Kaleido Star

Anime series Kaleido Star is about plucky acrobat Sora Naegina, who's pursuing her dream of performing in a world-famous professional circus. The first season follows her struggles to improve herself in various productions and gaining the respect of her peers.

In episode 9, Sora auditions for the lead role of a production based on the Hans Christian Andersen story The Little Mermaid. In order to get the role she has to perform a challenging new trick on the trapeze. On her first try, she falls, which leads into a brief dream sequence where she dreams that she has a mermaid's tail. Sora eventually trains up with her friends and successfully performs the trick, thus winning her first starring role.

In episode 10, the actual production begins. Sora is at first determined to emulate the performance of star Layla Hamilton, who performed the role the previous year. Sora is successful, but this turns out to be a mistake, because the show's sponsor wanted something new, not just a copy. Through trial and error with her friends and the production team, Sora adjusts her performance, turning the production into something truly fitting for her.

The episode doesn't depict the full production, only bits and pieces, but it's still interesting to see Sora's creative process as she moves away from Layla's ethereal and melancholy performance, which seems to be a straight depiction of the Little Mermaid story, to the more cheerful and emotional version that Sora makes her own. The changes that Sora introduces includes: the mermaid's playing joyfully with her sea friends, the mermaid's using her dancing to try to trigger the prince's memories, and the mermaid's reaching out to the prince again and again in her hope for his accepting her over the other princess. The ending itself is also a new one I've never seen before: the climax of Sora's adaptation has the mermaid and her prince jumping into the sea together.

Although these episodes aren't a proper adaptation of the Little Mermaid story, it's a nice look into the thought processes that can occur behind the scenes in interpreting that story, i.e. what to keep, what to change, and the reasons why those things are kept or changed. In Sora's case, her version of the story focuses on the little mermaid's youth and innocence, and revolves around her specific energy as a performer and actress, though her version doesn't in any way belittle or negate Layla's performance, or the original story.

Thanks to Abraham for letting me know about this show!

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