Angelic Layer Box Set (Thinpak) (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:Bryce Coulter
Review Date: Friday, October 13, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, September 27, 2005

A feel-good story with an action or fighting show twist somewhat similar to Pokemon or Yugi-Oh duels.

What They Say
Take robotic dolls controlled by their owner's thoughts, place them in a holographic playing field and you have Angelic Layer, the runaway smash game that is taking Japan by storm! That's what Misaki finds as she arrives in Tokyo to start high school. Instead of being greeted at the train station by her aunt, she finds herself confronted by a bizarre man in a white coat who lures her into the addictive world of Angelic Layer, a world which will change her life forever, and lead her on a quest to discover the mysterious secret behind her mother's disappearance!

The Review!
Audio:
For this viewing session, we listened to a mix of languages on this release. We started off the disc listening to the Japanese mix and finished it out listening to the English mix. The Japanese 2.0 mix comes across nicely, but we ended up favoring the English 5.1 mix for its humorous, yet very convincing voice cast. Dialogue throughout on both tracks comes across clear and we didn't notice any dropouts or distortions.

Video:
Animated by BONES, and originally airing back in 2001, Angelic Layer is a great looking show. Cross coloration is non-existent and aliasing is very rarely noticeable. The colors are rich and vibrant, which is typical of many anime produced by BONES.

Packaging:
Done in a sturdy white keepcase, the front cover provides a pose of Miskai and her angel Hikaru. The back side displays a pose of Hatoko and her angel Suzuka. The collection contains five thin DVD cases. Each case features a picture of Misaki and Hikaru along with some of the supporting characters. The back of each case provides a listing of each episode along with several screen captures from each episode.

Menu:
Nothing fancy, the menu for this disc opens directly to a list of the episodes on the disc. The menu carries over the 'athletic' theme of the series, and reminds one of the Olympic icons in the 80's. Selections are quick to load and access times are nice and fast.

Extras:
As with most ADV thinpack collections, all extras and previews have been stripped out of the collection.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers).
Angelic Layer is anime series that will definitely appeal to most females, but has just enough action to catch the interest of most males. What makes this story appealing to both sexes is that it does an excellent job of blending themes that are more typically specifically marketed to males or marketed to females. This series takes some of the best portions of those "slice-of-life" themes and mixes it up with some intense high-tech robot fighting action. And if you're a CLAMP fan, be prepared for some side jokes and nods to a number of their other anime series.

Welcome to the exciting world of Angelic Layer! Here we join up with a young girl named Misaki, who has just moved from her grandparents' home in Wakayama, to live with her aunt in Tokyo. As Misaki's mother is always away working, she never sees her. Her loneliness pushes her to decide that she needs something more. So she gets enrolled at Eriol school and sets to start a new life in the big city.

While traveling to Tokyo, Misaki accidentally gets off at the wrong train station, where she finds herself introduced to the mega-popular Angelic Layer, a high-tech, fast-paced game where dolls called Angels are controlled by the thoughts of their owners. Misaki is instantly captivated and with the help of a curiously strange scientist named Icchan. The end result of this 'chance' meeting is that Misaki creates her very own angel, named Hikaru.

At Eriol, Misaki quickly makes a number of friends that are drawn to her by her positive attitude and upbeat spirit. With the support of her friends, Tamayo, Hatoko, and Kotaro, and the insistent help of Icchan, Misaki finds herself reluctantly thrown into an Angelic tournament with virtually little training or fighting experience. Amazingly, Misaki begins to win her battles in the local tournament by her strong determination to succeed and coaching from Icchan and Hatoko. Interestingly enough, most of Misaki's coaching comes from Hatoko, who is only in kindergarten. Hatoko is considered a child prodigy in that she is the reigning regional tournament champion and is revered by all. This is where the main theme of Angelic Layer is introduced. "Regardless of age or size, anyone can set their goals high and be successful at Angelic Layer".

At about the midpoint of the series, we get to see how Misaki is growing from a timid young middle-schooler to a young adult. This is evident in how she is more concerned about the feelings of others rather than herself. Her handling of wins and losses in the tournaments further depicts her new found maturity in that she makes friends with just about every one of her opponents. However, the growing pain inflicted by the separation from her mother continues to grow within her psyche.

As Misaki continues to progress competitively, the story arc begins to reveal the secrets behind Misaki's mother, Shuuko. Shuuko is the owner of the champion angel Athena. Athena was the angel that inspired Misaki to get into Angelic Layer. At this point, just enough about Shuuko is revealed to make the viewer feel really frustrated or angry with her for leaving her only child to compete in Angelic Layer. Also, there is some unknown connection between Shuuko and Icchan. At this point the viewer may begin to suspect that Shuuko and Icchan are trying to rig the Angelic Layer Championship while covertly raising Misaki up to be a new rival.

The writers for Angelic Layer did a nice job of breaking the series into three reoccurring themes to tie the story arcs together. Inside and outside the tournament we get to experience the "slice-of-life" emotionality as Misaki and her friends develop their friendships. It becomes obvious that the seven years of separation from her mother has created a impact on Misaki's relationships with others, especially with her doll Hikaru. During the tournaments we see how Misaki deals with her shortcomings through her interactions with Hikaru. Along that note, some time is spent revealing the shortcomings of Misaki's friends and their struggles as well. Lastly, we get to laugh at the comic relief of Icchan and his colleagues as they observe and coordinate the Angelic Layer tournaments.

As time progresses, more is revealed about Shuuko. Shuuko has been suffering a degenerative nerve disease that has left her unable to walk. Seeking medical help, Shuuko decides to move to Tokyo where she is under the care of Icchan. Icchan is conducting an experimental research project that uses a robot doll that can move based on thoughts of its user. The hopeful outcome of the research is to provide a means for non-ambulatory individuals to be able to walk through thought control of their prosthesis. Midway through the project, the research funding is cut, thus threatening Shuuko's dream of walking again. Shuuko, along with Icchan, began devising a plan for funding the research, thus Angelic Layer is created. The revenue developed from Angelic Layer dolls, endorsements, etc. contributes to the research for Icchan's project and further drives Shuuko's hope of walking again. Too ashamed to let Misaki witness her disability, Shuuko elects to devote her time to helping Icchan finish his research. Shuuko doesn't completely disregard her daughter. She does attempt to visit Misaki, but her efforts fail due to her overwhelming fear. At several points, the two almost meet, and the continued tension adds a sense of anticipation towards seeing the eventual unification of mother and daughter. Their longing to see one another intensifies as the series begins to close.

Closing the series out, we get to see Misaki make it to the finals of the national Angelic Layer championship where she competes against previous and new rivals with Hatoko as her personal coach and partner. The finals take on a different format with randomly selected battle environments. These dynamic environments change up the battle tactics and add a whole new sense of excitement. As one would guess, Shuuko and Misaki have a date with destiny as they end up battling each other for the championship. It's at this point that the two are reunited as mother and daughter. Misaki deals with her loss of not having a mother and runs out from the tournament as a result of an overwhelming response to the revelation of who her mother is. With Shuuko trailing her in a wheelchair, the two find each other in the middle of a rain storm on the streets of Tokyo. In an emotional reunification, mother and daughter begin to heal the wounds that seven years of separation has created. Misaki readily accepts her mother's story about how she has struggled to fight and overcome the effects of her disease. Now, that mother and daughter are united, the championship resumes with one of the most intense battles yet.

Who will win the championship round? Will Shuuko ever walk again? Will mother and daughter be able to overcome seven years of separation? You can find the answers to these questions as you enjoy getting to know Misaki, her friends and family within the realm of Angelic Layer.

In Summary:
Angelic Layer, as an anime series that can be enjoyed by everyone in the family. The series is filled with lots of action, great character and plot development. Angelic Layer is one of those anime series that can be enjoyed by the oldest child at heart. This series is very highly recommended.

 

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles

Review Equipment
Hitachi 62VS69 62" UltraVision LCD Projection HDTV, XBOX 360 DVD player, XBOX 360 Component HDAV Cable with Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound.



Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: A-
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B-
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 49.98
Running time: 650
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Angelic Layer