La Corda d ™Oro Vol. #01 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, October 03, 2006
Translated by:Mai Ihara
What They Say
Every few years, the prestigious Seiso Academy holds a prominent musical competition, and only the very best are allowed to participate. Though all are eligible to apply, only students from the music department actually make it to the competition... until now.
Kahoko is a normal student in the general education department with absolutely no musical skill, but all that changes when she catches a glimpse of an elusive fairy who lives on campus. The fairy grants Kahoko a magic violin, and before she knows it, she's nominated to participate in the school's music competition with five very attractive boys. Will she win love and fame, or will bitter rivalry rule the day?
The white and auburn front cover design features Kahoko, Len, and Hihara against a white background decorated with auburn musical notes. Kahoko is shown in the foreground to the right with the two boys holding their respective instruments behind her. All the characters are wearing their school uniforms. At the very top left is the publisher's logo, and just below that is the title logo. The white and gold script title logo is lovely and elegant, and the design incorporates a treble clef and musical staff in keeping with the musical theme of the manga. Author's credits are placed to the lower left and the volume number to the lower right.
The back cover is mostly white with auburn edging. The Shojo Beat logo is at the very top, followed by the title logo. Below that is the story summary in black text and an illustration of the manga's five gorgeous male characters in coats and scarves among falling autumn leaves.
Binding and materials are satisfactory, but the print quality runs a touch dark in places. Extras are comprised of a 14-page author's postscript that includes preliminary sketches and transcriptions of four scenes from the videogame that this manga is based on; notes about the music referenced in the manga; and ads for other Viz releases.
Overall, the packaging job is pretty solid except for an error in the story summary. The story summary states that Kahoko is "nominated to participate in the school's music competition with five very attractive boys." Although this manga does feature five male characters, one of them is an athlete and not a musician. Kahoko's rivals for the competition consist of four boys and one girl, Shoko Fuyuumi. I suppose there's always the possibility that Shoko is actually a boy dressed up as a girl (hey, this is manga after all!), but if that's the case, then Viz let a spoiler slip into the initial volume summary.
Music is a major component of the story, and Kure has the challenge of communicating the music created by the students without the benefit of sound. She does not use a whole lot of screen tones for the task but relies on mainly on character expressions that correlate the quality of the music with the emotions that that are evoked. Combined with good panel placement and variations in shading, Kure handles the challenge of displaying her characters' musical talents (or lack thereof) extremely well.
Her human character designs, male and female, are lovely to look at, but I am less enamored of Lili's design (his proportions seem off somehow and I don't find him that cute). Backgrounds are satisfactory, and musical instruments are realistically and beautifully drawn, which I appreciate as a former music student.
Honorifics are translated into English equivalents. Signs, books, etc. are translated with overlays in lettering styles compatible with the original Japanese text.
As with other Shojo Beat titles, Viz has done a very nice job of removing all the original Japanese sound effects and replacing them with English sound effects that capture the flavor of the original. Viz uses a nice variety of fonts throughout the text, including a rune-like style for all of Lili's spoken dialogue. Translation of the manga dialogue is satisfactory, but the videogame dialogue in the extras is a bit stiff. Also, I noticed some sloppy text placement on one page and a couple of typos, including a misspelling of Len's name right when he's introduced into the story.
Every two or three years, Seisou Academy holds a music competition, and it is noteworthy as the winners have gone on to become internationally famous in the music world. Understandably, the contest is a highly anticipated event among students enrolled in the academy's music curriculum, but among those in Seisou's General Education Program, the contest hardly sparks any interest at all. That's because, even though all Seisou students are eligible for the competition, those selected to participate have always been chosen from the Music Program. That is, until second-year General Education student Kahoko Hina has a run-in with a fairy at school.
Yup, a fairy.
Kahoko thinks she's hallucinating at first, but when the fairy tries to talk to her, she panics and runs away. The very next day, the list of contestants for the music contest is released, and Kahoko is on it! But there's a problem -- she's not a musician!
She goes to the teacher in charge of the contest to get herself off the list, but he simply directs her to go to the practice wing of the music school after class. There she has a second encounter with the fairy, who explains why she was selected for the contest.
The fairy, Lili, is a musical fairy and owes a debt to the founder of the school. As his way of repaying that kindness, he promised to bless the school with music. To keep that promise, he has invented a magical violin that allows anyone, even a raw beginner, to play wonderfully. However, it is a new creation and, as of yet, untested. Lili has determined that Kahoko is the student most attuned to his magic so she's been chosen for its first trial -- with the music contest as the testing ground!
Kahoko reluctantly agrees to help the fairy in his endeavor. But the task set before her is a difficult one. For starters, while the violin does give her the ability to play, her repertoire is limited to music she herself is familiar with, and it only works when she is emotionally attuned to the instrument. Also, the abilities of her fellow contestants, who are the best of the best of the music program, are nothing short of intimidating. And the fact that she is a General Education student puts her into a very awkward situation. Many of the music students are in an uproar that a General Education student was selected for such a prestigious competition, and Kahoko becomes a highly resented figure in the Music Program. Competing in the contest is a huge challenge for Kahoko, but she will have to survive the wrath of some irate music students first!
La Corda d'Oro is a manga based off of a Koei romance video game, and I can see how the characters were designed for a female video game audience. We have the ordinary high school girl (Kahoko) who is thrust into extraordinary circumstances with five gorgeous male classmates who fall into the categories of the cool soccer athlete (Ryotaro), the aloof moody artist (Len), the androgynous charmer (Yunoki), the loli-shota (Shimizu), and the rambunctious guy (Hihara).
While the manga is beautifully drawn and the individual characters seem interesting, I find the premise for this story somewhat irking, especially as a former music student. When Lili tries to convince Kahoko to participate in the competition with his magical violin, she retorts that for her to compete in such a manner is "totally unfair" for the other contestants, and I agree with that sentiment. The plot seems to be shaping up for a "battle format," the kind seen in a lot of sports and cooking manga where every episode in the story is a new battle and a new hurdle for the upstart young challenger to overcome. But unlike the heroes in these manga, Kahoko doesn't have any inherent talent or special ability or invested training in her particular craft. She's only a contender in this musical competition because she and Lili are on similar "wavelengths," and her preparation for this competition is less about progressing as a musician and more about her trying to figure out how to draw upon the power of her magical instrument. Speaking of which, if Lili's existence is a secret known only to a select few at the school, I wonder what his intentions are once his magic violin is out of the "testing" phase. If he makes this "magical violin" available en masse, wouldn't that blow his cover?
Despite my issues with the main plot, I am intrigued enough by the characters and the nature of this musical competition to want to read Volume 2. Only two of the Music Department participants have been shown playing their instruments, and I am curious as to the abilities of the other three.
According to the publisher, this title is rated "teen" for mild violence. However, Volume 1 does not contain much worse than a snarling match between the Yunoki Guard and Kahoko.
Mania Grade: C+
Art Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B-
Text/Translatin Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Released By: Viz Media
Orientation: Right to Left