Posted by psgels 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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  • K-Off
    (Sunday, Jun 26. 2016 09:11 PM)
    But I agree with Bam in that the show has lots of moments where it shines, namely in the action and the entertaining character interactions. If I was interested more so in a character story rather than an overall plot, I’m sure I’d like Eva a lot more. Certain shows work really well purely off that principle like Phantasia, but by the time I got to Eva I’d gotten relatively desensitized to those character tropes. Shinji didn’t help much either.
  • K-Off
    (Sunday, Jun 26. 2016 09:07 PM)
    There’s no narrative thrusts throughout the show, it’s just scenes happening to get from one action set piece to the next all the while shoving blatant symbolism in your face. The little plot there is feels incredibly weak, aside from the world building there’s no clear objective besides a vague idea of defeating angels and something about Gendo that’s almost background noise with how little it affects the story.
  • K-Off
    (Sunday, Jun 26. 2016 09:03 PM)
    Having started watching anime only in the mid 2000s despite occasionally seeing them on TV during the 90s, I come from a school of thought that emphasizes coherence more than anything else, basically I want the story to have focus. And while Eva’s influence on character archetypes and animation cannot be argued, I still think the story in Eva is pretty bad.
  • AidanAK47
    (Sunday, Jun 26. 2016 07:56 PM)
    Judging purely visually I agree some leeway must be given due to the technical limitations of the time but all of my issues with the series is not visual related but story.
    I have admitted that I don’t hate Eva and I do like aspects of it. But do you really need me to give it praise? There is plenty giving it praise. I see no reason to join the choir.
  • AidanAK47
    (Sunday, Jun 26. 2016 07:51 PM)
    Now you are just flying off the hook.
    I understand Eva’s cultural significance, and it’s effect on the medium. I just deem it irrelevant when judging the anime itself. For you see dear boy, if you are going to place EVA above modern anime then you must judge it by modern standards. If it falls short you can’t just bring up historic significance to wave away it’s problems.
  • Bam
    (Sunday, Jun 26. 2016 05:46 PM)
    I praised Fate/Zero for its story, pacing and charismatic protagonist. UBW I agreed to its superb battle animation and overall quality of first cour. Now when someone watches EoE or Eva Rebuild 2.2 and comments on nothing of quality, then who is the biased one here really?
  • Bam
    (Sunday, Jun 26. 2016 05:34 PM)
    If anything at least call Shinji a shitty annoying character- cuz even I won’t deny that.
  • Bam
    (Sunday, Jun 26. 2016 05:25 PM)
    When I mean discussion I don’t mean a series of personal likes and dislikes- but judging objective elements: plot consistency, animation quality, restrain in fan-service and pandering, over reliance on tropes and cliches, etc. Otherwise we all have our different preferences.
  • Bam
    (Sunday, Jun 26. 2016 05:20 PM)
    I agree with the cons of Eva, as well as its strengths. Same with Fate. Being pessimistic is a stance, not inherently a flaw. The setting of Eva predicates that tone. If anything I have a bias towards Berserk, and that’s mostly all out of nostalgia.
  • Bam
    (Sunday, Jun 26. 2016 05:16 PM)
    Also what ladies? Even the “gentlemen” part is stretching it. It’s very easy for someone who didn’t follow anime 20 years ago to criticize one of its most historic moments. At least this Tenka Seiha fella doesn’t talk smack about what he doesn’t really understand.

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