Kaleido Star: New Wings Vol. #3 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Thursday, May 25, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, May 16, 2006



What They Say
The best of the best compete at the International Circus Festival in Paris. Sora wants to win it, just like Layla did three years ago. The festival itself is a cruel place. Sora must endure betrayal and doubt. Worse, to make her dream come true, she will have to destroy the dreams of others. Is that the kind of Kaleido Star Sora wants to be? It's a battle between demons and angels; and good does not always trump the devil. Sora will need more than a wing and a prayer to win this one!


The Review!
Sora thinks she's following the right path but the International Circus Festival turns out to be more of a detour.

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. 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:
Layla returns nicely for this set of episodes so it's not out of place for her to be on the cover and she gets a great looking illustration here of her all done up in a similar pose to one of Sora's. 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 Jonathan and Monica in their Kids Stage performance outfits.

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:
The extras for this volume are a rather nice change of pace and pretty amusing. There are the good standards here as we get both the clean opening and closing sequence as well as the production sketches. A new inclusion is the full color four panel comics that were used in the Japanese liner notes which are translated. The strips are kept on their own page with translations going as far as needed but I do wish they'd been a bit larger so we could see the artwork better. In addition to this, there's also a multi-page text interview with the associate producer and the man behind the comics themselves and how it all came about.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Bringing us about halfway through the second season of the series, some of the motivations of the less than appealing characters is slowly being revealed and the ties to the bigger picture become apparent. It proves to be interesting when viewed through the lens that is Sora but on their own, both Leon and May continue to be characters that make me cringe at times when they're on screen.

The storyline seemingly takes a detour into a new area with these four episodes as Layla arrives at the Kaleido Stage bearing gifts, gifts that are actually not all that they seem. As it turns out, three years prior, she and Yuri were the winners at the International Circus Festival, a truly cutthroat competition in Paris where the best and brightest performers come to win it all. Winning there opens numerous doors but there are costs along the way. You have to be able to put yourself above everyone and everything else in order to succeed but at the same time you have to have complete trust and faith in your partner in order to be able to pull off the kinds of maneuvers necessary.

Since Layla can't participate herself after the injuries she got in the first season, she's bringing her two invitations to the Kaleido Stage in order to give Sora the chance she needs to continue and become something more than Layla was able to. One of the tickets goes directly to Leon since nobody else could do the kinds of things he does but the competition between Sora and May gets underway for the right to become his partner. This starts to delve into the motivations some of them have, from May's need to succeed but more interestingly Leon's past as he had skipped out on the previous Festival, possibly because of Layla and Yuri's entry there. Leon has long been the kind of character I felt that Kalos let take too much advantage of his status in the Stage and the new views we get on him don't change that but he is becoming a more interesting character.

The shift from the competition for the spot at the Stage to the actual Festival in Paris brings us some more challenges for Sora but what was the most fascinating was the completely unexpected return of Yuri to the series. With the near maniacal nature of his previous performances when he tried to essentially destroy the Kaleido Stage still fresh in mind, he's almost like a completely different character now, one who has had the calming nature of Paris change his soul. He even has a slightly softer look to him and his almost easily bending nature just messes with your head since you have so many expectations of him. This becomes the third incarnation of Yuri that we've seen in the series and while his growth may have been erratic, it's possibly the most interesting of all the characters since even Sora's growth is very linear and predictable.

The arc that the series takes in this volume initially feels like it's a really big detour to the overall storyline but it's actually a very critical set of episodes since it deals heavily with a character I've talked little about, namely Sora. She's been long focused on a particular path in her life and many around her have worked hard to ensure she can achieve it and to support her along it but like many people, especially when you start something at a young age like she has, she's reached the phase where she questions the dreams of youth and has to figure out what it is that the she of now wants out of life. It's not so much an issue of questioning childhood dreams or shrugging them off as foolish pursuits, but to admit and realize that things once wanted " desperately in fact " may not mean anything in the hear and now of who we are. Sora's crossroads are finally reached and seeing her final rapid rush towards them is what this is all about.

In Summary:
Kaleido Star's second season has been frustrating on a number of levels because of the characters that joined up but this volume helps to mollify some of that " just a little. The focus starts to get back more seriously on Sora towards the end of it where it's most important and some of what's come before now makes a bit more sense as it's pushed things towards this precipice where Sora must make some truly hard decisions, decisions that are harder than her usual strong will to just do whatever she has to do as told by others to succeed. This set of episodes returns the series more towards what I want out of Kaleido Star and has me looking forward to seeing more of the series.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Kaleido Star comics,Interview with Kaleido Star manga artist Akira Shinozaki and series Associate Producer Toyo Ikeda,Production sketches,Clean opening animation,Clean closing animation

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Toshiba HD-A1 Progressive Scan HD DVD player via HDMI -> DVI with upconversion set to 1080i, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and 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