Mania Grade: B
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- Audio Rating: B
- Video Rating: B+
- Packaging Rating: B+
- Menus Rating: B+
- Extras Rating: N/A
- 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
La Corda D'Oro ~ Primo Passo Collection 2
La Corda D'Oro ~ Primo Passo Collection 2 DVD Review
By Chris Beveridge
August 20, 2010
Release Date: August 10, 2010
La Corda D'Oro ~ Primo Passo Collection 2
© Sentai Filmworks
The final selection is almost upon the group but many of them must face some personal challenges first.
What They Say
Kahoko Hino's life has been turned upside down ever since she was given a magic violin and entered in the Seiso Academy's prestigious music competition. Now she's an outstanding new prodigy... but the problem is that, although only Hino knows it, she doesn't play the same way as all of the other students. But is it really just the magic violin that makes the difference? Or are Hino's growing respect and feelings for others in her class clouding her judgment? And then, just when she needs it the most, something terrible happens to Hino's violin!
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 mirrors the first as it features the five leading men of Kaho's age range in their outfits for the Final Selection and their instruments. It looks good with a lot of detail to it that pushes the attractive nature of the men and the elegant aspect of it with their outfits. The background 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 her friend. 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.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
La Corda d'Oro had a good first half with the thirteen episodes that came prior to this and it finishes out well here in the second half with the remaining twelve and the OVA episode that runs a bit longer. The main thrust of the first half was to introduce us to Kaho and all those that made it into the competition that the school runs while also bringing in the magical element of the pint sized fairy Lili who gifts her with a magical violin that allows her to play beautifully. Kaho playing it constantly and practicing as well was definitely useful as when the magic runs out, as her heart loses its vested interest in playing, she has to go back to square one and actually use the skills she's learned.
The second half deals heavily in this plot point to generally good effect. The performances in the selections prior to the Final Selection cause some trouble as Kaho loses her connection and the strings of the violin breaks. That sends her down a spiral where pulls away from everything, the others in the competition and music in general. Taking the route of trying to return to who she was before works for a little while, but it's interesting that those that were closest to her before can see that it's not what's right for her. She pulls away so much that the others from the competition keep their distance as well since they don't want to make things worse for her.
But one by one, they all slowly make their way back to her. With Yunoki having gone off to England for schooling, the Final Selection itself is pretty threatened at this point. With Kaho pulling out of it, those that remain realize that a lot of what they had fun with in the whole thing was her and the way she drew them together. Tsuchiuara realizes he's there because she drew him out. With him wavering now and the soccer team trying to bring him back, he's one more that may get pulled from it since his reason for being there is gone. Similar can be said of others where Tsukimori realizes that he's not played like he has with anyone else like he did with Kaho in the Ave Maria piece. Each of them has their little connection to her that comes out and while it is predictable, it doesn't feel forced.
And just as predictable is that she does come back to the competition after learning how to restring her violin from a restoring professional who Tsukimori knows. It's a decent piece that highlights the personality of each violin and has Kaho really coming to understand who own, which is fairly unique since it was created by magic. When she takes it up again and has to start from less than zero really, it's encouraging to see her putting her all into it and the way everyone encourages her. What makes it more is that because all of them have a special relationship with her, some with more feeling than others, you see them taking it to heart pretty strongly. The couple that have more romantic feelings keep them suppressed, which is surprising.
While you have an attractive young woman surrounded by several beautiful men, La Corda d'Oro doesn't actually follow through on it. There are those that you think would be an ideal match for her and while the feelings from some come very close to the surface, they never actually emerge. And even after the show ends and we get the OVA episode that sort of plays with it more, it doesn't go that way so there isn't any sort of conclusion when it comes to the romantic side of the show. Not that it really had one when you look back over it. It's pretty restrained throughout and I found that I really did appreciate that there was not a heavy focus on the romance. We didn't get weighed down with it all and instead the focus was kept on the passion of music and the competition itself.
Looking at both releases in total, La Corda d'oro is a pretty good series but one that is definitely very tame. The characters are archetypes to be sure but there are some nice little subtleties to it that helps it stand out on its own. It also avoids the standard plot of having all the guys competing for her or her being interested in all of them. While she does show a friendly interest in them, there's only a few nudges towards it really being anything more with them. The music plays a good role in it and they do manage to change what's played fairly regularly enough so that you don't get sick of any particular piece. It's well animated for what it is, the character designs are solid and it all plays out well, leaving you smiling but not feeling completely satisfied. It's an enjoyable ride but it just doesn't have enough to make it a long term memorable show. It stands out against much of its competition though simply because of some of the things it avoids doing and that makes it worth checking out.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
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.