Angelic Layer Vol. #7 (of 7) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Friday, June 11, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, June 22, 2004
What They Say
The championship match is about to begin, but before that can happen, everyone must confess their deepest secrets and confront their own demons as the past finally catches up with the present. In the most exhilarating battle yet, the Miracle Rookie, Misaki, and her Angel, Hikaru, face their toughest challenge ever, and the Champion, along with Angel Athena, must defend her title.
Angelic Layer races through its final episodes and manages to once more avoid some of the pitfalls of shows done in the same genre.
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.
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.
The backdrops continue to be the same with this volume but instead of sharing the cover with other people, Misaki gets it all to herself as well as her and Hatoko's angels. Misaki's artwork looks really nice here with her holding the egg that the dolls come in, bringing the series full circle to something she did at the beginning. 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 Misaki controlling Hikaru in action while it opens up to character designs and information on some of the supporting cast.
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 and there is also another set of production sketches. The commentary track for this volume is once again quite enjoyable as Christine Auten and Kelly Manison talk about their characters, some of the amusing anecdotes about recording it and dubbing at ADV in general. In a change from past commentaries however, the actors are shown in a small video window in the lower left as it goes along. This is similar to some of the alternate angle commentaries that Universal put out a few years ago and is something I hope to see more of here, especially since doing things like this only continue to build more support for the actors. Plus, Suck Bunny got his true credit as the real series ADR director here.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
CLAMP's first foray into the boys genre of storytelling completes with this volume and their original story continues to be very well updated for the anime adaptation, bringing in more of the required 'shonen' elements to help smooth things out as well as eliminating the very rushed feeling of the last manga volume.
With only three episodes here, the show moves at a very fast pace even when it delves into providing some much needed exposition and dialogue scenes. The tournament continues to move along well with everyone still attending and we get one full episode of a battle between Athena and Shirahime. In a way, it's surprising that Sai is the one that made it all this way in the tournament considering all the competition that was out there, Ohjiro included. She's the one that always came across to me as more of the cold and calculating type and the one that lacked that spark to really make it in the competitions with those who play with a passion. But as she continues to fight against Athena in the beautiful layer that Icchan has designed, the passion that she has for the game, as well as for facing Athena, really starts to shine through in the way only Sai can display. Their game is a lot of fun to watch, though it does suffer somewhat from knowing what the outcome will be.
After all, how can the series end without a fight between Shuko and Misaki?
But before such a thing can happen, there has to be some honesty among the players. This is one of the elements that continue to draw me to anime as the characters more often than not tend to be more honest about their feelings. Icchan in particular finally makes that leap of faith and reveals something about himself that he's held for a long time and it's a great moment for the character, finally giving him that little bit he needed to flesh out that extra dimension to his personality that was always there but overshadowed by his "wiggly" self. Everything he's done for the past seven years has been all for Shuko and it's all done in what's really very traditional Japanese style when you reflect on it.
Of course, the real payoff is the moment that Shuko reveals herself and she and Misaki have to deal with the consequences. Much of the past is brought to bear as Misaki realizes she's not been as strong as she thought she was and Shuko has to convey why she did what she did, admitting her own cowardice and fears. There's a lot of dialogue to it once they get going, but they did this really well by not making it an actual fighting event itself and giving the two the time alone, not having to deal with distractions of other characters or their surroundings. It's a really great moment as the two of them shift from talking awkwardly to really trying to understand each other and themselves.
These final episodes of the series just hit every mark about perfectly. One of the things I was really happy about was that they didn't start the final fight and carry it across several episodes or even two episodes. Each fight is self-contained and doesn't have that dragging feel to it where you want it to be over with. In addition, the final fight is set up with one of the best layers yet with a simple black backdrop and the ground filled with beautiful red roses. This was just gorgeous on our display and combined with the bright solid colors of the characters against the black, it just stood out a lot compared to the past fights. With the passion the characters brought into it as they used it to talk, it really played out in great way.
Angelic Layer as a whole is a tournament show that manages to take the best elements of the genre and give it that smooth CLAMP feel that can cross different markets. While the manga was enjoyable, it had its flaws as it was their first attempt at a boys series using the standard trappings of that genre. The anime series has taken that work and fleshed it out better than I could have imagined, giving it the needed qualities to appeal to its original genre as well as bringing in a more general audience. The series is filled with engaging fight sequences with the battle dolls that are usually quite void of emotion, allowing their controller to feel the passion and having to show it as well. With a richly layered design and color palette combined with the great character designs, Angelic Layer has been one of the most anticipated releases as it came out in this household. From our four year old loving it to my own enjoyment of it, this series has been very popular here in both languages. It's even gone into repeat play already on the weekends for the kids. This series is very highly recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Voice actor commentaries,Poduction artwork
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: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
Running time: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Angelic Layer