Yep, you have Lolikit to blame for this post. Like, totally. It was an interesting exercise in watching something outside of my own comfort zone, at least – after all, â€˜Canadian ghost figure skating animuâ€™ is a bit outside my usual viewing, as is any sort of TV entertainment centred around sports. Of course, the concept behind Ginban Kaleidoscope isn’t just about ice skating: it’s about the ghost of a Canadian stunt pilot who possesses the body of an ice skater. Yeah.
I’m not sure why but Tazusa looks so cute in this pose
To be fair the premise is possibly the most left-field and odd that I’ve had the fortune to come across so far, which makes it both interesting and potentially offputting. Would I have watched it as it aired, knowing how the story starts? I’ll admit that I probably wouldn’t have. Which is a bit of a shame because once I got past the initial “You what?!” reaction at the initial setup, it was quite a lot of fun. Admittedly there are one or two things that drag it down from the heights of greatness, but in terms of light-hearted disposable entertainment I was genuinely pleasantly surprised. Not bad for a semi-serious exchange of smart-ass comments on IRC, I think you’ll agree.
The series never sets its sights high, nor does it try to transcend any of the boundaries or some such nonsense, which is probably why I enjoyed it in the first place. We have a struggling figure skating prodigy aiming for the Olympics, competing with rivals and her own insecurities, with the added complication of a ghost who simultaneously provides a comedic foil/muse/love interest. it stays within the old themes of raw talent against adversity, a tsun-tsun lead (bonus point!) faced with potential romance and the old mantra of hard work and guts, which I admit gets me every time too.
After eating the metaphorical Pineapple SaladÂ© Pete has to contend with epic tomato salad instead
I actually loved the dynamic between the heroine, Tazusa Sakurano, and her supernatural â€˜companionâ€™ Pete Pumps (a weird Canadian name I know, but I’ve heard worse): it starts off with the usual confusion and irritation but ends with something more moving and profound. The initial problems of being possessed by a member of the opposite sex are exploited right from the off (imagine changing clothes whilst blindfolded and experiencing the ultimate in shy bladder syndrome in the ladies’ room) but the story is quick to take advantage of the fact that one main character is literally able to see, hear and feel everything that the other lead is able to. It is initially funny but later on takes on more importance when Pete is, against his will and better judgement, Tazusa’s partner and soulmate in the run-up to the big competition.
There are countless variants on the shoujo-friendly romance subplot but making one of the main characters a spirit who is forced to inhabit the body of his potential love interest is one of the most unusual, and in the event, pretty entertaining. When Tazusa finds out that Pete hates tomatoes, she scoffs bags of them when he gets on her nerves; often the instances where Tazusa is arguing with her supernatural companion are misconstrued by her family and friends with hilarious results (watch where her long-suffering coach think’s she’s calling him a “ghostly Canadian parasite”!).
Sadly the execution of the story lets down the inventiveness of the premise. Apart from the ice-dancing scenes (which are pretty well-done and convincing to my ignorant and untrained eyes), the animation quality suffers badly from budgetry constraints and ends up looking pretty cheap. I guess this adds to the slapstick silliness as it did in, say Excel Saga and Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi but cheap animation is cheap animation however you slice it.
I won’t spoil the ending for you but suffice to say it’s something of a surprise that also leaves the right questions unanswered; I found the pacing to be well-planned throughout so I found myself looking forward to catching the next episode to see what happened next. We don’t really see how Tazusa got her self confidence from since her background is a bit sketchy – I suspect she calls herself the â€˜million dollar beautyâ€™ to hide insecurity resulting from her parents’ divorce – but the whole series is an exercise in seeing the results of her training form a justification for her ambition and big ideas: Tazusa claims that she’ll be world-class skater but she has to deliver on the promise. Making bold claims about how she is to beat her rivals doesn’t cut it when you fall on your rear end on the big day.
I guess Pete’s presence provides a confidante for the aloof Tazusa when, I suspect, even she forgets why she’s trying so hard to do well. I found it especially poignant to see her gradually come to enjoy the skating itself; by the final performance she takes to the ice for the sake of her new friend and herself, not for a medal or a point scored over one of the other contestants. The scene where she eats a tomato salad but leaves the tomatoes for poor old Pete’s sake was one moving moment that marks how much she grew up as a character.
Ginban Kaleidoscope draws a lot from stories that I’m not familiar with: there’s the spirit of sportsmanship found in the likes of Ping Pong, Kaleido Star, Ace wo Nirae! and even the non-sci fi aspects of Gunbuster (one title I am very familiar with indeed). The comedy is entertaining enough but the overall character development is what made the difference for me in the long run. It’s a romance with a difference I guess but is also a portrayal of realising your priorities and getting over childish selfishness and nagging doubts to succeed. And epic tomato consumption.