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
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
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
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
Every rule has its exceptions and even GONZO occasionally made good anime. In this particularly case, it did it right for using very little of their notorious horrible CGI, as well as sticking to telling a story for the family instead of heading for shallow fan service and aimless adventure.
Kaleido Star is the story of Sora, the archetypical high spirited, golden hearted girl who aspires to become the best acrobat in the world... Yeah, it couldn’t get any cheesier. Still, presentation is everything and even the most overused premise can produce miracles if it’s done with love and care. So yeah, it is expected to see Sora trying her best, continually training to improve, failing, getting up and trying again until she succeeds. The magic lies at HOW she does all that by interacting with others. The rest of the circus troupe all have their own ways of doing their work and each one of them provides a different side to what is going on behind the scenes. We have all sorts of stereotypes here as well, from the cocky rival, to the uncaring professional, to the dreamy fool, to the mascot animal. Although everybody is 2D in the beginning, along the way they all show their inner thoughts and develop by interacting with Sora, as so does she. For a family show, that is a very hard thing to find. Nobody is too simple or frozen in his mindset; constant rearranges and tactics are needed along the way and they must adapt and improve or just fade away from the publics’ uncaring sight.
Even without the very good character colorization, the show is still very good in its presentation. The production values are good as one should expect from GONZO and since the use of 3D is minimal, they look awesome. Having the main setting of the show to be a circus, you can just imagine what a dreamy and colorful place it will be with its dozens of different attractions, its acrobats and clowns and trained animals. The animators did a great job at transmitting the excitement of a circus performance, the crowd’s reactions and the vividness all performers poor into their work. It is also much more interesting at seeing the preparation for every act, how they organize it, plan it, change it along the way, how they train in specific tasks and the hardships they encounter along the way, never without their personal problems being in the way as well. It is very good at showing you that circus performers are still people with their own strengths and weaknesses and not just cold superhumans, doing gimmicks to please the mindless crowd.
Yet even that is part of the show. Eventually everything is done for the entertainment of the on-lookers and the performers take pride in planning for an act that will amaze them after months of hard training. I was very pleased to see how they all just want to please the audience as means to prove their worth, to gain their love and affection, to show their talent through their applause. It eventually is all about having the support of the people all around you and not training solo on some mountain just so you can beat the crap out of any opponent (the norm of most motivational shows).
The show even delves a bit in the darker areas of showbiz and presents cases were rivalry gets to the point of performing as a cold hearted way to fame and glory and not as means to entertain and have fun. It shows how fellow performers can become your enemies or just get in the way of your talent. The cases where people are disappointed, mentally crushed, or even physically injured provide a far more humane side to the show, making them all to feel like normal people who sometimes stray away from their dreams or lose interest and go for the money.
The show does not forget to be just entertaining either with its numerous light and comical moments. Sora and her troupe keep on making all sorts of silly acts and blunders and there is even an invisible spirit that offers both a metaphysical aspect to the show by revealing the mentality of the performers, as well as making a very good comic relief by turning to a sleazy peeping tom every time it gets the chance. All that don’t ruin the rest of the show’s atmosphere as they are in balance with its more serious aspects. They add to the anime, instead of taking out because of unneeded dead time comedy or ecchi.
The show is not exactly a masterpiece but is very close to one. For example, the story is to the most part light and eventually it doesn’t end in any solid way. Sora doesn’t even get to first base with the guy she likes, the spirit’s past remains a mystery, Layla’s comeback in the second season was too convenient. All that can be excused since this is a family show but it is true that it could be far better if it tried to close on its substories in a better way.
Oh well, that is just too much to expect from GONZO. It did it right this time and I applause them. To bad they didn’t learn from it and later on kept doing their horrible cold character, bad CGI, aimless fan service shows.
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 8/10
General Artwork 2/2 (nicely looking)
Character Figures 1/2 (generic)
Backgrounds 2/2 (flashy circus)
Animation 1/2 (basic)
Visual Effects 2/2 (lots of lights)
SOUND SECTION: 7/10
Voice Acting 2/3 (silly but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Music Themes 3/4 (not great but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Sound Effects 2/3 (ok I guess)
STORY SECTION: 6/10
Premise 1/2 (basic)
Pacing 1/2 (rather slow and uneventful)
Complexity 1/2 (not much)
Plausibility 2/2 (nothing far-fetched)
Conclusion 1/2 (cheesy)
CHARACTER SECTION: 7/10
Presence 2/2 (strong)
Personality 2/2 (rather cheesy but well founded)
Backdrop 1/2 (generic and simplistic but it’s there)
Development 1/2 (overblown but it’s there)
Catharsis 1/2 (overblown but it’s there)
VALUE SECTION: 5/10
Historical Value 1/3 (still remembered by some as an interesting title)
Rewatchability 1/3 (low because of too little context)
Memorability 3/4 (generally easy to have a reason to remember it)
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 9/10
Too simple and slow at times but with really good presentation.
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~
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.
Kaleido Star, to me, is a very inspirational and unique anime. The story got me so hooked I really wished there was a kaleido stage around where I live so I could watch a show! Haha
The story starts off with a rookie stage perfomer Sora who came to American to join Kaleido Stage. Then throughout the anime we follow Sora who make friends with the kaleido star members and watch her improve in her career.
Sounds pretty boring right? But the way the story was lay out and the character development was just well planned out! Though the romance aspect is left out, theres still some pairings you can do in the anime. (HEHEHE)
For the year it was made, the animation is actually pretty well done. I didn't see too many flaws in the animation, even the parts when they're performing, it is still nicely animated.
Sora's voice started off pretty annoying to me but I got use to it afterwards. The music in this anime is marvelous. The 1st and 2nd OP is amazing, and the ED is also amazing. Lyrics suited the anime very well too. Insert music goes well with situation. Its nearly perfect!
Honestly, the characters aren't very unique looking. However what makes them great is that they're more realistic than anime characters nowadays. You won't find 'moe' or 'type cast' characters in this anime. Which to me is a +
Great and very enjoyable anime! Its very funny too! though 1 thing to add into the show to make it better is ROMANCE! I can't live without romance! TT-TT