When anime first started appearing in the US on videotape the only shows
available were those aimed at young males. As anime became more popular,
an occasional shoujo anime show (those aimed at girls) started to crop
up, the most notably of which was Sailor Moon. Now that anime has
a firm hold in the US, more shoujo anime is being put out, which is a good
The latest female oriented show to be released here is ADV's Kaleido
Star. This is the story of a 16-year-old gymnast who wants to
be a star in the world's most popular circus: The Kaleido Stage.
She travels to America, where the circus is located, and makes new friends
along with several new enemies. She talks about her feelings and
emotions, and shares her triumphs and disappointments with her friends.
Episode One: My Amazing Stage Debut!:
Sora Naegino travels to the US from Japan to chase her dream, joining the
world famous Kaleido Stage. This circus is more than just your average
three-ring event; it is a giant spectacle, an amazing extravaganza.
The Kaleido hold auditions for new performers only once a year and Sora
knows that this is her year! Unfortunately, someone steals her suitcase
when she stops to ask directions. Sora chases the crook down and
uses her acrobatic ability to capture him. Once the police arrive,
they take her in too, thinking that she is a runaway. It takes some
time to talk her way out of that, and by the time she arrives at the Stage,
the auditions have ended. The stage manager, Ken, is willing to let
her audition anyway, but the star of the show, the snooty Ms. Layla, forbids
Not able to override the star, Ken feels sorry for Sora and lets her
stay to watch that evening's show. While she's backstage, a performer
injures herself and can't go on. Out from the shadows steps the owner,
Kalos, a man who observed Sora apprehending the crook earlier in the day.
He tells her to go on in place of the injured performer, much to the chagrin
of Layla. But how will this novice do, having to perform a new routine
for the first time in front of a huge audience?
Episode Two: My Amazing and Lonely Challenge!:
The girls who passed the audition don't take kindly to Sora. After
all, she didn't even try out, but managed to get on stage the first night.
They hassle and goad her until she finally bursts and proclaims that she
will be a great star, and perform the Flying Phoenix, Layla's difficult
signature move. As luck would have it, Layla overhears Sora and challenges
the girl to perform the trick. She gives her one week. Can
Sora learn the complicated move in such a short time? To add to her
troubles, there is a doll in her room that can talk. His name is
Fool, and he claims to be the "spirit of the stage." This talking
floating doll, that no one else is able to see, gives her dubious advice
and starts to drive her crazy.
Episode Three: The Amazing Distant Stage!:
The Kaleido Stage is putting on a new production: Cinderella.
Everyone, including the trainees are going to be in the play. But
when Kalos calls out the role assignments, Sora's name isn't called.
When he asks her about it, the owner says that she won't be in the show.
Instead of rehearsing with the others, Sora will have to give out toys
to the audience during intermission. Is this a punishment,
or does Kalos have something else in mind?
Episode Four: Try Hard and You'll Get
an Amazing Chance!: Mia gets an idea for a new stunt to
incorporate into the Cinderella production that she calls the "Triple
Illusion." She convinces Kalos to let Sora and Anna join her in the
stunt, but only if they can have it ready in three days. So the three
friends practice the illusion day and night trying to perfect it, but Layla
isn't impressed and wants to substitute two other girls in for Sora and
Episode Five: My Amazingly Distant Family!:
Sora's father comes to visit from Japan on the opening night of Cinderella.
The Triple Illusion doesn't go well, and the three friends are disappointed
and ashamed. After the show, Sora's father tells her that he wants
her to come back to Japan. Her mother is worried about her, and it's
obvious that she is not doing well in America. Sora doesn't want
to go, but when her father suffers a heart attack the next afternoon, Sora
misses the evening performance to be with him. While he's in the
hospital, she promises to quit Kaleido Stage are return to Japan, giving
up her dream.
I enjoyed watching this show. It is not dynamic and exciting like
a Gundam series of Neon Genesis, but it has a soft tone that
is nice. The story of a young girl working hard to achieve her dream
many not be original, but it can still entertain. In a lot of ways
this series reminds me of the excellent Battle Athletes. The
main character is destined for greatness, as everyone but the girl herself
can see, but still has to overcome many obstacles. She has several
good friends to confide in, and a couple of enemies who push her to try
harder. The acrobatics in this series don't came across as well as
the strange sporting events in Battle Athletes (anyone remember
"Bike Hard"?) but the show still has a similar feel.
This DVD has a 2.0 Japanese soundtrack and a 5.1 English dub.
The sound quality was very good in both tracks. The voices were clear
and there wasn't any hiss or distortion. The English dub was more
full and rich, being a 5.1 mix, but the Japanese dub was much superior.
Now I'm not one of those people who just dismiss the dub track out of hand.
There are many dubs that I really enjoy; the new Godzilla movies for example.
Having said that, I really dislike the English audio track on this disc.
The actress who voices Sora in the English version has chosen an incredibly
annoying voice for her. She sounds like a three year old, with a
very high-pitched cutesy voice. The dorm leader Sarah's voice
had a fake British accent that sounds incredibly inane; it was embarrassing
to listen to. There are just too many irritating voices to enjoy
Being a recent show, the full frame picture was very good. The
colors were bright and full, and the lines were tight. There was
some aliasing and a good amount of light banding but these weren't distracting.
This is a nice looking show.
The DVD comes with a clean opening and closing, and a six-minute reel
of production sketches. There are previews for Angelic
Nuku TV, Final
Fantasy Unlimited, Kino's
Detectives, and Wedding
Included in the case is an insert that has short biographies of the
main characters, and a small standee of Sora.
This show grows on you over the course of the five episodes presented
on the first volume. While this program won't be for everyone, it
is not a show that only females can enjoy. If you've gotten tired
of giant robots and mecha battles, check this series out. Recommended.