by Leslie Mitsuko Tokiwa,

Kaleido Star

DVD 1: Welcome to the Kaleido Stage!

Kaleido Star DVD 1
Directed by Junichi Sato, the grandmaster of shoujo, the first volume of Kaleido Star delivers heartwarming fluff without too many sugar calories. Sato's other works, which include Prétear, Princess Tutu, and Sailor Moon, all feature young female leads who, somehow or the other, discover that their world or loved ones are in danger and that they must use some unusual power to save the day. While Kaleido Star doesn't throw in any such astonishing plot surprises, what makes the anime engaging is just that – it's predictable.

In a time when insightful and thematically complex titles such as Evangelion, Wolf's Rain, and Ghost in the Shell are inundating audiences with metaphor and symbolism, a simple story about a girl who wants to be a circus performer is quite refreshing. After a rough time getting to the tryouts, 16-year-old Sora Naegino is grudgingly accepted into Kaleido Stage circus – a job she has dreamed about and trained for since she was a child. However, as member of the circus Sora discovers that it's not all she thought it would be, and now she must deal with rivals, training, and a weird little doll that keeps talking to her backstage.

With this simple premise as its base, Kaleido Star bounces along at a pace just fast enough to be engaging without actually getting anywhere. The first five episodes introduce the main characters and their vices and virtues, so that you really grow to like the characters you're supposed to like, and fast get annoyed with the divas and the brats. The selling point of this anime is the predictability of the plot; with likable characters, you want something bad to happen to them and then you want them to come out on top. And while Kaleido Stage delivers, somehow the characters always fall just short enough of the mark to make you keep watching to see them improve.

Considering that the last time a main character held a central position in a circus was in Gundam Wing, Kaleido Star brings a whole new look to the anime concept of a circus. Abandoning Barnum and Bailey's three-ring look, the anime's circus company Kaleido Stage more closely resembles the renowned Cirque du Soleil, whose original music, beautiful choreography and advanced acrobatics have appealed to international audiences. Gonzo Digimation, responsible for such groundbreaking works as Blue Submarine No. 6, Last Exile, and Samurai 7, brings Kaleido Star to life with bright colors and flowing animation.

Although the Japanese cast is mostly made up of relatively new seiyuu, all deliver a stellar performance. Ryou Hirohashi as Sora is energetic without being too sugary, and she is supported by veteran Takehito Koyasu as the Fool, a slightly perverted “spirit of the stage” who nonetheless gives good advice. The English cast and writers put a slightly different spin on some of the characters, with mixed results. Cynthia Martinez is a rougher, more forward Sora, and the part of the Fool was rewritten to exclude any expressions of perverted desire, such as replacing a line encouraging her to take a shower with merely a suggestion to “go relax”; One has to wonder if ADV is trying to clean up some of their dubs on the off chance they might be aired on cable. Overall though, the dub cast isn't bad, with the one possible exception being John Swasey as potential love interest Ken Robbins: when speaking slowly, Swasey has a tendency to start sounding like a sloth with a bad cold.

Quality of the dub aside, ADV has continued its tradition of aesthetic excellence in DVD design. The menus are easy to navigate and attractive, continuing the circus theme with an animated rotating ring. The first volume contains production sketches and clean versions of both the opening and the ending, and if all this and five episodes aren't enough for you, the case also contains a pamphlet of character profiles and a Sora standee, so you can have your circus and watch it too!

Overall, while not mind-blowingly original or awe-inspiring, Kaleido Star serves well as a cute, restful waypoint between series that make you think too hard. Fans of strictly shounen action or more mature plotlines should probably beware, but if you're looking for some nice ol' fashioned feel-good shoujo, Kaleido Star is probably just the thing you need.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : A
Story : B
Animation : B+
Art : B+
Music : B+

+ Cute and simple
Maybe too cute and too simple

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Production Info:
Yoshimasa Hiraike
Junichi Sato
Series Composition: Reiko Yoshida
Miharu Hirami
Tsutomu Kamishiro
Rika Nakase
Wataru Shiozawa
Michihiro Tsuchiya
Reiko Yoshida
Hiroshi Aoyama
Jun Fukuda
Yoshimasa Hiraike
Tadashi Hiramatsu
Nobuharu Kamanaka
Mitsuhiro Karato
Shougo Kawamoto
Tamura Minase
Kyuma Oshita
Jun'ichi Sakata
Hidekazu Sato
Junichi Sato
Kiyoko Sayama
Harumi Tamano
Daisuke Tsukushi
Takaaki Wada
Naoki Yamaguchi
Episode Director:
Yasuo Ejima
Jun Fukuda
Yoshimasa Hiraike
Shintaro Inokawa
Nobuharu Kamanaka
Takaomi Kanasaki
Mitsuhiro Karato
Hiroaki Moriyama
Akihiko Nishiyama
Kouta Okuno
Kyuma Oshita
Junichi Sato
Kiyoko Sayama
Kaoru Suzuki
Tatsufumi Tamagawa
Daisuke Tsukushi
Takaaki Wada
Yūsuke Yamamoto
Unit Director:
Akitarō Daichi
Tadashi Hiramatsu
Yuu Kou
Music: Mina Kubota
Original creator: Junichi Sato
Character Design:
Fumitoshi Oizaki
Hajime Watanabe
Art Director: Junichiro Nishikawa
Chief Animation Director:
Fumitoshi Oizaki
Hajime Watanabe
Animation Director:
Atsushi Aono
Masanori Aoyama
Toyoaki Fukushima
Hitoshi Haga
Yasuko Higuchi
Yuji Hosogoe
Hiroya Iijima
Tetsu Inoue
Keiichi Ishikura
Chikashi Kadekaru
Takaomi Kanasaki
Hiromi Kato
Shinji Kishimoto
Akemi Kobayashi
Shinichi Nozaki
Fumitoshi Oizaki
Kazuo Sakai
Shinjiro Shigeki
Sayuri Sugifuji
Takehiro Suzuki
Shinichiro Takagi
Nariyuki Takahashi
Yuka Takashina
Yukio Takatsu
Akihiro Taniguchi
Kei Tsuchiya
Takaaki Wada
Hajime Watanabe
Takuji Yoshimoto
3D Director:
Hiroaki Matsuura
Kazuhira Tanaka
Sound Director: Yota Tsuruoka
Background Art Director:
Han Sun Geun
Park Sun Hwan
Og Chul Shin
Director of Photography: Jung Joo Ree
Executive producer:
Ikki Hori
Shinichiro Ishikawa
Yoshiyuki Furuya
Kouji Hadachi
Shunji Namiki
Takeshi Sasamura

Full encyclopedia details about
Kaleido Star (TV)

Release information about
Kaleido Star - Welcome to the Kaleido Stage! + Artbox (DVD 1)

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