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This time, I’m bringing a different kind of book review. Because today, we will be reviewing a manga! I love to watch anime, so of course I enjoy manga as well. I’m really excited to review this one. Ladies and gents, this is Boku no Chopin.
A Little Bit Of Background (actually, a lot of background…)
Ah, classical music. No matter how boring you think it is, or how tired you are of hearing Canon in D for the hundredth time, it will always find some way to be around. It’ll find its way into your movies, your TV shows, your graduation…it will never go away.
Y’see, classical music isn’t all the same. Like pop music, it has stages. Just like how in our modern pop music we have the birth of rock and roll in the 50’s and 60’s and the excessive use of synth in the 80s, classical music saw many developments in its long, long life. Today’s manga focuses on the Romantic era in particular.
In classical music, the Romantic period is the period after Classical (yes, it’s a period too) and before Impressionism. This era focused on the expression of emotions rather than the rules and forms followed by the Classical period before it. This was the age when classical music really hit its stride, with the use of different and more outlandish musical forms, expressive forms of music such as the tone poem, and many new composers and performers popping up on the scene.
Boku no Chopin is a manga by Kotori Momoyuki about these composers. As you may have guessed, it mainly focuses on the piano composer Frederic Chopin, with points of view from other characters as well. It’s quite an interesting manga for me, since I love classical music (as you also might have guessed from my introduction above) and I love historicals. I’ve been looking for stories like this forever, and I’m glad I found this!
The story focuses on the lives of the composers of the Romantic era. Most of the accounts are about the Polish composer Frederic Chopin and his endeavors in becoming a famous musician in Vienna and Paris. There are also stories about other composers such as Franz Liszt, Felix Mendelssohn, Robert Schumann and others, all based on true events. This review is limited to Volume 1, since I can’t find an English translation of Volume 2. You can read Volume 1 online here.
For a fictionalized version, the stories themselves take little artistic license and stay quite accurate. They might come off as a little cliche to others who are familiar with the shoujo genre, but they’re actually quite true to life after doing a little research. Momoyuki shows that she’s clearly done her homework and even includes interesting facts about the composers (did you know that Franz Liszt once went through three pianos for one concert?).
The characters have the most artistic license taken, both in the personalities and the designs. The designs will be further elaborated on in a later category.
I took away 2 points for the drastic changes in personality for some of the other characters. Chopin especially was demoted to simply a pretty-boy stereotype with little personality other than being adorable. I wish he was given a little more personality. (Maybe in Volume 2…?) Wagner was also a little pain in the ass. My favorites were Mendelssohn for his strictness and familial complex and Liszt for his overflowing ego and concern for his friends.
The setting of Romantic-era Paris and Vienna did have some effect on the characters (like how they say that Chopin can have better luck being famous in Paris than Vienna), but really it felt like it could be just any old-timey European town. The setting isn’t really given much focus. My teacher once said that a good book does not simply use its setting as a backdrop for the story, unfortunately, it felt like the setting here didn’t really matter that much.
Art Style – 4.5/5
Since this is a manga, of course I have to review the art style used. Momoyuki’s art style is very beautiful and everything is drawn elegantly, perfect for the romantic feel of the manga. The characters are drawn very well, though they tend to cross the territory into Noodle People sometimes.
The character designs take a hell of a lot of artistic license. It’s fun to look at a design and compare the character with its real-life counterpart. (Wagner’s is the most drastically different – and hilarious – of them all.) Still, inaccuracies aside, the designs are very pretty (as per shoujo standards) and fit in with the time period.
Overall – 3.5/5
Although I enjoyed this manga for the historical content and the art, I admit that it falls flat at some parts. I haven’t read Volume 2, so maybe it gets better there, but for now, it’s nothing special, just all right. I hope that there’s some improvement in Volume 2. (If you can find a translation of Volume 2, please show it to me! I really want to continue reading this)