Every year the Mondonville Music Academy accepts only 100 new students as part of their intake. Competition is fierce to gain admission into this prestigious conservatory, so it is no surprise that the students number amongst the best in the entire country. 14 year old "Alice" Lang is a misfit and therefore a huge puzzle to the staff and students alike. Not only did the board accept him after a personal interview with performance, but they made him the 101st student for this year's intake. Their shock over this fact is not just because of the 101st placement, but the ability he displays during class and practice. You see, he not only can't read music, but he doesn't know even basic chords. Nor how to play a scale. So how did he make the cut? The answer comes when Lang picks up his violin and plays a complicated piece from memory, flawlessly, and passionately. Not since the last 101st student had they seen or heard its like. THAT child was a prodigy and grew up to be famous. Not only that, but the piece Lang plays is THAT man's signature composition. Just who is this Alice the 101st, and what secrets lay in his past that will unlock his future as he starts from the basics at Mondonville? Under the steely eyed gaze of his brusquely affectionate sempai Victor de Courteau and no nonsense tutelage of his aghast violin teacher Yannick Dalberto, he slowly begins to discover the pieces of his past that tie him to this future his dying grandfather pushed him towards. But does he have what it takes?
Printed under DMP's Doki Doki imprint, this little piece of shoujo is a real crowd pleaser. It has the school setting so familiar to the genre, but with a nice twist that sets it apart thanks to emphasis on musical fundamentals and practice in the classroom and during private time, rather than relying on the school as a convenient back drop. The interplay between the characters revolves around not only their personalities, but their skill and passion as musicians, so actual repertoire and technique are shared, as well as discussion on musical instruments and famous makes. With the elegantly accurate drawings of Chigusa Kawai providing a visual feast, the three dimensional characters drawing us into the mystery that is Alice and his new world, this new series captures and holds the interest of the reader with ease.
This is just as well, as it is not without fault. Sadly, the fault here lies with the translation and editing. The prose itself flows faultlessly and without any odd stilting to shout out it's non English origins. No, the fault lies entirely with how Alice's name is rendered. The cover says his name is Alistair, and that fits, as his grandpa and others shorten it to Alice. It even fits given his last name, Lang. But the translator more than once calls him Aristide, which only with the Japanese pronunciation of "l" and its common confusion with "r" would render it shortened to "Aris" or "Alice". So it is slightly confusing, and a bit of a disappointment that this was not caught out by proof-readers in the editing department before this went to press. Hopefully during reprints this will be remedied, and that the upcoming sequels won't have this fault. It is only a minor irritation however, and one that I would urge fans of the shoujo genre to overlook just this once. While aimed at 16 and up, it was sophisticated enough to hold this adult women's interest, but free enough of any personally objectionable material that I would allow my almost 9 year old daughter to read it.
***I would like to thank Digital Manga Publishing for providing me with a review copy.***