Angelic Layer Vol. #1 (also w/box) -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: A-

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: A
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 29.98/39.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Angelic Layer

Angelic Layer Vol. #1 (also w/box)

By Chris Beveridge     October 02, 2003
Release Date: October 14, 2003

Angelic Layer Vol. #1 (also w/box)
© ADV Films

What They Say
The moment small town girl Misaki Suzuhara arrives in Tokyo, she is thrust into the excitement of Angelic Layer-a high-tech, fast-paced game where dolls called Angels are controlled by the thoughts of their operators, also called Deus.

Twelve-year-old Misaki, a middle school freshman now living with her aunt, quickly makes friends with others who are as interested in Angelic Layer as she is. Misaki builds her own Angel, Hikaru, and begins competing in battles where will and determination count for far more than size and strength.

Will Misaki get the hang of Angelic Layer quickly enough to avoid defeat? Who is that mysterious man who keeps popping up, anyway? And what is really the deal with Misaki's mom? Watch the first four fun-filled episodes to see how Misaki fares in battle and deals with life in the big city.

The Review!
CLAMP returns in one of their more interesting turns to date by taking on the tournament style.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to a mix of languages on this release. We started off the disc listening to the English 5.1 mix and finished it out listening to the Japanese 2.0 mix. The English 5.1 mix comes across nicely with some clear distinct voices to it but we ended up favoring the Japanese 2.0 mix as it felt more full and natural. Dialogue throughout on both tracks comes across nice and clear and we didn’t notice any dropouts or distortions.

Originally airing back in 2001, Angelic Layer is a fantastic looking show with this transfer. Cross coloration is pretty much non-existent, aliasing is very minimal and only in a few areas and the colors are rich. The colors are where this show really shines with very vibrant lush pieces, mixing between the real world and the Layer itself. Blacks are beautifully solid and there’s no visible over saturation.

Done in a white keepcase, the front cover provides a great looking pose shot for the lead character and one of the girls she meets in these first episodes set against the bright lights of the competition. The back cover has a series of shots from the how and several paragraphs of good summary for the premise of the show. The discs features are clearly listed, though not all the extras are listed there. The insert is actually a nice small poster with the main cast members that opens up to provide some character profiles.

With the first volume, there is also a box release available. The box is of the sturdy variety and is just as bright and great looking as the show itself. Done in a full wraparound image with the cast outdoors on a lush green hill and a gorgeous looking blue sky, it goes from one main panel with a large shot of Misaki with her angel all the way around to the other main panel where we see other Deus’ and their angels. One other really nice factor with the box is the included t-shirt offer. As opposed to the normal method of the one-size fits all, they instead provide a card with a unique number on it that allows you to go to their site to place your free shirt order that lets you pick which size you want. So those that find the t-shirts to be like drapes on them, you can get your size now.

Set up in a competition/athletic style theme, the main menu here plays some of the action oriented music from the series while various images from the show roll behind the top layer. Selections are quick to load and access times are nice and fast.

With the first volume, there’s surprisingly little in the way of extras but there is some good stuff here. The opening and closing sequences get their textless form here but there’s also an episode one commentary. Provided by voice actors Andy McAvin and Jessica Boone, we get some interesting insights into how they approached their roles, the show itself, some typical Japanese customs and a bit of bagging on the shows director/producer. It’s an entertaining track.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Angelic Layer, one of CLAMP’s forays into the boys realm of manga, takes on the classic tournament structure and attempts to flex their creative talents into something new. The result is an interesting mix of their own backgrounds and styles with something that’s typically done with a male lead. And, being that it’s CLAMP, you can see a lot of little jokes and nods to a number of their other series.

The premise is simple. We’re introduced to twelve year old Misaki Suzuhara, a young girl who has come to Tokyo to live with her aunt Shouko. As Misaki’s mother is always away working, she never sees her and has decided that she needs something more. So she gets enrolled in the Eriol school and is set to start a new life in the big city. At the least, she’ll have someone around the house once in awhile, since the life of “young attractive newscaster” can be a busy one.

Misaki’s arrival in Tokyo is overwhelming for a girl from the small town world. She’s quickly lost at her stop when she gets off the train, eventually finding her way outside where she comes across one of the massive wall screens. Playing on it is the current flavor of the day, a match of Angelic Layer. She sees the two people engaged in combat, a tall dark character and a short white “angelic” looking one with wings. Feeling a strong connection with the smaller one, as Misaki is most definitely short for her age, she roots for the angel, not realizing what’s involved in this game.

But her interest doesn’t go unnoticed. Cueing up the creepy music, the mysterious Icchan introduces himself to Misaki. Being from the small town world, she’s not afraid of him and talks easily, expressing her interest in Angelic Layer. Icchan fills her in on the basics of the game, that the people she saw are actually miniature dolls that you can buy and customize. Before he can finish, she’s off at a local store and buying up a number of items with Icchan’s suggestions. After a series of small events, things settle down with Misaki finally getting to her aunts house, completely broke from buying all the Layer equipment she needed.

From here, we watch as Misaki begins to build the kind of Angel she wants, one that’s like her in size but with the potential to be something more. This becomes a strong theme as the show progresses and we watch the bond between Misaki and her Angel grow. She invests herself into it, giving it the similarities in things such as height, but also tweaking her so that she’s blazingly fast. Add in the hair design as well as sewing up a little costume, and the end result is a good looking little Angel.

With that in place, the show shifts into the actual tournament mode, introducing Misaki to the concept with a few choice matches and the eventual entry as a complete beginner into the Tokyo area competition. All of this tournament material is nicely balanced with her personal life as well as some very funny moments with Icchan and his staff, letting us get a glimpse of his ambitions. Misaki’s school life takes a more prominent role though, as she ends up friends with a number of characters who end up being infected by her positive attitude and upbeat spirit.

With the change of having a young female lead instead of yet another male character, Angelic Layer starts off with some nice small differences from the typical boys fighting show. While having the characters control other creatures to do the fighting is hardly new, it feels different here. When we watch the first Layer fights start and you have the focus shift from the people to their Angels, hearing the small thudding footsteps across the Layer, there is something different in how it comes across. The main story that comes across from the fights is watching Misaki grow and learn, adapting to what she’s learning, but we also get a lot of entertainment in being able to see a variety of other Angels come into view and providing some good diversity of styles and looks.

Having already read the manga for this series, I’m enjoying this on several levels. Knowing the basic outline doesn’t detract in the slightest since there are enough differences to keep things separate and surprising. Some of the nods to other series are amusing while some other aspects start pointing in the direction of wondering if CLAMP needs a new character designer since you can pick out most characters as being from other series rather easily. Overall though, it just feels more fleshed out than the manga, and since that series didn’t run as long as I think it should, I’m glad to get a fix of this premise again.

The main reason we ended up watching about half of this release in English was due to the interest of my daughter in the show. With the lead being a young girl, though nine years apart in age, she took an immediate interest in the program (when she could put down her toy catalog long enough). Part of my fascination was watching how interested she would become in the show at times, being very aware of the quiet scenes where the doll was being put together but not being as interested when the fight sequences start. In the end, it’s all good though as she’s already said she wants to see more episodes of it this weekend. This series better have a fast release schedule.

Angelic Layer is a fun show that plays a bit with normal conventions of a boys show but still stays within the overall guidelines of the genre. This first volume spends plenty of time getting Misaki set for the tournament and then dives right into the action. This was a very enjoyable set of episodes and a lot of fun to watch. It definitely doesn’t feel like a lot of other tournament shows.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Voice actor commentary,Clean opening and closing animation

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.


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