La Corda D'Oro ~ Primo Passo Collection 1 (of 2) (

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Monday, June 21, 2010
Release Date: Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Gifted a magical violin by a fairy, Hino must find her way to greatness that she didn't know she had.

What They Say
Talking to invisible people that only you can see can get you into unusual situations, so when Kahoko Hino encounters a tiny fairy named Lili on the way to school, she is shocked to find herself entered in a competition for her school's elite music program! That might be wonderful, except Hino doesn't even play an instrument, let alone own one! But Lili has a solution for that as well, and he attempts to give her a magic violin. Hino refuses at first, but weakens, perhaps noticing how many good looking boys seem to be in the program. The problem is that now Hino is competing against a host of other talented students, and she really can't play a note! Now she'll have to work double-time in order to justify her place in the orchestra! Will Hino become the musical prodigy everyone thinks she is, or will she just end up playing second fiddle?

The Review!

This series is presented in just its original Japanese language with a stereo mix encoded at 224kbps. The show makes fairly good use of the stereo design for it where the dialogue occasionally has some decent placement but the music has a very good full feeling to it with plenty of warmth for a stereo mix. Outside of the music, which does have a pretty regular presence, it's a straightforward dialogue piece so there isn't a lot of stretching going on throughout it. The various characters come across well with no pitch problems or distortions and when there are a few on screen at a time there is some decent placement of the voices to give it a little more feeling. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn't have any problems during regular playback.
Originally airing from 2006 to 2007, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The show has thirteen episodes on this set spread between two discs in a six/seven format. La Corda D'Oro has a very clean look to it with bright vibrant colors, owing to its gaming origins likely, and it translates well to the anime presentation. Uniforms and hair in particular are pretty attractive here The backgrounds have a good look as well, a bit more muted in general, and there's a good amount of detail when it comes to the overall design of the show that shows through well here. The show has a fairly average to somewhat low bitrate, which introduces some noise into a number of scenes with heavy solid characters, but it's not something that's hugely problematic in that it distracts you from the show.
Considering the intended audience, at least in the Japan, the cover art here is no surprise as it features the five main male characters in their appropriate uniforms as they sit and stand next to each other. The bckground is kept simple with what looks like a music room while adding in some soft sunlight and a decent frame that gives it a touch of elegance to it. The character artwork is full of detail and the designs are very appealing and distinct. The back cover uses the same overall framing to everything while using Hino along the left side with the fairy Lili. The summary is fairly descriptive, a bit longer than a lot of other Sentai releases, while not giving away every little thing. The back cover also includes a few decent shots from the show and a simple breakdown of the discs features. The remainder is given over to the production information and a solid technical grid that lays everything out clearly. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu layout for the release takes its cue from the cover artwork as it uses the same kind of framing, expanded and refined a bit, where the character artwork of all the leads are used across both of the volumes. The soft blues and purples intermingle nicely for the background color and it has the same kind of refined look that the front cover gives. The navigation selections, primarily individual episode selection, is along the bottom tied to how music is written out. The layout is very easy to navigate and with no language selection everything defaults easily. Though I continue to be amused that they label the primary track as English even though it's Japanese. Player presets are obviously a non-issue for this release.
The only extras to be had on here are clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With its origins in videogames that ended up getting translated to a manga and then an anime, La Corda D'oro is a twenty-five episode series that's all about the romance. Unlike a lot of romance series though, the romance is not a dominating factor in the opening half of the series and it's the kind that progresses pretty naturally and without any heavy-handed nature to it. Falling into the realm of a reverse-harem style show to some extent, it works its magic through music – and magic as well – as one young woman finds herself caught up in something much larger than herself.
The series takes place at Seiso Academy where the school is split into two distinct teachings. The academy follows most schools and has its general studies department, but what it's most well known for is its fairly prestigious music studies department. A number of very gifted students participate there but the two classes are fairly well segregated throughout and there is a general disdain and disconnect by the music students with the general studies ones. Since they're just “average students” in that sense, they don't get involved with them much and it's even a bit of a minor scandal when a music studies student admits to being interested in a general studies one, including the prominent sports players. The school is fairly normal otherwise and outside of a couple of teachers and the occasional parent, adults are a minimal aspect of the series in this half.
Where the focus takes place is on second year student Kahoko Hino, a fairly happy and upbeat young woman who is decent at her school work, pretty enough and otherwise normal and average in the larger sense. She's a good kid that doesn't have a very specific goal or focus in her life but she has friends, family and decent grades. Her life takes a very odd change when she walks through the main courtyard where there's a statue of a fairy that's famous in the school. The legend goes that years ago the fairy brought together two different students at the academy and they fell madly in love through music. Hino's thoughts on the fairy comes at the same time that the fairy itself has appeared to Hino and she's the only one that can see it. It's this meeting that has the fairy giving her a special magical violin that allows her to play even without having ever touched on before.
As much as this surprises her and is hard to wrap her head around, the second bit of news she gets is that she's one of the selected members of the overall academy to participate in a school wide music competition. Even more surprising is that of all those participating, she's the only one from the general studies side of the school. Her confusion is made pretty clear, but when she seems to be able to play because of the magic violin, she's swept into the flow of things with some basic misunderstandings smoothing out events and her general friendly nature bringing others in to help. Over the first thirteen episodes, she ends up making friends, losing friends, gaining enemies and learns to truly love the violin as she starts to master it herself through the magic. It's pretty likely she has a lot of natural talent that's being brought out this way and we'll likely learn that she's surpassed the magic at some point as well.
As the show is a romance oriented piece and a harem piece of sorts, several attractive male characters suddenly enter her life. Most of them are music studies students while one is a general studies student with some serious music skills. She has the seemingly lead one in Tsukimori, a very cool and non-personable type who is very gifted but disconnected from everyone and sees them all as rivals. Yunoki takes the role of the very pretty long haired guy who is the love of every student, very smart and is an extreme player of people as he manipulates everyone to his own goals. The fun and slightly quirky Hihara has a good personality around him and he takes a quick liking of Hino in a cute crush kind of way. Potentially competing for her affections is Tsuchiura, the general studies student who is great at soccer but is also a gifted pianist. There's also a young woman that's part of the group of participants named Fuyumi but she gets little time overall and just comes across as slightly odd.
Together with Hino, all of them are fairly standard archetypes, but the interesting twist to all of it is that there aren't any heavy romantic overtones with it. Hino doesn't fall heavily or even lightly for any of them on first sight. The guys for their part are the same way, though Hihara and Tsuchiura both develop different levels of feelings for her in the first half through different circumstances they encounter with her. You can tell that Hino is slowly becoming interested in Tsukimori simply because they have them spending the most time together with misunderstandings and there's a natural flow that works because of that pairing which is fairly adversarial. I rather liked the minor twist giving to Yunoki as well. The romance angle is definitely here, but it really doesn't start to develop in a minor way of note until towards the end of this set. And that's something that sets it apart from other similar shows.
In Summary:
The first half of La Corda D'oro is a pretty decent school story with a magical element mixed into it. The music is decent if unexceptional overall while the characters and their designs are nicely done while keeping to standards in general. What helps set the show apart overall is that it's taking its time in building the romantic angle side, even if it seems preordained from the start, and it has a ncie twist or two along the way as well. It's filled with mostly friendly characters, a decent setting and the kind of relaxing and enjoyable storyline that works well for series of this nature. The only real downside is the fairy itself which feels hugely out of place and kind of dorky, such as in comparison to the magical creatures you see in other shows like Kaleido Star. La Corda D'Oro has just enough here to keep you entertained and wanting to come back for more to see how the competition continues to go.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

Review Equipment

Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

Mania Grade: B-
Audio Rating: B
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 13 and Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
MSRP: 49.98
Running time: 325
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: La Corda D'Oro ~ Primo Passo