Kaleido Star

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KiraRin's avatar
Sep 27, 2009

Story

As the saying goes “true friends are those who will help you hide the bodies” or in this case “will watch  soggy shoujo anime with you”. With this in mind, both Chii and I embark on another marathon, sharing in the pain of what we thought would be mediocre fluff. Instead, I found bubbling excitement as each instalment of the circus melodrama contained within Kaleido Star loomed closer. Unfortunately, entertainment is subjective and my feelings were not echoed by my partner in crime...

The show starts out with a highly predictable “clumsy young girl overcomes the odds to become a star, with a little romance in the mix” plot-line. With a groan from Chii, I steeled myself for 52 episodes of drudgery. How many times are we going to have to see the token bishounen swing into action to save the day? Will there be a moral tale at the end of each show? Will we care? Answering its critics, Kaleido Star soon demonstrates why you should give all anime a fair chance – the ugly caterpillar shakes off its cocoon and took flight as a fascinating butterfly. A hesitant start gives way to an unusual twist and a lovable hero becomes a detestable adversary – a fragmented circus cast are thrust into increasingly reckless routines with wavering loyalties.

In building up convincing relationship and highlighting the invetable conflicts that flow from these interactions, the show treats each supporting to character to some back story. The exploration of the past and resulting drama does become a little tiresome, especially when compared to the high-flying trapeze action. However, the constant presence of either a new epic challenge or an antagonist-you-love-to-hate gives the show a must-see feeling that becomes strangely addictive. A shock twist in the second half sees Sora’s resolve waver due to the introduction of new competitors, Leon and May – adding conflict to the ever-present excitement.

Whilst cutesy and comical at times, the writers masterfully build up the tension with “will-she-won’t-she” scenarios. Using the comical Spirit of the Stage and his pack of tarot cards to predict the future, the viewer comes to frequently expect the worst and see the heroine fail – even if we all know this never happens in a family friendly title. The tingling apprehension is unmistakable as Sora performs her cunning stunts, and keeps me coming back episode after episode with a smile on my face.

Chii’s corner Kira!!!!!!! this is vomit inducing zomg uber gay


Animation

Kaleido Star does not reflect its supposed focus on the fluidity and grace of acrobatics in its animation. Bland character designs are routinely recycled and their jerky movements look more like broken clockwork robots when compared to the elegance of real-life gymnasts. Slow motion shots are used ffrequently, giving time for the performer’s inner monologue. That said the backgrounds exploit a rich and luxurious colour palette; from the deep azure blue skies to the sparkling golden tent of the Kaleido stage, the variation and design of costumes are also impressive. The typical Gonzo dabble with CG isn’t as garish as some more recent productions, such as Blassreiter; however, when used sparingly it surprisingly fits with the tone of a delicate shoujo title.

Chii’s corner - Uhhhg the animation is so ugly lol


Sound

Bouncing into action with an upbeat track, the background melody meanders along, before finally crashing into the safety net with a god-awful J-rap monstrosity that feels out of place. Redeeming itself a little with the second opening, the tempo is raised and sounds similar to a camp Eurovision entry. Slow violins accompany the moving and emotional scenes, whilst the excitement of the circus is echoed in an electrifying big top melody. I know there is a huge fan-base for the Kaleido Star soundtrack, but my natural aversion to J-pop stops me from appreciating this.

The beauty of a dual audio series is getting to sample the quality of both Japanese and English voice acting. For me, Kaleido Star is definitely a show that should be watched in its native tongue. The subtitles reveal how different the scripts became during translation, and how many jokes have been toned down to suit a family orientated audience. For the most part, the Japanese seiyuu are ample but ordinary. However, the characters that are mildly annoying become grating when voiced by whiny Americans. With the very British Sarah sounding more like an extra from Austin Powers and Sora being vocalised by a whiny brat, the laughable performance verges on the comically bad.

Chii’s corner - I have it in English! It's SO BAD! hahaha


Characters

With the feeling of a cast you’ve met before, there is a generous helping of stereotyping and typical anime traits. The star of the circus, Miss Layla, is a stuck-up bitch that plays the perfect rival to the up and coming heroine Sora. As detestable as her personality is, I couldn’t help but like her cold and competitive side that pushes the rest of the troupe into giving their best. She is given a reason for her distant attitude, and her unsurpassable skills are shown to be earned through hard work instead of just being “there”. The mid-point of the series sees this pliable blonde undergo a lot of development and soon elevated to the position of a courageous and lovable staple in Kaleido Star – dare I even say one of my favourite female characters ever?

As the main female protagonist, Sora also undergoes considerable growth in the first few episodes. Starting out as an ambitious, but clumsy acrobat, she soon transforms into a bubbly aerialist. Even though I initially found myself cheering the dozy bint as she ate mat for the tenth time, I found her determination contagious and was soon on the edge of my seat for her next death-defying stunt and wanting her to land it perfectly.

One of my favourite parts of the show was the varied supporting cast. From the comically perverted spirit of the stage, Fool, to the unreadable stage leader Kalos, each acts as a support for Sora’s growth by proposing additional challenges. The second half of the season features Leon “the Grim Reaper” who stirs up the troupe with his selfish personality and May who becomes Sora’s personal challenge and biggest adversary. Again, the initial sense of cliché had me thinking “here we go again”, but the writers develop the characters and add some unexpected twists that had me reaching for the remote's next button in desperation for the next episode.

Chii’s corner - What is the point of the bitch? I'm so tired of such a cliché character I want her to fall on her head


Overall

Feeling like a cross between Princess Tutu and Battle Athletes Victory, Kaleido Star takes a while to come into its own – but the wait is worth it. With an entertaining journey, the show is ultimately nothing but camp fun designed for those looking to sit back and enjoy without having to figure out any plot complexities. I honestly expected to dislike the sentimentality, especially with Chii’s running critique of crudeness, however Kaleido definitely disarmed and then grew on me. As the conflicting comments can contest, this is a love or hate show that will not appeal to everyone, but I definitely enjoyed a heart-warming tale.

Final words of wisdom from Chii - (KiraRin) Chii, bad news, I'm giving it an 8 (Chii) You have brain cancer (Chii) You make kids in Africa cry

8/10 story
6/10 animation
6/10 sound
8.5/10 characters
8/10 overall
Galadriel's avatar
Nov 10, 2009

Kaleido Star

Plot: "Naegino Sora is a sixteen year old girl who has travelled to the US to join the Kaleido Stage, one of the greatest circuses in existence. However, as luck would have it, she arrives to the audition late, which almost costs her the chance of a lifetime. Fortunately, she manages to join the Kaleido Stage anyways due to the compassion of Kalos, the owner of the troupe. With the help of her friends and Fool, the perverted spirit of the stage who has the ability to predict the future, Sora will overcome trials and tribulations and she struggles to become the Kaleido Star." (site synopsis)

Story: Before starting with the usual review i need to say that i managed to watch this anime like 8-9 months ago and at that time i wasnt that much into anime. This was and it still is one of my favourite animes, a very nice and enjoyable one that i realy liked and i find it pretty hard to hate. This anime has one of the most interesting stories i ever seen which was realy captivating and kept me near the screen for quite a while (2 days more exactly i spent marathoning this anime). When i started with the first episode i never thought that this anime series will be that good but it proved to be realy beyond my expectation, it impressed me from top to bottom. The story of this anime is centered on a sixteen year old girl named Sora Naegino who came all the way from Japan to US with a purpose which i rather find it pretty ambitious, to join and become a star at Kaleido Stage, one of the greates circuses in existance. However, she wasnt so lucky because she didnt manage to arrive in time at the audition and this mistake almost cost her chance of a lifetine. Fortunately, Kalos the owner of the stage told her that she can join the Kaleido Stage. However at the begining she wasnt recognized as a true member of Kaleido Stage by her companions but she managed to make some friends in the end. Also she gets to meet a misterious character named Fool who claims to be the spirit of the stage who can only be seen by those who will become stars on Kaleido Stage (i realy loved his perverted sense of humor). Sora's journey proved to be very hard, not only that she did not have any experience on the stage and any skills but she wanted Layla Hamilton, the star of the Kaleido Stage and her childhood idol, to acknowledge her as a part of the Kaleido Stage a thing that will hardly be accomplished since Layla was in need of a partner the choices that she had to make were pretty much important. As the story develops Sora and her friends pass through different trials with the purpose of becoming a true Kaleido Star. Sora lacked skills and experience but her ambition and her personality proved that she can overcome any obstacles that come in the way. At first she only received small roles for the sake of gaining some experience alongside with some rigurous training courses. Later on when she started to get ahold of certain skills she is selected as a main lead in certain acts. All the hard training that she endured were for the purpose of making her a suitable partner for Layla but Layla kept thinking that a partner can't be found that easliy and it takes a lot of time and effort for Sora to make her realize that she is up to her expectations and that she will fulfill all the acts that she encounters. What actualy made Layla to accept her wasn't only her skills that were still unpolished but her personality and her ambition to succed in everything she does, however at times she can become pretty much an extremist, its good to know when to give up as well. The people who know me are aware that i dun really like sports anime, but this one and a few other are some exceptions simply because it does not revolve only around sport but it has some other subplots as well. Also i like characters that know what they want and are willing to sacrifice whatever to fulfill their dreams, this is what kinda describes Kaleido Star in short terms.

Animation and Sound: Related to the animation style this anime is somewhere above average but not quite that high. The character designs are very decent but there was room for more improvements. Since the production years were 2003-2004 we cannot speak of an animation quality and style like the one from nowadays but still it is decent.  To be honest im realy trying to remember how was the sound in this anime.I remember one opening of this anime which i realy liked and is one of my favourite OST's and also some background sounds who were decent and fit the anime environment and the character moods.

Characters: Speaking about characters this anime has one of the best and well made character development ever. I am realy pleased with how the characters were developed individualy especialy Sora and Layla and also the way their feelings were evidentiated. This anime also has some bishoujo/bishounen characters (Layla and Yuri more exactly). As we enter deeper in the story more characters are revealed and developed.

Overall: As an overall this anime is watchable, enjoyable, funny at some points (it has some comedy aspects), dramatic (heartbreaking at some scenes) in other words worth watching. Even though it takes a while for the story development to reach a culminant point (for some people the waiting can get frustrating) i think that this thing is a pretty lame excuse if u want to explain why you hate this anime because believe me, having patience will be worthy.


~Enjoy and Cya around~

10/10 story
7.5/10 animation
9/10 sound
8.5/10 characters
8.7/10 overall
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Tellthebizz's avatar
Aug 10, 2014

Great story Line about how dreams can come true with dedication and never giving up. I did not like how it ended though, there should have been another season, instead of a weird animated children bubble animation that does NOT continue the store. There was NOT enough romance. It could have been better but its a great one to watch for inspiring reasons. 

8/10 story
8/10 animation
8/10 sound
9/10 characters
8/10 overall
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thegoldenwaste's avatar
Feb 20, 2011

As usual, welcome to my third community review for Anime-Planet. That said, no real devastating spoilers in this review. Feel free to comment and review my review. I appreciate and welcome all feedback. Thanks for reading and please check out my other reviews of Boogiepop Phantom and Shadow Star Narutaru.

Story; Sora Naegino. Her dream is to join the Kaleido Stage and become a Kaleido Star! Follow her and the many trials she must face to obtain her dream! From the creative and calming mind of Junichi Sato, this series story is surprisingly simple and the theme of the series is abundantly clear.  It's a show about going for your dreams that you've had since your childhood and never ever looking back. A series of trials and tribulations all in the pursuit of happiness. All to become a star on the stage.

Animation; Much like I had mentioned in my last review (Shadow Star Narutaru) about how 2003 was an overall great year for animation (let us look at Planetes and Texhnolyze for example) and there were some that were great and some simply fell flat. Kaleido Star is a series that had pretty good animation quality. The style it has is probably one of the top tier of 2003 without a doubt.  It's a beautiful show from start to finish, but it could have been better compared to other 2003 anime series.

Sound; The first opening is the one I particularly enjoyed the most. The second opening was slightly weaker than the first. The third opening was a return to form and a beautiful piece that I really liked. The ending songs were relatively good but not exactly memorable.  I do not care much for ending songs and have a strange and unexplainable bias against them for the most part. The background music was also quite nice and easy on the ears. It really helped the circus feel of the series.

Characters; You got to love Sora. She is truly an inspiration and the poster child for the "nothing can stop you if you want something bad enough" encouragement that everyone gives us in life. There is comic relief in the form of The Fool, there is also Rosetta, Anna and Mia, who are great friends to Sora in the series and Kalos is a great in pushing Sora to the highest pillar on the stage. Layla Hamilton does come off  awful but as the series progresses, it becomes obvious she wants Sora to succeed and top her.

Overall; I enjoyed every second, minute, hour and day I watched this. I loved to watch Sora try again and again to get to her dreams of being a Kaleido Star! It was a fantastic ride and I hope you will take this review and join Sora on her amazing adventure to becoming a Kaleido Star! Who knew an anime about a circus would be this much fun? I urge you, please check this series out immediately if you have not done so yet.

8/10 story
8/10 animation
8.5/10 sound
9/10 characters
8.4/10 overall
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flaze's avatar
Feb 13, 2013

Story

Naegino Sora wants to be the top star of Kaleido Stage, an entertainment group. While Kaleido Star has a very basic, not to mention cheesy, premise, it managed to keep me on the edge of my seat throughout all fifty one episodes. Kaleido Star's story is paced and structured very well. It is what I call "semi-episodic," in that it balances single episode stories about daily life in the troupe with multi episode arcs that progress the plot. In addition, there were very few times when I could confidently say Sora would succeed in her attempts at a new manuever or an audition/competition. Even when I was sure she would win, the show still made the scene very dramatic and exciting to watch.

Kaleido Star is made up mostly of backstage/behind the scenes drama, that feels realistic (for the most part). There are hints of romance here and there, but unfortunately, no major couples are ever established in the story. I would have appreciated a conclusion to the romance aspect of the show, or have had no romance in it at all. I also wanted an explanation to the Spirit of the Sage, Fool, a minor character who only a select few people can actually see, but one was never provided.

My first reaction to the summary was that it would be a typical shoujo anime with excess fluff and the usual cast of stereotypes. That thought was proven wrong within an episode. 

Animation

Animation is good overall, particularly during performances. Colors are vivid and motions are fluid. Character designs are nothing special, but they fit the personalities of the characters. The only thing that bothered me was that they kept reusing the scene of Fool Drawing a tarot card when he told fortunes. It would have been nice to see it from a different angle once in a while.

Sound

It seems like a lot of people either like opening one and dislike opening two, or vice versa. I personally like both, in addition to my favorite opening (#3). OP1 was a happy jpop song that fit the happy mood of the first half of season 1. (Season one's first half was made up of simple conflicts, like trying to take care of a seal Sora found on the beach, or trying to perfect a role in a show.) OP2 feels more serious than OP1, which is appropriate, because the second half of season one takes a more serious tone and has a much more significant conflict, with dire consequences should Sora fail. OP3 (imo) is perfect. I won't go into more detail than that to avoid spoilers.

The endings are not that memorable.

Background music is used frequently throughout the series, helping to set moods, express feelings of characters, and dramatize performances.

Sora and Layla (the star performer when Sora joins Kaleido Stage) were voiced well, but others were of average quality.

Characters

Instead of focusing on just one or two characters (*cough* Naruto, Sword Art Online, Kannazuki no Miko, many visual novel adaptations and harems *cough*) Kaleido Star provides back stories and lets the viewer get to know many members of the cast. I found myself hating some characters initially, and loving them by the end.

Sora's development is very evident. I'd expand on that, but there would likely be spoilers, so I won't. I'll just leave it at: She went through a lot, learned from her experiences, and became strong. It's a typical pattern of growth, but one that works well with the plot.

Overall

Kaleido Star is one of my favorite anime, and there were few moments when I wasn't having fun watching it. Just remember to watch it subbed. The dubbed version for this anime isn't that good. This show does almost everything right and I'm tempted to call it a masterpiece. If it had a conclusion for the romance, I probably would.

ON A SIDE NOTE: Don't ignore this anime just because it has little romance. It's worth watching and I would recommend it to male and female anime fans of all ages. In other words, don't be like my anime watching friends, who only watch an anime if it has romance in it.

8/10 story
8/10 animation
7.5/10 sound
8.5/10 characters
8/10 overall
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