Kaleido Star

Kaleido Star is an anime series in the Kaleido Star franchise
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Kaleido Stage is a combination of circus, theater, and magic show, based in its own waterside complex in California-a fantastical version of the Cirque de Soleil. Fans the world over dream of standing in its spotlight thanks to world TV syndication and tours. Sixteen-year-old Sora Naegino has had her sights set on becoming Queen of the Kaleido Stage since childhood. She travels from Japan to America to take the entrance exam for the KS training school, and succeeds in getting into the show despite arriving late, missing the audition, and irritating the current leading lady, blonde Layla Hamilton. In the dressing room and later in her room at the school dorm, she finds a talking clown doll named Fool. Fool is really the "stage fairy," whom only a chosen few can see, and he tells Sora she has been chosen by the spirit of the stage to become a Kaleido Star. She has some talent and athletic ability, but her performance and dancing skills are woefully underdeveloped and she lacks confidence-all traits designed to encourage identification from wallflower viewers and put to their best effect in director/creator Junichi Sato's earlier Sailor Moon.

The stage is set for a series of performances of the week, taking the cast through rehearsals, backstage intrigues, and productions of works that include their own versions of Romeo and Juliet, Little Mermaid, and Arabian Nights. Sora acquires several friends, including fellow performers Anna and Mia, who become her occasional allies in the battle of wits with Layla, as well as a performing seal called Jonathan. Typical to all such anime rites of passage, she also gains an affable, avuncular patron (Kalos, the owner of Kaleido Stage), a love-struck boy next door (lowly stage manager Ken), and potentially dangerous prospective suitor (Layla's associate Yuri).

In a welcome change in the fast-paced 21st century, KS often takes its time with its plots and remains unafraid to shake things up. Later episodes find Sora packed off to Theatrical Camp and Marine Park, affiliated entertainment centers where she must hone new skills and deal with new problems. She must also wrestle with family issues and the growing realization that while she and Layla may be at each other's throats, they are also superb performers who are likely to end up having to share the stage. Layla believes in cold professionalism and is prepared to discard anything and anyone in the service of her talent, while Sora wants the stage to be a warm, friendly world where there's no conflict between players, and the audience is drawn in to a circle of happiness. After much conflict, the ingenue and the star become friends, and pull off a trick considered impossible, the Legendary Maneuver, in a show to save the Kaleido Stage-a theatrical apocalypse averted by a synchronized performance, something pastiched long before in Evangelion.

The adherence to performance clich├ęs even extends to the anime's surprise twist (look away now), in which Layla is injured and forced to retire, but not before entrusting Sora with the stewardship of the Kaleido Stage. In the second season, KS Kanon 2, released in the U.S. as KS: New Wings, the conflict between the warm camaraderie of a dream team and the tooth-and-claw struggle for stardom continues, as a new leading man arrives, and a new ingenue, talented and uberconfident May Wong, decides to take the crown Sora hasn't even claimed yet.

Even without real-world parallels like Japan's own Takarazuka troupe, whose young actresses must pass a strict entrance exam and live in a company dormitory, there are plenty of anime and manga inspired by the performing arts, most notably Mask of Glass, to which the plot of KS is often actionably similar. Creator and Sailor Moon-director Sato layers elements of many live-action and animated dreams of stardom, as well as throwing in the transformation sequences, spirit guide, and cute animal sidekick so beloved of magical-girl shows, but he also asks: does the performer serve the audience, or vice versa? In these times of celebrity without talent and fame without effort, it's a valid question.

Kaleido Star is silly and lightweight on the surface, but with powerful truths about the vanity, insubstantiality, and basic nastiness of many performers; the physical tyranny of performance; and the temporary nature of fame, at its heart. Most of its "stars" are shallow and self-centered. Yet Sato is as spellbound by the roar of the crowd and the smell of the greasepaint as any old vaudeville hack, and he gives his fantasy a full-on, top-quality staging. In a sign of the times, he was actually unable to produce the show to his own specifications in Japan-it took the injection of foreign funding from ADV Films and a Korean backer to ensure that the performance scenes had the necessary pizzazz. The stage sets and effects are gorgeous, and color planner Kunio Tsujita does a stunning job; the depiction of the sunset and the lighting of the end of the first episode, a true work of art, sets the tone. In Sato's hands, foreign lands and rites of passage are exciting but safe-so much so that the natives, from the police to chance-met passersby, are uniformly friendly, everyone speaks your language and wills you on to succeed.

Two later videos, KS: New Wings Extra Stage (2004) and KS: It's Good! Goood!! /Layla Hamilton Story (2005), introduce Rosetta, a new performer with the same endearing clumsiness and innocence that once defined Sora.

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Original US Poster Art

General Information Edit
Name Kaleido Star
Publisher ?
Start Year 2003
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Aliases Kaleidostar
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