said, dramabeans, I had that "actual tears-pricking-my-eyelids sensation" and a smile on my face almost the entire time watching this episode! I don't know if it's the music or the characters (or both), but this is the first time in a long time that I actually felt moved by a drama. I just hope it'll continue!

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Stressman is rounding into a really good nemesis in the show...I really like the conflict between Stressmann and Cha Yoo Jin aka Chiaki in episode 2.

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All I can say is...Joo Won...how can there be such a perfect actor? I'm not even talking about his looks (although I find him very attractive). Every single role that I've seen him in, he is amazing. You can tell he is one of those actors that puts every part of himself in a role. Some of my favorite dramas (i.e. Gaksital, Good Doctor) have him as the lead...not a coincidence.

Plus the music <3 <3 I love classical music so much!!

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so far, I love the pilot episode. it gives you this emotion that you wanted to watch the next episode and resisting myself not to watch the original verson.

The reason is that I don't like to compare it yet with the original and wanted to see how the korean version will be different from the first. so far the cast are great and Joo Won is very handsome indeed portraying the male lead role. those arms my god... hahaha and as I observed, many people in drama forums are saying that Shim Eun Kyung did'nt portrayed the female role very well but I disagreed.

Looking forward to the next episode!

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Thanks JB.
I really anticipated this drama. I just watched the J-version. And, I can't help to compare them. I like Joo Won here.
Is it just me that feel that Shim Eun-kyung's clothes with the little dolls on it, really annoying. I don't like them. :p

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I didn't like and honestly, Joo Won was very bland. Shim eun kyung also not found the right tone too.

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Okay, I was watching this getting ready to work and I looked here to see if anyone felt the same sort of frustration and getting majorly upset with this version and.......... clearly I must be in the small minority.

Yes, I have read the manga, watched the anime, and watched the Japanese drama in its entirety (including 2 specials + 2 movies). You know, all of the gripes about the acting aside especially for "Nae-Il" that aside, THAT ASIDE, the biggest gripe I had was that this did not capture (and I don't see it capturing, at all) really the central theme of this entire story.

This is a story about young adults who LOVE music and how they grow together! Okay yes that sounds really cheesy, but this story is all about how this central thing about Nodame and Chiaki actually changes those others around them. Like, screw the romantic plot honestly. This story honestly isn't about it as much as how Nodame and Chiaki both learn to love and grow together with music and how their peers also grow along with them. Like I could literally give less than two --- if there is a love triangle or not because that isn't the point here.

What was I looking for this first episode? It's supposed to nicely set-up the entire set of circumstances. Chiaki, who has hit a wall in his music career (because laughable circumstances like his plane & boat PTSD) and discovers something he is able to do despite being chained to an island. And it is through discovering Nodame that he discovers there is something he is able to do in Japan and makes his first step forward towards his dream of becoming a conductor.

First of all, so much of the musical stuff was cut out. Also, I did not get the impression at all that Nodame is the prodigy that she is. And I sure as heck did not get the feeling that Nodame helped Chiaki make this step forward indirectly and inspiring him in that Mozart two-piano piano lesson they had to do.

Sure, I will admit the Japanese drama has its cult following. But you know what? It actually captured the above really really well. And I am not feeling that at all. I cried watching the Japanese drama for moments that were mostly NOT inspired by the romantic troubles between Chiaki and Nodame, but I have the feeling that this version is just going to focus on that.

With that, I'm out. I'm not asking this show to copy the manga or the Japanese drama, but I do think the essence of this story was completely lost.

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I completely agree!

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I really agree with you, the Korean version left me frustrated at all the brilliant narratives they left out. Your comment about how the story is about music and how they grow together is spot on, I've always felt that romance takes a back seat in this story and instead, the focus was on the characters' musical and personal growth.

Also agree that Nae Il isn't given the true characterisation she deserves. She supposed to be this piano prodigy that is equally as talented as Yoo Jin, albeit in a very different way, and I feel that that just didn't come across in the drama. She's portrayed as just someone who is 'weird' and plays the piano by ear.

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i agree. it was about the music and everyone in the cast, with nodame and chiaki (mostly nodame) keeping everything centered on the topic.

here, the rest of the cast was like an afterthought in that they matter because of the two leads.

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Hmmm, I think so far the Kdrama version hasn't been able to quite capture the heart that the original Jdrama had, but it's still early days yet I suppose.

For example in the piano duet scene where Yoo Jin tells Naeil to play however she wants to, I think the importance of that scene was really watered down. In the original Chiaki was forcing Nodame to play according to how he wanted it to be played, but in the end he realised he was doing the exact thing he hated his piano professor for doing to him, and that's why it was so significant when he told Nodame to just play however she likes. It was a lesson for Chiaki, but in the Kdrama the piano duet didn't really seem to serve a purpose.

I also wish there was just a bit more emphasis on savouring the classical music. Jdrama Chiaki narrated his thoughts and feelings on each musical piece as it came up which was really insightful for the audience, and that's something I sorely miss.

On the bright side, Joo Won is doing an excellent job playing Yoo Jin. I really am liking his acting, it's not a copy of Tamaki Hiroshi (who was a perfect Chiaki imo) while still retaining that same spirit of "Chiaki-ness".

Shim Eun Kyung I would say is struggling a bit to find her character's place. Nodame is a complex character and it's very difficult to find the right balance of weird and endearing that's needed. I find her acting really over the top and overtly cute at the moment. Rather than cute and childish, Nodame is weird and offbeat in a quirky way. It's tough to explain for people who have never followed the manga/anime/jdrama, so I can see how difficult it would be to actually act it. I'll give her a few more episodes to see how she's going to take the character.

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Great remake so far

Some of classical pieces is the same with Nodame Contabile (which is understandable), but I find a little nostalgia with piano duet performance and 'Mine' Spring violin (which is sound awful, but he will improve in next episode)

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Well i love this show alr it is better from bof (at least for me) lol...eun kyung & joo won are very cute ?

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(Question: I toyed with the idea of compiling a list of the classical pieces being used in the drama, but there are actually so many that I wonder if it’s quite necessary or feasible. Let me know if this is something you’d like to see here, and especially if you’re willing to help identify songs and keep a list updated!)

YES!!! YES PLEASE!!! ^_______^

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hey guys! does anybody knows the song played by eunkyung after her house being cleaned ?that song which she proclaimed is the love between joo won and her??i love that song

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Thank you for the wonderful recap! Oh and yes!! I would love if you are able to recap all the amazing pieces of classical pieces that were played throughout the drama! Im a huge fan of music so i would really appreciate if you able to do that! Thank you so much JB! :-)

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Very late to the party, as usual;)

Warning: comparisons ahead, may be spoilery!

What was missing for me in this first episode was this 'stuck in one place' feel that Chiaki gave off. I didn't get that feeling from Yoojin. Instead I felt like he was just a bit bored by his current life. Chiaki on the other hand seemed to be frustrated with himself and the whole situation, because he felt like he couldn't live up to his own potential. He was literally and figuratively stuck in one place. I think that's what made his duet with Nodame that much more meaningful, both to him and me as the viewer, 'cause through that he felt like he got a purpose again. He started to enjoy music again. I didn't feel like Yoojin wasn't enjoying himself anymore, so that duet scene kinda left me hanging.

I also feel like Naeil is being childlike/cute rather than being odd, which is what would be closer to Nodame. Nodame was quite unique to me, but Naeil feels like any character that is supposed to be cute. In fact she keeps reminding me of Geum Jandi. But there is room for improvement, i guess/hope.

Despite the aformentioned I enjoyed this episode a lot, and will definitely continue. I was actually surprised by how much I liked Joowon in this role, even though I don't think he's got all the characteristics of Chiaki down as of yet.

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First of all I would like to express my gratitude for recaping this gem. I am head over heels with Joo Won and I am very much attentive with your comments and opinions about the dramas I'm watching.

I don't really get why some people keep on bashing this show when I find it really really good. Not that I'm prejudiced since it's Joo Won but I love the show. I've seen the Jdorama and the Anime but does the Kdrama version have to replicate the everything about it? The show is really funny without trying too hard.

I'm sure is back and would definitely see the show until the curtains close with my standing ovation, shouting BRAVO!

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Just watched ep 1. Loved the Baker King Tak-gu reference! My first 30 ep drama and makjang that I actually enjoyed ^_^.

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the adaptation itself is fine. acting wasn't bad either. it's difficult to remake a drama because people will make comparisons. i really loved the jdorama version and unfortunately find this version to be a little less "exciting". i don't think it's that bad but ueno juri and tamaki hiroshi were perfect casts in the jdrama.

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I really loved this. It was quirky and fun and all kinds of good stuff. It's the first Joo Won drama I ever watched. Great intro to him.

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5 stars for this episode

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I watched this drama when it was airing and I hadn't found dB yet. But for whatever reason it kept coming to my dreams recently so, I started to listen to it on my commute--to improve my Korean. I'm glad it was recapped here and thank you for the list of the pieces. I'm open for any good classical music related Korean drama to listen to; long commute everyday. Thanks dbs

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