Sora is a teenager with a mission: to be a member of the highly acclaimed Kaleido Stage, a place where music, acting, acrobatics and theatrics meet. In order to do so, she leaves family and friends behind and travels to America to make her dream come true. What she didn’t expect was the level of competition, training and sacrifice that would be required to be acknowledged by her peers. Will she be able to find her place in such a hostile and cold environment?
summary by Soundchazer
Highs: Clean and crisp animation; likeable characters
Lows: Acrobatics defy the laws of physics; a little too “cheery” for older audiences
Anime intended for girls between the ages of eight to twelve in Japan have a history almost as old as anime itself. From the days of Mahou Shoujo Sally in the ’60s to the more contemporary shows like Sailor Moon, there has been a long string of stories told that are quite successful within this demographic. Unfortunately, most of them are extremely consistent in their theme and methods to the point of being clichés spoofed in other series; from the magical transformations to the search of that long lost love, the female characters tend to need either magical powers or the help of a dashing hero to reach their objectives. Kaleido Star breaks that paradigm, and in doing so, brings some fresh air to a stale genre.
It all starts with the main character, Naegino Sora, who represents a very different type of heroine. She is dependable, hardworking and extremely likeable, but she is also marred by self-doubt and a very hard time dealing with conflict. Even though there are people who support her along the way, it is her determination and never-say-die attitude that make the difference. She does not wait for that dashing hero or magical powers to dig her out of a hole, making her an ideal role model for the young audience. She feels real and genuine because she is not perfect but tries hard to do the right thing. It also helps that a good ensemble cast is formed around her. Sora has plenty of friends, who are there for her, but also have their own goals and aspirations. We find antagonists who may be disagreeable but are not evil and have their own motives. And to top it off, there is one of the most amusing comedic relief characters that have been seen in a while; Fool is that wise but naughty character that clicks because of his seriousness and the deadpan humor that comes from it.
As for the more technical aspects, the animation remains consistently good with clean lines, good integration of CGI graphics and pleasing character designs, which is to be lauded given the number of episodes that were needed to make the story. The music is serviceable, with catchy opening and closing themes that work well but are not memorable. All in all, the production values do not serve to make or break the anime but help enhance the tale.
Because this show is intended for older girls and preteens, it is understandable that the characters and situations have to be a bit over-the-top at times to catch their attention. Unfortunately, that also means that some of the older audiences, mostly teens and young adults, will have a hard time buying into those scenarios and will likely dismiss it as being “too childish.” If you can get pass the overly cheery nature of the main character and take those impossible acrobatic acts with an open mind, Kaleido Star proves to be a very pleasant surprise that proves once more some of the best dreams people have in their lives are grounded in reality and can be achieved with passion and dedication.