Kaleido Star: New Wings
Sora's last performance was an amazing feat, but her star power isn't enough to draw crowds to Kaleido Stage. Her new partner is Leon: a masterful performer from France, with an ego almost as big as the country he comes from. As Sora struggles to coordinate with her new partner, a new girl named Mei Wong arrives, declaring herself Leon's new partner. She's talented, and with Sora's performance ailing; Mei replaces her on center stage. It looks like Sora's star is fading, and even Layla can't offer her advice. Will Sora be able to realize her dreams?
I enjoyed the first season, but wondered where season 2 (New Wings) could go. Which made it puzzling the show would drop the strengths it built up, and basically start all over. Crazy? Yes. And pretty gutsy I have to admit. Things didn't start out well either. I had a sinking feeling this series had screwed up, but Kaleido Star is the kind of show full of surprises, and was impressed by the end.
In the beginning its rough. Layla isn't a part of Kaleido Stage, which leaves a large void. Sora having reached the pinnacle of trapeze performances puzzlingly becomes just a sidekick to her new partner on Kaleido Stage: Leon. His ability is outstanding, he's not shy to admit that, and he's a total ass. He rubbed me the wrong way, but over time I realized... his ego is somewhat justified. He IS better than everyone else, and he's the main draw of the show. But more troublesome than Leon is the new girl Mei Wong, who inserts herself in completely obnoxious ways. The chemistry of competition just didn't feel right between upbeat Sora and overzealous Mei. It's like there was a hole left by the absence of Layla.
Which is why I was taken completely by surprise when it addresses this. Wait, did they intentionally want me to feel that way? Yes. I also felt like Sora was trying to fulfill Layla's dream and not quite true to herself... then the show points that out as well. It's pretty amazing an anime can invoke those subtle points without shoving it in your face. It took a while, but I warmed up to New Wings.
About 10 episodes in Sora questions her motives. From then on she becomes determined to claim the stage her own way: without battles. It becomes more true to Sora's character but doesn't downplay the challenge of showbiz without the infighting. The characters grow, and both Layla and Yuri are utilized in ways I wouldn't have expected. The first season was more event driven: building up to the next stage show. New Wings takes a different approach in building up characters and being more focused on the core story. Particularly with the Angel's Maneuver.
Now if you're like me, you're probably wondering how exactly you top something called "The Legendary Maneuver" from the first season. I mean, it's legendary right? In fact Sora performs the Angel's Maneuver 12 episodes in, during an off the cuff performance. So now what? Well, there's the TRUE Angel's Maneuver. Is that like an Angel's Maneuver with more cowbell? I found the direction taken with this truly brilliant, and yes the Angel's Maneuver does in some ways surpass the Legendary. While the cynic in me would probably say it's a bit cheesy, New Wings totally won me over building up to a climax I thought played out beautifully. But not before an epic showdown!
Production values in New Wings are on par with the first season. I was a little disappointed with the foreshadowing provided by the Fool. Instead of offering insight, his spurious dialogs referencing constellations don't mean anything. I'll offer one teaser for those who do like foreshadowing: It's said only a demon can raise an angel. Who the demon turns out to be is quite interesting!
If you didn't enjoy the first season, you won't like the second either. It shifts from performance oriented, to character oriented, but I really liked that. If it doesn't click at first, stick with it. Characters may grind you the wrong way, but they're supposed to do that (even if I wish they'd done a better job). Kaleido Star isn't exceptional, but I think the vibrant atmosphere, tension, (perhaps even philosophy) and characters make for a great show. What especially liked about Kaleido Star, is having it's heart in the right place and it sticking to ideals. Where many such shows half ass that and become cheap, Kaleido Star shines through in its sincerity. Highly recommended.
Layla: When you're having a hard time, you're the only person who can save yourself. What you're aiming at, what you want to grasp: the only person who knows these things is you. All the answers are inside you.
Mei: I'll become so demoniacally humble, I'll surpass you for sure; then scorn you!
Screen Caps: >