Summary: A girl named Misaki Suzuhara has recently moved to Tokyo to live with her aunt when she gets entranced by a game playing on a big screen near Tokyo station. It’s called Angelic Layer – a game where two players (or Deuses) utilize the powers of their minds through use of a high-tech headset to move small custom battle dolls called ‘angels’ in a special battle arena.
The dolls each have their own powers and custom appearances, but it’s up to the Deus to figure out how to use them in a battle in order to win. Playing in the match is a very popular angel named Athena, and Misaki is so amazed by the battle that she quickly goes out to a store to buy and customize her own angel. While trying to figure out the game and customize her angel, she meets a weird man named Icchan, also known as Ichiro Mihara, one of the creators of Angelic Layer.
Once she finishes her angel, she names it Hikaru after her favorite doll and soon gets into the world of Angelic layer with Icchan and her friends, but there’s a secret behind the game that connects right back to Misaki.
Breakdown: I have a great love of gaming anime. Beyblade, Yu-Gi-Oh, Duel Masters and more have all made me obsessed at certain points in my life. However, if there’s one stigma that’s always been attached to the genre it’s that most gaming anime are aimed at boys. Hence why gaming anime is typically called ‘shounen’ gaming anime. The girls equivalent is typically magical girl anime. While this isn’t technically marketed as shoujo, it’s one rare show that I think appeals well to girls as much if not more than boys.
While boys do play the game in the show, it is very much a female dominated sport with only one or two notable guys taking up the higher ranks. Probably because the battle dolls are called angels and the game is called Angelic Layer. Even if you take the name off, they’re still battle ‘dolls’.
The sad part of this is that while I can, to an extent, play the games in most shounen gaming anime, I can’t very well go out and buy my own angel and battle it….but dammit all, that would be amazing. I’d play that game so hard.
The game itself does look really fun. Using your mind to control a small battle doll and fight other battle dolls with cool powers? Awesome!
I also noticed something not really present in a lot of gaming anime…most of the battles, while being suspenseful, were very obviously played for fun in a relaxing atmosphere. In fact, the Deuses don’t really move much while battling, unlike in a lot of similar anime where the player is almost always making grand gestures and yelling for no real reason.
There is more to the story than what I’ve presented in the plot summary, but I didn’t want to spoil it too much. A lot of the series is Misaki learning how to play the game, and, more or less, it was a problem-of-the-week-ish thing going on with practically every episode after that. Misaki would battle someone who would seemingly have some sort of issue. Getting beaten by and talking to Misaki, who may as well be T’ea lite (now with 75% less annoyance) with her various speeches would instantly solve the problem.
While I’m on the topic, let me address a problem that I really don’t like in any gaming anime….Misaki’s nickname is “The Miracle Rookie.” Yeah, she’s one of those protagonists who, despite being new to the game, always seems to pull off incredible feats to win, some of those feats being pulled straight out of her ass. Misaki’s barely learned how to play the game properly before she’s entering a tournament for God’s sake.
While that may sound bad, it never got to a point where it was noticeably irritating to me. The show pulls off even annoying aspects so well that I didn’t pay it too much mind.
One more thing I should address is that the show is somewhat like Fruits Basket in that it is a very light-hearted anime with tons of gentle moments and friendship, but it skews from that tone sharply towards the end and becomes fairly dark for a couple of episodes. The final episode, however, is much lighter in tone to bring it back up.
Also, Icchan is awesome.
Art and Animation: Wonderful. Have no qualms whatsoever with the art. Very well done. Clamp always has a nice and gentle style to its designs. Unlike a lot of other gaming anime, the animation is very fluid and nice to watch.
Music: Not really memorable, but they flow well with the show.
Voices: English – Other than Misaki’s voice being slightly irritating, no qualms. I basically expected her voice to be somewhat annoying anyway.
Bottom Line: This is a cute, well made, very interesting and sad anime. Probably the best gaming-centric anime I’ve ever seen.
I have my own personal issues with a couple of the aspects of the show such as the relationship between Kotaro and Tomayo, and the final battle, which, from a logical standpoint, makes no sense and really shouldn’t have turned out the way that it did.
However, I would gladly watch this series again a few times over. The characters are mostly likable, the story’s relaxing and nice to watch, barring the second to last episode which gets a little heavy, (but to sate your worries, there’s no “the fate of the world relies on this children’s game” stuff) the game is exciting to watch and it’s just a relaxing fun show.
Additional Information and Notes: Angelic Layer was based on a manga by Clamp. In fact, this series supposedly takes place a few years before Chobits, and Icchan also plays a role in Chobits.
It was directed by Hiroshi Nishikiori, director of Azumanga Daioh and Jyu-Oh-Sei, and was written by Ichiro Okouchi, writer of Azumanga Daioh and Code Geass.
Angelic Layer was produced by BONES, makers of awesome things like RahXephon, Fullmetal Alchemist, Wolf’s Rain and Ouran High School Host Club.
Recommended Audience: There’s nothing that bad to note here. The ending is pretty sad and dark in tone, but everything else is peachy. Any and all violence is kept to the layer, except a few wrestling moves by Tamayo. I’d say, beware of the ending, but E for everyone overall.
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