One of the anime series currently available for viewing on Crunchyroll is La Corda d’Oro, based on the manga series licensed in the US by Viz (which is, I understand, based on a video game). My husband brought it up to me recently as a series he’d be interested in watching and when he told me the name, my ears perked up as I reached excitedly into my pile of review copies where I have volume ten of the manga waiting to be reviewed for Manga Recon’s “On The Shojo Beat” column next month. Seeing this as a great opportunity for me to study up for my review (I don’t own or have access to the first nine volumes of the manga), we plunged right in.
Now I’ll say right off, I am really enjoying this anime series. Sure, the musical selections are straight out of someone’s supermarket CD of “Your Favorite Classical Music Hits,” but honestly this is what I expect to see in popular fiction, and even when the arrangements of these overused standards are utterly ridiculous (I looked it up–there actually is an existing arrangement of Pachelbel’s Canon for just violin and piano, as ill-advised as that may seem) the characters are so sincere about playing them it’s hard to remain snobbish about it, even for a stodgy old music geek like me. Recently, however, there has been a bit of a plot twist that has seriously thrown me for a loop. I found my own reaction to it surprising, revealing, and actually a little bit hilarious so I thought I’d talk about it here. Major spoilers after the jump.
For those who need a little background, La Corda d’Oro is the story of a second-year high school student named Kahoko who is chosen by a, uh, music fairy named Lili (because of her ability to see him) to be the recipient of a magic violin that can be played by anyone. By accepting the violin (which she does very begrudgingly), she also accepts being named a participant in her school’s musical concours, despite the fact that she is not part of the school’s prestigious music department. The series then follows Kahoko and the other participants through their preparation for the three sections of the concours and to varying degrees each of their personal journeys as musicians and otherwise.
One of the other student participants is Azuma Yukoni, the youngest son of a very traditional and influential family, who plays the stereotypical “prince” role at school. He is smart, beautiful, always smiling, kind to everyone, and constantly surrounded by a crowd of admiring girls. Over the first ten episodes of the anime series, Azuma is shown to be extremely insightful and kind, especially when it comes to Kahoko, but then at the end of episode eleven, he suddenly reveals an incredibly cruel side to his personality–one that he shows only to Kahoko.
I know this will sound completely ridiculous but this turn of events has been, for me, seriously traumatizing. Even now, days later, I have not recovered. At first, I tried to think up ways that the whole thing might be a lie–like maybe he had an identical twin brother who was stepping in and impersonating him or something. Anything, really, just to have it not be true. This is a fictional character in an animated work of fiction, and it has actually, honestly hurt me to find out that he is not who I thought he was. Is this not kind of hilarious? About this, I have a few thoughts:
First of all, YAY FICTION. Despite the fact that I have tossed and turned in bed (no, really) thinking about this and feeling upset over it, man, isn’t this what is awesome about fiction? Anything that can affect me this strongly deserves high praise, no matter how many times I have to listen to Pachelbel’s Canon, Schubert’s Ave Maria, and Grieg’s Morgenstimmung (which are, by the way, at least all performed with heart). My reaction to the revelation about this character is pretty much exactly what I imagine Kahoko’s to be, and I have respect for any storyteller who can make me truly feel what his/her characters feel. I feel betrayal, loss, sadness, disbelief, and I feel it almost as strongly as if it was happening to me.
Secondly, on a strictly personal note, I think the reason why this has affected me so strongly is that this kind of duplicity is something I am especially vulnerable to in life, and has over the years become a pretty intense fear of mine. As a person who trusts very easily and tends to see the best in people, the thing that I’m least likely to see coming (and therefore, the thing that has the power to hurt me most) is the person who pretends one thing while actually being another–the enemy who pretends to be a friend. Overall, my trusting nature is a part of me I like more than other parts, and despite the fact that this gives a duplicitous person ample opportunity to hurt me very deeply, it is a part of me I think is worth trying to hang on to. Still, there is a looming fear that I could unexpectedly find myself in Kahoko’s shoes at any time, and I’m sure that plays a part in my unusually strong reaction to Azuma’s deception.
As I’ve mentioned, I haven’t read any of the manga series yet, and I gather from Kate Dacey’s review of the first four volumes that this revelation about Azuma’s character may happen much earlier on than it does in the anime, which might make it less of a shock. It will be interesting to see once I do get my hands on the manga just how much of a difference that makes. I will be interested, too, as I continue with the anime, to see what happens with this character over time. I’m sure we’ll learn much more about him and how he got to be this way (I have a few theories, of course), and I’m assuming there’s a decent chance he’ll grow in some way, probably due to his association with our heroine, though it might be equally as interesting if he does not. Still, through all of this, I sincerely mourn and experience honest pain, as ridiculous as that might be.
Why am I burdening you people with these thoughts? I’m interested to know about your experiences with strong emotional reactions to fiction, and how you feel about them. I tend to personalize most of what I read, watch, experience, etc., so this is not an unusual reaction for me, though it is admittedly quite intense in this case. How about you?
Note: If you want to talk about La Corda d’Oro in comments, please, please do not spoil me past episode 13 of the anime series (roughly through volume four of the manga, I think).