Kaleido Star: New Wings Vol. #6 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • 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

Kaleido Star: New Wings Vol. #6

By Chris Beveridge     October 18, 2006
Release Date: November 07, 2006


Kaleido Star: New Wings Vol. #6
© ADV Films


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!
Bringing it all to a close with lots of emotion, a lot of solid notes are hit before the show shifts to a very comedy oriented OVA.

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:
The final cover for the series is the kind where you feel wrong about yourself for looking at it and thinking what you do, but what else can you think about when they highlight the fanservice aspect of Sora's body like this? It's definitely a good looking cover as the expression of joy in her face is great and the mixture of the sparkling and feathers in the background adds to the angelic effect, but it still has that strong fanservice feel that in some ways has felt out of place in the show when it does show up. 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 and Rosetta performing together in lush 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 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. New to this volume is a brief set of text comments by the Japanese staff that were included in the Collected Box set in Japan as well as a text interview with the Japanese voice actress for Rosetta. I think ADV dropped the ball on this though by not including any sort of send off from the English voice actors and giving them a chance to say farewell to the show.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After a weak start to the second season and some bumps along the way with characters that suddenly felt out of place and unlike themselves, Kaleido Star finally started to hit its groove and work its way back to where it belonged. Unfortunately, it did not go beyond the highs that it achieved once before and in some ways felt like something of a retread as it got closer to the end. That said, this volume does manage to end on some really high notes and provides for some excellent entertainment.

So much of this season has been wrapped up in the way that May has been working towards moving beyond Sora. This in itself wasn't a problem, nor the idea of introducing someone spunky who wants to take Sora's place so quickly after she achieved it, but it was more that Sora herself felt like she didn't deserve it as well as a number of other important people. Through the series we've seen their reasoning behind it and to some extent I still don't care much for their methods or beliefs on it, but it worked out well enough. Kalos in particular comes across poorly for much of this season though they try to give him the wise sage role towards the end here in that he knew his methods would result in such an excellent performer. Most people who are actually in that position are mentally wiping the sweat from their brow in that their gamble actually paid off. Or they're completely unaware of the situation that they created and are just hoping nobody notices their incompetence.

For the three episodes that make up the end of the series, a lot of the focus is kept on Sora achieving what she has to in order to pull of the Angels Maneuver. The training that she has to undergo has seemed cruel in the past but after we learned the origins of it and Leon's previous flirtations with it, it comes across not quite as cruel. It does start to seem rather familiar though as Leon pushes his partner hard through the ordeals. When he gets her out on a pair of water skis and takes her across the water in the midst of a storm, you can't help but feel a sense of déjà vu with when Layla did similar as they worked to get in synch for their Legendary maneuver. Of course, there are only so many ways to train but we've seen so many of them over the course of the series and you'd hope that they would save something a bit more creative and less familiar for the ending.

The area I have the most problem with is also one that I find myself in the most agreement with. As great as Sora has become, she has a self confidence problem in that she doesn't feel like she truly achieved her place properly on the Kaleido Stage. She had worked herself hard from a clumsy entrance on the Stage to becoming Layla's partner and the two of them finding something each had long sought. But from there, Sora was never able to look further ahead to see what she would become, rather she kept focused on keeping up with Layla. And Layla was someone who had plans to move on elsewhere because of injuries and a change in her view on life, especially after her original partner for so long turned out to be quite the jerk.

So while much of this season was seemingly going to hinge on how Sora cracked the shell that surrounds Leon, he becomes little more than an observer towards the end. Instead, Layla comes back to challenge Sora for the part in the new show and is quite sure she can outdo her with the Angel's Maneuver. Layla's done good in challenging Sora throughout the series in different ways and with different mindsets, but here she's intent on simply teaching Sora about how she has to properly behave as a prima performer. But in the course of it she loses herself some to the competition and is more intent on winning than achieving what she really needs to by challenging her and the competition feels somewhat awkward and out of place. The entire thing absolutely needed to happen but this is something that should have happened awhile ago. Because it was done in a way that it had to be dealt with later, it completely minimized Leon and made a lot of these last episodes feel like a retread in some way.

The finale and its performances are simply beautiful though as is a good deal of the competition between Layla and Sora. For all my griping about it, it is very easy to be captivated by their performances and to become very much engaged by it as they internally express what they're feeling. Though a touch forced in how the performances were affecting the audience, it does reach out to you and it's a strong way to close the series. Thankfully though, such a serious and emotional ending isn't exactly what we get for the end of the volume as they also include the first OVA here. This OVA is a beautiful piece of work and the best way to close out things for awhile as it is much more oriented on the comedy and the lighter side of the characters.

And most importantly, it's very Fool oriented. Fool sadly had very few lines or impact at the end of the series and that hampered things a bit since his levity balances things out. He also has had some of the best lines of the series so there was something definitely missing there. But this OVA really lets him shine as it takes place some time after the series and Rosetta is being groomed to be the next big star of the stage. She's grown up a bit but she's still young. They do show you she's grown though by some shots in the episode and the end credits that accentuates her bosom. Rosetta's got the same gift that Layla and Sora do so she can see Fool and the two have a great relationship, one that you'd love to see explored more instead of seeing Sora trying to protect Rosetta. In fact, you almost get the impression that Rosetta lets Fool see anything he wants. It's a great little self contained story that plays strong in a similar fashion to the last episode of the series but without quite so much angst and hardship associated with it. It leaves you laughing and really smiling at the end of the disc.

In Summary:
Kaleido Star has been a great series overall with a somewhat weak second season that really took its time to find its own voice. In a lot of ways, as expressed above, I don't think they completely found their own voice but they do set it up nicely for what will happen in the future. Looking back at the progress Sora has made since the start of the series, she has definitely grown in some ways but in many others she's still the same " and still far too innocent. There were so many areas that could have been fleshed out much more in the relationship department that could have provided some better angst and growth.

But what's done is done and it's still a series that's very easy to recommend on a whole and one that is very much worth showing to a younger audience, particularly if they have any interest in the kinds of acrobatics and theatrics that are used in it. Kaleido Star was a show that had me hard from the first promo piece I saw back at Anime Boston when it was licensed and some of that wonder of it all is still there a few years later. While it may be one of the weaker and less talked about Gonzo series, it's one that will hold a special place for me for quite some time to come.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Production sketches,Kaleido Star Comics,Comments from the cast,Interview with Kaori Mizuhashi (Rosetta),Clean opening animation,Clean closing animation

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic DMP-BD10 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.

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