La Corda d’Oro (Kiniro no Corda) (2004-2011) is a 17-volume (75 chapter) manga by Yuki Kure. It is an adaptation of role-playing game, and has also been made into an anime (more information below). I was initially drawn to this manga because it’s set in a musical school. Having played the flute throughout primary school and high school, anything involving music, especially at school, really interests me.
What’s it about?
Seiso Academy is a prestigious school with two education streams; the musical department students and the regular high school students. Every few years it holds a prominent musical competition, which, although technically open to all students, is only ever full of the musical department students. However, this all changes when regular student Kahoko Hino meets Lili, a musical fairy who gives her a magic violin and a spot in the competition. Although reluctant, Kahoko agrees to compete and meets the other competitors; violinist Len Tsukimori, flautist Azuma Yunoki, trumpeter Kazuki Hihara, clarinetist Shoko Fuyuumi, and cellist Keiichi Shimizu, who greet her with various reactions; some are friendly, but some feel she shouldn’t be there! Luckily, Kahoko’s fellow regular classmate pianist Ryotaro Tsuchiura also joins the competition. As the competition continues, Kahoko finds unlikely friendships forming with the other competitors… and maybe a little love?!
This is a reverse harem, so you know that all of the male characters are going to be stereotypes. Having said that, however, that majority of them are likeable. I also quite liked Kahoko as the main, even though she occasionally fell into typical shoujo-protagonist behaviour (especially in the latter half), she’s still a reasonably strong main. I really like how she dealt with the dilemma of feeling like she was cheating by having a magic violin, and how she perseveres under pressure and anxiety. She’s quite the little determined character, and isn’t so easily pushed around.
As I already mentioned, the thing that really drew me to this manga was the aspect of music. I thought that it’d be interesting to see how something audio would be represented in such a visual medium. I think it’s handled pretty neatly. The way the artist depicted the characters playing was pretty cool; runs of notes, swaying in the music, etc. I could almost hear the songs they were playing. The music pieces mentioned in the manga are also really nice pieces. I recommend checking them out if you’re unfamiliar with them (listen to the songs when the characters are having their spot in the competitions!), if not all of them, then at least “Ave Maria”. As mentioned, the art was nice when the characters were playing, and it’s pretty good throughout the whole manga. Character styling is nice, the attention to the instruments was good, and all-around the art is attractive… until you see it in colour and realise that half of the characters have green hair. Not like, Zoro, Freed or C.C. green, but horrible, oddly coloured green. Or light blue. Or purple. I know this is anime, but I think it would suit the manga more if the hair colours were normal.
I have to say that Lili’s intervention (and history hinted at in the first few pages) would have been more interesting if it had been explained and expanded on slightly more. With only a few appearances, most of them being “here’s a magic violin, go ahead and play”, the character seemed sort of odd. Not a major negative of the manga, but something that sort of stuck out.
Another thing about the manga that I really didn’t like was how one of the characters, the flautist Azuma Yunoki, was portrayed. This character was an asshole and it was played off like he wasn’t. I’m sorry, but no. I don’t care how difficult his family life is, the way he treats Kahoko is cruel and irritating. More annoyingly, she lets it happen, and doesn’t take the opportunity to stand up to him. Typical shoujo main characteristic. (Also why is the flautist always portrayed as the bitch?! We’re not that bad!). On a related note, Aoi Kaji, a character who is introduced later in the manga, is really quite creepy but played down as being “cute” for transferring to Seiso Academy purely because Kahoko attends it. Not cute. Creepy.
The above things, although annoying, are still quite trivial compared to this last negative. The manga noticeably loses pace after the competition, and seemed to be really stretched out to cover a number of other aspects of school life (Sports Festival, Cultural Festival (Romeo and Juliet production??), and then some other competition thing I didn’t care much about). Usually I love seeing this kind of thing in a school setting, but it just wasn’t exciting enough after the events of the competition. As the manga continues, you start to see that the romantic story in it really isn’t very good. Of course it’s a reverse harem, so almost everyone has a thing for Kahoko, and you can tell which person was being batted for the most throughout the manga… personally I didn’t think he was the best fit, because he’s the typical “arrogant-but-really-just-need-some-understanding” character stereotype that I can \not stand. Finally, and related to all of this, the ending is a massive let down. It’s not even really an ending. It just sort of… stops.
Anything else I should consider?
I’ll put this here as a reference for anyone who wants to check out the whole La Corda d’Oro series, because I was really confused. Basically, La Corda d’Oro (manga) is based on one of the games, and has been adapted into an anime called “La Corda d’Oro: Primo Passo”. There is also a two-episode special called “La Corda d’Oro: Secondo Passo” which was made to promote the game. There is a spin-off manga called “Linden Hall no Aria” which is based at the same school but with different characters. That manga was adapted into the anime “La Corda d’Oro Blue Sky”.
Art: 7/10: I quite liked the art in this manga, which is surprising, given that it’s a shoujo. Although I wish I could un-see the hair colours.
Story: 5.5/10: Would have scored higher if the story-line wasn’t stretched out, the love-story flat, and the ending disappointing.
Characters: 5.5/10: The main character is likeable for her determination, but the males are stereotypes or otherwise played off as not being as mean-spirited as they really are.
This is a standard run-of-the-mill shoujo, but noticeable for the aspect of music included in it. The characters are, for the most part, likeable, if not a bit boring, and the art is quite nice. However, the manga’s ending and the predictable love story are major let downs. Check it out if you’re a fan of music or the original game, but don’t expect too much. Overall, I give this manga a 5.5/10.