On the basis of one episode, Nodame Cantabile is clearly the best show of the new season, and a worthy successor to Honey & Clover in the Thursday Night Noitamina time-slot on Fuji TV.
It has the same director as Honey & Clover, Kasai Kenichi, and is animated by the same studio, J.C. Staff. And it is based on a highly popular manga for young women, as H&C was. Not only that, but it stars two of the biggest names in voice-acting: Kawasumi Ayako (Lafiel in Crest of Stars, etc.) and Seki Tomokazu (Sousuke in Full Metal Panic, etc.) Boy, did they deliver in the first episode. This is a romantic comedy based in the world of classical music, and their performance was like a duet by two great soloists.
I have made a page showing photos of the main seiyuus and their characters. I'll fill in more photos of the characters as they appear:
The anime version, as everyone knows by now, was preceded by a popular TV drama series that just ended its run. I loved that show, but on the basis of this first episode, I think I may love the anime even more. The look of the characters here is, of course, much closer to the manga, and really works better with the story than the live actors did, excellent as they were. And some of the manga humor -- such as the cartoon violence -- always jarred for me in live action. I look forward to following this show through its 23-week run.
The show certainly has a good staff. The sound director, who is usually the one working most closely with the actors, is Aketagawa Jin, who did Honey & Clover, Noein, Uta!Kata, et al. And the screenplay is by Konparu Tomoko, who was involved in Brother Dear Brother, Urusei Yatsura, and the very successful adaptation of NANA. And there's one quite intriguing credit: Tanaka Rie, the seiyuu who just finished a triumphant performance as the heroine in Hataraki Man, is credited as being responsible for some aspect of sound production. I hope I can find out what this means. Can there be another Tanaka Rie (who writes her name exactly the same way)?
The only thing I was worried about before Nodame Cantabile began was whether the two stars could play these particular characters. I needn't have worried. They are note-perfect.