Funimation // 2004 // 650 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Roman Martel (Retired) // January 23rd, 2011
Sora and the gang are back for more acrobatics, more dreams of stardom and even a trip to Paris. The question is, are you ready for more of Sora's uber-upbeat personality?
When I finished watching the first season of Kaleido Star I knew there was a second season and I was at a loss on where the story could go. After all, that season seemed to end on the prefect note. So it was with genuine curiosity that I started in on the second season.
There are two schools of thought on what makes a good sequel. The first says that if the audience enjoyed the first film (or series) then give them more of the same. The second is to try to go in a completely new direction. Sure keep the same characters, but do something drastic that will keep audiences coming back to see what happens next.
You can probably guess where Kaleido Star decided to go. Same plotlines, same basic structure, just a few new characters to shake things up a bit.
I felt the first season ran out of steam a little past the half way mark. To watch more of the same here was a real chore. The plot was so similar it just wasn't that interesting. I'd already seen Sora (Cynthia Martinez) doing her best to perform. I'd seen her strive against a rival. I'd seen her raise her hopes up to an impossible task and battle hard until she achieved it. The addition of the bitchy rival May Wong (Hilary Haag) and the super cool Leon Oswald (Mike MacRae), turned things in a slightly different direction thematically, but all in all, the final showdown came down to Sora and Layla Hamilton (Sandra Krasa). Just like the first season, it all hinged on an amazing maneuver that no one else dared to perform.
However, there was an interesting theme that appeared in this series that wasn't addressed in the previous one. In the first half of this season, Sora enters a competition where everyone is doing anything (and I mean anything) to win. Sora had never seen this type of behavior at any performance she had ever been a part of. As the stakes get higher and higher, Sora comes to the realization that if she wins the competition, she will destroy the dreams of anyone else attempting to win. Sora is such a sweet girl, she can't help but feel guilty about doing this. It plagues her until she drops form the competition. This fuels her dream of creating a Kaleido Stage without competition. While the other members of the troupe mock her or struggle to comprehend how thats even possible, Sora soldiers on. This dream really fuels the second half and creates a conflict between her and many of the folks she thought were on her side. It adds a good twist and helps the end of the series feel a little more interesting.
The production elements of the anime pretty much stay the same. Kaleido Star remains as brightly colored and filled with energy as it had in the previous season. Sora does spend some time in Paris and Japan in this series so the backgrounds switch up a bit. The new stage shows are also interesting with productions of "Dracula" and "Swan Lake" taking the cake. Mina Kubota returns with a admirable musical score.
The voice acting remains solid as well, with Martinez really carrying the show as Sora. Her voice fits the character well and she really gets into the part. I also enjoyed the oh so very vicious performance by Haag as May Wong. Haag usually plays the cute friendly girl, so it was fun to hear her chew up the scenery here (literally in some cases). MacRae was a mixed bag as Oswald. The character is from France and so we get an accent, but I swear there were times when he sounds more like Puss in Boots from Shrek than Gerard Depardieu.
Funimation has loaded this set with extras. There are two OVA episodes giving you a couple extra stories. First up is The Amazing Princess Without a Smile that follows the challenges of Rosetta. This runs about the length of regular episode. Legend of the Phoenix: The Layla Hamilton Story runs a little over 50 minutes. This isn't dubbed, and presented in 16:9 aspect ratio. The animation even seems to have gotten a bit of an upgrade. These are nice inclusions for folks who just need more Kaleido Star.
In addition, you get a couple episode commentaries with the English voice actors. Like before, they keep things light and fun, with plenty of jokes as well as behind the scenes information about the recording process. There is an interview with voice actress Serena Varghaese. Finally, you get clean opening and end credits.
I can honestly say, if you enjoyed the first season and wanted more of the same, this season will fit the bill. But if you were left wanting after Season One, then Season Two offers nothing new.
Not Guilty, but only because Sora is so darn sweet.
Review content copyright © 2011 Roman Martel; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Running Time: 650 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Episode Commentary
* Clean Open/Close
* Anime News Network: Kaleido Star