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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Kaleido Star - Welcome to the Kaleido Star (Vol. 1)
Kaleido Star - Welcome to the Kaleido Star (Vol. 1)
ADV Films // Unrated // May 11, 2004
List Price: $29.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by John Sinnott | posted May 21, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
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The Show:

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 thing.

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 it.

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 Anna.

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.

The DVD:



Audio:

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 this dub.

Video:

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 Extras:

The DVD comes with a clean opening and closing, and a six-minute reel of production sketches.  There are previews for Angelic Layer, Nuku Nuku TV, Final Fantasy Unlimited, Kino's Journey, Steam Detectives, and Wedding Peach.

Included in the case is an insert that has short biographies of the main characters, and a small standee of Sora.

Final Thoughts:

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.

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