Posted on 23 February 2009 with categories: Anime Reviews


One of the things I like about Clamp is that not only do they have a lot of imagination and a great sense of style, but they always try to go for something in a new genre, as opposed just doing the same genre over and over in order to milking their same old cash cows that brought them success (after all, they use their infamous cameos for that ^^;). Angelic Layer is their shounen fighting series: it’s about a nationwide tournament where people battle against each other with children’s toys brought to life. So yeah, it’s a notorious genre if anything, but along the way this series made me drop my scepsis and doubts completely.

It’s hard to see this from a distance, though. Nearly every single battle follows the same formula: Misaki (the lead character) enters battle, Misaki has trouble defeating her opponent, Misaki wins battle. As this series deals with a tournament, the opponents and outcomes for each battle is very heavily influenced by the writers in order to keep the plot on the correct path (after all, you wouldn’t have much of a series if Misaki lost and got kicked out of the tournament halfway through). But it all just doesn’t matter in the end, because Misaki is SO DANM adorable.

In fact, aside from the above mentioned predictability issues, I don’t have any problems with this series at all. This is simply a series that’s fun to watch, and throughout the series it never forgets that it’s supposed to have a consistently fun and fast-paced atmosphere. Even though you know that Misaki is going to win, you just can’t help but root for her, and during the fights it’s always fun to see what’s happening behind the scenes. Most of the characters are fleshed out and developed really well, and this prevents all of the battles from getting boring, and they continue to deliver.

In terms of eye candy, this series also delivers. Bones may not be the perfect studio, but these guys do know their animation. The character-designs look simple, yet very appealing (as expected from Clamp), and they’re brought alive really well in animation. The fights also consist out of mostly hand-to-hand combat, and while the action doesn’t look flashy at all, it is full of life and emotion. When the characters are fighting, there are hardly any close-ups or other cheap animation tricks used. Instead, we get real nicely animated fights that remain fun to watch.

What also sets this series apart from all other shounen fighting series is the lack of a villain, or for that matter any character who even bears a resemblance to one. In this series there is no “I’m going to use the powers of a bunch of child’s toys in order to somehow destroy the world. Mua ha ha ha”. There is an overarching storyline, but for once this is aimed at the characters, instead of the plot. Because of this, this series may abuse the “parents gone”-trope a bit at times, but the results make up for it.

To close off, even though we have a manga adaptation here, it is one of those few manga adaptations which fits perfectly into the time frame of 26 episodes. It’s especially surprising since quite a few of Bones’ series have their pacing issues, but Angelic Layer never feels too slow or too fast. No episode feels wasted or useless and the creators did a really good job in planning this series correctly. Obviously you don’t want to watch this series for a complicated plot, or heart-wrenching drama, but for those who are looking for a fun fighting series with adorable characters that may sacrifice its plot at times, then this series isn’t going to disappoint.

Storytelling: 7/10
Characters: 9/10
Production-Values: 9/10
Setting: 8/10

6 Responses

  1. senerikfred says:

    Oh wow, I was expecting you to hate Misaki, since she’s a bunch of ‘perfect cute girl’ cliches rolled together. Nevertheless, this is a wonderful series with some very cute/fun characters. I watched this when I was about 10, and thus am nostalgically biased in my love for it, so I’m also surprised but happy you enjoyed it.
    Angelic Layer the anime is actually a lot easier to appreciate when you look at the bare-bones manga, too, and realize that Bones themselves added in all the drama, as well as most of fleshing out the system gets.

  2. FireChick says:

    I have the first 2 DVDs of this!

  3. Senna says:

    I felt the same about Angelic Layer; it’s deceptively simple but quite fun and has some great characters. And even though I wouldn’t consider it a drama overall, there’s some great dramatic scenes near the end that really won me over ^^

  4. Hunter-Wolf says:

    Angelic layer isn’t bad, but i think that Plawres Sanshirou is a far superior shonen series with the same theme, Angelic layer could be called the “lite” version of Sanshirou … watch it and you want be disappointed (i’m not saying it is flawless .. it has its share of shortcomings being a 1983 production but is still very good)

  5. Solaris says:

    Opps, i missed this! Glad you liked the show, but isn’t 82 a little low rating for this?
    PS: the soundtrack alone deserves more points! :P

  6. dave@scifi says:

    Hi I’ve been watching Anime for over 35 years, and I find I like character driven series the best. I find the interaction and development of the characters, much more fascinating than a pure action series. I watched Angelic Layer with my 9 year old Daughter, and found that I liked and enjoyed it as much as she did. A long time ago, I was told by a friend to let the credits on the final episode of any series or OVA run to the end, as sometimes an extra something is added. For those that turned off the show as the credits were running, here’s a SPOILER ALERT…………………………… As the show goes to black, a final scene is added. It’s a Bedroom, and on a shelf, Athena, is sitting with her arm around Hikaru, and Hikaru’s head resting on Athena side. Both have smiles on there faces. My Daughter turned to look at me with a tear in her eye, and a smile on her face. That one scene should raise the rating 5 points.

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  • AidanAK47
    (Thursday, Apr 24. 2014 03:27 PM)
    Ghibi’s up would certainly be a different beast altogether.
  • K-Off
    (Thursday, Apr 24. 2014 03:08 PM)
    @Ken no, the ghibli one.
  • Kenjeran
    (Thursday, Apr 24. 2014 01:55 PM)
    @Juno: Up? That Disney-Pixar one?
  • Noel
    (Thursday, Apr 24. 2014 01:39 PM)
    Hi there. I’m currently interning for a small company in London, and they tasked me with creating a video tribute to Howl’s Moving Castle. I came up with this, and I thought you might like it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tS-zTTQzgjI Noel
  • Juno
    (Thursday, Apr 24. 2014 12:23 PM)
    The only time they ever get along seems to be during non-canon alternate universes made for fanservice, official or not.
  • Juno
    (Thursday, Apr 24. 2014 12:21 PM)
    Erm, no. They didn’t “get along” so much as Sayaka at least sympathized nicely with her. At least, until the end, when she basically swore never to sympathize with her again. XDDD
  • Juno
    (Thursday, Apr 24. 2014 12:20 PM)
    Another interesting point is that the character relations are pretty fluid, too. Characters can act differently toward each other in different timelines/potential futures. Rebellion actually solidifies Homura’s consistent feelings toward Mami and also that Sayaka just cannot seem to be on good terms with Homura… but even then, for a while, they got along pretty well until the end. XD
  • Juno
    (Thursday, Apr 24. 2014 12:17 PM)
    Madoka’s characterization seems pretty non-linear and only show up when necessary, so it’s definitely easy to see that they’re “dependent on the plot,” but there’s a ton of stuff there to piece the characters together into something coherent and solid.
  • AidanAK47
    (Thursday, Apr 24. 2014 11:55 AM)
    Madoka’s characters act pretty confusingly? I never got that. I always felt there actions were pretty logical in the first viewing.
    Though a second viewing of anything can help. Mostly because you know the main story so you can focus on the little details.
  • Juno
    (Thursday, Apr 24. 2014 11:27 AM)
    If anyone wants me to ask any specific questions, let me know. Funny enough, people are saying the same thing I’ve been saying for a long time–that multiple viewings help us understand the characters better. Because a lot of characters DO act pretty confusing at first, but upon a second viewing, after we know more about them, those actions make complete sense. Meaning that Madoka’s characterization is not linear.

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