The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Kaleido Star

Title: Kaleido Star
Genre: Drama
Company: Gonzo
Format: 51 episodes
Dates: 3 Apr 2003 – 27 Mar 2004

Synopsis: Since she was young, Sora Naegino has wanted to be a star on the world famous Kaleido Stage. Gifted with great talent, Sora has trained rigorously in order to follow in the footsteps of her idol, Layla Hamilton by attending an audition for Kaleido Stage. However, Sora arrives late is denied a position. Unwilling to admit defeat, Sora receives a rare opportunity to perform on stage from the stoic circus manager Kalos, much to the dismay of the rest of the members. However, a mysterious encounter soon reveals that Sora may just be destined for the stage, after all.

The Highlights
The Kaleido Stage: One of the most glorious settings in anime.
Hard work and guts: Extra emphasis on the former.
Rivalries: Fairly rudimentary at first, but eventually grow to be genuinely fascinating and carry the show.

From jaw-dropping trampoline acts to gravity-defying leaps from trapeze to trapeze, a circus can be a wonderful place for entertainment. The comfort of a circus ring can provide a space of pure awe for both the young and old, as the performers effortlessly glide across. But with such grace given to the performances, it is hard to imagine the countless hours of work given towards perfecting their act as smiles grace the cheeks of spectators. Kaleido Star’s routine follows a similar vein, as underneath the collection of joyous dreamers hoping to grace the stage lays a complete portrait of the peerless concentration and hard work necessary to achieve their goals.

Although Kaleido Star sets itself up as a story of dreams, it refuses to let the characters coast towards their goals through sheer talent or attitude. The protagonist Sora works her ass off in order to climb her way to top the circus and to earn the respect of her peers. While the circus acts are absolutely glorious in their fairy tale-like, dreamy splendor, there is nothing artificial about how hard the characters toil in order to make the Kaleido Stage come to life. There are no lucky flukes or last minute reprieves for anyone; every performance is entirely made or broken by the level of the preparation of the performers. The cast’s struggles are all portrayed in full, making both their greatest victories and losses feel all the more real.

There can’t be a good sports anime without an interesting rivalry brewing and more than several healthy ones develop throughout the lengthy time span. While the characters that Sora challenges could have easily been portrayed as petty and unreasonable, each are merely professionals who must have their respect earned. In particular, the relationship between the lead star, Layla Hamilton, and Sora becomes the main driving force of the show, as the two push each other to achieve new heights. There is a sheer, intense thrill once Layla acknowledges Sora as the two resolve to put forth a stunning show together. The dynamic between the two never detracts from the characters and instead amplifies their qualities in such a way that it can only be described as chemistry.

Unfortunately, not everything is sugar and rainbows on the Kaleido Stage. While the two leads retain an interesting rivalry enough to carry the show, some of the supporting cast outside falters due to a noticeable lack of depth. The second half seeks to give dimensions to an otherwise bland former antagonist and other returning acrobats, but at the cost of several others who fall to the wayside as other characters undergo far more serious predicaments. On the same note, although a couple of Sora’s adversaries outside of Layla reach satisfactory heights in the second half, they lack the magnetic appeal exuded by the original couplet. Combined with the sheer length of Kaleido Star, some segments of the show can feel repetitive as the show rolls on.

The cast of Kaleido Star are here to give us a show. The performers put forth a brilliant effort all in order to entertain, and we simply bear the fruit of their endeavors. No matter how much sweat was put into the performance behind the scenes, the emotional payout from seeing these stars succeed is an absolute joy to watch, so much that it becomes more than difficult to resist the primal urge of a smile.

The Rating: 8

Reviewed by: Click

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