Review – Tomorrow’s Cantabile / Naeil’s Cantabile
Surprisingly odd, funny and enduring drama about a bunch of talented young musicians. It’s a drama filled with a big cast of memorable characters – each with their own instruments and problems – but each with a common goal: To Get Better, To Succeed. The friendships and struggles make this show shine. I thought this might be a mindless throw-away show, which is why I popped it in this week… as I’ve been extremely tired after work and wasn’t in the mood to think much. I was just looking for a feather light diversion, but instead got a quality gem of entertainment. I laughed, I worried, I got emotionally involved, and I wondered what would happen to ALL OF THE CHARACTERS as the show moved from episode to episode. It starts off quite silly but quickly settles into more structure and higher stakes as the plotlines establish themselves.
Overall Rating – 8.5/10. Brainwashed Into Loving Classical Music Through Adorable Characters.
Much More About Everything and Everyone – Spoilers too….
Can we just talk about the lead couple? Okay, I just have to say it: The lead female is a bit mentally challenged. I honestly have no other explanation for her behavior. Here in the South, we’d politely say she’s “touched” or “special.” The girl’s a total horny spaz with the mentality of a six year old. She’s messy, to the point of downright nasty. She runs around with dolls. Actual dolls! Sometimes they’re stuck to her shirt, sometime’s she’s got puppets. I don’t even know what to make of this other than… well… special.
She has a fear of “growing up” and stubbornly stays immature with a life ambition of being a kindergarten teacher, where she can play “fart songs” and giggle with small children all day – which actually is a wise career move as I doubt her personality would be acceptable anywhere else. The gal runs around screaming and saying whatever insane thing pops into her head with no filter. She’s funny, she’s wacky, she’s a tornado of goofiness. And she’s insanely smitten with our lead male, pretty much since day one, to the point of stalking with a mix of madness and adoration. She’s begging for hugs and clinging to his arms and throwing herself at him physically every single chance she gets. Which is… oddly charming.
She does mature over the course of the show…. but thankfully remains true to her spaz cakes personality. When you’re in love with someone with an A Game, they’re not going to settle for someone with a B+…. and life is like that. Some people inspire you to do more, to step up. I loved her story arc.
Our lead male is our A Game, standoffish, arrogant, clean-freak perfectionist. Strangely enough, he seems totally charmed by our spaz cakes from the very beginning. Sure, he finds her gross and odd and alarming. But he more or less adopts her like a stray puppy. He cleans her house, he washes her hair, he feeds her, and he takes care of her like she’s completely incompetent… which she is… and he appears to be perfectly happy doing all this. In fact, he seems to really like it.
He’s as magnetized to her as she is to him, always checking in on her, annoyed when she’s not around, grinning secretly at her screwball shenanigans. I adored the scenes where he gets all worked up cause she’s not around, as if she’s become his secret luck charm, and goes running off to find her. So I loved them as a couple. LOVED THEM. Because they seemed to really have that “something”… that rare something that inexplicably draws two people together and holds them together like super glue.
I’d only seen this actor, Joo Won, in Bridal Mask – in which is he NOT FUNNY at all (In fact, he’s a bit on the scary side. Cause that show is a terrifying emotional rollercoaster)- and in Good Doctor, in which he plays an autistic savant surgeon (another genius performance) . So, how refreshing to see this tall string bean screwing around with a goofy girl dressed in a puppy costume (she’s literally dressed in a head to toe in a puppy costume at one point… just… cause). So many smirks!
He’s the king of smirks. I think he should be renamed Mr. Smirk, cause he’s careful not to show teeth but the sides of his mouth keep curling up and it’s hysterical.
Though these two were attached at the hip, there was a shocking lack of physical intimacy in this show. Strangely, I didn’t mind. Usually I would hate that, but it worked really well for some reason. His aversion to skinship seemed so true to his character that it would probably would have freaked me out if he suddenly made romantic moves on our spaz cakes. Her childish desire for romance, at a grade school level, was persistent and perfect for her prudish boyfriend. He’s already started planning their entire life together and hadn’t even bothered to stick his tongue down her throat – but that’s who these two were together. And you knew, eventually, they would progress… we just never got to see it. Any of it. We got a hug. That’s it. And it was enough.
Let’s talk about another actor who won me over completely in this show. Our blonde violinist! I actually like this actor, though I’ve always thought his range was limited. Probably because I’ve only seen him in romantic dramas. Jealousy Incarnate. Chicago Typewriter. Clearly he belongs in the romantic COMEDY genre, cause he shines when he’s being funny. He’s freakin’ adorable! I’ve never loved him more.
In this show, he’s a wildly talented violinist who hasn’t quite reached greatness because of a lack of focus, dedication, and rigor. He’s the kind of guy who bonds immediately with people – in particular, with anyone who believes in him. His relationship with our lead male is one of the main points of interest in this drama – as neither are particular good at being friends. Blondie just throws himself at whoever is nice to him with full abandon, and of course, Mr. Smirk is 100% reserve and discomfort. And yet their bond is important to their growth, as people and as musicians.
I also really enjoyed his rivalry turned love-interest with the school’s most talented violinist. She was a unique character, in that she didn’t adhere to the K-tropes of top of the class – she wasn’t mean or a bully or particularly smug. She knew she was good because she worked extremely hard for it. She recognized Blondie’s ability, but also knew he wasn’t putting in the time needed to be as good as she was. When he finally stepped up to the plate, musically, she finally started considering him as a man. How refreshing. (plus who can resist that ponytail? He’s adorable!)
The fact that Blondie’s father was his biggest fan? Gah! So cute. I loved that he was always feeding all his friends and spying on his performances and rooting for his son. What die hard love, eh?
There are two major “foils.” The first is the “foreign” conductor brought in – who shakes up the school by creating an alternative orchestra. He’s a foil to our lead couple, as he seems to support the lead female and antagonize the lead male. Of course, when all is said and done, he did a lot more for our lead male than female. I don’t think our darling piano spaz cakes got even one lesson from this dude, but she get some valuable words of advice. Mainly, “grow up or lose music and your man.” Which honestly, she needed to hear.
Our second foil is the handsome world famous cellist, a very young, very adorable Park Bo-Gum. My goodness, this guy won the genetic lottery. You could tell he was bound for leading male status right away from this show… because he basically stole the show when he was around. And tried to steal the spaz cakes pianist from our uptight conductor, too.
His character was suffering from illness that affected his hands, and he worried his cello playing days were numbered – which added a nice amount of quiet desperation to his actions. His little endearing bucket list made him sympathetic, even when he was (to be fair) sticking his nose into other people’s business and being a judgmental ass. There was something innocent and genuine about him, so you couldn’t help but root for the guy – even though you knew spaz cakes would never look at anyone other than her Orabang (she’d imprinted on him like a baby duck, no other man would do). I thoroughly enjoyed his character arc – and his unlikely awkward friendship with our uptight conductor as they realize they have more in common than either care to admit.
The music of this show was beautiful. Just… stunning. The entire series takes place at this gorgeous, fancy college with pristine lawns and modern architecture. There was so much installation art and detail in all the music halls and rooms, I found myself drooling half the show over the things in the background. Adults run around in tailored suits and fancy dresses. The dean, in particular, had an amazing wardrobe full of unusual dresses that suited her character perfectly. Their faculty lounge is entirely glass… not a finger print on it, either. Student dorms are bigger than my apartment, with built in book shelves filled with CDs and grand pianos casually placed in beautiful nooks. How much tuition are these kids forking out, eh? Their parents must be loaded.
I loved the different conducting styles of the conductors. You had the extremely flamboyant and expressive young conductor of the A Orchestra – who put his entire body into it. The subtle hand gestures and control of the “foreign” professor Maestro, Stresemann. And of course, the classy, elegant conducting of our male lead, conductor of the S Orchestra. When our cellist turned conductor, he had a gentle, sensitive style that matched his cello playing. Of course, my favorite was the over the top showboat…
The treatment of the professors was well done. These are people devoted to music, to their own careers and accomplishments (which is quite true of higher education), who often get too self-focused for their own good. But in the end, they are also teachers – who care about the students and the school, and this drama brought them all home to this center with layering episodes of self-reflection and defeat.
Higher Ed is a tough gig, it’s not at all like your K-12 teachers. The requirements for tenure, for publication, for performances and accolades are quite demanding and hard for students to fathom. Expectations are very high – for themselves and for the students, so it can seem harsh, but that’s competition. It’s also how the real world will be for these musicians – only the best of the best will survive in their fields, the others will have to settle.
Thank You, musical world, for giving us an openly gay student who is openly accepted by all his peers, no questions asked. He’s smitten with our uptight conductor, Mr. Smirk, and though he concedes to spaz cakes, it’s a nice treatment of a one sided crush based on admiration. I loved that later in the show, Mr. Smirk even thanked him for liking him, saying he was flattered. How freakin’ sweet! I got a little teary eyed.
There was so much to like about this show. And again, it took me by surprise because I thought it was going to be dumb fun and nothing more. Instead, it left me thinking about it for days. Left me looking up famous performances of classical music (I mean, I like classical music, but I can’t say I’m overly familiar with the vast majority of it to recognize most pieces by name or composer). And it left me smiling… and eagerly writing this review.
Apparently it was a Japanese manga first. Nodame Cantabile. An anime and then a Japanese drama, too, before the Korean’s got a hold of it. The last time I tried to watch the Japanese version of something (Liar Game), I couldn’t get into it… but I confess I am intrigued and may attempt to watch it… though it’s currently not available on Viki or Dramafever.
As for the Korean version, I enjoyed it. I recommend it. Go check it out.