After watching season 1 of "Kaleido Star" before, I was both intrigued and hesitant to try Season 2. The reason was because Season 1 ended so well and so powerfully complete that I was afraid that a Season 2 would wreck the vibe I had with the show. But finally, the personal need for completion, plus many of the positive reviews convinced me to give it a go. What I can say is this: After season 1, I had no clue how they could ever bring more to the show and step it up...BUT WELL, they did with new challenges, amazing character development that greatly expands on the characters from season 1, and a finale that surpasses Season 1's "Legendary Maneuver" in both "magic" and emotion. There were even new life lessons to learn. "Kaleido Star" season 2 is much more than a worthy extension of the series...it is a true completion of the entire storyline.
CONTENT ISSUES FOR PARENTS:
There is nothing to really worry about in this series, and specifically this season (since this is the specific one we are addressing). No fan service, no gravure, no provocative visuals, nor coarse language...totally clean (that was easy enough haha).
Where to begin, where to begin...By now, I'm sure you are fairly acquainted with the plot by looking through the synopsis and various other reviews. So I won't cover those kind of things. Instead, I'll mention what I found fascinating about this 2nd season. Season 1 dealt mainly with "rising to the top". But now that she's "made it", the 25 episodes of season 2 raises the question of "where do we go from here?" and "what is a true star?" I'm sure most of us have become top dog in various things, and I'm sure we've all wondered "is this all there is?" once we got there. It is exactly that question (amongst many smaller questions that are a part of it) which Sora must struggle with, now.
Plot (absolutely no spoilers)-
The show is very well paced. I did not feel like any moment was ever wasted. Even what could be remotely considered "fillers" were good and huge character development opportunities. However, unlike season 1 where we had a good balance of up and down moments, be prepared for a very emotional straining first half with only a few light moments mixed in. But still, it was very good and very well done. Even though it was more "depressing" and more so an emotional struggle than in Season 1, the progression was always moving upward to positive light. And, again, we still get some lighter moments even during those darker times. Oh, there was a decent amount of subtle plot twists and unexpected directions to the story...they weren't complete surprises, but they were definitely routes that aren't often taken in these kinds of dramas. And I shall mention this again...it closes phenomenally well and makes you want to give a standing ovation.
I didn't think they could really improve on an already gifted set of characters, but in season 2 they really expanded their depth. It is true that a lot of the drama and "action" centers around Sora's own struggles and challenges. But we are also given the opportunity to watch the other characters evolve as well. In fact, a few characters take a step forward and become more prominent this time around. Yuri, in particular, is an amazingly deep character this time around...and Layla becomes even more fascinating. Suffice it to say, the characters continue to grow, develop, and expand their roles. It's really a treat to see them moving forward along with Sora. Also, I should add that the characters are still very realistic and natural characters. You could very well meet them on the street so to speak. We can really connect with the characters and sympathize with many of their own pains and joys.
One thing I generally love about the "Kaleido Star" series is it's serious and realistic wrestling with real issues that many in the performing arts deal with...and it's that realism that helps many connect with this show. Season 2 is no exception. Some old themes and questions from season 1 are recast in a new light and perspective, while brand new issues are raised and examined. And each theme is executed very well and believably so. There are so many themes that are covered that I won't even bother trying to mention them...but I will say, they are the very same things I've had to deal with.
English dub versus Japanese dub w/subtitles -
When it comes to the Dub/Sub debate, I'm very neutral. I have many shows where I prefer the English Dub and many shows where I prefer the Japanese Dub. In the case of "Kaleido Star", I'd have to say, both the Japanese cast and the English cast did splendidly on voicing the show. But, for some reason, I feel more at home with the English Dub in this case. I know it's just preference, but that's how I feel. The casting for the English VAs were perfect and their execution was very well executed in my opinion. And having French characters, Russian characters, British characters, etc. in the show...hearing the respective accents added more definition and depth to each character. Also, I guess it was helped by the fact that most of "Kaleido Star" does take place in the United States...so hearing English was definitely a very good fit.
Note on the OVAs -
In case you may not be familiar with what an OVA is, they are "episodes" that were not part of the original broadcasting, but were instead sent straight to dvd/video. In this set, you have the two "Kaleido Star" OVAs which are quite a bit longer than the normal episodes. They are wonderful additions, that expand on the characters and go into their backgrounds in even more depth. You can find them in the "extras" section of the 4th Disc.
Special Features -
Besides the OVAs in the 4th disc, there are episode commentaries (on each disc), Textless opening/closer, "A day with Kaleido Star Serena Varghese" which is basically a video following Serena Varghese (the voice of Rosetta) for a day, and Trailers
ALL IN ALL:
"Kaleido Star" is a wonderful and encouraging series that tackles tough questions with courage and tenacity. It captures the magic and wonder of performing, while being very real with the life issues that do occur in that field. There are many elements and themes that anyone can draw from...but for the performing artist, it especially takes on a whole new dimension. A wonderful drama with relatable and growing characters...it has an amazingly fun and emotionally moving, multi-faceted storyline. If you are a performer or have an interest in the performer's lifestyle, this is definitely worth a look. And even if you don't, it'd be a joy for you, too :-) So where do we go when we make it to the top? Many of us have reached a higher plain of performance through struggling with that question...and Sora and the rest of the Kaleido Star cast are a powerful reminder of what victory over that question can be like.