Though I've previously dubbed Fumoffu this honor, after revisiting Kaleido Star I have to declare resolutely that Kaleido Star is the DVD title that moves me the most. From the first episode to the last, the title beckons my attention every moment, giving me the most rewarding viewing experience I've ever known thus far, and dare I say may ever come to know.
My highest praise goes to the wonderfully talented production staff. Junichi Sato is a great anime visionary having given us classics like Sailor Moon, Magic User's Club, Sargeant Frog, and Princess Tutu. And Kaleido Star in my view is his crowning achievement. I would never have imagined that a cirque du soleil backdrop would be so fascinating, but Sato's unique take on a shounen formula following the plight and destiny of a lovable goofy heroine brings much life and adventure to a dubious and risky plot. Mina Kubota's gorgeous romantic soundtrack that seems to borrow from Tchaikovsky, Borodin, and Prokofiev is among the most engaging collection of music I've heard for the genre. And Gonzo's solid animation and attractive character designs make it all the visual splendor that it is.
And the Japanese cast assembles some of my favorites, Aya Hisakawa, Takehito Koyasu, and Fumiko Orikasa. And of course, the brightly shining Ryou Hirohashi infuses the right kind of depth and emotion into the Kaleido Star that I could not conceive being done better by anyone else.
If I may capitulate an overview, we begin with a bright, ambitious, and head strong Japanese girl Sora coming to the US, arriving at a fictitious Los Angeles county town named Cape Merry to audition for and join the circus troupe of Kaleido Stage. With circumstances leading to her unpunctual arrival, the current diva overseeing the audition dismisses her. Believing she's lost the one opportunity, she's somehow managed to maneuver a stage debut...by causing minor injury to a trampoline performer in a hilarious attempt to save her from a falling object. LOL! Having had a previous encounter with the circus owner, he assigns Sora to substitute. As we move forward, Sora faces and overcomes challenge after challenge, making friends of other talented troupe members, touching the hearts of broken people, making others around her shine, forging a partnership that culminates in an intense competion to determine who shines brightest as the True Kaleido Star. And when two bright stars collide, it is most certain that one is destined to fade under the brightness of the other. The acrobatics and high-flying action are fantastic and marvelously done, drawing out a similar type of viewer excitement expected of high-quality fighting anime, only without the violence. With a powerful orchestral score filled with strong themes and harmonic movements, and fine acting on the part of the Japanese cast, watching Kaleido Star is a thoroughly engaging experience that mixes a proper balance between style and substance.
There are some areas in which the title falls short, and I found these mostly to be mere animation inconsistencies in the characters' attire. Sora and Mia at different episodes perform some acrobatics, beginning them with shoes and ending them w/out. A variety in costumes would also have been welcome. But these are minor quibbles in light of Sora's character development and the depiction of her challenges and how she overcomes them. Where Naruto, DBZ, and countless other shounen titles have failed to even mildly amuse me, Kaleido Star moves the core of my being and satisfies me like no other. I highly recommend this title for those interested in a tried and true formula with a twist. And this thin-pack set is a precious steal.