Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
La Corda d'Oro
The annual school festival has arrived at Seisou High with the music and gen ed students working together. Kahoko is nervous about the upcoming concert...and whatever “private conversation” Ryotaro wants to have with her later. Len, meanwhile, is grappling with the fact that he will soon be leaving to go abroad and Kazuki is very conflicted about his time in high school ending. With second semester approaching, how will things turn out?
Oh no. Not the school festival arc! Where La Corda d'Oro has so far nicely escaped some of the more cliched moments most high school manga incorporate, it clearly couldn't hold out forever. This volume has both the sports and cultural festivals complete with performance of Romeo and Juliet, relay race, takoyaki, and haunted house. And, yes, of course, the butler cafe. For a series that has consistently been better than it has any right to be, this volume is a real low point.
The main action of this installment in Yuki Kure's adaptation of the reverse harem game of the same name takes place during the two school festivals. We begin with the sports festival, where the gen ed students are pitted against the music students. One highlight of this is that seldom seen clarinetist Shoko gets some more time in the spotlight. While she has never developed much beyond “quiet younger girl,” she is much more visible this volume than she has been since the school competition ended. In a story overrun with attractive boys, she's a nice break. Of course, she also provides a way for Kahoko to injure herself, which is the set up for a brief romantic interlude with one of the boys. While the “school nurse is mysteriously absent” scenario is as old as anime, if not dirt, Kahoko's reaction to the near-confession is interesting and perhaps more realistic than a typical shoujo swoon.
Kahoko has consistently walked the line between “no personality” and “actual human being.” This volume has her wavering between the two, going from having a believable reaction to being pursued by adoring men and not noticing it. She has several downright annoying moments this time around, possibly because Kure is upping the romance ante, something she did much more successfully in volume thirteen. With that comes a more reverse harem feel than the series has previously had. Prior to this volume it was relatively easy to pretend that you were reading a manga about musicians. With school plays and dances as the focus of the plot, it becomes very clear just what kind of game this was based on. For some readers this will not be a deterrent. Others, however, will find themselves turned off.
With all of the school shenanigans going on, it would have been easy for Kure to let the events carry the story to the detriment of the characters. It deserves to be said that she does not. Despite many of the boys playing the role of lovelorn suitor to some extent, everyone still does get some individual attention. Kazuki finds himself reluctant to graduate, and not just because he has to leave Kahoko behind. A special chapter discusses his future plans and forces readers to see him as more mature than he has been. Ryotaro proves that he is not above some very amusing sniping at his rivals in love, a snarky side of his personality that we haven't seen before. Len, as the back of the book puts it, “lets slip that he has human emotions.” This is the best done piece of character development in the book. While he is still the broody fellow of few words, his limited speech and thoughts begin to reveal a conflict that we have not seen in such detail, and one of his actions proves very telling indeed. Possibly the best character moments belong to Keiichi, who provides some unforeseen humor in unexpected places. Less attention is paid to Aoi, who has yet to feel like a real character rather than Pretty Boy #6, and Azuma, who remains faithful to his bland characterization as the two-faced rich boy. Kure begins to hint at more for him, but never really develops it in this volume. Perhaps he will get his chance later.
Artistically, Kure maintains the standards she set in early volumes. Aoi and Len can be difficult to tell apart at a glance, but other than that, characters are distinct and attractive. Attention is paid to clothing styles when the group has to cobble together costumes for their performances, reflecting a degree of individuality. Poses are fairly static, even with characters are running or playing their instruments, though they look posed rather than awkwardly stiff. Most of the instrument scenes are convincing, although Keiichi's feet are not planted correctly for a cellist in one shot.
While not the finest example of shoujo manga out there, or even of how enjoyable this series can be, La Corda's fourteenth volume is still good enough to read. “Less good” is still “okay” as far as this book is concerned, and this is still interesting and moderately engaging. Hopefully the next volume picks back up, though: many more like this and the previously enjoyable could decidedly less so.
Overall : C+
Story : C
Art : B-
+ Some good character development, moments of humor.
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