Angel, fall in! Welcome to the world of Angelic Layer. A world where two players battle it out with their custom-designed dolls known as ‘Angels’ in which players control by using their minds. It may seem like an innocent game of dolls in combat, but believe it or not, there is more to the game than what is shown on the surface.
Produced by the talented Studio Bones (Wolf’s Rain, Ouran High School Host Club), ANGELIC LAYER revolves around seventh grader Misaki Suzuhara who had moved to Tokyo to live with her aunt. Upon arrival, she is welcomed by the sight of a battle doll, Athena, fighting an opponent on a big TV screen outside of Tokyo Station. Overwhelmed by Athena’s greatness, Misaki soon learns that the game is none other than ‘Angelic Layer’, and decides to create her very own doll called ‘Hikaru’.
Unlike many of CLAMP’s works (XXXHolic, X, Magic Knight Rayearth), Angelic Layer delivers a laid back approach to its art direction where there is less emphasis on detailed ‘shoujo’ style, and more concentration on actions and movements. To many viewers, Angelic Layer‘s art direction will strike a chord with viewers as there are recycled CLAMP character designs that may appear familiar yet not-so-familiar.
For a series that was conceived back in the 90s, Angelic Layer introduces the audience to a technological-advanced society where it deals with the relationship between humans and human-created devices. An exciting journey ensues for Misaki as battle after battle, the audience witnesses Misaki’s miraculous domination from amateur level to National competition status.
However, we cannot help but notice – as it slowly dawns on us – that perhaps Angelic Layer is one of CLAMP’s weakest titles. Never before have we encountered a CLAMP series that is sports-oriented, and with repetitive combat battles that flashes by before we know it, it is difficult not to question the direction of Angelic Layer.
Despite how well-thought the concept Angelic Layer was, the story exposed many plot-holes and lack of character development. Realistically, Misaki quickly dominating the game in a short period of time was a bit far-fetched. But of course, CLAMP, a mastermind of suspense and storytelling, redeemed themselves by having something up their sleeves right from the beginning.
Taking a bit of time to unveil the core story of Angelic Layer, no doubt that the emotional climax would have hit viewers hard. Much to our delight, the overall story becomes intense over the course of time, dealing with issues such as romance; the significance of bonds; and the strength of one’s fighting spirit.
A highly satisfactory conclusion awaits fans but it would have been better if Angelic Layer was a fully substantial series similarly to its predecessor Cardcaptor Sakura.
Nevertheless, it is Angelic Layer‘s fighting spirit that moves us. From Misaki’s Hikaru to Hatoko’s Suzuka, the show sets out to prove that dolls and players of different sizes and experience can play Angelic Layer. No matter who you are and your motive for participation, it is nice to see how every player in Angelic Layer is connected through their love for the game. The series may not be driven by a strong story but it is the show’s focus on each character’s uniqueness, and the well-animated choreography that makes Angelic Layer memorable.
Overall: ANGELIC LAYER is a fascinating series that proves CLAMP is not just about pretty shoujo art and philosophical morals. Regardless of which generation you’re from, Angelic Layer brings love to old-school dolls. Angelic Layer teaches viewers that we can learn a lot about one’s character based on the way we connect and fight with our valued dolls.
With gorgeous boxset design and plenty of DVD extras including production art and commentaries, Madman Entertainment’s Angelic Layer Series Collection is a must-watch (and purchase) for all CLAMP fans out there!
ANGELIC LAYER SERIES COLLECTION is now out on DVD. You can view more info on Madman Entertainment’s site [here]