Angelic Layer

February 12, 2006 on 6:15 pm | In Angelic Layer | 6 Comments

Angelic Layer is CLAMP’s shounen series … for girls. Eventually the viewer will realise that it’s all an excuse to see women in outlandish outfits beat each other up, but it’s a sweet, well executed excuse.

Suzuhara Misaki (known as Misakichi to her friends) has not seen her mother for seven years. As the series begins, she has decided to move to Tokyo to stay with her aunt. On the way to her new home, she sees a giant television screen broadcasting a match of Angelic Layer: a game in which thought controlled dolls battle each other for supremacy.
With the assistance of Icchan, a man in a lab coat who came to receive her, she gets into Angelic Layer herself and quickly rises to the top as an Angelic Layer prodigy!

Angelic Layer is an attempt to capture the girls’ audience with the sort of thing that normally appeals to boys. This was published in Shounen Ace originally, but one only needs to look at the ideas – an almost exclusively female cast, a mother/daughter drama and battling dolls – to understand that this is for girls. That’s not to say that fellows can’t get anything out of it; I stand firm in my opinion that a heck of a lot of shoujo stuff has wide charm.

The fights are an enjoyable mix of dance, aerobics, boxing and martial arts. Misaki’s style is that of “absorption”, that is, she picks up the techniques of her opponent and uses them herself. This means that the battles never get too repetitive with Hikaru, Misaki’s Angel, fighting in almost every melee shown.
Around the half way mark of the series something changes in the battles to make them more epic and more implausible; the fact of the matter is that Angelic Layer is, realistically, the worst spectator sport ever. The Angels are doll sized, and the layers (playing fields) are flat discs not more than two meters wide.
What the series asks the viewers to accept is that this game packs out arenas despite the fact that no one could be reasonably be able to see it from stadium seats. This worry is alleviated by the new and exciting developments in Angel combat and it doesn’t really matter to us, but it’s a weird world.

Angelic Layer boasts a wide and varied support cast, from the Angelic Layer R&D team, to Misaki’s school friends, to her Layer rivals. There is also the matter of the mysterious Shuko, who is not really a mystery at all if you’ve got any sense.
One run in with Shuko and the reaction she has to watching Misaki from afar is an obvious indicator of her place in the series. Shuko wins all sorts of awards for irrationality, but the kind of brokenness that her character presents makes the series’ conclusion all the sweeter.

The rest of the characters have their own back stories, and even front stories. Many characters are subtly set up with others during the course of the series, and there’s even that rare sight in anime: happily married couples. The problem lies with some of the romance common in childrens’ shows. For the majority of the episodes, a romance is forged between Misaki and Kotaro, the elder brother of her training partner Hatoko; towards the end, Misaki’s other friend Tamayo inexplicably becomes jealous because, despite having literally pushed the two on each other, she’s always secretly “loved” Kotaro. To solve this problem, the romantic focus immediately switches Misaki’s attention to someone else entirely. It’s one contrivance too many for a series that otherwise works on all levels.

The cast is a parade of seiyuu of various skill levels; at one point I was about ready to rip my ears out if I had to endure Enomoto Atsuko’s portrayal of Misaki and her “nyaa”. Enomoto can perform at a normal level, but her Misaki is one of the squeakiest character readings I’ve ever heard. If she could get something a little closer to her OP performance, Angelic Layer would have been infinitely more palatable. Inoue Kikuko offers her normal services as Shuko, with a good grip on “irrational” for the character.
The true highlight is Onasaka Masaya as Icchan, who brings the most joy to the series with his penalty games and other antics. Even his pathetically unrealised dreams become more sympathetic through this reading and Seki Tomokazu is pure excellence as his punching bag.

Angelic Layer is another fine effort from CLAMP, the studio of more hit than miss. Some of it is overdone, but it’s all in the name of entertainment. One can’t ask for much more than that in this near ultimate relationship shounen/shoujo mixed drama.


  1. I thought CLAMP approved all decisions to er ‘canonize’ Oujirou x Misaki… they seemed pretty strong in the anime. 😮 And yeah, Angelic Layer = shounen anime for girls. *nods*

    Comment by becky — February 12, 2006 #

  2. Okay, I’ve altered it to mention the breakneck switch of romantic pace; the problem is that the initial romance shouldn’t have been bothered with if it was only contrived to create such fake tension and changes of attitude.

    Comment by Alex — February 12, 2006 #

  3. I actually found out about Angelic Layer from getting the books from the library and after reading the first volume, I then drove to the bookstore to read the rest. I have not seen the anime, but now I have an urge to…

    Comment by Os — February 14, 2006 #

  4. Did you not find it ridiculousness in the later battles when angels were going Super Sayin and the fights lost all semblence of realism? Yeah, me too. Still fun, though.

    I wonder what the canonical relationship between this and Chobits is. Have you seen Chobits? Watch it and get back to me.

    Comment by CAPper — February 18, 2006 #

  5. The TV series made substantial changes in the story and in particular in the characters and their relationships relative to the manga. Quite frankly, the anime is a lot better.

    The ending of the manga is substantially different and much less satisfying. I’m not clear on the extent to which the gals at CLAMP were involved in recrafting the series for TV.

    There’s no question that Icchan-san is the prize of the series, and the ultimate satisfaction is when he himself gets a batsu-game from his usual punching bag. I’ve got three series now where Onasaka Masaya has a major role and he was outstanding in all of them. (The other two were Magic Users Club and Card Captor Sakura.)

    Comment by Steven Den Beste — February 18, 2006 #

  6. angelic layer is very nice….as in….!!!! nakakbilib! and it has happy ending!!!

    Comment by lantis hikaru — February 21, 2006 #

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