While my pace for watching older anime series has greatly slowed down since the summer season, I am still riding the train of older series as best as I can. For the past month and some change, I have been watching as much as I can Angelic Layer and this show has really grown on me. What started out as just a simple fighting tournament shonen style of anime turned into something much more then its boundaries and genre would suggest. There is so much goodness and heart in Angelic Layer that would honestly make most shonen battle series feel jealous. I am completely serious about this. In the end, it became so much more than a standard shonen anime series for me. Angelic Layer became another thing that I relied on from a day to day basis to keep my sanity. Life is hard.
Angelic Layer, from a story perspective, is very simple. This is an anime that starts when a middle schooler named Misaki steps off the train in Tokyo. Of course, she stepped off at the wrong station on accident, but this is something that changes her life completely. Why? Because Misaki sees this great spectacle known as Angelic Layer on a big screen. In particular, this White Angel doll beating up a much larger opponent. (This becomes even more important later on.) Entranced from this, she immediately wants to get involved in the fun, though she doesn’t know how. That’s where this strange guy named Mr. Icchan comes in. This mysterious person, who you learn about more later, guides Misaki and shows her where she can buy an angel. (I am glad that the show is self aware about this and people take Icchan as a creeper at first.) Thus, the story begins. Getting involved in Angelic Layer, Misaka spent all the money she has at that moment on an angel doll, which ends up as a very worthy future investment. From that point on, this newbie makes friends, wins fights, makes more friends, and goes all the way in the Angelic Layer competition. You know, usual shonen tournament battle stuff.
If I’m going to talk about Angelic Layer, maybe I should tell you what the game is. That only makes sense, right? Angelic Layer is a game that revolves around fighting dolls. You can use a computer to customize your Angel/Doll however you want to from a stats perspective. The usual “do you want your angel to be a heavy weight fighter that focuses on defense or a light weight fighter that focuses on attack” sort of thing. After hatching the Angel from its egg, the outfit is up to the player as well. Not that the Angel is completely customized, it’s time to fight. Angelic Layer is a game that played by thought control. The Angel/Doll is completely inert until its thrown into this thing called a layer. After that, the combat starts for a certain amount of time until one player runs out of health points. So yes, the game the show is centered around is pretty awesome.
It’s hard to call this the best part of Angelic Layer, because there are so many great parts, but I loved all the characters in this series Yes, even the boring protagonist at the end of the show. Misaki is the standard shonen protagonist who starts out from the lowest of the low in her field, gains more strength as she goes along at an accelerate rate, and inspires others to stop being sour pusses along the way. She isn’t too far from that description, but there are added elements that give Misaki more dimension. For one thing, Misaki isn’t athletic at all. Maybe this is a cliché sort of thing at first, along with how good of a cook she is, but these are things that connect to a person she hasn’t seen in seven years, her mom. Because of this, there is a big emotional appeal to all those aspects later on in the show. Until the end of the show, Misaki was an incredibly bland protagonist to me until the end of the show where she gets some development too. I was incredibly thankful for that.
Then to complete the trio, there is also Tomoyo and Kotaro. I like how they switched around the usual masculine and feminine traits with these two. Tomoyo is the girl of this pair, but she is insanely strong and loud. That means that Kotaro is the guy, but he is quiet and takes a lot the hits from Tomoyo’s rampages. There was a love triangle going on, but I am glad these two found each other in the end. Next up is the forth main character, but far more important in my eyes because she’s my favorite, Hatoko. Hatoko is Kotaro’s sister, is five years old, and still in Kindergarten, but is an ace at Angelic Layer. She made it to finals to face the White Angel, the one that I’ve talked about at the beginning of this post, when she was four years old. Hatoko has a lot of fans, but she never lets this fact go to her head because she plays Angelic Layer for the fun of it all. Also, she is the only player that Misaki has ever lost too. Misaki and Hatoko are rivals, but they are best friends too. There is so much great chemistry in this show.
Let’s move onto side characters. I am not going to name any in particular, but each one of them is great and memorable. Why? Not only does each character have their own spot light in the beginning of the episode that Misaki fights them in, but the anime itself never forgets about them. What do I mean by that? A lot of the characters that are introduced show up later. Maybe these characters are still continuing on in the Angelic Layer tournament, become a part of Misaki’s friend’s circle, or just become a Misaki support in the crowd. Maybe they only show up in the crowd waving a flag in support for Misaki, but it doesn’t matter. Despite Angelic Layer’s large cast for a twenty-six-episode series, you cannot call many of them one dimensional. That’s a good thing, that means Angelic Layer knows how to spend it’s time.
Angelic Layer’s character design is a combination of two things. For one, it’s still very Clamp. Yes, Angelic Layer is one of many series from the popular group Clamp. For another, I can easily compare the character designs similar to something like Pokémon, but then that’s fine because this is a show in a similar vein. I mean, this is a kid’s show still. From a background perspective, this show has so many beautiful, unique, and well detailed ones. From the various settings on the ground to the eventual new ones that the Angels fight in, there are wide variety of them in such vast detail. Then there is the animation. I am just going to say Studio Bones. That’s all you need to know, because the fighting choreography and fluidity is great like usual. I really think that I am becoming a Studio Bones fanboy.
Okay, here is something that I don’t usually talk about. The Audio portion of this show. I watched this show dubbed and I can say that it’s just ok. I never watched this show before, so I wanted some nostalgic value to it some way. This dub is about the same level as Poke ’mons’ early dub, which is still pretty good from a quality perspective. There are a lot of voices in this dub that I am familiar with too, so that helped as well. Then there is music. Oh my god, this show’s soundtrack is fantastic. My favorite part is the song that always plays before the fighting starts. If you have watched this show, you know what I’m talking about. The one that had used the low brass effectively as a scene sitter to show off the arena, the audience, and the players. It never fails to get me hyped for what is about to come next.
Angelic Layer is such a great watch. It’s nothing too intellectual or philosophical, but it is pure fun and pure energy. There is no way this show can’t pull you out of whatever mood you are and make you feel happy. It’s a show that uses a well-established and simple formula, like a tournament shonen thing, and uses it to its full potential. My favorite way to do things sometimes. The only way you can beat that is if a story does something beyond the normal and is able to pull it off completely. I can’t recommend this show enough. If you haven’t watched Angelic Layer yet, please put it on your queue. I am not sorry about writing a gushing review of this show, because Angelic Layer completely deserves it.