Kaleido Star (2003) is an anime that showcases the feats and features of modern day circus performers. This show’s been around for ages now, so there will be spoilers throughout the article. It’s a show where acrobats, gymnasts, and clowns come to the Kaleido Stage to fulfill their dreams.

The story centers around a young performer named Sora, who comes to the stage to fulfill her dream of becoming a star on stage. Where she journeys through the reality of becoming a professional performer while making several friends and rivals along the way. It’s colorful, lively, and an all-around emotional roller coaster trip for those of all ages to enjoy.

Our tale begins with the protagonist flying to America for an audition at the Kaleido Stage. She dreams of being on stage since her last memory of her parents is when they watched a live performance of Alice in Wonderland before they died. The memory of the production stuck with the protagonist most of her life.

Her feelings of that performance are what inspire her to become a performer. The protagonist dreams of becoming someone who can bring smiles to those who visit the stage. She spends the series trying to recreate that happy feeling in the heart of every audience member who watches her perform. This is necessary in order to fulfill her dreams of becoming a “Kaleido Star.”

Why Do We Dream?

In society, our dreams are what define us as people. It’s what helps us create the person we want to be and shapes our personality accordingly. Our dreams identify our desires in life, and we set goals based on how we wish to obtain them.

According to Varun, our lives are meaningless to us without having any dreams to look forward to and keep us going. Dreams are what help us understand life’s importance, and our sense of happiness is motivated by it. In other words, we would find nothing to live for if there wasn’t anything to base our goals on.

When it comes to anime, aspirations are what help the characters overcome major life obstacles. Dreams are what motivates them to continue their journey. Characters are piloted by their dreams to accomplish impossible goals, and it helps them keep going — for the sake of happiness.

Their dreams define how we see them, and it’s how we identify ourselves with them as a whole. Those who dream in anime (and life), are usually those striving to become someone greater. They don’t let the words of others or misfortune put them down so long as they have a goal in mind. Aspirations are what lead characters on their path in life.

Who Are The Dreamers Of Kaleido Star?

In Kaleido Star, a person’s dream defines their reason of being a performer. They come to the stage, in hopes, of one day making it come true. The stage is a leeway for inspiration to entertainers everywhere.

Whether it’s something as small as making the audience happy, or something big, like becoming a star performer. The main dreamers of the series are both Sora and Layla.

Sora Naegino

At the beginning, Sora’s a budding performer aspiring to become a “Kaleido Star” — the star performer of the Kaleido Stage. She makes it her mission to join the circus after losing her parents early on in life. (This puts the whole orphaned circus-performer cliche into a new perspective.) Sora does this to cherish their last memory together and to help others create their own.

As a performer, Sora dreams of being a star that brings smiles to the audience. She works hard to earn her place, despite garnering several enemies along the way. They all try to bury her in criticism during her progression to stardom out of envy for her opportunities.

However, she ignores their acts of aggression in favor of maintaining peace among the group. She is determined to win them over through hard work and kindness. Eventually, Sora gains the approval of many and makes friends along the way, earning their support. They then work together to realize their dreams.

Aspirations To Create A Stage Without Conflict

Sora’s encounters with different performers throughout the series are what leads her to creating a stage without conflict. After experiencing the dark realities of the world, she takes time away from being a performer.

With her former partner, Layla, telling her that she’s losing sight of her former spark, Sora questions her own objectives. (Since she couldn’t bring herself to compete with others for her own success.) She tries to run from her problems as she dislikes the idea of people fighting each other for the sake of stardom.

For a while, Sora is unable to bring herself back on stage, disliking the aggressive environment it’s become. She hates seeing people destroy themselves for their own chance at success. It brings her to tears to see them do so. She believes that the stage “cries” when they resort to anger and violence to get what they want. Sora eventually realizes that her dream of being a star doesn’t have to come at the price of others. Her new path may be more difficult but becoming a star was always just a milestone for her. Her real objective has always been about making others happy.

Sora’s dreams are always about ensuring the happiness of everyone on stage with their live performances. (Without anyone needing to fight in order for it to happen.) She adopts the ideology of transforming the Kaleido Stage into a place without conflict. The protagonist believes that it is possible if everyone learns to get along. She wants an environment where both the audience and performers can enjoy themselves freely without resorting to hate.

Layla Hamilton

In the first season of the anime, Layla is the “Kaleido Star” of the stage. Like Sora, Layla also dreams of being a true star of the Kaleido stage. She also spent most of her childhood cherishing the memory of watching Alice in Wonderland with both of her parents — before losing her mother.

She’s achieved many great feats during her time as a performer, mastering the “Golden Phoenix” routine. An award winning technique, that requires an incredible amount of skill to perform.

Ironically, Layla’s never cared much for her dreams, until she’s met Sora. Indicating that she’s never really believed in herself until working with the protagonist. The duo naturally bring out the best in each other as they work together to achieve amazing feats in their performances.

Their shared dream creates an unspoken sense of companionship among themselves, despite their opposing personalities. They perform with the same goal in mind — to create a compelling performance worthy enough to show their audience. However, in Layla’s case, her goal is to create a performance worthy of impressing her father. Her dream of being a Kaleido Star is driven by her desire to have him see her perform live on stage one day.

Layla As Both A Partner And Rival

At the start of the series, Layla doesn’t know what to make of Sora. She finds her behavior irresponsible and dislikes her disorganized techniques. She also fails to understand why the protagonist keeps getting chosen for major roles when her performance quality is inexperienced and sub-par.

It isn’t until Layla’s officially partnered up with the protagonist, that she comes to acknowledge her as a performer. She grows impressed by Sora’s rapid progression, and regards her as an official partner. This acknowledgement results in Layla becoming more open-minded of other performers and their skills.

By the end of the first season, Layla entrusts her dreams to the protagonist. After successfully performing the “Legendary Maneuver” with Sora, she retires, deciding she’s no longer needed on stage. Layla doesn’t believe that she can progress any further as a gymnast.

She’s content with the state of her last performance and considers it the pinnacle of her career — despite getting injured in the process. She instead entrusts Sora to fulfill the rest of her dreams. Thinking that she will one day surpass her, Layla makes Sora her “hopes and dreams.”

Kaleido Star
Kaleido Star (2003); Freeform 2018

What Happens When Dreams Collide?

When a character’s dream comes in contact with those with a similar goal, it can easily create conflict or companionship. An example of this appears in the character, May. Characters who both had their dreams realized and altered by meeting the protagonist.

May Wong

May is Sora’s rival during the second season of the anime. She’s a former figure skater who joins the stage to be with Layla. She initially dreamed of performing on stage with Layla as her partner, but loses her opportunity when her idol retires. When May learns that Sora is the cause of Layla’s early retirement, she makes it her goal to “beat” Sora as a performer.

When people compare her performance quality to the protagonist’s, she considers it a challenge. May works hard to improve her techniques, so her superior performance-skills can erase their lesser thoughts of her.

This competitive streak helps her accomplish many triumphs in the show but also stunts her ability as a performer. She later learns that only dreaming of defeating her rival isn’t going to make her a better performer. She also has to adapt her aspirations for the benefits of her audience — otherwise, why, bother being a performer?

Learning To Perform For Others

After learning that her performances lack a certain quality when compared to Sora, May struggles to figure out what’s missing. (Thinking that it’s a skill she must learn if she wants to outmatch Sora.) Upon receiving feedback for her performances, she gets told that she has trouble producing a decent smile on stage.

Uncertain of what they mean, she spends ages trying to contrive a smile for them. They tell her that she’ll never succeed as a performer if she’s unable to smile genuinely at her audience. She needs to learn to perform for others to help entertain and inspire them like Layla did for her.

This advice sticks with May as she overcomes her petty behavior, long enough to make friends with Sora. She steps down from her aggressive behavior when she lets go of her grudge.

May realizes she actually admires Sora’s dedication to entertaining others, becoming inspired by her dream of making people smile. She also concludes that her need to compete against Sora is because she acknowledges her skills as a performer. She sees their rivalry as a tool to improve her own skill to bring out her best performance.

Why Do People Entrust Their Dreams To Sora?

Like all things in life, our aspirations are prone to change over time. Sometimes situations occur which result in us giving up our dreams or putting them on hold. When incidents like these happen, we pass down our dreams for others to inherit. Those dreams may serve as both a blessing and a curse to those who inherit them since they are now responsible for making them come true.

There are many characters who entrust their dreams to Sora. When she inherits Layla’s aspirations as a performer, she initially suffers from the weight of it. It becomes hard for her to focus on her own goals when she tries to live up to the expectation of others.

(Especially since there is now an increase of talented, new members who look down on both her and her idol’s decision for choosing her as a successor.) She gets so caught up trying to prove them wrong that she starts to lose sight of her own goals.

It isn’t until she experiences the harsh reality of being a performer that she realizes people don’t offer their dreams to her because of her talent. They entrust them to her because she gives them faith. She’s special to them because she serves as a symbol of hope for those with failed aspirations. Her dreams draws people towards her because they show her passion.

Her dedication inspires them, even if she’s not always successful. They all want to see her succeed in their place. Sora makes them believe they can do the same. She helps them find faith in their abilities, making them think their dreams are possible, in a way they’ve never considered.

Why Should You Watch Kaleido Star?

Kaleido Star is a fun show that highlights the importance of having aspirations in life. Don’t get me wrong, this is an anime — there are inevitably going to be a lot of ridiculous moments. But it also reflects on a lot of real life values.

For the most part, it shows us that our dreams won’t always result in the happy endings we want. However, the series tells us that it’s still important to at least try. Our dreams are never set in stone; it’s an ever-changing process with us determining where and when it should end.

What I love about Kaleido Star is that it focuses on character growth as much as it does dreams. The characters feel relatable to me when they work hard to make something they love succeed. This anime is meant to cater to a younger audience, but everyone handle their problems in such a mature way that almost everyone can enjoy it.

No matter how different we are, we find ourselves identifying with them in some way. It brings in Stage issues that can occur to us, at any point in our lives, when we focus on our ambitions. (Like family problems, coping with a loss, and even dealing with the prospect of overcoming failure.) It’s all familiar to us, and it’s nice to see how they work through it — with the help of friends.