Monday, 9 May 2011

金色のコルダ / Kin'iro no Koruda / La Corda D'Oro

La Corda D'Oro refers to a golden string - in this case, the string of a violin. This is an anime about classical music.

The set-up is one that’s familiar from other hobbyist-centric anime, most notably Hikaru no Go. An ordinary protagonist is thrust into an unfamiliar world of competition and a skill by supernatural forces. In Hikago, that’s a ghost that inhabits a go board. Here, it’s a very cute but slightly naff little fairy, guardian spirit of a school with an accomplished but mostly independent musical wing, who blesses the main character Hino Kahoko with a magical violin and makes her enter the joint schools’ musical concourse. The violin with its golden strings allows her to magically play to a very high standard, and she holds her own against what it soon transpires is a concourse full of shoujo bishounen archetypes – the simple, sporty boy with his trumpet, the aloof but soft-hearted violinist, the princely flute player with a dark side, the spacey cellist and, a little later on, the fellow non-music student from the football team with a hidden prodigious talent for the piano. There’s also one other girl, a pleasant, shy and thoroughly peripheral clarinet player who really exists so that it doesn’t look too silly that the only people in the concourse are the main character and her potential love interests.

Various circumstances throws Kahoko into positions where she can bond with the boys and grow to understand them, as well as realising how wonderful it can be to play the violin. As with most such series, she soon starts to feel that her magical gift cheapens what she and everyone else is doing, and ends up starting again from scratch, but while Hikago did this cleverly, allowing Hikaru to go back to the beginning on his own, Kahoko is in a very contained environment and while people think it’s weird that she goes from expert to beginner just like that, it’s only a few weeks before she’s playing proficiently. Not with virtuosity, but the expression in that little Elgar piece at the end is a long way from anything a beginner can do.

The bare bones of this show are quite weak. The characters are obvious, the structure (derived from a romance game for girls) meandering and the situations very contrived and superficial. But somehow, despite being the kind of dumbed-down piece that requires voice-overs drowning out musical performances explaining how wonderful they are, and treating music as though it’s never a struggle, never frustrating, always enriching, it really does manage to be effective as a piece of drama revolving around classical music and how it affects people. There are some wonderful abbreviated virtuosic performances of superb pieces, notably by Chopin and Paganini, and while the idea that people can’t help their moods affecting their performances is typical of anime and totally opposite to what experience in the world of classical music will teach you, it does provide good drama.

If you like classical music, a bit of chaste romance, and nice easy drama, you can do worse. If there’s a Secundo Passo, or whatever that ought to be, I shall most certainly watch!

(originally written 13.11.07)

Additional: OVA impressions, 15.6.11

The charming little classical music anime La Corda d’Oro had a continuation in this OVA, subtitled Secondo Passo. On the other hand, it was intended as a promotional tool for a game, and thus feels like the opening two episodes of a new season – with nothing more to come. Two new musician students and a new director of the academy are introduced, and there’s a neat set-up about all the musicians playing together for a performance – except for Hino, who lacks the skills.

It’s quite annoying, having a set-up but only the loosest of progressions to go with it, but there’s two things I like about this OVA – that Hino, despite jumping too quickly from absolute beginner to mediocre violinist in the series, here is somewhat stuck and certainly not about to master the instrument in weeks, as many anime with this general outline have; and that there’s at least one character who’s cynical about this ‘putting the heart into your playing matters most’ business, which while it is accepted by all the sympathetic characters, does need a voice of doubt to swallow.

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