La Corda d’Oro Vol. 1 (Viz Media/Shojo Beat)

cordaheaderA Japanese everygirl enters a music contest with a magic violin at her side and a bevy of boys at her disposal in this new romance series.

 

 

192 pgs B&W; $8.99

(W/A: Yuki Kure)

 

Huge multimedia launches have become de rigueur for many action-oriented properties-think .hack and its multitude of video games, manga series, anime series, novelizations, and, I can only assume, Underoos and breakfast cereals. While it seems appropriate to use a manga to flesh out the backstory behind the brainless fighters in the latest Street Fighter II knock-off, it's a far less natural move for a tale of the life and loves of a girl enrolled at a music academy. In a collaboration between video game makers Koei and the manga anthology LaLa, newcomer Yuki Kure did just that when she crafted the character designs for the romance sim La Corda d'Oro, then created this manga adaptation (7 volumes released in Japan to date), which lead to the La Corda d'Oro ~primo passo~ animated series that began its run on Japanese TV this past October.

 

The cover to La Corda d'Oro Vol. 1. Click thumbnail for a larger image.For a series with such commercial ambitions, La Cordo d'Oro is a rather simple, down-to-earth story. Kahoko is a student at Seisou Academy, a high school with a world famous music program. Walking around the school's grounds, she stumbles upon a fairy named Lili who is so delighted that Kahoko can see her that she gives the high school-er the much coveted 6th and final spot in the school's super-prestigious musical competition. Problem: Kahoko is a gen. ed. student with less than zero musical ability, and her status as the only gen. ed. student in the competition earns her the instant hatred of the school's snob-tastic music students. Lili has given her a secret weapon, however: a magic violin that will take care of the technical aspects as long as it has genuine emotion to feed off of. Now all Kahoko has to do is learn to truly love music…and maybe land a cute boy in the process.

 

Though we're introduced to a nice batch of potential suitors for Kahoko, she doesn't spend much of this first volume pining after any of them, pausing only long enough to say "Wow, he's cute" before going back to trying to find her musical bearings. The boys never rise much above their stereotypes: Len is the arrogant, pompous-ass violinist; Yunoki is the long-haired, androgynous prettyboy flautist ; Hihara is the brassy, high-energy trumpeter; Shimizu is the doe-eyed enigmatic cellist (who literally sleeps through almost all his appearances), and Ryotaro's the warm-hearted jock-and current front-runner for Kahoko's heart, though he's not involved in the music contest. The previous sentence is about all you learn about any of the boys in this first volume, though Kure does give all but Shimizu some alone time with Kahoko in an attempt to flesh them out a bit.

 

This being Kure's first manga series, she handles some aspects with a less than sure hand. The biggest problem here is the pacing: some pages will be densely packed with small panels and ample dialogue while others will be mostly silent and sparsely illustrated, an effective technique, but one that Kure overuses with little regard to which works best for any particular scene. One of the most egregious examples is early on when Kahoko discovers her name on the contestant list, something that becomes obvious to the reader immediately but that Kure doesn't reveal until10 full pages later.

 

Kure's art is generally nice although not particularly noteworthy, bearing a more than passing resemblance to a myriad of similar high school girl romance series (the gender-bending series Hana Kimi and W Juliet being the first to leap to mind). Kure does do an admirable job illustrating the music scenes, something difficult to evoke in a medium that lacks sound. The one thing missing from her art more often than not is backgrounds. The amount of panels with plain white or screentone pattern backgrounds is innumerable, and only seems to increase as the book goes on. The adaptation also has a few rough spots, including a glaring inconsistency when Len is introduced and his name is translated as both "Len" and "Ren" (on the same page, no less).

 

The teen girl audience that La Corda d'Oro aims for will likely have no trouble overlooking the book's many shortcomings, preferring instead to concentrate on its likeable protagonist and her harem of potential boyfriends. Viz rewards those fans here with ample bonus features, including a short strip by Kure on how she became involved with the series, a look at some of her initial character designs, scripts to four short movies that were offered as an incentive for Japanese subscribers, and additional notes explaining the significance of the musical pieces from the book.

 

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