As a talented young acrobat, Sora has dreamed of sharing a stage with the performers of Kaleido Stage, a world renowned circus that combines graceful acrobatics, dazzling costumes, and stunts that keep audiences on the edge of their seats. She makes the move from Japan to California to audition for the show, in hopes of one day basking in the glitz and glamour.
However, finding her place in such a competitive world will not be easy. Sora will shed blood, sweat, and tears on her path to becoming a performer, buoyed by the friends she makes along the way. Of course, there will also be rivals and other individuals who do not believe Sora has what it takes to shine as brightly as Kaleido Stage needs her to.
Sora will need to endure these trials and tribulations in her quest to become a star, earning the respect of both those who doubt her abilities and by those who are threatened by her. Watch as Sora flies through the bright lights in Kaleido Star!
Kaleido Star premiered Thursday April 3, 2003 at 5:25 PM on TV Tokyo. Starting with episode 27, the show moved to a morning timeslot of Saturdays at 9:30 AM, and added the subtitle "New Wings" to the title.
"Special Thanks Dio" in the end credits refers to Dio Kobayashi, a Japanese circus performer who traveled all over the world. He was invited to the project by its director Satou Junichi and became a special adviser for the show. The character Dio is based on him.
Kaleido Star was a big surprise for me as I expected it to be a typical shoujo with probably many cheesy moments...
I was proven wrong..
Overall, it was beautiful, bright colours and flowing movements that even appeared graceful, a very colorful setting that didn\'t appear too flashy....it totally captured the brilliance of a circus and the lovely performances that I just had to rewatch again. However it had its flaws, I noticed that several episodes had seemingly worse animation compared to the rest in which the characters looked distorted, thankfully this was hardly significant during the performances which kept their high standard throughout the whole
The opening and ending themes were ok and catchy enough but what i really loved was the background music, some tracks were sometimes quite repetitive but it totally created the magical feel for this anime and enhanced it a lot more (even though you may not realise it). So do turn up the volume whenever you watch any of their performances as \'swan lake\', \'little mermaid\' etc. would not be so astoundingly beautiful without the music
Kaleido Star can be divided into 2 parts, 1st being Sora\'s introduction to the circus and striving to be in par with Layla Hamilton. Whereas the second part introduces 2 new character, Leon and May in which might be a turn-off for most viewers due to Sora suffering the most, but of course this is only to build the wonderful finale.
The overall concept may not seem special as it is only about a girl striving to achieve her dream and encountering many hardships. But the idea about a circus and acrobats is very unique, I don\'t think there are many animes out there that have attempted this genre and managed to keep it so interesting and magical. Whats good is the emphasis on friendship, Sora gets through a lot mostly due to the help of the people around her, it is not a one-girl show, all the rest are equally important characters and do shine as well.
Even though this is a shoujo anime, romance is only hinted but barely there, truly not the highlight of the show
As mentioned above, all the characters are great, in fact it is impossible to hate either of them since even the bad ones turn good at the end. Although this seems rather idealistic, it leaves you with a warm fuzzy feeling at the end
Overall this was a great ride, Satou Junichi\'s other creation, Princess tutu had left me in a bit of a trance when it ended, apparantly this had the same effect. It is hard to describe the truly magical effect this has, you have to watch it to know, and you won\'t regret it
You have a dream don't you? Of course you do. Everyone has one. A dream to do something that no one else has ever done, or maybe someone else has done it and you want nothing more than to follow in their footsteps. It could have started when you were a child, maybe even recently, but no matter what, your heart doesn't let it rest. It's something you want more than anything, even more than you think you want it.
Kaleido Star is the story of our dreams. How they all start from tiny things. Memories from days gone by that we think are insignificant,
but at the same time, have really touched us and inspired us to become who we are today. Our dreams are not easy though. There will always be detours and obstacles in our way, and no dream can be reached without putting our own inner selves to the ultimate test, but if we can overcome these obstacles, befriend our enemies, and see the good in everyone's dreams that they aspire for as well, then your dream can come true.
Despite the formulaic way Kaleido Star goes about fulfilling the dreams of the characters, it works splendidly because of how sincere each and every character is about wanting their special dream to come true, and how the series treats the sincerity of each character with a great deal of respect to the point that the formulaic contrivances such as the cliched "special training" and running away only to come back having "found yourself" feel like genuine happenings.
Likewise, this series as it is couldn't be anything without its characters. The main focal point of the series is seeing the growth and struggle of all the members of Kaleido Stage from the primadonna to the lowly stagehands, and oh how they grow, and oh how they struggle. I credit this series immensely with how it puts each and every character through their own personal wringer, good guys and "bad guys" alike. It never lets them take the easy way out. Each and every accomplishment any character achieves is 100% earned. There are no gimmes.
And oh the accomplishments! I can't go into detail because of spoilers but this is where the technical aspects really shine! For as much as people seem to tease GONZO for being GONZO, this is arguably their opus. A setting such as Kaleido Stage requires dazzling animation to fully bring out the Cirque du Soleil atmosphere of the stage, and the animation astounds every time, especially the climaxes of both halves of the series. They are so gorgeous, that don't be surprised if you forget to breathe for a moment.
The soundtrack is also quite lovely with lots of wonderful performances, especially Ryou Hirohashi as Sora, who brings the same radiance and energy that Sora herself embodies.
With outstandingly gorgeous animation, heartwarming performances, characters that make you believe that everyone in this world, no matter how heartless or cruel they may be, are all good people inside, and a story that invokes you to believe your dreams, no matter how great or small, can all come true. Kaleido Star is one of the best anime I have ever seen. Heartwarming, heartbreaking, and inspiring to all. This is the stuff true dreams are made of.
Overall, I happily give Kaleido Star a 10 out of 10.
A certain expectation arises for an anime series such as this, which takes the effort to build a unique premise and story. Without the telltale signs of pervasive cliché, like a harem or giant piloted robot, I had good hopes for Kaleido Star. The show wasn’t even approaching flawless or astonishing on any technical level, or even in the way its story was written and reared, but what I found is that it had an intoxicating charm and that it was far more vibrant and ‘energetic’ than most anime. When I say energetic, I don’t mean just a cast of genki characters relentlessly talking quickly,
and running around, I mean it had a certain sparkle in its eye, or a skip in its step that elevated it above its content, and even its technical quality of production. Something intangible was born from the sum of its parts, its voice acting, colourful animation, charismatic score music, and its amalgamation of so many fascinating characters and relationships. Even when I was shaking my head in the second season at how incoherent and silly the story had become, I was simultaneously glued to the screen, and enthralled by the climactic stage performances. Even though I’ve never considered myself a fan of anything to do with the stage or of shows that rely mostly on drama to hook their audience, I thoroughly enjoyed this series, both in the sense that it was fun, laidback entertainment, and in that it was occasionally emotionally stirring.
The most prominent feature of Kaleido Star is undoubtedly its characterisation, and as such, each character is given a strong dream or ambition that they strive towards over the course of the show, as well as a heavily fleshed-out personality. Almost every character is likeable and easy to become attached to. If you find that you’re a sucker for getting behind your favourite characters and empathising with their hardships, then Kaleido Star is a good bet. By the end of the show, the real emotional impact lies not in the conclusion to the plot, but in the final send-off for a great cast of characters you’ve come to know and love. Relationships are dealt with, but almost always in the form of friendships, rivalries and companionships. Rarely does Kaleido Star tread in the thorny realm of romance, and when it does it’s usually just for a cheap gag. Don’t be deterred though, the friendships that are grown over the course of the series have more weight to them than most romantic relationships in anime. I’m not sure if the characters interactions are massively realistic, but they are believable and earnest enough to work. Really though, the rest of the series is in orbit around Sora Naegino, the heart and star of the series. Fortunately, she is really a great protagonist, particularly in the first season. She is portrayed very much as being a real person, with holes poked into her resolve to achieve her dreams, and struggles that she must overcome, not with superhero talent, but with hard work and perseverance. I must admit to being in admiration of her from time to time. Most importantly, through all the harsh training she endures, you end up really wanting to see her succeed, which really makes the stage performance scenes what they are.
The animation used in the stage show scenes themselves is certainly quite good. Although the level of detail in the cel animation is overall surprisingly low, the stage scenes are carried by a high degree of fluidity in the animation and strong use of artistic direction, such as the use of colour and dramatic camera angles. The music definitely helped to create the sense of tension and beauty required. I do think they could have been done better, and rendered in more lavish detail befitting the scope of the shows, but for a 51-episode tv series it’s production is definitely solid. Unfortunately, off-stage doesn’t allow for the same graceful movement to overcome the simple visual style. The background art lacks personality and detail. The character designs range from completely bland and uninteresting to memorable. Sora and Rosetta, fit into the latter category, while most of the other character designs leave little impression. The music had a very strong presence in the series, and it was definitely good quality, with rousing instrumentals and melancholic strings tugging at the heart when required. However, it was far too repetitive; far more music is required for a series of this length to stop the tracks from overstaying their welcome. The OPs and EDs were relatively good. I watched the first and second OPs every episode, but was appalled by the 3rd.
The plot, looked at in isolation, is very weak indeed, marred by inconsistency and incongruence, especially in the way the plot for season 1 is wholly confused by that of season 2. The way terms like “true Kaleido Star” were thrown about really annoyed me, in much the same way as the over-use of the Angel/Demon analogy in season 2. It all felt so contrived and silly, as though it was an attempt to give the stage some sort of misplaced mythology that ended up just being a distraction from the performances themselves. Furthermore, Leon Oswald’s backstory, and his frequent visions of Sophie grated my patience, because they were a symptom of the overall problem with the second half of the story, which is immature and simplistic plot development. Everything was given parallel and faux meaning with such forceful blatancy that it became a nagging irritation. However, unlike most series, the plot is not the backbone of the show, and with its strong characterisation and emotional themes, it can stand on its feet without the need for a concrete story to support it.
Kaleido Star is no great achievement as an anime series from a technical or cynical perspective. If you watch past the first season, the plot becomes haphazardly thrown together and nauseatingly unsophisticated. However, for its colour, vitality and charm, Kaleido Star proves to be a worthy entertainer/ Perhaps ones could look at the series for advice about why it is so enjoyable - like Sora’s stage play, it is unpretentious fun, and manages to keep itself at an arms length away from derivative clichés. And more than just light-hearted fluff, it has the potential to wet the eyes of all its viewers through Sora’s trials and mesmerising triumphs.
The graceful motions of the swings, the dazzling lights of the stage, the loud cheers of the crowd: these are some of the spectacular scenes of Kaleido Star, a phenomenal story about a young acrobat who reaches her dream through sheer dedication and practice. Facing countless challenges only to overcome them all, she rises higher and higher until the circus tents—no, the sky itself—could no longer limit her reach.
The premise of Kaleido Star will probably be one of the most down-to-earth synopsis you’ll ever read, but such normality is what gives the show its peculiar charm. Aliens, ninjas, and fifty-feet kaiju are lacking here; instead,
the story follows an ordinary teenage Japanese girl who moves to California to pursue her dream of becoming a world-famous acrobat. Kaleido Star is glamorous, lifelike (arguably), and spirited, but there’s one term that describes it better than the rest: inspirational.
Sure, the chronicles of a budding acrobat might not sound like anything special, but the show’s colorful characters would be enough to sway even those most ignorant of the circus scene. Sora Naegino appears as your standard bubbly teenager in the beginning, but right from the first episode, we already see her perform splits and somersaults for her dear life to make up for her late arrival to the troupe audition. Judging her desperate performance is Layla Hamilton: world-class gymnast, Kaleido Stage’s icon, and an ice queen of a woman. Unimpressed by the girl’s amateur party tricks, Layla kicks Sora out of the audition, thus possibly sending the poor girl back to Japan with her parents. It’s a powerful introductory episode that shows the futility of Sora’s passion, but most importantly, it demonstrates the steep difficulty of entering a professional troupe.
Of course, for the show to go on, Sora eventually finds her way to becoming a member of the Kaleido Stage, but the fact that Layla’s test is by far the easiest challenge in Sora’s 51-episode-journey foreshadows the many struggles that our rising star will soon face. This isn’t made any easier with the presence of Kalos, the leader of Kaleido Stage who—much to Layla’s objection—lets Sora join the troupe. Now, not only must Sora heed to Layla’s unreasonably high standards, but she must also please Kalos by stealing the spotlight in her debut.
Another one of Sora’s challenge comes in the form of social integration. The first hurdle Sora faces in Kaleido Star isn’t learning the crazy stunts but trying to make friends with members of the troupe. Others worked hard to join Kaleido Stage while Sora gets a free pass from Kalos; how can she not be hated at first? This kind of issue harshly reflects real life and is something I once unfortunately faced during my career as a journalist. Getting special attention isn’t always nice, and Sora learns this the hard way by being ostracized by the rest of the troupe.
With trial after trial being pitted against Sora, it seems as if the writers indulge themselves by hammering the poor girl to tiny bits. This is a major complaint from most viewers especially for the weaker second season, but I honestly don’t find it to be much of a problem. Perhaps some will feel that Sora is being abused too frequently, but the main appeal of the show is seeing her battered and bruised, only to rise to the challenge like a phoenix. Kalos, Layla, the pressure from the crowd: these are all fundamental obstacles that give Sora the push she needs to become the star of everyone’s desire. At some point, you’ll certainly find yourself cheering for Sora along with the audience—I know I did!
As Sora gradually masters her assigned performances, the members of Kaleido Stage slowly warm up to her. The charming duo, Mia Guillem and Anna Heart, are the first of the troupe members to befriend the lonely Sora. The three make an irresistibility adorable group, and before long, Sora and her great charisma draw in more performers to her, such as the petite Rosetta Passel. Seeing the progression of her friendship is indeed heartwarming, but it also serves as proof to how charming Sora is as a protagonist.
I’ve hinted at this before, but many feel that the second season is considerably weaker than the first. Common reasons include Sora being pounded with ten times the number of challenges than before; two new “evil” characters entering the troupe; and the story progression grinding to a halt. In truth, none of these issues is anything major, and I’d daresay they’re even exaggerated. As I stated repeatedly before, Sora’s confrontations with her different challenges are the show's main appeal, so the more demands that appear to her, the more exciting the show gets. The two new characters in season two, Leon Oswald and May Wong, might not be the most pleasant of all folks, but they’re not actually horrible either. Most will perceive their sole existence in the show to making Sora’s life miserable, but the two also have their own fair share of problems to deal with. Every character in the show have their own flaws, perhaps some more than others, but that’s what makes the cast of Kaleido Star so believable.
And for the finale of Kaleido Star, let’s just say that it’s possibly one of the most beautiful endings I’ve ever witnessed in my time watching anime for over a decade. This type of spectacular presentation isn’t foreign to Kaleido Star, but the finale really takes everything up a notch and forms them into a jaw-dropping last act. Everything Sora worked hard for—every blood, sweat, and tears shed by her—culminate in this final performance. The journey from the first to the final episode feels like a time well-spent. I’m not embarrassed to admit that I was nearly in tears after seeing the astounding grand finale.
Glamorous, powerful, and inspiring, Kaleido Star is a culmination of everything one could ever hope for in an anime. Sora’s rise to fame is an unforgettable, emotional journey that will touch even those apathetic to the shoujo genre. Although Kaleido Star contains some minor flaws, giving it anything less than a perfect score is a disservice to its near-perfection.
In the early-mid 2000s, US licensing companies were involved in numerous anime Production Committees. It didn't go so well for them. This year, several US licensors are trying their luck on Production Committees again. Will it go better this time?