Angelic Layer Vol. #4 (of 7) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, February 11, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, February 17, 2004
What They Say
It's the semifinal games in Kanto, and only the best player will survive and advance to the National Tournament. The stakes are high, and Misaki and Hatoko face their toughest competitors so far.
Tamayo and Kotaro are there to cheer the girls on, and it looks like Misaki has an important new supporter. The action heats up, and everything reaches a critical turning point, forcing each player to decide what it is they're fighting for.
The Kanto Regional Tournament gets into high gear with the final set of three matches that will determine which one of them goes to the Nationals.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its English 5.1 mix. The English 5.1 mix comes across nicely with some clear distinct voices to it and a few areas of rear speaker directionality, mostly in crowd scenes and background noise. 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.
Continuing with the lighter colors, a series of pastels against the hexagonal backdrop, Misaki and Hatoko take the cover again with their Angels, everyone pretty much giving a good happy smile that we've come to expect from these kids. 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 a two-panel poster that has elements of the layer tournament materials, such as the scoreboard, as well as a number of the more powerful angel's Misaki has faced set against Misaki and Hikaru in play mode.
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.
The extra material for this installment mirror the earlier volumes but with a few of the usual differences. The opening and closing sequences are presented again, though the ending sequence provides the two new ones, and there is also another set of production sketches. Also making another appearance is the voice actor commentary track, which is done for just the episode fifteen. This one is a "totally Tiff-arific? commentary as it has both Tiffany Grant who plays Sai as well as Tiffany Terrell, who plays Kaede. The commentary is quite enjoyable due to the actresses themselves, but also because Tiffany Grant worked as the scriptwriter for this series, so she gets to provide some extra insights. Having listened to her in the past in person, this commentary track does give the feel that she's right there with you and the other Tiffany on the couch and just shooting the breeze about the show and having a good time.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Angelic Layer continues to be one of the few series that really flies by fast with each volume. Before you know it, not only is an episode over but all four episodes are over and you're sitting there, even without a cliffhanger, screaming for more of it to be available now. It's rare that a show does that for us, with only a few noteworthy ones in the past couple of years.
This batch of episodes for the series brings us past the halfway mark but builds up the tension and excitement as if it was dealing with the last set of episodes in the big arc. This batch brings us to the tightened race for the victor of the Kanto regional games, which brings the four best players to compete against each other. With Hatoko, Misaki, Kaede and Sai all making it this far, the challenges are indeed becoming much more interesting, even though it's all be laid out fairly easily to see far in advance. That doesn't diminish it though, since you still have to see what it takes to bring down each angel and move forward. Misaki's special inborn ability to do just that is what makes her so much fun to watch.
The pairings don't come as much of a surprise, particularly if you check out the back of the keepcase here. Misaki goes up against Kaede, whom you already had the feeling of being poweful but not quite as good as Sai, while Hatoko goes up against Sai so that Sai can deal with some vengeance for a past loss to the youngster. In the opening round of each of the matches, we get to see a lot of background that helps flesh out the characters, such as the kind of life Kaede came from before getting into Angelic Layer. In fact, we see that Kaede was the first to receive a production model of the doll and that plays significantly into the match here since the first round of them had something of a flaw to them that a user can exploit if they're creative enough. Kaede's naturally one of those people so her battle with Misaki brings something completely different to the game, as if the game wasn't different enough as it was.
With the regionals becoming such a hotly contested game, Icchan and his group have continued to bring the new improvements to the game. This is mainly featured in the new terrains that are now available to the players instead of the standard white flat flooring they had before. The new element in the matches obviously provides more elements of surprise and randomness to them, which is good and bad since it takes away from a persons skill somewhat but also challenges them to be more than they were and less likely to fall into a rut. The variations shown during these episdes are good, but it's the beach scene that I thouht was the most entertaining, even if they did give Sai's angel a bathing suit in the end.
Another area of significant enjoyment is that we get to see two origins told in just about half an episode. Going back in time, we see a much younger Misaki as she watches her mother deal with a debalitating disease. Intent on trying some new treatment, she goes off to the city to undergo the tests but tells Misaki she's going off to work for a long time. Breaking their bond like this, the two haven't seen each other since, as each time Shoko tries to get Misaki's mother to visit, she's unable to. So we see her undergo the treatment, which involves a slightly younger Icchan who is working on prosthetic legs to help her deal with the disease. Just as they're close to making a breakthrough, they're denied the funds they need to continue on. With a bit of imagination, Icchan takes the small prototype dolls that he's created so far for his patient to test, he in turn convinces his superiors about the basic premise of Angelic Layer and how the royalties from it can provide the funds he needs to continue his research.
With this being the end of the Kanto regional games, there aren't exactly a lot of surprises since this plays out like a typical tournament show for the most part, albeit with much cuter characters. The refreshing part continues to be that there aren't any real villains here and nobody is acting like one either. Some people may be a bit cold and uncaring on the surface, but down below it's where we see that all of the competitors love their angels and only want to win with them. With the world not hanging in the balance or the lives of the characters, the lighter feeling that it gives off allows the show to become all the more enjoyable and lets you root for everyone involved.
Angelic Layer is like the latest kind of anime crack in our house. There's just something highly addictive about the show that goes beyond the cute factor at the beginning. The fights are fairly simple, the characters aren't too deep and the overreaching arc is pretty basic, but there's something just very engaging about how well it's all executed. Visually stunning as well, it's a great package and a great way to spend a hundred minutes every six weeks or so. I can't wait to marathon all of this in one sitting.
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Clean Opening,Clean Endings,Production Artwork,Voice Actor Commentary
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
Mania Grade: A
Audio Rating: A-
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Angelic Layer