Kaleido Star Vol. #05 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Friday, November 05, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, October 26, 2004



What They Say
Now that Kaleido Stage has a new owner and the cast has been scattered to the wind, Sora, Mia, and Anna find themselves homeless and unemployed. Mia must figure out how to create and cast a show with few performers and even fewer resources. But who's the mysterious star who finally saves the day? When the Sora and friends take the new show on the road to Vancouver, they find that they have once again fell victim to the evil plots of a rival.

The Review!
As everyone goes about their new lives, our leading ladies spend their time trying to deal with getting a place and getting some kind of performance work in.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this series in its original language of Japanese. That mix is a standard stereo one and it sounds quite good with both the music and ambient sound effects making good use of the forward soundstage. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout with a number of scenes using some solid directionality to get things accomplished. We spot checked the English track and liked the clarity some of the sound effects gained from it as well as the music itself coming out a touch fuller.

Video:
Originally airing in 2003, Kaleido Star's transfer here is done in its original full frame aspect ratio and is one of the most colorful looking TV transfers I can think of seeing in the past year. The series takes advantage of the latest tools available and presents a very vibrant and colorful show. While the series has settled into what looks to be the standard feel for it as opposed to some of the really high quality pieces that kicked it off, the transfer maintains a really solid presentation, with great colors, no cross coloration and practically no aliasing during panning movements. This just looks fantastic.

Packaging:
Probably one of my favorite covers so far, Rosetta takes center stage here in a fully detailed performance outfit with all the trimmings around her. I love the detail in her Diabolo cups and the way the lights look around her. It's just as busy as the past covers but with the more muted colors it doesn't feel quite as busy at first. The packaging does a good job of listing the volume number on both the cover and the spine as the back cover only provides the episode count, not the episode numbers or titles. The back cover continues the same color for the background as the front does bit it fades into the performance ring as it fills the area. There's a good summary of what to expect and a few shots from the show and of the menus here. The insert returns to the booklet form this time with the pages covering the various secondary characters in the show and providing a little bit about them..

Menu:
The main menu is a well animated piece that has various pieces of imagery from the design of the show rotating in the background while the foreground has a static circle that has extensions out to the selections. The episode selections all have a small animation bubble next to them as well. It's a hard menu to really describe since it's not using much in the way of actual pieces from the show but more of a design feel from the Kaleido Stage itself. One of the softer instrumental pieces plays alongside it, though far too short since it recycles very quickly. Access times are nice and fast and the navigation is relatively easy once you move around a bit.

Extras:
While we continue to get the basics for extras, they are at least being updated. The new set of production sketches is here as well as the clean opening and closing.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
One of the best ways I can tell that I'm really enjoying a show is that I almost smile the minute the show itself starts up and just settle right back into a familiar rhythm. Kaleido Star is one of those series that for whatever reason it just seems to feel right. There are plenty of clichéd moments throughout it as well as your usual impossible coincidences, but the characters just have such a charm to them that it's not that you overlook the other parts but you see that they just serve to let the characters be who they are.

This volume continues to push forward the changes in the series resulting from the last volume. With Yuri now fully in charge of Kaleido Stage and having fired most of the people, everyone has gone their separate ways for the most part but are still trying to do what they love. Ken offers to let Sora, Mia and Anna live with him and his family until they can find a place. Knowing Ken, he's probably figuring that he can make a little headway with Sora during this time but the poor boy continues to just not really get just how oblivious Sora is to his intents. In fact, Sora's obliviousness to Ken's attempts is rather adorable but it's made even better by the fact that Sora's life does not revolve around the pursuit of a man. She's more focused on her goals of performing and being with friends than with fixing herself up with a man. While I don't doubt that they'll have a relationship at some stage, this is such a different character dynamic right now that it's extremely pleasing.

Between living with Ken's family for a bit and eventually finding an affordable place just above Kate's own apartment, the lead trio continues to try and find work. They shift between some awful stuff such as headlining as fish for a restaurant and handing out balloons to other meager jobs that may make a bit of money but doesn't really let them perform. What they really want is to be able to have enough money to be able to rent a stage for a few week so they can rehearse and put on small shows but they're having a hard enough time just trying to make the rent and not go completely broke. Granted, they seem to have it easier than most people in similar positions in reality but this is anime after all.

One of the worst parts of this set of episodes is the corny storyline where Sora's parents come to town after they find out that she's no longer in the Kaleido Stage. She knows they want her to come back since they're worried about her, but the situation is made more complicated by the fact that her mother is now pregnant with her first child. While I can't presume to understand how Japanese deal with adoption and how kids grow up with knowing about it, there are some universal feelings it seems as expressed here since Sora believes that once the child is born, they'll pretty much forget about Sora and just go on with the newborn. It's an interesting angle to explored here but it's all made into a bigger event by the baby being born while there, two months early. The entire event at that point just takes on something surreal since the parents didn't stay long and the baby was completely fine. Too much fiction, too little fact.

One of the best things about the show is the way that Yuri's continued to change since he took over the Kaleido Stage. While originally he was just the quiet pretty boy that the girls swooned over, his change into the owner of the entire show has caused his eyes to get smaller and for his hair to not be quite as lush as it once was but he's still quite in control. He's also got an affection for showing off his chest now which is just amusing. With his Kaleido Stage now open, it's interesting to watch what he's envisioned come to life and entertain but at the same time not entertain since it's so dependent on computers and trickery as opposed to actual skills. Yuri also gets into really ensuring that our favorite trio of girls doesn't get too popular or in his way, which helps ensure his role as the Villain.

But the best of all? That continues to be Fool. This character is used sparingly thankfully but he's perfectly used. With him moving out with Sora and arriving at the new apartment, it's hilarious that he now lives with three girls and Sora continues to try to make sure he doesn't peep at them. There's one hilarious scene where his hair is stuck under the TV so he can't get out and the scene then goes serious. But during it when they pan over the area he's at, he's still struggling and grunting. But the best is his arrival during the last few seconds of the show and the apparent meaning behind it, which will surely change how the show flows forward.

In Summary:
Kaleido Star moves far off of the Kaleido Stage with this volume but it manages to bring in some great sequences of wonder nonetheless. With the bulk of the performances taking place at the Marine Park, our heroines and their friends work their improvisational skills up nicely and continue to try to understand how to make the audience happy. It's filled with a number of great acrobatic scenes with great pieces of fluid animation that just leaps about with its vibrancy. Combined with great story material, interesting characters and a series of stories that go from the expected to the outlandish, Kaleido Star continues to just go by far to fast as it entertains us so well. Very recommended.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Clean opening and closing animation,Production sketches

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: A-
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Kaleido Star