Kaleido Star was one of the first anime I remember wanting to see. It was the dawn of my introduction to the medium and, more importantly, the dawn of Youtube; when I went to the internet to see what these awesome shows (Rurouni Kenshin, Yu Yu Hakusho, even Code Lyoko) were about, I ended up on YouTube watching AMVs. That’s where I first saw Kaleido Star.
There wasn’t a lot I could tell from the blurry, 240p videos. I could only see beautiful girls in fantastic costumes flying through their air. It seemed like an intergalactic, supernatural trapeze show, like something out of Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century. It looked so colorful and fun; I wanted to watch it, even though I had no idea what it was about.
Over ten years later, I finally got the chance to see it. My brother has a VRV account (an amazing combination of Funimation and Crunchyroll) and I saw Kaleido Star while browsing through the titles. Yes! An opportunity to finally watch this classic!
And did I watch it. I watched 52 episodes in 3 days. Let me tell you, I fully enveloped myself into Sora Naegino’s journey to perform on the Kaleido Stage.
And boy, was it bad.
Kaleido Star has a lot of things going for it. The premise, like I imagined as a child, is a literal high flying show. Sora Naegino travels from Japan to California to pursue her dream of being an acrobat for the biggest circus in the world, Kaleido Stage, with the hopes of following the footsteps of her idol to become “a true Kaleido Star” (whatever that is). She struggles, makes friends, learns routines and hard lessons and eventually— over a 52 episode run — is deemed “a true Kaleido Star” (still don't know). The cast flies around the screen in fantastical costumes, accompanied by a decent musical score. It could have been so dynamic and exciting. But the show, like Sora when she’s training, falls flat on its face.
Kaleido Star is boring. Most routines are hard to follow or filled with stills so you don’t get to see the action. The plot is stagnant except when the season finales are nearing. The characters are kind of bleh. And Sora Naegino is the most annoying human on the face of the planet.
I didn't really care about her. She is unbelievably optimistic, dense, and moody. She's your stereotypical anime protagonist. I wanted so much more from her, some depth, so foresight... but the girl is an idiot. She's 16 going on 8 and I was disappointed in her for the most part. There's almost nothing redeemable about her plot line. Sora is hard to listen to (bad dub), hard to tolerate, and hard to stomach.
But man, does she work hard.
Yes, she’s insufferable and annoying and naïve but my God does that girl try. She never gives up the entire show. The crazy feats the Kaleido Stage makes her do are ridiculous and dangerous. But she never gave up once, even after failing dozens and dozens of times. It was pretty inspiring to watch; I can only imagine how 11 year-old me would've reacted to her valor. Sora Naegino is a fighter and that may be the only saving grace of the show.
I wouldn’t recommend Kaleido Star to anyone. You don’t really need to watch it. Especially the 2003 dub, where every character pronounces Sora’s surname differently (Nagino, Naegino, Naigino…ugh!), the writing is spotty (ex. “Rosetta, I am afraid of one thing, Rosetta”) and the word “amazing” is in every episode title. There’s nothing special or lasting about the show.
But, alas, I am a (sorta) grown-up and (kinda) mature woman. It’s my opinion from my perspective. I think that 11 year-old me would have loved it. A simple-to-follow plot, strong female characters, a world where dreams come true and impossible feats are a reality. This is a great title for young girls who need some anime in their lives, so I’m happy I watched it. Younger me achieved her dream, just like Sora, so I’m happy I watched it. It made the hours of mediocrity feel worth it.