CLAMP’s lovely little series finally draws to a close. Kev looks at the final, rewarding volume – released on 18th April, care of ADV Films.
What a journey Misaki has had, as have we throughout these seven volumes. Now everything comes down to this as the grand final is upon us. Now is the time for people to come together and express their emotions for one another, cheer on their friends and fight the good fight. The most important day in Misaki’s life is just around the corner, with her mother only a heartbeat away. Can Misaki handle her emotions in order to triumph and become one of the greatest Deus’s of all time?
There will be some slight spoilers ahead
So another great series comes to a conclusion. When we left Misaki and her friends last time we’d gone through quite a few emotionally challenging scenes as everything was starting to gel and fates were being decided. Volume 7 sees the results of everyone’s hard work; Misaki, her friends and Icchan and Shuko who have been working on the project for the past seven years out of a love for the game that started off as a research project. That’s what this is all about, enjoying life and every moment it offers, making the most out of a hard situation, never quitting and staying strong – but always having the time of your life. If that was the message that CLAMP wanted to get across then they achieved it admirably.
With any series coming to its end, especially with just three episodes left there’s always a sense of dread, as if it might not be able to tie up its loose ends. With Angelic Layer it still manages to cover its bases whilst giving us plenty of action along the way. Some of these fight sequences are the best yet, with the final showdown between mother and daughter being incredibly exciting and fluidly animated. But it’s the middle episode that brings us everything we want to know, when Misaki and her mother come face to face and talk for the first time. This awkward set up is well crafted and realistically portrayed in many ways. How would you react to meeting your mother had you not seen her for so long and what kind of questions would you ask her? The series does this commendably as it looks at both sides, answering questions along the way and justifying actions. Better still as we get into the final fight we can witness mother and child making up for seven lost years as they come together in the ring and let their fists do the talking, but enjoying themselves all the same.
Angelic layer‘s greatest strength has been its simplistic yet compulsive story. It’s led up to each event leaving us little clues here and there, generally quite predictable a lot of the time but never dull. We want Misaki to win and finally meet her mother, we’d like to see Icchan finally pluck up the courage to ask Shuko to marry him and everything else that has been laid before us we want to be wrapped up in a bow and presented to us on a plate, and that is what the series has done. At times we could have doubted out heroine but her strength proved to us that her small demeanour made no difference, she could win no matter what challenge she faced. As the series went on it became pretty obvious that it had to end on a high note and that’s the most rewarding part of it all. Forget that it’s been obvious in places, it was never meant to be anything convoluted, satisfying our hearts and minds which is all you could want from it. The final volume of Angelic Layer is easily the most emotional yet and I can pretty much guarantee that there won’t be a dry eye in the house come its final moments.
Reach Misaki! This Thought Goes Over the Rainbow!
Icchan finally decides to take Shuko out to the amusement park and ask for her hand in marriage, while Misaki prepares for the grand final. Shuko has yet to face another challenge though when she goes up against a strong Deus in the semi’s who may well threaten her position at the final.
Reunion of Destiny. Angels Wet with Tears
Shuko reveals herself to Misaki, which shocks the poor girl and confuses her into disappearing. Misaki tries to deal with her emotions as she runs off with Hikaru, while her mother tries to find her out in the pouring rain.
Angel Wings! Please Guide Me and Hikaru
After meeting her mother again, Misaki gets ready for the grand final. All of her friends and past opponents have turned out to cheer her on to victory. Both she and her mother are determined to win this fight and will put everything they’ve got into it. Can Misaki defeat her mother in battle and become the new star champion? Anything is possible if you put your mind to it.
Not ones to break tradition, ADV stick with a tested formula using a white amaray case with attractive, colourful artwork and in inlay mini-poster this time featuring Misaki and Hikaru, with character profiles on the reverse.
The series is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and it’s as colourful as ever. Angelic Layer has looked very impressive from day one, with vivid colours and good detail, only showing occasional softness inherent to the animation techniques. There is still a little banding issue residing here but otherwise the transfer is free from Edge Enhancement and anything else that might be considered problematic.
For the audio side of things we get a Japanese 2.0 track and an English 5.1 remix. Both tracks are lively; with the 5.1 surround separating effects well, particularly during the layer matches. While I’d prefer to stick with the Japanese original there’s no denying that ADV have done a grand job in making the most of this. However the Japanese track is just as punchy with great clarity from dialogue and action sequences.
Optional English subtitles are included. These are bold with a yellow colour and read very well. There are a few suspect translations here and there but nothing worth worrying too much over.
For the final time ADV provide us with credit less opening and closing themes. It would have been nicer if we could have been given the alternate end sequence from the final episode sans credits but I presume it isn’t available. Curiously though ADV give us a closing credit sequence, complete with a preceding closing scene from a much earlier episode.
Audio Commentary by Christine Auten (Shuko) and Kelly Manison (Shoku)
You made a typo on the menu screen guys – Chris(t)ine won’t be happy 😉
Christine and Kelly get into the penultimate episode which is a crucial character piece. This is their first commentary track for ADV and it’s also an experimental piece as they say, due to them being recorded in front of a camera. However there is no video option so it looks like they went against the idea to include it. The track here is similar to those before it. The girls have fun, make a few jokes, pointing out favourite characters along the way and generally talk about the evolvement of Misaki and her mother. There are no hard production facts but a few insights into how ADV record each show, with each actor working separately. Sometimes it is this method that often makes me wonder why performances can be lacklustre at times for some shows.
Production Artwork (3.15)
Atsuko Enomoto’s song plays out while we see artwork for various characters and set designs which have featured in the past episodes and play predominant roles in this volume.
The folks at ADV bring us the usual trailer reel with some nice looking new shows coming soon. These are Gad Guard, Ujin’s Sakura Diaries, Gravion, Last Exile and Neon Genesis Evangelion – Platinum.
When you sit through a seven volume series you can never be sure where it’ll take you. Angelic Layer sure has been a fun ride, ending on a predictable but fulfilling note, with this being the most emotional volume of the series. I’ve had a lot of fun watching this, it’s been somewhat of an underdog amongst some of the past years’ biggest titles but in the end it’s been one of the most rewarding. A perfect finish to a truly wonderful series.
It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
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