ADV Films // 2004 // 125 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Sandra Dozier (Retired) // December 23rd, 2004
Ken (to Sora): You've got to trust me, okay? There's no way I'm gonna let you fall. I can't rescue you like Yuri did, but I'm gonna make sure you play the Little Mermaid!
In Volume Two of Kaleido Star, Sora is beginning to settle into her new life with the Kaleido Stage. There are plenty of challenges ahead, but for now she is concentrating on doing her best and caring for her new pet seal, whom she has named Jonathan. Not everyone wants Jonathan around, but Sora isn't willing to give him up. Further complicating things, diabolo world champ Rosetta Passel arrives and is given a trial contract to perform for Kaleido Stage. Although her technique is perfect, there is no heart in her performance, and the chip on her shoulder keeps her from understanding why the audience is bored. It's up to Sora to turn her around and help her recapture the joy of performing again.
Sora faces her biggest challenge yet when she auditions for a water show based on "The Little Mermaid." During her audition, she falls from the trapeze and toward the hard concrete below, and she is only saved when Yuri pulls off a last-minute rescue. Traumatized from the near-death experience, she is unable to get back on the high trapeze. Ken knows what to do, and slowly helps Sora regain her confidence and overcome her fear. If she can't perform, her career is over. As her ability to see Fool slowly fades, her determination only increases.
Kaleido Star is a fluffy, optimistic anime that is full of kids who want to do their best and are unwilling to give up even when most of us would have already checked out. Do these determined, clean-living kids actually exist? Lead Mouseketeer Sora Naegino and her friends at least make it seem possible that they do. Everyone in her world lives by a basic idea: From conflict there is character growth. There is plenty of conflict to challenge Sora and her teammates, whether it comes from the challenges of performing or the challenges of living. Because of the focus on character growth, Kaleido Star neatly avoids the trap of being needlessly unrealistic in its perky take on life.
Sora is a teen with dreams of being the lead performer at Kaleido Stage. She travels to Los Angeles from Japan, determined to prove herself. Her first big break is given to her by none other than Kolos, the owner of Kaleido Star, when he observes her chasing down a thief after she arrives in town. Her athleticism and determination impress him, and he allows her to join the troupe without an audition. This enrages Layla, Kaleido Stage's star, who marks Sora as a problem and doesn't cut her any slack. Some of the other performers (most of whom are girls) also look down their nose at Sora, but she quickly makes friends with Mia and Anna, who end up being her support network even when things look bleakest. Stage manager Ken, a kind teenager with a weak heart, falls in love with Sora almost as soon as he meets her, but he isn't sure how to tell her. Even though Ken's heart problem keeps him from performing on stage, he is strong in many other ways that directly benefit Sora and the other performers. She is also befriended by Fool, a living doll who says he is the spirit of the stage and can only be seen by someone destined to perform a special act on the Kaleido Stage. Poor Fool is, at first, mistaken for a ghost or a hallucination, and is treated rather badly by Sora. Of course, even after she accepts him, she still treats him rather badly, mostly in response to his lecherous spying on other scantily clad girls.
Kaleido Star has beautiful animation, with stage performances given heavy drama and light effects that look great onscreen. Accordingly, the show has a good-looking transfer that gives us a good depth of color and a clear print. Sound quality is also high, with a clear, robust transfer and an English dub that takes advantage of the surround sound nicely. There's a standard set of extras, plus the palm-sized "standee" insert that has been a regular in all the Kaleido Star releases. This time it's for Mia Guillem. There's also a fold-out mini-poster featuring Sora and Rosetta in a very chummy pose. Although light on extras, the series stands up by itself rather well, with a well-turned English dub and no reused animation (other than a few shots of Fool reading cards for Sora and brief segments to show repeat performances) in this tightly paced, fresh storyline.
Sora is a person who recognizes her success, makes it the core of her strength, and uses it to help her overcome her failures. She may be afraid to get back on the trapeze, but instead of allowing herself to be paralyzed by fear, she sets a goal and works toward it with determination. She isn't afraid to ask for help or to give it without hesitation. The message is clear: With her friends and her attitude in the right place, there's nothing Sora can't accomplish.
Review content copyright © 2004 Sandra Dozier; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: ADV Films
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Japanese)
* English (signs only)
Running Time: 125 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Character Standee Insert
* Production Sketches
* Fold-Out Mini-Poster
* Official Site