Kaleido Star: New Wings Vol. #2 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Thursday, March 02, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, March 14, 2006

What They Say
At Kaleido Stage, the competition to become Leon's partner heats up when Dracula is turned into an ice-skating show. Sora and May give it their all, but neither is sure what will satisfy the fickle Leon. Then, tired of being typecast, Rosetta startles Kalos with a promise: She'll learn the trapeze in three days - or quit Kaleido Stage! Even with Sora's help, the odds aren't good.

In New York, Layla finds a new dream on Off Broadway and invites Sora to be a guest star. May, however, has her own plans and will stop at nothing to steal Sora's part! And closer to home, Sora discovers a secret: Marion loves the trampoline. But she won't do it for fear of hurting her father. Marion's talent, though, is undeniable. Is there some way Sora can persuade Marion to perform?

The Review!
The competition heats up between May and Sora while the Dracula performance pushes the Stage into areas that concern some of the staff.

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.

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. 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.

The front cover artwork is a really great piece of artwork with a very positive and happy looking Sora in a great detailed performance outfit that just makes her all the more striking. The background is similar to past ones with the starry and fairly indistinct background but it all pulls together beautifully and simply looks fantastic. 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 black and sparkle feeling with a good summary of what the disc contains as well as some good shots from the show itself. The discs extras and production information is clearly listed as is the standard technical grid along the bottom. The insert is in mini-poster mode with a four panel foldout that has a great looking illustration of Layla in her Salome of Vegas outfit.

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.

The extras for this volume are pretty basic but the kinds that we've come to expect from the series with the opening and closing sequences in clean format and a round of production sketches.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After the first volume of Kaleido Star's second season, the show hadn't quite managed to maintain the same kind of feelings and enthusiasm that the first season did. Part of this is attributable to the fact that two of the five episodes were flashback pieces to recap the first season but a lot of the feelings that had me less than eager about the second season is the introduction of some new characters that seem to put the entire flow of the show off kilter.

A lot of this continues throughout here though there are glimmers of change here and there in regards to what I consider the problem characters. The competition between May and Sora is pretty continuous throughout the volume and there are some interesting moments as they compete for the role of Mina Murray as well as for Leon's acceptance of their abilities. Through a challenge that May puts out which involves her showing Leon that she can shine so she does an elaborate performance on ice, she's able to get the entire production of Dracula changed to an ice show which is a real problem for Sora since she's never really ice skated. Her inline skating skills certainly help but she gets a lot of help from a woman who works at the rink that used to train May, which leads to both awkward moments as well as a bit more understanding of May's past.

That past does help to mitigate some of the negative feelings one can have about May since it paints her in the same light as Sora's past, but in my mind it doesn't change the fact that she's a character I don't like. Her method of constantly taking down Sora in order to boost herself is something that's very unappealing and even when she lands the role over Sora, she still continues to push herself in this manner on everyone at every opportunity. She makes it even worse when the show takes a break for a week and Layla invites Sora out to work with her for a week in the off Broadway show that she's doing. May basically sneaks across the country to arrive at the right time to challenge Sora for the honor of performing with Laya. Layla of course understands exactly what's going on and sets things to a challenge just right, and even Sora finally snaps a bit with May instead of trying to be so accommodating. Sora's weakness and her dealings with May are still there and it's something that's becoming a focus of Sora's growth in this season but overall May continues to be an element that makes me not enjoy the show as I did before.

Leon continues to be an issue as well overall as his attitude and general nature about the Kaleido Stage seems to be so opposite of what the Stage is all about. I figure it's just a part of Kalos' plan to turn things around and challenge his performers so they can grow to the next stage but there's just something about his attitude that's off-putting. He's still the one we haven't had much revelation of with his past or inner monologue but we do see that he does see something within Sora that he can't figure out, something that very much sets her and May apart but something that he doesn't quite understand himself. What tends to bother me more is just the way his ideas of the performances and what he's doing is all about. We spent so much of the first season going through the idea of the performance is all for the audience and everything must be sacrificed to reach that all powerful level that to have the new lead performer not understand that is just disheartening.

This is plainly apparent when Sora, after finding out that many kids are scared by the Dracula performance due to the strong nature of the script and Leon's own role, looks to put on a "Kid's Stage" during the down time between shows on the weekend so that they have something just for them. After all, she remembers so fondly her own experiences as a child coming to the Stage and seeing all the performers that to find children leaving in tears and promising never to come back just forces her into motion. This ties nicely into a story about Marion's past and lets Jonathan and the others to do something light and fun but watching how Leon reacts to it is just so telling of him as a character as we know him at this point that it only serves to make us like him less and less. I have to assume that's the point so that we can see his reversal later on to be even more striking but right now it's making me want to skip past his scenes.

In Summary:
There's still a lot of love for this show as there are plenty of moments that carry through some of that old feeling. The episode that brings Sora out to New York to deal with Layla has a lot of good conversational material and a chance to show us how happy Layla is with the turn in her life. The Kids Stage has a lot of appeal as does seeing more about Marion's past and how she's trying to deal with what she wants to do and what she wants to be for her father. It's just frustrating to watch the lead characters going through motions that they shouldn't be and dealing with issues that I still find should be better managed by Kalos the Uninvolved. Kaleido Star has a lot of good material in this volume with the Dracula performance, the Kid's Stage fun and even Layla's piece of Salome in Vega. It's much more well rounded than the first volume and that alone definitely helps to set the course better for the show.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Production Notes,Clean Opening,Clean Closing

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI set to 480p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: TV PG
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