Less than a half decade ago, the DVD market was so awash with distributors of anime the market became seriously over-flooded. With the advent of streaming and market conditions in general, this couldn’t go on forever, and it didn’t. These days the only true survivors are FUNimation and Viz, with a few much smaller organizations left standing.
One of the bigger distributors that went down was FUNimation’s fellow Texas-based partner, ADV. What’s interesting is now that the dust is a bit more settled; the survivor is now starting to reissue a mixed bag of the latter’s releases. “Girls Bravo” and “Kaleido Star” are two of those titles.
“Kaleido Star” is from the same creative team that gave the world “Sailor Moon” and “Princess Tutu,” and it follows pretty much a similar formula. In this case, the Kaleido stage is the ultimate variation of a super-circus ala Cirque Soleil. Enter Sora, your classic anime girl hero with ambitions of being part of the circus’ high flying act. With incredible pluck, some Jackie Chan-like athletic stunts and a lot of magic, Sora will defy all odds set against her.
More grounded than past works, it’s surprising that “Kaleido Star” actually lasted two how seasons of over 20 episodes each. If anything, the formula feels a tad trite when compared to their past work. Yes, being the animation is from Studio Gonzo, it can get pretty amazing. Otherwise, you’d do better with a lot of other “shoji” efforts.
Much better, and considerably ruder, is “Girls Bravo.” In this case you have your classic boy hero who’s so shy he breaks out into rashes whenever he gets within three feet of a pretty girl. It should come as no surprise that the opposite sex treat him like a doormat, either.
Yet when he slips in the bathroom and falls into his bathtub, he ends up transported to a parallel planet where women outnumber men ten to one. Further, these alien women find our hero absolutely adorable. As it happens, what should be an otaku fantasy come true has some pretty amazing consequences and tribulations, as your hero will quickly find out.
As it happens, the animation on “Girls Bravo” is far superior to “Kaleido Star.” It’s much more detailed and also sports a much richer color palette. As any anime veteran will tell you, this effort comes with more than its share of what’s commonly called “fan service;” i.e. strategically naked women in amazingly provocative poses. Overall though, this works much like seeing the first “Porgy’s” movie, rude as hell and all the funnier for it. Plus, as this 24-episode series develops it almost accidently lets us know there is an actual plot underneath all this madness.
So if you have to go one way or another, the truly entertaining pick is “Bravo.” While it might upset more prurient interests, it compensates with strong humor and better animation. Therefore, let’s give FUNimation their props for bringing this one back into circulation.