Kaleido Star is yet another example of why Gonzo can produce really outstanding series when they really want to. It first starts out as your average shoujo series about gymnastics and acrobatics, complete with ultra-talented female rival, a just as talented male potential love interest and another love male interest. And yet, with these ingredients it grew into everything a good shoujo series should be.
What made this series work so well is its excellent use of its 52 episodes. The first 26 episodes are already a very capable series by themselves. They show perfectly how Sora (the lead character) rises as a capable rival for Layla, emphasizing guts and hard work, never giving up, and including a number of plot twists that make sure to emphasize that not everything always happens in the lead character’s favour. Overall it’s a very satisfying story by itself, and then the second half of the series comes and pushes this development even further. The new characters of Leon and May really manage to get the best out of Sora in terms of development and make her into a really memorable character by the end of the series, and both of them also pretty impressive by themselves.
Since this is a series about acrobatics, performances also play a huge part in it. And while the creators didn’t have an unlimited budget, the animation does look really nice nonetheless. Especially the costume design for the different parts that are played throughout the series are top-notch, and the creators know exactly how to use their camera-angles and lighting effects to create a great show, based on still shots and close-ups.
If I had to mention a flaw in this series… then it lacks realism. Some of the moves that are performed by the characters are near-impossible, while at other times they master top-notch moves with only a week of training, not to mention that this is a series where seals turn into dogs. But really, the characters shine enough to make up for this flaw, and it never really gets in the way of what really is important for this series. Neither is the romance, by the way. When I first started watching this series, I was afraid that typical silly love triangles would develop over time, but the romance only appeared once in a while, and knew exactly that it shouldn’t get in the way of the characters.
So yes, this series deserves all of the praise it gets. Even though it’s got 52 episodes, every single one of them is dedicated somehow to pushing one of the characters forward, and I especially liked how much of an in-depth look it gave into the themes of working to your dreams and never giving up. It’s a wonderful series, definitely the product of Good Gonzo.