Have you ever measured yourself to someone else and felt inferior in comparison? Have you ever thought to yourself that, no matter what extremes you;d undergo, you’d never surpass your peers? Maybe it’s something small, like your neighbor Peter having more trophies on his PS4 account than you. Maybe it’s something big, something colossal, something life-altering, something that overpowers you mentally and emotionally. Whatever the case, an inferiority complex can be destructive to your well-being. You doubt yourself. You ridicule your own aspirations. Your engulf your mind with feelings of worthlessness. In the end, you longingly gaze at your peer’s monumental accomplishment before settling for a second-rate replication of what they’ve achieved.
That said, the Kaleido Star OVA has an inferiority complex.
The original series integrated explosive, illuminating, all-consuming fervency with sophisticated, soul-searing psychological drama. It explored an array of ideologies and thematic elements while maintaining an aura of carefree innocence. It interweaved a melange of literary references, some blatantly obvious and others deceptively subtle, into the individual arcs of its characters, enhancing the cast as a whole. It presented each episode as something essential to the overall story and it always ensured that each episode would be notable in its own fashion. It was marvelously entertaining, structurally outstanding, and near-perfect in every facet. It was so for virtually all of its 51 episode run. In short, Kaleido Star showcased some impossibly high standards for the OVA to achieve.
Whether or not the OVA reached the original series’ expectations depends entirely on how you feel about Rosetta (voiced by Serena Varghese). In the original series, Rosetta was an aspiring circus performer with prodigious talents that viewed Sora Naegino (Kaleido Star’s lead) as both a role model and a friend. Good-natured and charitable yet incredibly stubborn at times (almost as much as Sora), Rosetta came across as a likable character, if more than a bit generic. Sure, she possessed a few highlights (namely her staged showdown with Sora in her first appearance) and she performed fairly well as the centerpiece of a few episodes but at no point did you think that Rosetta could be the star of the show. After all, there have been plenty of occasions where someone else outshined her as a character,
You can’t condemn me for being surprised at Rosetta headlining an OVA all by her lonesome.
“Does Rosetta do well in this OVA?” you might ask. Well, I have to say that while ther are new layers to her personality that are introduced, it’s ultimately not enough to justify Rosetta being the OVA’s protagonist. The other characters fare no better. While the original series provided nuance, purpose, and development to its cast, the characters here are given barely visible slivers of screen time, tossed aside like a ragdoll in humiliating fashion. Leon Oswald, a tortured man of mystery, the infamous “God of Death”, Kaleido Star’s ultimate Byronic Hero, is briefly seen twisting his body in an unnatural position and uttering indecipherable noises while iconic characters like Layla Hamilton, Kalos, and Yuri Killian are resigned to a few meager lines. Outside of Rosetta, the only cast members that (sort of) matter are May (her sole contribution is criticizing Rosetta), the Fool (I’ll get to him later), and Sora. Excluding Rosetta, she contributes more than anyone else but ultimately Sora’s impact is hardly worth remembering.
In the technical areas, the Kaleido Star OVA is a reasonable resemblance of the original. Its color palette is as dynamic as ever and the backgrounds are unsurprisingly stellar. Musically speaking, it’s a joy to listen to (The opening “Blanc et Noir” is particularly soothing). However, it’s not enough to compensate for the OVA’s shoulder shrug of a storyline. The plot is centered on Rosetta’s emergence as Kaleido Stage’s leading lady as well as the Fool’s backstory. While the OVA presents a few glimpses into the fan favorite’s past, it’s ultimately not enough to be compact. From what I’ve gathered, the Fool was a court jester in the Middle Ages that was driven to erase the sadness of his lover (a Rosetta look-a-like princess). For some reason, the Fool was forcibly separated from the princess and wasn’t able to fulfill his mission. What could’ve been a fantastic plot element is marred by a lack of developing anything beyond that point as well as an inability to create a resolution.
“Cop-out” is the perfect word to describe the Kaleido Star OVA. It doesn’t care about characterization. It doesn’t care about a storyline. It doesn’t care about endings (The spiderweb scene (a classic deus ex machina moment) and the jarring conclusion is proof of this). It doesn’t care, period. To claim that this OVA falls short of the original series’ brilliance would be a glorious understatement. “The Amazing Princess Without a Smile” is deprived of so many positive qualities that a smile is the last thing it needs to worry about.