Kaleido Star, Season 2 – DVD Review

Review by: Brenda Gregson

Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $39.98 US
Running Time: 650 minutes
Genre: Drama
Rating: TV 14
Release Date: Available Now

Sometimes dreams really do become reality.

Kaleido Star quickly become a fan favorite anime series here in the office after I got the chance to view and review the first season and there’s a good reason for that. I believe that everyone here felt Sora Naegino’s determination to make her dreams a reality. In fact, it was quite infectious and thus made the first season an excellent start. Now, in Season 2 of Kaleido Star, Sora is chasing a bigger dream that may end up destroying her chances of being a true star or, then again, making Kaleido Stage a place where dreams do come true.

At the end of the first season, Sora and Kaleido Stage’s biggest star, Layla Hamilton, performed the almost impossible Legendary Great Maneuver and thus propelled Sora to stardom. The cost of such a feat, however, ended Layla’s career but she left Kaleido Stage with a smile and hopes that Sora would become a true Kaleido Star. In this second season, Sora finds herself trying her best to do just that only at her current state she has yet to show the stage that she is bigger than Layla.

Sure attendance has remained the same but Sora just doesn’t have it in her to bring more people to the shows. What does do that is a new male performer by the name of Leon Oswald, a hot French acrobat who makes all the young ladies swoon and all the moms in attendance look all dreamy. Unfortunately, Leon doesn’t see Sora as a star and won’t even acknowledge her existence let alone want to be her partner. At one point, he even refuses to finish a show because she’s in it.

On top of that, Sora encounters a new rival in a talented young acrobat named May Wong who is determined outshine Sora and become Leon’s partner. In fact, she even interrupts a show just to upstage her and continuously bad-mouths her. As we learned from the first season, Sora is the type of girl who tries to win a person over if even if that person hates her guts. What we find here is that May isn’t going to be won over that easily and, unlike Layla did at first, starts a personal war against the girl to win Leon over … a war that May begins to win.

With a rival to compete against, Sora finds a helpful ally in the cute Diablo champion named Rosetta who we met in Season 1 and takes the girl under her wing as a mentor of sorts when Rosetta takes an interest in learning the trapeze. Another ally comes in the form of Marion who follows in her deceased mother’s footsteps by taking part in the show with the adorable baby seal, Jonathan. Along with her close friends and Ken (who still has a monster crush on Sora), Kaleido Stage becomes home to some elaborate productions.

Unfortunately for Sora, she just doesn’t have the same competitive edge that May has and loses the starring role in their production of “Dracula” to her. Meanwhile, Leon shows no signs of really enjoying his partnership with May and even mishandles her during one scene.

Sora, on the other hand, decides to participate in an international circus festival with Yuri Killian as her partner as they compete against Leon and May who are also invited to compete. It is Yuri is introduces Sora to a special trick called the Angel’s Maneuver but when she doesn’t quite nail it the competition ends in failure and the result has Sora returning to Japan in shame.

Oh but things get more interesting as Sora finds inspiration to come back and breathe new life into Kaleido Star by creating a show where there is no competition. Her dream is to create a show where everyone – performers and audience alike – will share in the magic. It’s a beautiful dream and Sora fights to make it possible by winning Leon over.

The second season certainly toned down the abuse that Sora suffered through in the first season, which is nice since the abuse she suffered through felt so cruel. Watching Sora pick herself up and inspiring those around her remains refreshing as ever, though, and it continues to put a smile on my face when she blunders and then corrects herself. Even monkeys can fall from trees, she says to herself. It’s no wonder that May begins to show some respect to her and Rosetta goes from Diablo performer to a decent acrobat thanks to Sora.

Leon is also an intriguing character with a past that fleshes him out and by the end you’ll realize why he was so critical with every partner that came to work with him. In one of the best scenes of this series, we also learn that Yuri and Leon are connected in a way that leads to an awesome duel. It’s also good to see that the show’s sense of humor is also intact with Fool being even more perverted and more hilarious in this season. Even Mr. Policeman (who is actually named Jerry) gets the spotlight in one episode as he tries to figure out a way to propose to Miss Kate.

The fourth disc even includes two OVA episodes, one of which is entitled “The Amazing Princess Without A Smile” that picks up directly after the final episode of Season 2 and has Rosetta being given the lead of a show that is connected to Fool. Then, in “Legend of Phoenix – The Layla Hamilton Story,” Layla decides to take off before her show so Sora and Ken go out to find Layle in New York. They’re both good episodes with the “Legend of Phoenix” brought to us only in its original Japanese audio.

Season 2 of Kaleido Star feels like an even more magical second chapter in this series as Sora finally learns to stand on her own two feet to make her own dreams come true again. Things have changed since the first season and Sora still has rivals to compete against and a partner she wants to win over but we find solace in her ability to give it her best shot. You just have to love a show that makes you feel and Kaleido Star does it easily.

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: A-
The road to becoming a true Kaleido Star is not an easy one but Sora is determined to live up to Layla Hamilton’s legacy now that she’s no longer a part of the show. Still, there are even more obstacles in her way such as a new rival determined to steal Sora’s spotlight and a talented performer who refuses to acknowledge her as a partner. In the middle of all of this, Sora discovers a new dream as she fights to make it a reality.

VIDEO QUALITY: A
Like the first season of the series, the animation remains to be spectacular and delightfully colorful as if this version of California is just as magical as a Kaleido Stage show. Thankfully, the episodes looks great on DVD.

AUDIO QUALITY: B+
The voice acting continues to be decent with the Japanese voice cast sounding even cuter than the English dub cast but – as I said before – Cynthia Martinez’s performance makes for a more energetic and cuter Sora. The music in the series is also very lighthearted fare that works and the opening and closing theme songs that aren’t bad at all … although the OVA episodes have really cute opening songs.

EXTRAS: A+
This set piles on the extras that not only come in the form of the usual textless opening and closing animation and trailers but there are also two audio commentary tracks (for Episodes 46 and 48). The commentary for Episode 46 features Sandra Krasa (ADR Director and voice of Layla) with Illich Guardiola (the voice of Yuri) while Episode 48 commentary features Sandra and Mike MacRae (the voice of Leon).

Then there’s a featurette called “A Day With Kaleido Star Serena Varghese” that serves as a glance into a day with the voice actor who portrays Rosetta. The set even includes two OVA episodes, one about Layla Hamilton and the other about Rosetta getting the lead in a show, that aren’t bad at all.

OVERALL: A-
The second season of Kaleido Star is a livelier and even more endearing chapter in this very likeable and occasionally inspiring anime series. While there are still problems that arise in her life, Sora still steps up to those challenges to make her dreams come true and watching her do it is still downright engaging enough to make a fan out of you.

Review copy provided by FUNimation Entertainment

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