Seishou Academy is a high school with a strong musical tradition- so much so that the music students are even taught separately from those in General Education. Every few years, students from both departments are allowed to apply to enter the school’s prestigious music competition, but perhaps unsurprisingly, only music students are actually selected to participate- that is, until this year.
Hino Kahoko is a General Education student who can barely tell one note from another, but when she turns out to be the one person who can see the school’s guardian fairy, she is chosen to enter the competition. Armed with a magical violin that transforms the user’s emotions into music, Kahoko finds herself pulled into an unfamiliar world of eccentric musicians and attractive young males- will she be able to cope with her new situation, or will it all prove to be too much?
Given that La Corda d’Oro is based on a “girl meets bishounen” dating sim from the creators of Haruka 8 and Angelique, I can’t say that my initial expectations for the series were particularly high- if past experience was anything to go by, it would be an angst-filled experience without a hint of a plot in sight. Nonetheless, after the first few episodes of the anime convinced me that Corda differed from its fellows in actually having something in the way of plot and character development, investing in the first volume of the manga seemed a wise move after all.
That being said, in manga form, Corda is something of a mixed experience. A series about music is certainly an intriguing novelty, and Kahoko and the obligatory bishounen that surround her have plenty of potential for development, but nonetheless, Corda is not without flaws. Whilst it would clearly be unrealistic for Kahoko to master an instrument in a matter of weeks, her magical violin does feel a little bit too much like cheating- admittedly it only works when her emotions connect with it, but it hardly seems fair to have her compete against musicians who are relying on their own experience skill. Ultimately it may only be a story device, but it is one that is a little too contrived for readers to easily accept.
This is a minor concern, however, compared to Corda’s greatest weakness. The content of each page is so sparse that the story barely gets started in the first volume; the characters are introduced, Kahoko plays the magical violin a couple of times, and that’s pretty much it. It’s more than a little frustrating to find that after setting up a promising story, the volume comes to a close before it can really go anywhere.
Visually, Corda is a little on the weak side; character designs lack the polish and vibrancy of their animated counterparts, whilst backgrounds are practically nonexistent. As mentioned above, the end result is that there simply isn’t much on each page, both in terms of text and pictures. A few more sound effects would also have been useful- in particular, it is hard to tell when the characters are supposed to be actually playing their instruments as opposed to just waving them around.
Unfortunately, it must also be noted that Viz are still in need of proofreaders- the errors here won’t draw as much attention as those in more high-profile releases, but there are some slight annoyances such as an inability to decide whether Tsukimori’s given name should be Ren or Len.
Although it feels a little slow-paced and lacking in comparison with its animated counterpart, La Corda d’Oro 1 still makes a reasonable start to a potentially interesting story. Hopefully the series will find its feet and really get going in the next couple of volumes.