Kaleido Star: New Wings Vol. #4 (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, July 17, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, July 18, 2006
What They Say
All the world is a stage and Sora Naegino is learning that the hard way. After dropping out of the Circus Festival Competition Sora decides to quit the Kaleido Stage and she goes home to Japan to spend time with her family. What she wasn't expecting is that her old friends have been influenced by her success and are now chasing their dreams. They return the favor by supporting her and by pushing her to never lose sight of her own dream. Sora heads back to Kaleido Stage and ends up working backstage where she begins to realize her true dream. She wants to create a Kaleido Stage with no competition that both the cast and the audience can enjoy. However May's competitive instincts stand in her way. She's determined to compete with Sora and beat her even if she loses her partner Leon in the process. Meanwhile Leon has formed a bond with Sora. A bond that proves to be dangerous... It all wraps up with a mystery wedding proposal! All of this and more in this next exciting volume of KaleidoStar!
As she tries to understand what her dreams really are and act upon them, Sora takes a fresh view of her life.
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.
In a rather showy outfit, Rosetta gets a new cover to herself as she does a leap to the trapeze bar and it's a great looking piece though she's a bit thin in a few places. The design overall is really attractive with the blue shimmers and the shadowed outlines of her friends down below but it's Rosetta that gets all the real attention here. 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 Mia and Anna having a bit of fun together performing.
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 release are about on par with the previous volume as we get some of the usual stalwarts with the clean opening and closing sequences and a new round of production sketches. The Kaleido Star comics return again for this volume and are quite welcome since they're cute and fun and generally well presented. The new extra for this round is a text interview with the 2nd season director (who was assistant director on the first season) which covers a lot of ground throughout the series and the challenges presented. How can you not enjoy an interview where they affectionately call one of the writers an air-head "but in a good way."
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The arc that Kaleido Star takes in this volume is one of the better ones to occur in the second season and one that most closely resembles certain feelings that the first season fostered. Even better, the arc is told mostly in full as it's given a five episode run so there aren't any insane cliffhangers that have you desperate to see what happens next. Just the continuation of the storyline itself is more than enough of a draw at this point.
After all that's happened to Sora so far and the way she pulled out of the Festival that left her with a very serious statement from Layla, she's decided that things simply are not what she wants out of life. The battles, the drama, the infighting, it's all pushed her to a point where she realizes she's becoming someone she doesn't want to be. Instead of trying to change it though, she decides to leave the Stage and return home to Japan to be with her family. Her leaving the Stage though has Kalos telling her that her contract will be canceled and she can't come back and perform again like nothing's change. This is a very clear break but it's one that she can't help but make after traveling and seeing the way the world really works.
Her time in Japan is a rather enjoyable piece though as we get to see not only more of her family that's helped define her since they took her in but her friends as well. Through them we're able to see a new facet of Sora and she's able to feel much more comfortable around them than she has anyone else in quite some time. It's almost like it reinvigorates her since she performs with them to simply get them to smile, which then makes her remember her own childhood when her real parents took her to the Stage and she felt the same way. A return to her roots brings about a return to innocence but also the clearing of a mindset that was putting her in a bad place. It doesn't hurt that both Ken and Mr. Policeman visit Japan to try and convince her to come back and realize her dreams anew either.
Her return to Kaleido Stage is something that you can see a number of performers requiring, especially some that have been in it for some time. As Kalos had said, her contract was closed and she cannot perform, but she's more than welcome as an unpaid gopher. Simply being close to the stage is all she wants and in this position she starts to deal with more of the people that work to make it all happen and understand even more of the world that surrounds the Stage that she has the potential to be a more well rounded performer. And she does it all with a bit of flair that her training allows her to do. Some of her duties strike close to home though as she ends up seeing performances between Leon and May that make her long for the Stage even more, but she's resolute in keeping from the battles.
Kaleido Stage undergoes some interesting changes not long after Sora returns. Layla just can't seem to stay away but she's come back this time with Cathy from New York. The reason for that is that Kalos wants to make some changes to the dynamics of the stories that are being used by having Cathy take over as director. Mia thinks she's being fired at first but it's more of a collaborative approach instead as both Cathy and Mia are looking at things from different angles. Mia's got great ideas but she sees far too much of the performances from the view of the performers instead of the audience and as a story as a whole. Cathy brings in an amusing new work dynamic that's reflective of the old Layla but without the coldness that you get from Leon or May.
What proves to be the most interesting though is that May and even Leon seems to want to continue their old relationship style but Sora just doesn't want to, which leads to some really hurt feelings in a way but also misunderstandings on both sides about what they believe their battles are all about. But things don't work out for long and there's a beautifully done key scene that causes the dynamic overall to shift when an accident occurs during a show. The realization of some of them about what they really want and ghosts from the past still haunting in the present brings about a completely different view of just about all three of the leads of this season. Leon doesn't exactly become a great character all of a sudden but the things that drive him are becoming more apparent, even as creepy as they seem to get at times.
As seems to be usual with this series, certain characters continue to make it all the more enjoyable than you would think it would be otherwise. Fool in particular has a lot of fun here as he tries to be his usual raunchy self but he also goes over the top when he wears the Japanese lion mask and does a little dance before gnawing on Sora's face. Fool is just priceless and even when he only gets a few seconds here or there, he takes full advantage of it. I also have to admit that while Ken is a bit of a weak character in general, he's growing nicely in this season and becoming more involved even though he is a bit of an over-planner. His interest in Sora is still in that really sweet area but it's not too surprising since he's dealing with someone from another country and isn't sure how best to approach them. Watching the others help him with an outdated dating guide is fairly cliché but it's well done and ties well to another secondary storyline that's simply adorable to watch.
The second season of Kaleido Star has taken a few volumes to get to a point where I'm completely back in the groove that I felt in the first season but it feels great to be there again. Sora's becoming closer to the character I remember and she's acting in the way her personality and circumstances dictate and she's finally starting to influence both May and Leon by it. There is a fair bit of introspection done here by mostly outgoing characters so it's amusing to watch them deal with their emotions but it's well balanced by a number of acts and performances that are big and small. The friendship that exists between the main cast of characters is what really drives things in these episodes and those on the outside are starting to realize that they really do want to be included. With five episodes, this is a great volume and set of stories that returns Kaleido Star to a great level.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Production sketches, Kaleido Star comics,Interview with Director Yoshimasa Hiraike,Clean opening animation,Clean closing animation
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Samsung BD-P1000 Blu-ray 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: 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
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Kaleido Star