Mei is a girl that can only be described as "normal" when compared to her older brother. While she's a devoted member of her school's Wind Orchestra Club, he's a famous musical prodigy. When their irresponsible parents send a girl named Mel to live with the siblings, Mei's feelings for her brother start to seem a lot more complicated than she first thought.
I am quite the sucker for music-themed anime and manga, so of course I had to read this. Then again, I feel that music-themed manga is harder to enjoy compared to music-themed anime simply because viewers are able to hear the soundtrack.
Now then, if you like seeing individual development, a musical manga is good. The main character is always trying to be a better musician and understand the world and people around him/her, and in Andante, this is no different. What is unique to this manga, then, is the element of family drama. The introduction of Melvina into the lives of Mei and her
brother Natsu seems to be a burden the way their parents dump her on them, but when they realize her musical ability, their initial viewpoints change. That doesn't mean their problems are over, however.
The beginning of the manga did not start out in a very interesting manner, though it did pick up later, much like in Miho's Kodomo no Omocha. I can't say that I really liked the biggest problem that arose, though it did make the story very intriguing. Though the ending was conclusive enough, I was not satisfied with it, hoping that there would be better closure for the main character.
I was expecting a good amount of humor from having read Miho's older and most famous manga Kodomo no Omocha, but the laughs were kept to a minimum, especially because of the conflicts within the family and the seriousness of the profession of music. That's not to say that there aren't any funny parts, though; I did spend a few good moments laughing to myself.
The protagonist Mei is a likable character. Though her brother Natsu is the musical prodigy, she is not an exceptional player, though she isn't terrible, either. This makes her an easier character for the reader to relate to, as perfection isn't everywhere. She cares about her brother a lot and would do anything to help him, yet she tries to hide her own problems and solve them herself. She is a brave young girl who has yet to discover her own strength and determination.
Natsu is the boy that possessed musical talent as a child, so everyone foresaw his success as a composer and musician in his future. He is a handsome man who garners a lot of attention for his work and performances. Like his sister cares about him, he is also extremely protective of Mei. He often overworks himself, though, in order to meet deadlines for composing music. Natsu spends hours in his studio thinking of new melodies and rhythms. I still find him a mysterious character in the way that he completely immerses himself in another world. While this type of character is too typical in a musical manga, he almost seems necessary.
Melvina is the beautiful Australian relative who comes to live with Mei and Natsu for some reason. Though she is from another country, she speaks Japanese well. She takes time adjusting herself to life in Japan because she's quite innocent and naive about city customs and Japanese schools. Her voice is breathtakingly beautiful and she loves to sing. I was a little annoyed at her naivety, but her actions made sense later on and I liked her a little better.
The artwork of Andante is almost the same as that of Kodomo no Omocha. It is typical 90s manga style with small faces, big eyes, flat hair, etc. What I didn't like so much was the same-face syndrome. Mei and Melvina looked very similar to me and only slightly differed in height. I could only tell them apart because they wore different hair styles, and they changed those often. It was particularly strange because Melvina is said to be very pretty, and for Mei to look the same made that fact mean nothing.
With all this said, I give this manga 7/10. While the plot was semi-interesting, I didn't particularly like the problem that came up later, though I can't deny that it was successful in moving the story along. I also did not like the ending. The characters were not too exciting to me, but I did like Mei. The art was all right. Overall, it was a pretty okay read after the exciting part was over. I'm sure I would have enjoyed it much more as an anime adaptation mostly because of the musical aspect.