ADV Films // 2004 // 125 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Sandra Dozier (Retired) // December 16th, 2004
The world is our stage!
Kaleido Star has been acquired in a hostile takeover by someone Sora thought was a friend, and nearly everyone has left in protest against the new ownership. Sora, with her usual determination, will not give up. She wants to find a new venue so she and her friends can perform again. Concerned about Sora, her adoptive parents come for a visit, and Sora is forced to face her fear that they will forget about her now that they have a new baby on the way. Once this is resolved, Sora, Anna, and Mia find a new apartment, and Sarah helps them by getting everyone a job performing at the Marine Park. Layla has been booked into a new movie by her father and says she cannot join them, to Sora's disappointment. However, when a mysterious masked acrobat shows up and thrills the crowd, Sora is pretty sure she knows who it is. Even the adorable Rosetta (who first appeared in Volume Two) and roguishly handsome Dio (from the theatrical camp Sora visited in Volume Four) join them.
It seems that with this team, they can't lose, but the new owner of Kaleido Star has other ideas. He makes sure they are fired, and when they try to perform in an international show, he loses his composure and attacks Layla, exposing her participation to her father and putting the team out of work again.
Although Kaleido Star comes across as an almost manically perky take on the life of a circus performer, at its core is the idea that conflict builds character. Sora, who travels all the way from her homeland in Japan to prove herself as a performer on the Kaleido Stage, does not take the loss of her dream job as abject failure. She is disappointed, and sad, but she moves past it and plans her next conquest. She is a survivor, one who makes her dreams happen because she sets her sights on a goal and then does whatever she needs to do in order to reach it. Often that involves the help of her friends, or pushing through her own fears and limitations. Her determination is infectious.
Shortly after arriving in Los Angeles, Sora impressed the owner of Kaleido Stage, Kolos, by running down a would-be thief. Her athleticism and no-quit attitude convinced him that she would one day be a star, even if she was a little clumsy at that time. Although she clashed with Layla, the current star of Kaleido Stage, she won Layla over by proving that she could be a good performer. Now, Layla's fondest wish is to work with Sora again. Sora's fiery but kind nature wins over others, as well. Fellow performers Mia and Anna become fast friends, and former stage manager Ken continues his slow burn for Sora, after having fallen in love with her at first sight. Even Mr. Policeman still comes around to assist Sora, helping her find a great apartment for reasonable rent when she is put out of the dorms.
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 good use of all channels for ambient noise. This is especially apparent in scenes with rain and background crowd noises. The English dub also makes use of different channels for offscreen characters. 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 Rosetta.
I enjoy watching Kaleido Star -- it's one of those series that puts a smile on your face for just being so affirming and optimistic. I find it interesting to compare the older, more cynical character of Layla to the fresh exuberance of the first-year kids, who want to make it work no matter what. Now that they can't perform on Kaleido Stage, there is a new set of challenges for Sora and her friends to overcome. One thing is certain: They will always do their best.
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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
* Character Bios
* Official Site