Twelve Moments in Anime No. 12: Setting the (Kaleido) Stage
What better way to spend my 100th post than to kick off my contribution to the Twelve Moments in Anime project? I’m making full use of the “only need to have watched it in 2009; it doesn’t have to actually be from 2009″ rule, although I compromised by splitting the moments 8-4 in favor of shows that actually aired this year (but I’ll bend the rules a bit for one of those!). Anyway, enough of the silly intro — let’s get to the moment, shall we?
My first actually is more of a feeling than a real moment. A setting is something that should be truly important, and yet there are so many series that settle for a generic high school setting, or a generic fantasy setting, or a generic post-apocalyptic setting and so on. I can’t really remember what I watched immediately before seeing Kaleido Star a few months back, but when Sora first peeks out at Kaleido Stage from the backstage curtain . . . I was hooked. It just gave me this incredibly fresh feeling.
This is pure magic — you understand immediately why this circus has captivated Sora since she was a young girl. It’s not just any one element that makes Kaleido Stage magicial; it is how all the individual parts coalesce into one whole world people in which people can lose themselves. When you see the trapeze artists soar, you soar with them. When you watch the tightrope walkers defy death, you feel the same adrenaline they do. When you see the clowns pull their antics, you laugh with them. You can be in the foulest, shittiest, most horrible mood imaginable, and Kaleido Stage would lift your spirits, guaranteed, because everything and everyone in Kaleido Stage will work toward that goal. That is what this moment says to me.
Everything — and I mean, everything — in Kaleido Star is dependent upon that unity. The circus performers are a tight-knit group. Performances transition into one another. One misstep can cause the whole show to come crashing down. Even Layla Hamilton, the alpha dog of Kaleido Stage, knows her place in the circus. She pushes Sora not because she hates Sora, but because to create the magic Kaleido Stage provides, you have to make it happen — not hope that it happens. Layla busts her ass every night to give the audience the greatest show possible, because she loves Kaleido Stage that much. If the audience saw her the night before? They’re getting something better. If they’ve seen her every night for their entire lives? They’ll be born anew this time.
You know why Sora is so happy? Because that is the kind of world she wants to join. And that is the kind of world I had the pleasure to watch in what is without a doubt the best anime I saw this year. The mark of a great setting is that you feel the reality of it; I felt the reality of Kaleido Stage deep down in my bones every second of the series. How often do you get that in anything, much less anime?