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 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.
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.
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.
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.