Kaleido Star Amazing Collection (Thinpak) (of 2) (Mania.com)

By:Luis Cruz
Review Date: Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, November 01, 2005

What They Say
When Sora leaves Japan to join the circus family of the Kaleido Stage it seems like her life long dream is finally coming true. But Sora soon finds out the being a star involves more than gymnastics. First she must get past the circus rivalries that could shatter her dreams, and rigorous training for death defying shows! Along the way she finds friends, family and romance and a home away from home at the Kaleido Stage. Get ready to feast your eyes on the dazzling costumes, the high flying extravagance, and the unrivaled glamour of the Kaleido Stage!

The Review!
The first half of Kaleido Star shines bright as an example of how to produce a cute, fun, and unique series.

The original Japanese audio track was used for the entire viewing session. It is a solid stereo track with no noticeable defects. While it lacks the "punch" of a full 5.1 track, it did provide some great directional effects during the stage productions and balanced all elements from music to dialogue appropriately.

Kaleido Star is a colorful series and has been given a fantastic, clean transfer. From bright costumes to the shifting lighting of a stage production, colors were solid and vibrant allowing a lot of detail to shine through. Outside of a two second scene late in the series, there were no noticeable defects to distract the eye.

Five discs are housed in a sturdy box; the box artwork is gorgeous and features Sora and Layla in their grand finale costumes. The front covers of the discs feature the same artwork used for the individual releases minus the "Little Mermaid" cover. Back covers contain the requisite disc and episode information in a clean, readable layout.

The main menu is a static piece designed to look like a portion of the Kaleido Stage. Individual episode selections come off the round stage like spokes; a snippet of instrumental music plays in the background. Transition delays are non-existent making it quick and easy to get setup and into the fun.


Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Do you have a dream? Something you want to pursue with all your heart and might? Naegino Sora's dream is to become a star on the Kaleido Stage, the world renowned performance circus. Despite her parent's protests, she arrives in America to for the open auditions being held. Unfortunately, fate seems to conspire against her, leaving her lost in the big city. Asking for directions, her legs are felt up by a strange man, and her luggage is stolen. Sora shows off her acrobatic skills and catches the thief, but the ensuing police investigation causes her to arrive after the auditions have ended. Layla Hamilton, the top female performer of Kaleido Stage, tells her that there is no excuse for tardiness and refuses to let Sora audition.

But fate is truly on her side; the groper turns out to be Kalos, the boss of Kaleido Stage. There is something about Sora that makes him believe that people will one day come specifically to see her perform. Kalos overrides Layla's decision and allows Sora to become a member of the Stage. Elated, Sora pursues her dream with reckless abandon, choosing to just try to do things rather than thinking about them.

While the rest of the new cast members initially resent her, Sora's dedication and good nature quickly wins her some good friends to support her. Another "friend" Sora picks up is Fool, the spirit of the stage. Fool informs Sora that only those chosen to be true stars of the stage can see him; Fool provides helpful advice through tarot readings and not so helpful advice by trying to get Sora to shower often so he can peek in on her.

The ultimate goal of the series is to bring Sora to a point where she can attempt the legendary "Great Maneuver". To reach this point, Sora must overcome many challenges on and off the stage, including her own self-doubt. While it is predictable, Kaleido Star's beauty lies in its refusal to bog itself down with clichés seen in similar titles or portray the characters in a stereotypical manner.

Layla may seem harsh and distant, but she is not a prima donna concerned that Sora is upstaging her. She simply demands the same dedication and desire in those around her as she displays. Layla is dedicated to giving the audience her best performance every night; her hope is that someday the one person whose approval she craves the most will be in that audience. Her character grows along with Sora's, and the interplay between them bridges the distance between their two worlds.

Then, there is Yuri, the attractive, top male performer of the Stage, and Ken, the backstage coordinator with a weak heart and with an infatuation for Sora. Yet, no awkward love triangle develops between Sora and this pair. Sora acknowledges that Yuri is handsome, but she is only interested in becoming a performer worthy to be his partner. Ken might want to date Sora, but he makes no clumsy attempts to ask her out. He understands her passion and dedication precludes any real relationship; all he can do is encourage and support her attempts. It is rare to see a series avoid an obligatory romantic angle, and Kaleido Star is able to tell a more compelling story without one.

The show is infectious because of its characters and their development into an extended family of performers. They have all joined the Kaleido Stage to entertain people, and they strive to put on the best show possible. There are moments of jealousy, bickering, and the usual strife that comes with people in a competitive atmosphere, but the core cast grows closer through the hardships.

All of these elements are used to build up to the climatic "Great Maneuver", and the climax does not disappoint. You are left guessing at what the maneuver actually is until it is finally performed; you become part of the on-screen audience, holding your breath and waiting to see something magical. The ending is magical by avoiding the typical happy ending; it teaches Sora one more lesson, perhaps one of the harshest that anyone can learn. Sometimes, a dream can only be achieved through a great personal sacrifice.

While by no means a perfect series, Kaleido Star manages to soar above the competition with its charm and style. Enjoyable from the start, it is easy to overlook its predictability and the few clichés that do appear. This is a title that belongs on the shelf of not only sports anime lovers but also on those that simply love a great story.

In Summary:
The first half of Kaleido Star was a captivating story about pursuing one's dream. While predictable, it distinguished itself by avoiding most of the stereotypes and clichés seen in similar titles. It took a great cast of characters and built them into a close-knit family of performers that you simply just had to watch and cheer for. The "Great Maneuver" finalé provides an amazing yet bittersweet ending that will have you transfixed with anticipation. It may not currently receive the recognition it deserves, but it has all the elements to find an audience for years to come. Add this to my list of modern classics, a very highly recommended title.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles

Review Equipment
Mitsubishi 27" TV, Panasonic RP-82, Sony STR-DE915 DD receiver, Bose Acoustimass-6 speakers, generic S-Video and optical audio cable

Mania Grade: A-
Audio Rating: A-
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: TV PG
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 49.98
Running time: 650
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Kaleido Star