Angelic Layer Vol. #6 (of 7) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Thursday, May 06, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, May 11, 2004



What They Say
With the finals well underway, Misaki and friends decide to take a well-deserved break at the beach, but Icchan and his group are there, too. A secret love is revealed, and new loves bloom as the whole gang takes a break from the stress of the tournament at the seaside.

The time has come for two players to qualify for the championship match, while the rest get left behind. Find out who will sit in the stands, and who will get the chance to Inherit the Layer!

The Review!
Angelic Layer hits the penultimate volume of the series and gets down to the real final fights but not before we got the much needed beach episode. This is shonen after all!

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in both its English 5.1 mix and Japanese 2.0 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. The Japanese track came across quite clear as well and while some of the dialogue and action lacked a bit of the oomph, it still had a strong feel to it. Dialogue throughout on both tracks comes across nice and clear and we didn't notice any dropouts or distortions.

Video:
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.

Packaging:
The backdrops continue to be the same with this volume but we get to see more of it than the previous one while we get a great shot of Misaki and Hikaru "running" into each others arms with big smiles. 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 a nice layout of most of the deus women in their spring beach outfits against a really blue backdrop while it opens up to character designs and information on some of the supporting cast.

Menu:
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.

Extras:
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 and there is also another set of production sketches. The commentary track for this volume was enjoyable as it features Chris Patton, who plays Ohjiro, and David Williams, who worked as the ADR director and DVD producer for the series.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Angelic Layer as it gets into the final round of episodes that deals with the final battles must have been painful to watch during its broadcast run since each episode, even the 'filler' episodes, end on these near cliffhangers of sorts, the kind of endings that get you primed for the next episode, but you had to wait a week for it. Three episodes in a row here helps lessen that a bit but at the end of the volume, oh the pain.

This set of Angelic Layer episodes is very much like the past batch. We get some good character storytelling going on and we get a couple of episodes of deus fighting action. Each of these build and complement each other perfectly and only help to really bring the storyline to even more edge of the seat moments. And that this point the story has changed well from the manga series as well as there being plenty of time between when I read that and seeing this that all of this feels fresh.

The opening episode is a really good one that takes the overused concept of bringing the cast to the beach and just messing with them. Often it's used for pure fanservice, but with Angelic Layer it's a bit harder to get away with. After all, Tamayo and Misaki are both middle school girls and aren't exactly at the place of being properly oogled yet. And Hatoko is, well, I'll leave that for that crowd to deal with. So the kids all head to the beach for some fun, with the three girls and Kotaro ready to enjoy a day off from Angelic Layer. At the same time and going to the same beach, the staff of Angelic Layer is heading there as well, including Shuko. Ogata's only got one day a year off and this is it so he's the most primed of the entire group.

The entire beach episode is just fantastic and had us laughing throughout a lot of it. One of the things that takes a strong turn is that Tamayo starts to really understand her feelings for Kotaro and they're becoming harder to hide from him. It's especially painful for her when Kotaro continues to look at Misaki in such a longing way. But Kotaro has his own pain and doubts going on now since the two groups eventually hook up on the beach and Ohjiro obviously has his sites set on Misaki now and it's blatant enough that even Kotaro can figure it out. All the while, cute little Hatoko tries to help Kotaro get closer to Misaki inbetween her own cute little jokes. It's priceless when she tells him she wants him to spread suntan lotion on her back.

The relationships take a number of twists and turns throughout this episode as things start to become more obvious to all involved, though Shuko ducks out rather early and manages to avoid meeting up with Misaki. Ohjiro manages to get some good ribbing in on his Icchan over his own desires for relationships. The two have some good back and forth here and there's some very witty moments that do cause you to get a touch uncomfortable about the age difference between Ohjiro and Misaki, never mind Ohjiro and Shuko. Nothing like keeping it all in the family.

All of this ends up leading into the next two episodes that focus heavily on the next round of the finals where we have Misaki going up against Ohjiro. With Misaki working with Hatoko, the two spend some time going over past footage of Ohjiro's fights from the previous year and trying to understand his Magic Guard barrier defense that Wizard has. Misaki also ends up finding herself going on a date with Ohjiro when she's out around town and the two come across each other. Though it sometimes doesn't feel like a date, she's starting to believe that he could have feelings for her but then he does something that she doesn't think would indicate that he thinks of her as anything other than a younger friend. This is all done in parallel to Kotaro and Tamayo trying to understand how their childhood friendship is changing into something else and each dealing with it in their own way. Everyone's gotten so close now in different ways that the group dynamic is continually changing.

While we've had two episodes of mostly character material, we get one really good episode worth of Angelic action and it's definitely worth the wait. While I would have preferred four episodes, the episodes are ending in just the right places for the mini-arcs that it's hard to argue against it too much in a storytelling sense. These episodes all belong together and fit well while letting the final arc of the story fit completely on the last volume.

In Summary:
This show is just far too addictive and worth every minute. These episodes do a great job of building upon the growth of the characters so far and moving them down the fairly obvious paths but not without some twinges of pain and sadness. There's still a lot of comedy to be found, particularly with Ogata who really shines in the first episode here as well as some really good Angelic action. This is one of those volumes that really delivers it all and will really please fans of the show. Very recommended.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Clean open and close animation,Production artwork,Commentary with Chris Patton (Ohjiro Mihara) and David Williams (producer)

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 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
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Angelic Layer