Kaleido Star Vol. #04 - Mania.com

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  • 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
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 125
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Kaleido Star

Kaleido Star Vol. #04

By Chris Beveridge     September 03, 2004
Release Date: September 14, 2004

Kaleido Star Vol. #04
© ADV Films

What They Say
Sora thinks she's getting a break from the Kaleido Stage, but Kalos demands she star in a traveling circus. Out of nowhere a record company shows up to sweep Sarah away, Kalos' past is coming back to haunt him, the Fool turns over the death card and the Kaleido crew plans a mutiny. Could this mean the beginning of the end for Kaleido Stage?

The Review!
One of the more tense set of episodes that has little to do with performances fills out this volume and makes you wonder just where the show will go next.

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 seeing in the past year. 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.

Though not completely unexpected based on how shows like this, the progress in the relationship between Sora and Layla shows through with this cover as the two are in their outfits for the pirate based play as they swing their swords at each other. It's just as busy as the past covers but with the more muted colors it doesn't feel quite as busy at first. 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 same color for the background as the front does bit it fades into the performance ring as it fills the area. There's a good summary of what to expect and a few shots from the show and of the menus here. The insert avoids the booklet route this time and instead is a four-panel foldout of Layla in her costume that's done as a full length body shot.

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.

While we continue to get the basics for extras, they are at least being updated. The new set of production sketches is here as well as the clean opening and closing sequences that are used starting with this batch of episodes..

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Bumping things back up to five episodes on this volume, Kaleido Star provides a few more episodic lessons for Sora to deal with before thrusting the entire Stage group into their first real big challenge that all of them must deal with. Both sides of the coin get well played here though there's at least one or two things that get resolved just a bit too quickly for my tastes.

One of the bigger challenges issued to Sora comes when Kalos sends her off to the Theatrical Camp, a circus group that's run by a friend of his that's within a relative distance by plane. Instead of getting a vacation like everyone else, Sora heads off to do some extra work and Ken goes along as her manager to make sure she doesn't get in over her head. The Camp is an interesting little group that's made up primarily of a few key players. Sora's introduced to them after seeing part of their performance but has a hard time really getting along since the group is a close-knit family that doesn't take kindly to outsiders. Before she knows it, a new performance is going to be put on due to her arrival and Sora is set as the princess. But as she learns the next morning, the troupe here is unlike Kaleido Stage in that they simply don't rehearse and instead sort of ad lib it along while playing to their own individual strengths.

Of course, nobody really tells her this other than one of the performers who is a bit sly about it. So when she completely botches the performance that night, they all rail into her about things and just blow it all out of proportion. Sora's reactions run the gamut before she settles on her course of action, but watching the way this troupe runs is just horrid. While they supposedly have their reasons, they basically set things up so that Sora will fail right from the start and keeps pushing her in that direction. This is all done with a goal in mind, presumably by Kalos as well, but I can't imagine most people surviving it properly and then having the reactions Sora would to them afterwards. Most of them, the troupe leader in particular, should get a heavy verbal lashing if nothing else.

While we get some small stories that are self-contained, and I did enjoy parts of the Sarah specific episodes a lot, the big focus on this volume is the three part storyline that puts the future of Kaleido Stage in jeopardy. One of Sora's friends from Japan has come to visit her at the Stage and through her and other characters we get to learn that there's been some serious unrest within the Stage in the past few months. A lot of it tends to center around Sora's rapid ascent into the limelight and the way she's quickly becoming a full time partner for Layla. Usually we just see the grousing from the two girls who joined up at the same time but here we get to hear it being mixed all over. With the Arabian Nights performance going as it is, it's gotten so bad that people are leaving. When Sora finally hears about it and her part in it, there's plans for a large number of people to leave.

What becomes interesting is that Sora herself is approached to leave, but by Yuri as he's starting up his own Stage and wants her to become the female lead for it. Yuri's apparently been fomenting some of the dissent in an effort to bring down Kaleido Stage and has been using Sora's rise as a way to break apart some of the various cast members. While Sora could never leave the Stage, she's forced to watch as everyone around her continues to leave and the possibility of the Stage closing forever looms greater. Of course, when things are their blackest is when those who can do the most tend to shine the brightest, and it's interesting to see how the few remaining people deal with it, both in terms of creativity and stress management. The play that's created out of it, while minimal in how much is really displayed, is fascinating and one I'd love to see a lot more shown. This particular arc is one of the strongest points of the show so far since it takes so much of the problem out of the hands of Sora and keeps it out of her reach.

Another thing I really liked about this volume is the new ending sequence. Directed by a favorite of mine, Akitaroh Daichi, it's a very cute piece that looks really simple as it's just most of the primary characters skating along by the water. But if you watch closely throughout it, you can pick out a lot of little bits of humor, from Sora's two nemesis' being just a bit behind to the way Kalos looks cool but can't keep it up or just watching Fool lead them all. It's a great little piece and a nice change of pace for the closing.

In Summary:
Kaleido Star has been a very enjoyable show up until this point with most of the challenges being those that need to be dealt with by either personal growth or by dealing with a physical challenge in regards to a performance. This changes in a way with the three episode arc on this volume that challenges everyone and you get to see how they react and where their allegiances really lay. This is much more telling than anything else about much of the cast and sets the stage properly for those who will really shine and ascend to a higher level. This volume has some great edge of your seat moments and keeps you guessing on just how it'll all play out. Kaleido Star continues to be one of my favorite shows.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Clean opening and closing animation, Production sketches

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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