Manga Review – La Corda d’Oro

La Corda d'Oro Volume 1

La Corda d’Oro
金色のコルダ (Kin’iro no Corda)
The Golden String
KURE Yuki
Shoujo – Romance, drama, fantasy, reverse harem
17 Volumes (complete)
Viz Media

Summary:

Kahoko is an ordinary high schooler. At least she thought she was until a fairy gives her a magical violin to enter the school music competition. She reluctantly agrees, but does Kahoko stand a chance against students who are aiming to be professionals?

Review:

So here we have a manga based on an otome game series. That can only mean one thing: reverse harem. But for a series based on a visual novel catered toward romance, the OTP seems to be KahokoxViolin, and even the musical elements are underwhelming.

La Corda d’Oro starts off like a musical shoujo version of Hikaru no Go. While the supernatural elements were a big part of that series, the fantasy elements in this one quickly fade into the background.

I think the first problem is the story is just too long. Part of this is because the story covers the plot of two games. And although I’m saying La Corda d‘Oro is too long at 17 volumes, the series is actually shorter than that. I don’t think I’ve read a manga with so many side stories. All volumes except two contain a short, some related to the main story, some not. Cutting all these extras would reduce the main plot to about 13-14 volumes. Even then, I think it would have been a much stronger work if it had ended after the first arc. (I assume this is where the first game ends.) The characters all have a nice monologue about what the competition meant to them. Kahoko is left with a feeling of hope and the romance is subtle with the door open for any of the guys.

But if the series had to go on for this long, there were ways to explore this world and its characters without dragging Kahoko down. (More on that below.) I had a lot of unanswered questions. Like Kahoko’s mother. Your daughter has been bringing home an instrument (an expensive one, at that) and you don’t bother to ask? And the ending. Did Kahoko find a teacher? Can Kazuki hide his feelings forever? Why did the plot waste time on sports festival chapters toward the end?

Now I’ll go back to Kahoko. Like any person who is forced into a competition that they have never competed in before, Kahoko is reluctant and nervous. I really liked her…in the beginning. Then as the story dragged on, all she cared about was the violin and Len’s approval. The guys all talk about her strength, but to me, she became weaker and more dependent. The second half Kahoko could have easily jumped in from any of those other “I came to this school to chase after my idol” manga. She became so boring and one-dimensional.

As for the guys, the main love candidates are your usual group of reverse harem choices. Len is a more blunt version of Tokiya the perfectionist from Uta no Prince-sama. (Ironically, he’s voiced by Natsuki’s VA in the anime.) The most interesting guy was Azuma, but even his secret comes out rather abruptly. (I would like to play his route in the game. Maybe I’ll import it one day…) Even the guys who have feelings for Kahoko never do anything with them. One confesses but she never gives him a straight rejection. The other two just plain don’t say anything. The plot spends too much time on romance to be subtle, but yet it only ends with hugs and indirect confessions. One guy is added in the second half, but he doesn’t even work well as love triangle (polygon) fodder.

This is Kure’s first published manga series, but she worked on the Corda games as the character designer. As one would expect, the art is good, but it is standard modern shoujo. The art felt flat during the musical scenes in the early volumes but does improve. I expected chains of musical notes or differing backgrounds, inking, and screentones to reflect the musicians’ playing. Kure could have also had Kahoko picture scenes to help explain the spirit of the pieces. I didn’t really get any different feeling when they would play an uptempo song versus slow or a good performance versus bad. It’s not that the art is terrible, but Kure had trouble expressing music. Other manga dealing with classical music like Your Lie in April and Nodame Cantabile displayed emotion better.

Translation:

The same person did both the translation and adaptation for the entire series. If I didn’t actually check the credits, I would not have guessed. Like most school series, the Japanese version has most of the students referring to each other by their surnames along with (if applicable) honorifics. The first volume and most of the second drops the honorifics, but keeps the characters calling others by their surnames. The end of the second volume and all subsequent volumes switch to personal names. Of course, this leads to some problems later in the series when individuals want to use personal names for their friends but already are in this adaptation. Miss and mister are occasionally used to take the place of Japanese honorifics, but these are usually limited and not consistent. A few -chan and -san pop up sporadically, and one teacher gets the honor of being sensei. Even nicknames don’t permanently stick. I noticed typos (forgotten spaces, inconsistent romanization) and grammar errors (subject-verb agreement) mostly in the early volumes.

I’m not going into the Japanese honorifics debate here (I’ll save that for another day), but the switch from surnames to personal significantly changes both the text and culture of the setting. (I might cover this another day as well.) If you don’t want to go with Tsukimori-kun, then go with Tsukimori, not Len, dang it! Anytime this happens, I find the translation/adaptation disappointing.

Final Comments:

A decent series that drags on for too long. Series volumes are padded with side stories and one-shots. At 17 volumes, I think you can do better whether you’re looking for romance or music manga. And, for me, using “Len!” and “Ryotaro!” instead of “Tsukimori!” and “Tsuchiura!” (-kun optional) just adds another reason to pass.

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