I meant to talk about Beck in the last installment of this blog. I just couldn’t bring myself to write a good transition from my admiration of musicians to Beck, to be honest. My brain was kind of focused on getting homework done and I basically used that first TMCR entry as homework, so…
Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad! As far as I know it is a really good anime. I haven’t gotten to read the manga because, despite working at Tokyopop all summer, I did not get the chance to read it. Plus, it is one of the licenses Tokyopop lost because of Kodansha. BUT the anime is pretty damn good. It pretty much follows one young man’s discovery of rock music (pretty important stuff when you’re a teenager.) Honestly, I think it’s a good anime because it doesn’t just cover the surface of the music industry, but how music is important to the characters. (Or at least the main ones, anyway.)
But, unfortunately, I have to take this blog away from the good and into the bad…
The Bad: La Corda d’Oro by Yuki Kure, Viz Media
It’s never really a good thing when a story starts with a deus ex machina. In this case, La Corda d’Oro starts off with the main character, Kahoko, being visited by a fairy who pushes her to accept his magic violin and enter the school’s extremely tough music competition. There’s only one problem, Kahoko has never played a musical instrument in her whole entire life. This is all solved by the magical violin being, well, magical and allowing Kahoko to play beautiful music as long as she knows the tune and plays with heart. Of course, with her school’s music department being fiercely competitive and very separated from the general education school (where Kahoko is a student,) the whole idea of her butting into the competition doesn’t sit well with lots of people. Conflicts occur left and right and Kahoko must gain new skills in order to continue playing the magical violin.
I can sympathize with Kahoko, I know very very little about music, and being thrust into the musical world with huge expectations would probably make me cry like a baby. I would probably need years of practice to play the violin decently and even then I would be kind of crap at it because I just don’t have a good ear for music, which is pretty crucial. The problem I have with La Corda d’Oro, which is based off of a video game, is basically that it takes something that takes years and years of training and reduces it to magic and putting your heart into it. No wonder so many people in the music school don’t like her, she got a free ride and now she’s taking the spotlight when they’ve worked their asses off to be so good!
Then the story relies on you sympathizing with Kahoko (easy enough, since she’s a classic self-insert character) to make you dislike most of the other characters you come across because they’re just BAD PEOPLE for being so gosh-darned competitive. Clearly, you should not be such an over-achiever because raw, untrained talent and magical instruments given to you by fairies is what you truly need to succeed in the musical world. Gag me, please.
Basically, I could accept the magical violin bullshit and turning every other character into a bad human being, if Kahoko spent the majority of the time practicing her ass off and achieving some epic revelations as to how good music works via the stuff musicians do to train themselves. Instead, she practices hard off-screen and we only see her dallying around with the other contestants learning random things about music from them and getting embroiled in serious, but rather petty dramas. Instead of being a strong character, Kahoko is the victim of anything and everything and really only triumphs with the usually indirect help of others.
It just makes me sad that what could be a very good manga about being thrust into the world of competitive classical music is so pathetic. I mean, in real life, classical music is a world with a lot of passion and intense drama. Would that really have been so hard to purvey in both the manga or the game it was created from? No. So why not pursue that angle on the story? Because making it a light drama more about interacting with the other characters than actually winning the competition and gaining skills wouldn’t have sold quite as well. Ugh. Why did I spend my money on this series again?
See who does it better next time!
Part 3: The Classic: Nodame Cantabile
Review copies paid for by the blogger.
3 responses to “The Manga Cliche Review: Musical Talent Part 2”
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As someone who does have a lot of musical training, I can reassure you that your assessment of La Corda d’Oro is spot-on. The dead giveaway for me — besides the music fairy, of course! — is the repertoire the characters play in competition. I didn’t enter a lot of contests when I was a teen, but I can promise you I’d have been eliminated in the very first round of any competition if I’d played an instrumental arrangement of Schubert’s “Ave Maria” instead of, say, the Mozart oboe concerto!
Good to know I’m not dead wrong! I mean, magical violins are totally realistic, but something seemed a little off to me!
You make a good point there about their repertoire, one I couldn’t have made. They were probably just picking out popular pieces of classical music that most everyone had heard of when they made the series. Such is the life of a dating-sim franchise!