Angelic Layer - Volume 1: Divine Inspiration Review

Angelic Layer is the creation of CLAMP - an all girl manga group made up of four primary members; Nanase Ohkawa, Mokona Apapa, Mick Nekoi and Satsuki Igarashi. Already well known for series such as Chobits and Cardcaptor Sakura, they now take on the tournament style series, made so popular in the past with the likes of Pokemon.

Angelic Layer tells the story of a young girl named Misaki. The twelve year old has just moved to Tokyo with her Aunt, where she is to begin a new term at a new school. As soon as she arrives in Tokyo she witnesses a new game being aired on a giant TV screen. The game is "Angelic Layer" - A revolutionary game that involves duels between "Battle Dolls", otherwise known as angels. Once placed inside an arena the dolls' movements are generated from inside the owner's mind. After talking to a stranger named Icchan who explains the games concept, Misaki is amazed and soon heads for the shopping centre in order to buy her own doll.

Misaki soon builds her doll and names it Hikaru. The next day she goes to school and quickly makes friends with Tamayo, Kotaro and Hatoko. It isn't long before Misaki is taking part in small Angelic Layer matches, with the guidance of the mysterious Icchan. As she begins adapting to her new life in Tokyo there are many questions left unanswered, such as what is up with Icchan following a 12-year old girl around and why is her mother so reluctant to know her daughter?


I was actually a fan of Pokemon when it first aired on TV a number of years ago now. It wasn't so much the tournament fights that drew me, but the characters and their funny antics. After that, tournament style anime quickly bored me. With Angelic Layer I wasn't quite sure what to expect although having the lead be a female and placing some interesting doll designs and battles into the fold, this looked like it could well offer something different.

Early on I am pleasantly surprised by this series and how quickly it establishes itself as being a very story driven one. In the first episode alone we are given teasers of what to expect, with the introduction of the strange scientist, Icchan and Misaki's mother who doesn't wish to see her daughter. Also there is Misaki's Aunt who isn't surprised when she sees that Misaki has purchased her own doll. We know that during the course of this lengthy series things are going to happen, delivering more than just episode after episode of tournament fighting.

With many anime series that have a lengthy run it is expected for them to have the occasional filler but with this one, there are ongoing situations that deal with Misaki's character and her confidence as both a player and a person. Volume 1 has got me hooked already; I'm impressed by how much we are given in just four episodes, a clear sign that surely better things are to come.


Angelic Layer is also very much a comedic series. The first thing that grabbed me was Icchan, the guy is hilarious; an unpredictable character who engages in random acts of insanity. It seems normal for every anime show that features a scientist for him to be extremely weird. Usually the case would be that he's perverted and the same applies to Icchan, although he insists he's not but still enjoys following around Misako for some reason and tormenting his assistant by punishing him every time he does something dissatisfactory, like shoving an octopus down his pants for ten minutes or covering his face in clothes pegs.

Drama wise the show is dealing with being young, getting through insecurities and growing confidence within yourself. Masaki, being the central figure is at an age when you learn about responsibility, but at the moment the show is cruising at a leisurely pace and while Misaki is learning more about her new doll and surroundings the first four episodes introduce us to the rules of the game and gets straight into several battles, leaving Volume 2 to pick up the baton later.

Clearly Misaki is gifted without knowing it. She has won every fight that she's taken part in, including her very first match. We don't yet know if her winning streak is to continue or if she'll face tougher opponents and lose a few battles along the way; this can only help her character to grow.


For once, Angelic Layer isn't just another excuse to start a toy craze and sell millions. It's nice to see a tournament series that is focused on telling a proper story.

The girls at CLAMP created the manga to satisfy boy and girl readers and they take what is the basis of past tournament shows and form their own story around that. For the animated version, the artists embrace the toy phenomenon and have fun in bringing the dolls to life but they are as focused in other departments also.

The main character designs aren't really anything special but still pleasant. The doll designs are more interesting and each episode sees different dolls enter the arenas, where they engage in fast paced battles that offer a bit more excitement than previous shows of its type. Each doll has his or her differentiating attacks, depending on its size. Thinner and shorter dolls are fast and naturally larger and more defined dolls are sluggish but powerful. The animated fight sequences offer a nice amount of fluidity and tend not to repeat themselves, unlike Pokemon and Beyblade for example, series which have continually done so in the past.


Volume 1 of Angelic Layer has started off very promising. The DVD contains the following four episodes:

How Do You Do? My Very Own Angel
12-year old, Misaki Suzuhara arrives in Tokyo, where she will be staying with her Aunt Shoko. Misaki has had little contact with her mother, who refuses to see her daughter for reasons unknown. Not long after arriving in Tokyo, Misaki meets Icchan, a mysterious scientist who helps her to learn about playing a new game called "Angelic Layer". Misaki soon buys her own doll and names it Hikaru.

Do Your Best, Hikaru! It's Your First Fight!!
It's a new school day for Misaki. On her way to school she meets a young girl named Hatoko and her older brother, Kotaro and his friend Tamayo. Icchan continues to follow around Misako and teach her in the ways of Angelic Layer. He takes her to her first game where she must pit Hikaru against an opponent named Shadow Panther.

Who Are You? Misaki's Nervous Lesson
Having won her first match, Misaki has become popular amongst her new friends. Misaki still has much to learn about Angelic Layer and so Icchan begins to show her the secret to perfecting the way that her doll moves. Misaki meets a fellow Angelic player, called Ohjiro who asks if she will practice with him. She agrees but soon after he goes home she is forced into a duel between her doll, Hikaru and Queen - owned by a bully who lacks respect for the game rules.

The Day an Angel Flew Down
Icchan has secured a place for Misaki in the Angelic Layer qualifiers tournament. Here she will learn to hone her skills and become a stronger player. Her new friend, Hatoko is also taking part in the games and she learns that Hatoko is an undefeated, star player. Misaki must win her match against Katalina if she is to continue to fight on with Hikaru.


The DVD

ADV Films release another fine DVD onto the region 2 market. The cover is very colourful and inside the case is a small poster with character information on the inside.

Picture

Presented in its original 4:3 aspect ratio, Angelic Layer looks as good as many recent anime series from Japan. ADV have again provided an almost flawless transfer that only has occasional signs of pixelation.

Sound

There is a choice of Japanese 2.0 or English 5.1. The fight sequences and involving score benefit greatly from the English 5.1 mix but the original Japanese track is equally good. Like many recent ADV releases the English dub is enjoyable, though doesn't quite nail the gags as effectively as the original although Andy McAvin does have a lot of fun as Icchan.

Extras

Clean Opening
This is the nicely animated, main title theme but without the overlapping credits.

Clean Closing
Same as above, except this is the song that plays out at the end of each episode.

Audio Commentary by Jessica Boone (Misaki) and Andy McAvin (Icchan)
These actors provide a fun commentary and discuss a little about their careers and experiences on voicing the main characters. With regards to the show history, this isn't very informative. The track is a nice addition though and I'm starting to become more familiar with ADV's recurring talent.

ADV Previews
Trailers for: Sakura Wars, Pre-Tear, Final Fantasy: Unlimited and Full Metal Panic.
I'd prefer to see ADV use similar trailer menus that appear on their region 1 titles where you have a choice to select each trailer separately, as opposed to having to view them all in one segment.


Overall

Angelic Layer has started off better than I expected. The first four episodes offer a nice pace as we get to know our central characters, whilst at the same time keeping in the background the mysteries that have yet to unfold.

Film
8 out of 10
Video
8 out of 10
Audio
8 out of 10
Extras
4 out of 10
Overall

8

out of 10

Last updated: 13/08/2018 05:38:01

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