Kaleido Star Vol. #06 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Friday, December 10, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, December 07, 2004



What They Say
Layla's ability to see the Fool can only mean one thing – she too has been "chosen." But as she teams up with Sora to start training for the 'Legendary Great Maneuver,' the Fool draws the Upside Down Empress card which foretells certain doom. Everyone who has tried this maneuver in the past has died while attempting it.

Added distress abounds in the form of Yuri's media coup, Charlotte's cooking and Layla's cover-up of a very serious injury. As Yuri fights to hold on to Layla, Sora fights even harder to win a place as Layla's partner. But will Layla live to see the Legendary Great Maneuver through?

The Review!
Bringing the first half of the series to a close, Kaleido Star hits some serious highs and lows as it gives you all you want and then sends you spiraling into despair.

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:
The only cover that could have been done for this release has Layla and Sora together in their performance outfits that we've been waiting for since the beginning while Fool makes an appearance between them. Much like past covers, it's filled with glitter and lights that make it pretty busy looking but instead of being distracting or too much it helps accentuate the magic of their performance. 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 goes back to the mini-poster mode with a four panel foldout that has a great looking image of Sora in her performance outfit reaching for the bar.

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:
This volume has much of what we've seen before in terms of extras with the clean opening and closing and some relevant production sketches. Also included in this release is a commentary track for episode twenty-five which has the shows director, Sandra Krasa (who also plays Layla) and Cynthia Martinez (who plays Sora) sitting down to talk about the show.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With this volume of Kaleido Star, the first half of the series comes to a close. While it's not a seasonal show in the normal way since it's considered one whole series, it's being released in two separate blocks. This volume brings it all to a close with the movements towards what both Layla and Sora have really been working towards all their life, hitting that level of applause and achievement that they've never had before and having the realization that the other can help them get to that level.

The last volume had the biggest revelation so far as Fool made his appearance before Layla and the three of them started talking about their going after the Great Legendary Maneuver as something that can elevate them to a new level. As we learn from the discussions about it, it's a piece that's been attempted in the past of Kaleido Stage's history but never with any success; in fact, one of the performers died in the process of training for it. But their agreement to actually do this starts a chain of events that really pushes the momentum and energy of the series forward. With Kalos having been involved in the training before, but not knowing what the end result of the Maneuver really is, he takes the two of them along with Ken down to the Grand Canyon to begin their training.

It's an intense piece of training not only for the girls but for the trainers as well. Kalos spends some time with Ken telling him how he has to change his style and actually be really hard on Sora for this and to not give at all. The confidence of the performers must be the highest and they can't have any doubt, even during the training. These sessions are brutal in how they're done and as the performance itself starts to become visible, you can see why they are as intense as they are. As all of this plays out across the bulk of these episodes, we get to see the machinations that Yuri is going through as he stakes the future of Kaleido Stage on their ability to pull off the performance. But he's being challenged by the investors as they plan to sell off the Stage once the performance is over, regardless of how it does. With the way it's lost money up until this point, they've lost faith in what Yuri can do and his life starts its own downward spiral as he lashes out to grab onto anything that will help him move his plans forward.

With this being the end, sort of, of Kaleido Star, the final episode here is one that has a huge payoff. If the series had actually truly ended here, it would have been one of the great endings to a series in that it truly yanks your emotions all over the map. From an amazing high to a crushing low, it would have been a thing of beauty and something you don't see in many series anymore unfortunately. As everything leads up to the performance of the Great Legendary Maneuver and whether they can actually pull it off and save everything or let it get swallowed up in despair is just greatly done.

I have to add that I especially love their performance outfits. Yum.

In Summary:
Though just at the halfway mark, Kaleido Star has continued to be one of the real hits of this household and one that the entire family enjoys. The visuals, the honest of emotions, the sheer energy and the fun of the performances itself just click together so well and are so interesting to see play out that we've been hooked hard since the first episode and it really hasn't lightened up. When you add in fun elements like Fool and the magic that seemingly gets infused in the performances, it becomes almost like a modern day fairy tale with Sora in the lead. Obviously it's not for everyone, but for those that have come to love it, this release is a huge payoff – and the fact that there's still another half of the series to go only gets me more excited.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Clean opening and closing animation,Production sketches,Commentary Track with Sandra Krasa and Cynthina Martinez

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: 12 & 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