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Top 3 Music Anime

Kymberly started learning piano at age 5 and picked up a range of instruments in high school. She loves all kinds of music and instruments.

Kai and the piano in the forest (Piano no Mori). Sketched by Kymberly.

Kai and the piano in the forest (Piano no Mori). Sketched by Kymberly.

Inspired by Classical Music Anime

As I slowly return to the piano, taking care not to overstress my hands, it is easy for me to become disillusioned. I get annoyed at myself, because I used to play more fluently, more easily, but now it is difficult and sometimes quite painful.

I would avoid practicing as much as possible when I was a young child. I'm sure my mother was quite disappointed.

If I had seen the occasional inspiring movie or series about musicians, especially one where the characters are also children or young adults, perhaps I would have been more inspired to spend more time at the keys.

Movies about accomplished musicians are great for long-term goals, but they don't show the practice, the hurdles and the rewards that you get along the way.

These three music school animes focus on the lives of young musicians, their trials and triumphs, competitions and performances. They also show the other factors in their lives, things that happen at school and home, and how they develop as people over time.

The music is wonderful, with the pieces usually identified as they are played. Here are three of them according to age level:

  1. Elementary Music: Piano no Mori
  2. High School Music: La Corda d'Oro
  3. College Music: Nodame Cantabile

"Piano no Mori" Theme

Elementary music: "Piano no Mori"

Piano no Mori (The Perfect World of Kai) is a bitter-sweet movie-length anime about two young pianists from completely different backgrounds attending the same primary school in Japan.

Piano no Mori follows the story of their friendship, at times torn apart and at other times brought together by their love for music and piano.

The music is wonderful, especially the theme of the piano in the forest.

"Piano no Mori" Information

  • Originally produced as a manga series for children and young adults.
  • The anime features pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy.
  • The writer was inspired by a documentary about pianist Stanislav Bunin.
  • Nominated for Animation of the Year, 2008, Japan.

Kai Ichinose, from a poor family, found a piano in the forest when he was 3, and is the only person able to get a sound out of it. A child prodigy with no formal lessons, he is able to play almost any piece of music by ear after hearing it once.

Shuhei Amamiya's father is a world-famous pianist, and Shuhei is pressured to follow in his footsteps, taking regular and strict lessons from the time he could reach the keys.

The school's music teacher recognizes Kai's ability, and convinces him to take lessons.

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The story follows both boys as they enter a local music competition, and shows how parental pressure is often applied to young children.

High School Music: "La Corda d'Oro"

La Corda d'Oro (Music of the Heart) is set at the Seiso Academy, a dual-purpose high school, with one stream for music students and one stream for general education students.

A magical violin, bestowed by a mischievous music-loving spirit, allows Hino Kahoko, a general education student, to enter the music competition without have ever played an instrument.

Her participation creates havoc in both sections of the school, as the multi-part competition progresses.

Anti-Bullying Theme

A recurring theme throughout the series is how music students are also bullied by non-music students (but also how music students look down upon non-musicians).

It pulled a cord within me - I experienced this as a music student throughout my school years in Australia.

For any child who is bullied for studying music, La Corda d'Oro is a good series to help with self-esteem.

Cosplay Violin: "La Corda d'Oro"

Much of the focus is on school life, and how Kahoko is surrounded by talented musician and drawn into the world of music.

Being set in a high school, there is also plenty of screen time for speculated romance, and friendships play a major role throughout.

La Corda is story of obstacles overcome, following the characters through high school.

Reflecting normal school life, it shows how behavior, opinions, interests and friendships can change over time.

Originally a video game, then a manga series, La Corda was produced as an anime in two series, and has been released internationally.

Many young viewers have been inspired to learn violin after watching this series.

Nodame, practicing in her messy home.            Sketched by Kymberly.

Nodame, practicing in her messy home. Sketched by Kymberly.

College Music: "Nodame Cantabile"

In three seasons, Nodame Cantabile follows the manga it was based on. The anime (and live-action drama) has inspired many people to pick up an instrument, or regain their enthusiasm for playing - it even inspired me to return to the piano after a 15+ year hiatus!

Nodame Cantabile Theme

With a compelling storyline and deep character development, this is a great anime series for children through to adults, musicians as well as people who want to know which classical ear-worm infected them after listening to telephone hold music.

  • Chiaki Shinichi is a talented pianist and violinist, but dreams of studying under maestro Sebastian Viera in Prague to become a world-famous conductor, if only his fear of flying would go away.
  • Noda Megumi (Nodame) is an eccentric pianist with a streak of brilliance, if only she could stop her moods from affecting her performances.

The two characters are complete opposites, except in their love of music.

Nodame is very childish, messy, and unruly. Although she is a piano genius, she wants to become a kindergarten teacher, and is therefore less than enthusiastic in her music studies.

Chiaki, on the other hand, is a perfectionist in everything: music, cooking, and even cleaning!

The quirky but talented students at Momogaoka College of Music, as they are brought together in the first season to form a 'special' orchestra.

Their final performance knocks the socks off the 'higher' orchestras in the school and the local classical music fans.

There is a nice mix of different instrumental, group and orchestral music, all performed beautifully. It's also wonderful to see unconventional music students succeed.

"Nodame" Notes

  • Animax Asia produced an English dub of the anime, but it was only released in Region 3 (Hong Kong).
  • The manga covers often picture Nodame playing instruments she never plays.
  • The anime is sponsored (very obviously) by Yamaha.
  • There are two hand-held console game spin-offs.
  • A live-action series and movie was based on this anime.

The fast-paced second season, set in Paris, shows Nodame getting serious with her studies, throwing herself into practicing, performing and learning music theory.

She is both inspired and upset by Chiaki, who is working hard to become a successful conductor.

With short snippets of more piano and grand orchestral music, the second series shows the heavy rehearsal workload of music conservatory students.

The final season of Nodame Cantabile, still set in Europe, brings a more depth to the other music students in Nodame's apartment, and reflects on Nodame's and Chiaki's relationship.

Triple Time

Other Musical Anime

  • Angel Beats - fantasy series with an all girls pop band.
  • Beck - young rock band inspired by Red Hot Chili Peppers.
  • Full Moon o Sagashite - a 12 year old aspiring singer has an illness threatening to take away her voice.
  • K-On - high school light (pop) music club and its members.
  • Macross - pop music idols in a space drama.
  • Nana - punk music, romance and drama.

Closing Thoughts

Who or what inspired you to learn music?
What do you do to keep your enthusiasm for playing an instrument?

Let us know in the comments below!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Kymberly Fergusson


Kymberly Fergusson (author) from Germany on July 16, 2016:

That's on my next to watch list, and will be included once I have seen it ;-)

T-Rex on July 14, 2016:

What the.. Don't forget to include Kids on the Slope. It is also damn so good, on the same level with Your Lie in April

Zelkiiro on July 15, 2012:

While it's not strictly about the music itself, Princess Tutu takes a great many of its themes from traditional ballet and (appropriately) plays the classical tunes associated with those ballets throughout the show.

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