Kaleido Star: New Wings Vol. #5 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Monday, October 02, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, September 19, 2006

What They Say
It all comes down to this...Leon pushes Sora to new extremes as he continues her special training to perfect the Angel's Maneuver. After experiencing new lows, she soars to new heights. Just when it seems that Sora's dream will finally become a reality, a challenger for the lead role comes along. Sora's determination to keep her role forces her to face her competition head on. Her heart starts racing...Her stomach is full of butterflies...She experiences the thrill of competition...and she likes it. After an impressive audition, the lead role is decided and the show goes on! Will Sora be able to perform a perfect Angel's Maneuver and awaken everyone's angel hearts? You'll just have to watch to find out!

The Review!
Kaleido Star enters into its final arc as we finally learn the truth behind Leon and the stage is set for the finale.

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.

Rosetta and May get the cover this time as they perform a move together and similar to past covers, it's really solid with the costumes and the detail. The designs do look a touch younger but the way they're so expressive of their joy in it, it simply works really well. 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 Sora in a performance outfit with a really great smile.

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. Series director Junichi Sato gets a new interview with this volume, text only, that covers some thoughts on the second season as it was done for the final DVD release of the regular series. It's a very comprehensive piece that covers his thoughts on the second season in general but also goes over his thoughts of most of the main staff and more. For English language fans, there are a pair of new commentary tracks for this volume. Mike Macrae who portrays Leon does one as does Illich Guardiola who plays Yuri. Each commentary is done to a different episode.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Kaleio Star is getting rather close to being over and in a way it doesn't feel much like it's coming towards an actual conclusion. With the show being focused around the Angel's Maneuver and Sora's attempts to pull it off, it doesn't have quite the same feel as a lot of other shows where you can sense that things are getting closer. There is some solid progress towards that here but what this volume works through more is understanding some of the characters pasts and motivations in order to put Sora in the right frame of mind.

Where the show seems to push the most growth is through the expanding view that Sora gets of the world and the way other performers act. The early part of the series had her struggling so hard to please Leon after having such a challenging but fruitful relationship with Layla that you could tell that she just wasn't prepared for it. In working with Layla again in New York and then her time back home and at other events, she's come a long way. A good deal of that is unfortunately attributable to May since they both push each other a lot. May's presence early on is still something that feels like it was just done poorly and out of place even when you know the why of it all later on. This volume continues that flavor as Rosetta is heading home and she's got a touring group from the Kaleido Stage following her.

This means a new trip to France, much to Sora's surprise, and a good bit of growth for Rosetta as she continues to work her way into the trapeze act. Her arrival at the Noir Circus has her being quite welcomed but there are some rivalries and issues with other members that give her a route to learning more about the trapeze. While this does give her some good scenes as she expands her abilities, the real reason for the introduction of this older trainer is that he used to be a coach for Leon and Sophie. A good deal of an episode is given over to their story as the two of them reached for the Angel's Maneuver and the trials that they faced, from coaches that couldn't teach them what they wanted to know to the basically soft approach that Sophie had to performing.

Through this background piece, we do get to understand Leon more but similar to May it doesn't quite exonerate their past behavior. Everyone is "damaged" in some way and the way the two of them came into the series had them bringing that to it and it only made it worse for achieving their goals in the short term. It was only through the efforts of Sora and the others that they were able to finally realize the approach they had to take and see what was all around them. Sora's not guilt free either as we saw in the last volume when Layla castigated her for the way she was with May and in not being competitive. Which is why the "world tour" that Sora's been on for awhile has been so good, allowing her to see some real competitive environments and the way it can be both good and bad.

The setup for the finale has long been in place since it revolves around the Angel's Maneuver but the actual stage setting comes into focus here. Kaleido Stage is about to re-open again and they've decided upon an interesting variation of Swan Lake for the performance. The story twists are interesting enough to anyone with a passing familiarity with it but what works out really nice this time around is that we're given more time to see the actual stage creation and the efforts of everyone involved in the production to make it something bigger than before. Something that will give Sora the impetus to achieve the Angel's Maneuver. The larger picture was touched on in various performances before, more often with the writing than anything else, but it's good to see it brought back here at the end..

In Summary:
Kaleido Star has returned more towards the solid material that made the first season so much fun but there are still some uneven moments here and there. This volume has made some great strides in moving towards the finale and bringing together some of the smaller storylines so that things are cleaned up or at least visibly coming together. Sora and the others do take the back seat for a bit as we get some much needed background and motivation on Leon and Sophie but the mixture of all of it with the trip to France and Rosetta's growth has it all moving quite well and not done in an overwhelming way. It was also fun to see the way they tied some of it back to Yuri and kept him included for a bit. This season still isn't quite what the first season was but I'm enjoying it far more than the earlier volumes of this season.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Production sketches, Kaleido Star Comics,Interview with director Junichi Sato,Commentary with Mike MacRae (Leon),Commentary with Illich Guardiola (Yuri),Clean opening animation,Clean closing animation

Review Equipment
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: 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