Reviewby Rebecca Silverman, Jul 28th 2013
La Corda d'Oro
As the end of second year approaches and the third years prepare to graduate, Len's absence is clearly felt. Some miss him, some feel their chances are better without him, but regardless he is still very much present. His lack of presence is also making Kahoko question what her future plans should be – is she really able to continue on with her violin studies, or should she just give up? As romances develop and plans are made, the musical journey began sixteen volumes ago comes to a close.
La Corda d'Oro has the distinction of being one of the first otome game adaptations to hit the English market in manga form, later also having its anime counterpart licensed. It is also arguably one of the better reverse harem stories out there, focusing equally on Kahoko's musical ambitions as well as on her love life, and having her stand up to the obligatory would-be molester in her pantheon of guys while not blaming herself for his advances. Its finish doesn't have a lot of firm conclusions, although a boy is chosen, but it is a nice way to end the series, which has been generally enjoyable all along.
In the previous volume, violin prodigy Len Tsukimori departed Japan bound for a more prestigious music school in Germany. Kahoko promised him that she would never give up on the violin, but now that her inspiration has left, she's finding that a little harder to do than she had anticipated. The frustration that Lili's revocation of his gift (so to speak) left her with is mounting as she finds herself unable to improve as quickly as she feels she should and can't stand that she's not as good as she used to be. It doesn't help that Keiichi is always ready to point out her failings, and her less than stellar performance in the contest has her disheartened and lacking a prestigious teacher. Add to that the fact that she has money woes, and we have a very unhappy heroine.
Kahoko's life immediately becomes more complicated when she receives a confession of love that readers may have seen coming, but Kaho certainly didn't. This throws her into a tizzy, and she never does really give the guy an answer. It seems like she ends up with someone at the end, but on the whole the romance plot is largely inconclusive. This is certainly one way to handle the conundrum of how to end an adaptation of something with multiple potential paths, but it is somewhat unsatisfying as the reader of a romance. Part of the joy of the romance genre is seeing the heroine get the guy (or the hero get the girl), and on this front, La Corda d'Oro doesn't quite deliver. This is a case where “almost” isn't quite enough for seventeen volumes, although looked at in another way, it does leave things open for readers to dream up their own endings with whichever suitor they prefer. Len, Ryotaro, Azuma, and Kazuki all get at least time alone with Kahoko as the volume progresses, so all paths do seem potentially open when the volume closes.
In many ways La Corda d'Oro has always been more about the music than the romance, however, and perhaps the most fulfilling relationship explored in this volume is that between Kahoko and her violin. In fact, the old “I need cash to buy something around Christmas” trope is for Kahoko to buy a new violin case rather than a present for a boy, which really says a lot about her feelings for the instrument. If this love of music gives at least one of the guys the wrong idea, well, that's just part of the fun of the genre.
Yuki Kure's art has remained attractive if not a little static throughout, and this volume is no exception. A pet peeve of most who have ever played a string instrument is likely to be the way virtually everyone has their bow up on the fingerboard – one scene at the end of the book is particularly bad with the bow about halfway to the tuning pegs – but other than that, there are no major issues. Some hands look a little off and one waving palm looks quite nearly backwards, although what gives that impression is hard to quantify – but the only other major complaint that can be offered is that we don't get the color versions of a few of the splash pages, which look to be very beautiful.
For reverse harem fans or even those leery of the genre, La Corda d'Oro has consistently been an enjoyable story about both music and romance, and maybe even the romance of music. If its ending is not as conclusive as one might have wished, it is still a good one, and certainly open-ended enough for dissatisfied romantics to create their own epilogue. With its attractive art and stronger-than-the-genre-norm heroine, La Corda ends with a sustained note that slowly fades into the background after the last page is turned.
Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B-
+ Attractive art, Kahoko handles her aggressor better than her reverse harem brethren. Hopeful ending on several levels.
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