Anime Review 9: Kaleido Star, Baccano, and Rosario + Vampire
I really loved this cute show. The main character is Sora, a young girl who's always dreamed of joining the Kaleido Stage show, a Cirque du Soleil-like acrobat troupe. It takes place in America, probably in California. As Sora is the only Japanese girl in the show, she feels a little isolated at first. Also, she showed up late to the audition and only got in because the boss of the show gave her an extra chance. All the performing girls live together in the same dormitory. Sora's room, however, is visited by an unexpected guest, the spirit of the stage! He tells Sora that he intends to wait until she's a good enough performer and then he'll teach her the ultimate move. (No sub-textual interpretation there!) The Spirit helps her by predicting the future with these cards and giving her advice. It's thrilling to see Sora tackle new challenges in each episode, because unlike in Aria, the thing she's trying to become good at looks EXTREMELY difficult. I mean, I can't even do a handstand or cartwheel, and she's trying not only to do highly difficult acrobatic stunts, but also trying to perform them for a crowd which means she must execute them flawlessly and gracefully every time. This show is a fascinating look at how tough it is to be new at something. The more experienced girls treat the newbies like garbage and don't think they even belong at Kaleido Stage, but everyone is new at some point. Sora not only has to overcome extremely challenging situations physically, socially she has to take the harshest criticism imaginable for every mistake she makes. The animation of the show is beautiful and when you get to see a real Kaleido performance, the visual effects are stunning. Watching this show makes you feel like you're in the audience watching the performances, cheering when Sora and her two best friends get it right, and cringing at their mistakes with them, hoping they'll do it better next time.
This story is a little hard to follow because of the way it's told. Actually, there are 3 stories, one from 1930, one from 1931, and one from 1932. Though vaguely related, they are very different. They all center around an alchemist's formula for the elixir of life, set in the U.S., prohibition-era, with all possible clichés that implies, including not one but TWO Bonnie and Clyde wannabe couples, one good at crime and the other seriously deluded. And of course you have to have a train robbery. But so many different groups tried to hold up the same train at the same time that it got totally confusing! (The guy with the knife when two other guys had guns backed away almost immediately and apologized.) Jacuzzi Splott was one of the most interesting characters in my mind, also the most sympathetic. He seemed like too good of a kid to get mixed up in the world of organized crime, and he has a mysterious face tattoo. Baccano has fast-paced action with a lot of mystery. I really want to see more as the stories get more and more pieced together. However, if you think you might be bothered by the unconventional, non sequential storytelling method, then maybe skip this one. But I thought the way that it was told added to the suspense and intrigue.
Rosario + Vampire
Rosario + Vampire
It's about a boy named Tsukune, who, along with his school friends, despairs at the fact that he goes to an all boys school. However, by either a weird coincidence or deliberate plan by someone, he gets sent off to a new co-ed school... for demonic monsters or youkai. Although he's technically not supposed to be there, that doesn't stop him from earning attention from an incredibly cute vampire girl with pink hair, a blue-haired succubus who wants to make all the males at the school her sex slaves, and a little black-haired witch who's passed a few grades due to her genius. While the three fight over him, the plot of each episode seems to involve some male demon or other attacking Tsukune, and because they are demons and he is an ordinary human, Moka and other friends/wannabe love interests of his are needed to protect him. The manga seems better because it's darker and more serious, this show seems like a cute harem anime that probably never really addresses the show's main problem: that Tsukune is not supposed to even be in the dimension he's living in, which frustrated me a bit. Also, I've heard the manga is a bit less chock full of fanservice, so maybe this is one to get on the manga of instead, the manga might be a little better.
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