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Kaleido Star: Season One

FUNimation // Unrated // November 23, 2010
List Price: $39.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Neil Lumbard | posted January 11, 2011 | E-mail the Author


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The
Series:
style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">style=""> 





We
begin this series by meeting its lead character: the joyfully exuberant
Sora
Naegino. She aspires for one thing and that is to be able to audition
for and
join the Kaleido Stage. To her it represents magic and a thrill to
excite and
entertain an audience while following her dream of performing amazing
acrobatic
stunts. She misses the audition though! Whoops! Sora's persistence
nonetheless leads
her to her chance to audition and prove her skills. She receives the
opportunity from the stage's owner, Kalos, who sees something in her
the others
simply can't seem to grasp.



 


Meanwhile,
Sora is visited by a mysterious (and rather tiny) spirit named Fool who
haunts Sora's
room and claims she is capable of performing a dangerous acrobatic
maneuver
that only those with the spirit of the stage found within can risk
accomplishing. Can Sora perform this special maneuver?



 


As
we follow along the path of Sora's journey, viewers also get a chance
to meet the
other Kaleido Stage performers and learn that some of them will
befriend our
heroine Sora while others will offer friendly rivalry. The biggest
rivalry
comes from Layla, who is considered the greatest performer in the
troupe and is
the biggest star. Sora doesn't let that get in her way and seems
constantly
determined to not only succeed as a performer for Kaleido Stage but
also to
accomplish all of her goals throughout the series (including
befriending Layla
and not merely competing with her).



 


Junichi
Sato is clearly an incredible director to have crafted such a
beautifully told
story. His previous work also includes Sailor
Moon
. This series has the same sense of wonderment and joy enjoyed
by fans
of that series. You grow to care about the characters in a way that is
surprisingly heartfelt and absolutely genuine. If you thought the
concept of
this series would not be able to necessarily hold your interest for 26
episodes,
think again, as he proves naysayers wrong in that regard. I was mildly
hesitant
at first, but over the course of this first season I became
increasingly
enthralled by the story and the journey to the point that I am greatly
anticipating
seeing where things may head in season two.



 


The
animation is breathtaking to behold. The character designs are cute and
effective. Everything from the look of the stage to the acrobatic
performances
looks incredible and will not disappoint even longtime anime fans. style=""> 



 


Music
lovers will be pleased to know that the orchestral score by Mina Kubota
is one
of the best I have heard in a series. It's romantic in the best sense
and
recalls some the most important works done in classical music history
while
being uniquely creative in its own way. This series displays the sheer
brilliance of the composer.



style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";"> 


This
first season is an amazing accomplishment in anime history. How I
missed out on
the series for so long is a bit of a mystery. I had heard about the
show back
when it was first released by ADV films and had seen a handful of the
first
episodes, but for some reason I had never continued in viewing the
rest. I can
say with absolute honesty that I have no idea why that happened. I
enjoyed it
then and after viewing it now (on this excellent Funimation release) I
feel I
can appreciate the superb qualities that construct this great series
even
better than before. I suspect I am not alone in overlooking this gem. I
would
strongly encourage any anime fan to visit this magical series. Kaleido
Star is
one of the most optimistic show's I've encountered and it never fails
to be
entertaining as well!



 



The
DVD:
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align="center">style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">


style="font-size: 10pt; line-height: 115%; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";"> 


Audio:




style="font-size: 10pt; line-height: 115%; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">The
audio is presented in both English Dolby Digital 5.1
surround sound and the original Japanese stereo mix. The English dub is
perfectly serviceable. However, I must say that I feel the voice actors
did not
bring the same level of depth to the characters as the original
Japanese cast
did. The translation also seemed to take a few more liberties than
usual for an
American adaptation, although if this is the desired listening
experience, it
will still do the job. There is also little surround activity and while
it
sounds a little fuller in comparison to the Japanese stereo mix, my
preference
went to the original dub for its superior VA.


style="font-size: 10pt; line-height: 115%; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">

Video:

style="font-size: 10pt; line-height: 115%; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">

Funimation
presents this series in its OAR of 4:3 (full frame). It is a rather
pleasing
presentation and captures the richness of colors quite well. The
animation is
wonderfully represented by the DVD's and despite 6 to 7 episodes being
presented on each of the four discs I did not notice any compression
issues.  




Extras: 





style="font-size: 10pt; line-height: 115%; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">The
only extras included are
textless songs, a few trailers for other Funimation releases, and a
commentary
track style="font-size: 10pt; line-height: 115%; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">on
a single episodestyle="font-size: 10pt; line-height: 115%; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">
by English cast
members style="font-size: 10pt; line-height: 115%; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">Sandra
Krasa (who also served as the dub director) and Cynthia Martinez.
Unfortunately, the included commentary track has got to be one of the
worst I
have ever had the misfortune of hearing. During the commentary, the
pair rambles
on while being ridiculously goofy and making jokes that are in poor
taste. They
never once seemed to truly address the important aspects of the episode
or the
series as a whole. By the time the commentary was over I was irritated
and
upset more than anything and I feel this commentary was a disservice to
a great
show. I would strongly suggest fans simply skip this extra altogether.
I
disliked its inclusion to such a high degree as to lower the score on
the
extras. I am constantly disappointed by barebones anime DVD releases
but I
would rather get nothing at all over something so poorly done.


style="font-size: 10pt; line-height: 115%; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">

Final Thoughts:


style="font-size: 10pt; line-height: 115%; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">

Kaleido Star is one of the best and most entertaining anime
series I have ever seen. In some ways I would even go so far as to say
it
surpasses director Junichi Sato's work on Sailor
Moon
. I would not hesitate to recommend this series to any anime
fan. The
reason I loved it so much is due in part to it capturing the essence of
what it
means to never give up and to always believe in your dreams. That is a
lesson
that shouldn't be forgotten and this series seems to understand why
it's
important to believe in yourself and what you are capable of achieving.
As
someone who dreams of one day making films, it was particularly
meaningful. I
suspect many others will feel the same way no matter the dream or
ambition.




style="font-size: 10pt; line-height: 115%; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">Highly
Recommended.


Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.

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Highly Recommended

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