Yuri Anime: Kaleido Star, Volume 1 (English)

April 30th, 2008

Today’s review is brought to you by the word “Ganbaru.” Commonly translated in anime or manga as “do your best” or in the form “gambarimasu” usually with an energetic “Let’s go!” it means nothing of the sort. It means to persevere against unreasonable odds, to bear up under unbearable pressure. It means to persist, to hold out – to keep on going no matter what.

And when one watches Kaleido Star, one is treated to a tale about a young woman who isn’t just succeeding, she isn’t just working hard to get stronger, no, in this anime, we watch Naegino Sora overcoming riduculous, demented odds, absurd pressure and insane demands to live her dream. Kaleido Star is the very essence of “ganbaru.” With lots of pretty colors and impossible shinyness.

If you are interested in the evolution of my opinion about this series, feel free to click on the Kaleido Star category on the right sidebar. Originally, I wasn’t wowed, then as the characters (and Yuri) grew, my affection for the series did as well. But, I find myself often torn between tears of outrage and frustration and being moved by joy when I watch Sora and her friends. This series makes me so angry I want to scream, and then a second later, I’m sobbing over a beautiful visual effect. Drives me crazy – and I bloody well can’t watch it when anyone else is around.

In Volume 1, Naegino Sora, a Japanese girl with skills in acrobatics, arrives at Cape Mery to join the Kaleido Stage, a very Cirque de Soleil-type show. Through the most annoying possible set of circumstances, she’s late to the audition, and has to jump through any number of hoops (no pun intended) to get even a modicum of respect.

ADV. I know it’s too late but Cape “Mery,” not “Mary. It’s visible in signs and we can read. “Owner” not “Boss” – they are saying “owner” and we are not deaf. And “Carlos.” Where on earth are you getting “Kalos” from? Every other character has a normal name – Sora, Layla, Sarah, Ken. You couldn’t figure out Carlos? … I’m available for consultation if you need help with this kind of thing.

I tried watching this volume with a different perspective than usual. From Layla’s point of view, it *is* unreasonable to show up late and expect to be given a chance. And it *does* seem suspicious that Sora’s given an opportunity to get on stage when no one else who showed up on time was – so the girls talking behind her back right in front of her makes sense. Sora’s not being bullied, and all people do do that kind of snarking. Nonetheless, when she’s given a week to learn a technique that probably took Layla *months* to master, you can’t help but grit your teeth in annoyance.

But, as I said, this show is about bearing up under unbearable pressure. Sora’s dedication and determination quickly make allies of two of the snarky girls, Anna and Mia.

Which segues nicely into the Yuri. In Volume 1 – Anna and Mia for the win. I had forgotten how boyish Anna is, and how Mia is always looking at her with big heart eyes, and how plain *together* they are. What was I thinking the first time I watched it? Yuri goggles on low, they are still so a couple.

At the moment, Layla barely acknowledges Sora’s existence, but this will change and I will be there to watch it – again. ^_^

But. Truly. What makes this anime worth watching is the utter crazy beauty and brilliance of the tricks on the Kaleido Stage. Sure, most of them are physically impossible – because I don’t care *how* high you jump on a trampoline or swing on a trapeze, people do not hang in midair, suspended, for five seconds.  It doesn’t matter – that’s why this series works so well as an anime, because they can do impossible things and make them seem possible. And that, in a nutshell, is what Kaleido Star is about. Honestly, the person who is designing the tricks is a genius.

Today’s review was made possible by Ted the Awesome. So, while both the picture and the title above are linked to the first DVD volume, I actually received this disk as part of the thinpak box set. As a result, I would like to include Ted’s own words about why to chose the thinpak over individual volumes, because he says it so well.

1. Price! Volume One is listed at $29.98(!) and the following volumes are at the $26.99 range. When I checked out the complete set dubbed “The Amazing Collection”, it was priced at $44.99. That’s cheaper then two volumes of the show!!!!!!

2. Availability! I looked at your list and saw Volume Two was not available. I tried earlier in your list history to get you an item in the same circumstances, but it wouldn’t allow me to send you an item that an individual was selling. So it was either Volume One and Three or the complete series.

3. Space! Thin Packs are my absolute favorite cases for DVDs and I’m shocked and horrified that they haven’t become a standard. Some would say that the side banner is harder to see, but I have no problems with it what so ever. Some will say that they don’t hold inserts, but they can! And since you collect quite a lot of these DVDs, why not take advantage?

4. Complete! Did I mention that it’s complete so you don’t have to wait for every volume to come in?

Of course, for every advantage this set has, there are also a slew of disadvantages. Most of them are all ADV’s fault…

1. Covers – The Cover artwork will certainly be fewer due to packaging spaces and probably a lot less cool looking.

2. Extras – ADV had a good idea (at the time) to have those who collected the volumes of an anime series to keep the extra content while those who wanted the complete series sets just got the series and no extras at all. I still have incredibly mixed feelings about this, because some of the bonus features in Excel Saga are absolutely outstanding and educational that the complete series sets totally lacks! I don’t want to give this series to my friends without those extras!

3. Support – With the savings in price, there also goes a lot of support for the show. It’s probably tough for a studio to charge a lot less for the complete series for the price of less then two volumes combined. I just hope this support is enough, because I want to support the things we like!

That pretty much covers everything I might have had to say about it anyway. lol Thanks Ted, for both the support and the review!


Art – 8, with occasional lapses to 5
Story – 7
Characters – 8
Yuri – 4

Overall – 8

Although it is just a teeny thing, I find it really, I don’t know – charming, I guess – that Mia is Dutch and her emails are in something that looks Dutch enough to me (although I imagine that the folks I know from the Netherlands probably cringe and die when they see them. ^_^) But still, an attempt was made.

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5 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    Ah, Kaleido Star. As I was watching it I had mixed feelings about the series but, now, having actually finished it, there’s just an overwhelming sense of fondness left. Yes, it has some dire moments (e.g. all that filler at the beginning of the second season) but there are enough flashes of brilliance to more than make up for that, and I’m not ashamed to admit that it managed to make me cry.

    Also, I’m totally agreed that there definitely is Yuri there.

  2. corinthian says:

    Don’t worry, anonymous. I cried too. At both season finales. And I probably would again if I went and watched them all again. Which I might, since I both collections and a lot of free time this summer…

  3. It is a hard series to watch without crying. I was very ambivalent about rewatching it, because I really hate to cry. :-)

  4. Anonymous says:

    I know it’s strange, but his name actually is meant to be Kalos and not Carlos. “Kalos” (beautiful) and “eido” (shape) are two of the three Greek words that make up the English word “kaleidoscope”, and if you change his name to Carlos Eido, you get rid of his name connection to Kaleido Stage.

  5. Anon – Thanks for that heads up. I didn’t realize his last name was Eidos. I’ll back off now. :-)

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