When Sora was a little girl, she attended a show at the Kaleido Stage, a circus of sorts featuring the world’s most amazing acrobatic performances. She was so inspired by what she saw that since then she remained determined to one day join the ensemble and become a master entertainer. However, when the day finally comes for Sora to audition, everything goes wrong. Her luggage is stolen, she is questioned at the police station because they thought she was a runaway, and she ends up arriving at the Kaleido Stage too late to try out. However, as luck would have it, Sora is given a last-minute opportunity to take the stage, and her fortitude and gumption are enough for her to be brought aboard as part of the troupe. Still, Sora has plenty of work ahead of her if she is going to win over the rest of the cast, master the routines, and become a true star of the Kaleido Stage.
Kaleido Star is refreshing in its predictability. Though the circus setting is unlike that of any other anime series, the progression of the episodes is conventional and at times even clichéd. No matter what obstacle stands in Sora’s path, she always manages to overcome it through her focus and dedication. There are tense moments where it seems like she can’t possibly prevail, but unhappy endings are virtually nonexistent in Kaleido Star. However, even if the outcome is clear, the path taken to get there is what makes the series interesting. It’s similar to why romance stories are perpetually popular. Viewers know how the story will end, but they don’t know how it will happen.
The show’s target audience is obviously girls. The color scheme features plenty of pink and purple, and there is an abundance of shimmers and sparkles throughout the episodes. Yet I have a feeling boys will find themselves wrapped up in Sora’s rise to stardom if they let go of their inhibitions. The series keeps a healthy equilibrium of drama and comedy, always with a tone that never descends into becoming too heavy or too silly. There is no offense or controversial content, the animation is smooth yet never flashy, and both the Japanese and English voice actors provide solid, straightforward performances.
Kaleido Star plays everything safe, but it does so with style and grace. There may be little in the series that hasn’t been offered in some form or another elsewhere, but the components all click into place perfectly to make for a watching experience that is consistently compelling. While many anime shows resort to gimmicks and extremes to capture consumers’ attention, Kaleido Star shines in its honest simplicity.
Kaleido Star: Season One
directed by Junichi Sato
650 minutes, Number of Discs: 4, Season set
Company Age Rating: (8+)