La Corda d’Oro ~ Blue Sky Complete Collection Anime DVD Review

La Corda d’Oro ~ Blue Sky Complete Collection Anime DVD Review What are you willing to sacrifice to make your dreams come true?

What They Say:
For years Kanade Kohinata has been considered a musical prodigy, but in her sophomore year of high school, the young violinist has found herself adrift and unable to regain her creative focus. All that changes, however, when childhood friend Ritsu Kisaragi insists that Kanade and his younger brother Kyouya, also a violinist, both transfer to the prestigious Seiso Academy, where Ritsu rules the orchestra club. The introduction of two new violinists is certain to cause friction, however, as the super-competitive club is in contention for the National Championships, Kanade and Kyouya are going to find their skills pressed to the limit as they attempt to prove that they belong. And amidst the fire of competition, Kanade may find herself kindling more than just a passion for music, as a dozen different young men may be competing for her heart as well! Music and passion combine as a young woman rediscovers her muse in LA CORDA D’ORO ~ BLUE SKY!

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this series is very disappointing considering that the main theme of the collection encompasses the trials of a musical competition. While the original Japanese language track is satisfactorily presented in Dolby Digital 2.0, the true enjoyment of the show is displayed through the performances during the recitals and practices. These students are supposed to be the best that Japan can offer since they are competing on the national level, so why did the sound engineers not take this into account? However, while it may not be noticeable to someone who does not enjoy classical music on a regular basis, to a true connoisseur of this art form, most of the music will either sound muffled or muted with the richness being lost due the older audio standard; this is especially noticeable during the electronic violin solos. It is a true shame since though the rousing resonance of the performances are still enjoyable, they would have been more inspiring if greater attention was paid to the audios instead of the visuals.

Packaging:
Sentai Filmworks used the elements of the series title, La Corda d’Oro ~ Blue Sky, to the utmost when selecting design options for the discs and case. The first part of the name translates into a string of gold, which they brilliantly use to accentuate the title graphics and the foreground in glowing overtones of music notes flowing in the breeze behind a sky blue background, which is appropriate for the second part of the title. But the main focus is the ensemble portrait of the Seiso Academy members, bows crossed like swords of the Musketeers and their reserve lone wolf Kyouya smiling in the corner. The discs use the same colour scheme and illustrations with the addition of the trio from Jinnan High and some of their competition to decorate their faces. Too bad their wasn’t enough room on the case or discs to fit in the rest of the cast since they were all essential to the motivation of the series.

Menu:
The same colour palette used on the case is carried over to the menus with more royal blue accents encompassing the episode listing and a copy of the disk portrait compressed into the right side of the screen. While you may choose your selection with a musical notation equivalent cursor – first episode is equal to a whole note, second to a half note, etc., the first minute of the opening theme Wings to Fly is played in preparation for the upcoming sonic bombardment; this arousing music gets the viewer properly motivated for the excitement of the show, but it does get tiresome after it restarts at the end of the cycle. Perhaps they could have made a better selection to cycle the entire song or allow the watcher to switch the music off, but then they probably not expected too much time spent to make your selection.

Extras:
The only extras included in this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Kanade, Kyoya and his older brother Ritsu had been studying the violin together since they were children until Ritsu abruptly proclaimed that he would be leaving to study the instrument professionally. However, when they unexpectedly receive tickets to the National Championship preliminaries a few years later from the wayward sibling, they are surprised to see someone they do not recognise. The friend from their youth had changed: he has become a cold and intensely dedicated musician whose only goal is to become the best in the country. But this new attitude is the sole way in which he can achieve his goal, for the competition is intense with the finest challenging his school for the title of Best in Japan. But, his motivation for sending the invitations was underhanded to say the least – he knew that Seiso Acadamy did not stand a chance in winning unless he made the most of the resources he has at hand, and this included his friends.

After the announcement that Seiso has made it through the first round, Ritsu revealed his true intentions: the only way for them to make it to the final round was if Kanade and Kyoya were to join the Orchestra Club. His motive was clear and he gave them no say in the matter for all of their possessions had already been moved to the dormitory Linden Hall and transfers to Seiso Academy had been approved. But, the current members will not tolerate this scheme for these outsiders to claim two of the four seats available in their ensemble; the only way they would accept it is if the new members were to audition and prove their talent. However, neither had seriously practised their instruments since their friend left and both doubted what Ritsu had seen in their abilities. How could they pass this test, let alone be of any help to the team with the competition being as intense as it has ever been? The elite of the music schools would be participating and there would be no prize for second place. How can they believe in what they themselves cannot see when the doubt is overwhelming to the point of suffocation?

In Summary:
Although La Corda d’Oro ~ Blue Sky tries to present itself as a serious musical menagerie of competition, you still cannot ignore the fact that the show is based on the dating role playing simulation Kin’iro no Corda 3 by Koei Tecmo Games. With every episode, you can feel the intensity of the relationships between Kanade and her male companions building: hints of their closeness being hinted with every sideways look, subtle suggestions or compliments as they take breaks and her friends complimenting her talent so they can go on a date in order to enrich their own musical deficiencies. If I wanted to watch a shōjo anime, I would have picked a better example of the genre like: Akatsuki no Yona, Fruits Basket, Fushigi Yuugi, Ouran High School Host Club, The Wallflower or even Sailor Moon – at least their situational romances are not as so cloaked within the overwhelming power of such a robust theme as music. Those shows don’t try to hide the relationships but are kept in the open with the conflict of the series trying to smother a happy ending … not the other way around.

Additionally, the conflicts within this series seem too ruthless for a music competition, even if it is on the National level. I have participated in these type of contests and I do not remember people being this bold in trying to undermine another person’s confidence: psychological trauma, ridiculing them, kidnapping and even assault? I am pretty sure that the last two are illegal, but I can understand the pressure that some would feel, especially in Japan where the drive to do their best is drilled into children at an early age; in fact at times it is so ingrained into the culture that there have been cases of stigmatisation of intellectually deficient students or even suicide. However, is this an appropriate subject to show in an anime which is meant to entertain?

La Corda d’Oro ~ Blue Sky can be an entertaining show if you can overlook the poor audio reproduction, improper beahaviour and weak underpinnings of a romance story and judge it for what it should have been: the trials and tribulations of a group of musicians striving to be the best. The stirring renditions of classic instrumentals and moving imagery does help to drive the plot along, but all attempts of trying to charm Kanade just waters it down into a bland broth when it could have been a rich and indulgent consommé which makes you smack your lips wanting more. Sorry, but this is not a chicken soup which warms the soul.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation

Content Grade: C+
Audio Grade: C+
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: November 10th, 2015
MSRP: $49.98
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sharp LC-42LB261U 42” LED HDTV and Sony BDPS3200 Blu-ray player

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