I've been a huge fan of Nodame Cantabile ever since it was released. I've watched the live-action series, read the manga and also watched series one of the anime. This review deals with the anime sequel, dubbed "Nodame Cantabile: Paris Hen", which deals with Nodame and Chiaki's stay in Paris.
You should probably not be reading further if you are yet to see the first series.
Without beating about the bush, let me state right at the outset that this series is a disappointment. This is not because of the storyline (as per the manga) which while not retaining the cogency and coherence of the first series is still good value.
The plot of S2 begins with the arrival of Nodame and Chiaki in Paris (the anime leaves out their layover in Prague where they take in the sites). The two of them settle down in their flats in an apartment complex owned by the Miyoshis (Chiaki's maternal family), and thanks to some manoeuvring by Seiko-mama, are once again neighbours to boot. Chiaki immediately begins preparing in earnest for the Platini international conductors' competition in a bid to gauge his skills as well as to show Viera-sensei that he is quite ready.
Nodame, on the other hand, is feeling quite lost in Paris and Chiaki's rather supercilious manner doesn't exactly help. Their relationship hasn't really progressed much either. Her French isn't up to scratch yet and while her proficiency at the piano is never called into question, her other ... academic qualities bring her up short. The curriculum at the conservatory that she has enrolled in also requires understand of the theoretical aspects of music and mastery of basic skills and techniques such as sight-reading is expected of all students.
I'll leave the synopsis at that ... Getting back to my rant (and that's what this is evolving into) about the anime, I'd say that the biggest positive about the first series was the music. Conversely, the biggest negative and disappointment with the second is also the music or lack thereof. While we were previously treated to extended excerpts that lasted, in some cases, 10-15 minutes, and evoked emotion and realistic wonder both in characters and the viewer, we now have to make do with 30 second snippets and are supposed to understand and empathise with the characters in that trifling of a period. There is one stand-out excerpt where we are supposed to appreciate and understand that the music is so beautiful and intense that Nodame is reduced to tears; all this with a 20-odd-second snippet. Even the finale which involves Chiaki conducting his new orchestra only lasts slightly over a minute. Nodame's piano recital is probably a notable exception where we are treated to many pieces albeit with lots of voice-overs ...
Next up, the direction ... While it is understandable that there might have been .. financial reasons for only releasing a 11-episode series, way too much was crammed into this suitcase. For e.g., the conductors' competition takes up around 6 chapters in the manga and an entire 1-hour special in the live-action series. The anime, however, manages to squeeze, cut, starve, trim, cajole and threaten it into about 20 minutes of stale viewing.
There are also a number of flow issues in the storyline due to excessive cutting of sub-plots and the consequent blasé rearrangement of sequences. S1 followed the manga very faithfully while S2 is a drug induced haze. Nodame and her Nodame-ness is also just not made to act as cute in S2 as in S1 ... As an example, she now perennially does "that thing with her mouth" whenever she plays rather than only when she's lost in the music.
Next, the animation ... while pretty good for the most part, there is a notable drop in quality compared to S1 - lots of facial inconsistencies, inaccuracies with respect to the "instrumentation" ... S1 wasn't that flash either what with the number of panned stills being used, but the use of CGI for the concert sections was quite good.
Lastly, and that's because I'm getting tired of writing, what in S1 were (mostly) subtle and tasteful embellishments to the music in order to provide colour and a sense of interpretation are now represented as a malformed glut of tacky techni-colour flowers that cover the screen. I actually shuddered when I saw that ...
The seiyuu are all quite excellent and the ED is lovely. The OP is poor :S