Yuri Anime: Kaleido Star Legend of Phoenix

February 10th, 2006

I mentioned Kaleido Star: Legend of Phoenix (aka Layla Hamilton Monogatari) on my Top Ten Yuri Anime of 2005. And despite the fact that it’s just an OVA for the longer series, it definitely deserved a spot in the top ten.

One of my problems with the TV series for Kaleido Star was that the growth and challenge plot was mostly confined to Sora. And I saw Carlos’ nonverbal tactics as being enraging and abusive. But really, when I stood back from the series, and thought about it again, I was really very wrong. Yes, the male characters are still fairly loathsome for most of the series (of course Sora wins them all over to her ideas, but…).

…I can’t explain it exactly, but it felt like I was watching a show that might be aired on the “Violence Against Women Network”, aka Lifetime. You know – one hour and forty-five minutes of outrageous physical and emotional violence against women, follwed by fifteen minutes of inadequate legal retribution.) But I digress.

But, because of a post on Gin Sweater, I realize that I have been horribly misinterpreting the entire series. I felt enlightened after reading that post. And now I know why Kaleido Star: Legend of Phoenix was the episode I was waiting for. This series is a classic challenge myth; Hercules’ Labors translated to a fanciful acrobatic circus venue.

Yes, Sora has to endure pain and suffering on both emotional and physical levels, but no pain, no gain, as the masochistic say. The thing is – it’s not just Sora who has to change and grow and what I was seeing, but not noticing, is how *much* we see the surrounding characters change and grow into themselves, as well. In fact, this show shares many of the qualities that I enjoy about Stellvia, but I was unable to see it. Now I do.

Legend of Phoenix is an OVA filled entirely with Layla Hamilton having the same revelation. How nice is that? ;-)

Layla and Sora are about to launch different interpretations of the same show “Legend of Phoenix” on opposite coasts. Layla wants to find her Phoenix in a way unique to her, but also to the audience. In a desperate attempt to be reborn, she runs off on a solo bicycle trip to upstate New York. Meanwhile, Sora is also attempting to find her own Phoenix, but when she learns of Layla’s disappearance she, Ken and May run off to New York to find Layla.

Layla’s trip hooked me on a few points. For one thing, as I mentioned in my end-of-year review, her trip takes her to Rt. 17 in New York – a road upon which I had many surreal experiences myself. So it hit the “nostalgia” button solidly for me there. And Layla, for all that she’s trying to find herself, spends her entire time alone obsessing about Sora. Until she, and we, come to realize just how MUCH Sora has been a muse to her, Sora fills her thoughts. And once she accepts that, she is reborn.

Could I have asked for a better OVA than one filled with Layla thinking about Sora and her importance in her life? Nope.

During the end credits, we get to see the two different Phoenixes – really lovely, as all the Kaleido staging consistently is throughout series and OVAs.


Art – 8
Music – 7
Story – 9
Characters – 8
Yuri – 6
Service – 4, some obligatory Fool perviness and, for this series, subtle fanservice

Overall – 8

This was, as I said, the Kaleido Star I’d been waiting for all along. I’ll take a dozen of the same, please!  ^_^

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6 Responses

  1. maui says:

    i saw some screencaps of Legend of the Phoenix.
    Laila’s hair was cut short. She looked like Yuri/Ken though. :)

    Btw, what’s a babydyke? :D

  2. Anonymous says:

    can you indicate me where i can find the ova i am a big fan of kaleido star

  3. After watching one episode of this anime on TV, I decided not to ever watch another one. And even after reading your reviews on the series, I still wasn’t convinced to watch it. But your post on the OVA really made me interested.

    I went out and watched this OVA with about as much knowledge as the girls with the purple hair is Sora and there’s somebody named Layla in this thing who’s important to her/dislikes her–I wasn’t sure.

    Anyway, the reason I state this is to substantiate that this OVA did indeed deserve a spot in your Top 10 List. Even with knowing so little about the overall plot and characters, it really grabbed me, pulled me right in. I think it’s because in the end, what was felt, was was dreamt, what was worked so hard for were things universally understood. It’s like you may not know what someone speaking a different language is saying to you, but you can understand a smile or a frown. And that’s what made this OVA appealing.

    I even found myself just slightly tearing up a bit when Layla remembered the regrets in her past.

    What a great OVA this was. Maybe I’ll go watch the series now.

  4. Oh, totally forgot to mention this, but as for the Yuri? I think Layla jumped into the ashes and was reborn a lesbian. That entire hair-cut scene, if it was between a guy and a girl, was total love-confession.

  5. Rikimaru says:

    Ok I’m not so sure that this is not a Yuri anime anymore given the things you guys are saying about it. But I still need someone to tell me why and how it is one.

    While watching this series (refering to season 1 and 2) all that was in my mind was that this was a sports anime about a pure girl with a pure dream who will encounter hardships and trials, as well as friends, rivals, and people who support them as well as give them trials (ex. Kalos and Layla). And one such character, in my opinion, is Layla Hamilton. Never did I get the impression that there was any lesbian undertones between Layla and Sora. Especially in the end when they said that Layla was the devil who nurtures the angel… it all seemed to me that the moral behind it was that not anyone can become the devil, and that only a true rival, the person you admire, and the person you want to show your prowess to can have enough significance to raise you up to be the angel. In this case that qualified person is Layla. Well if you listen to Sora and Layla think to themselves in the anime you will get a better feel for it.

    Well sorry for not catching the Yuri parts… and I know other people who did not realize that this anime was a Yuri anime.

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