8 Star TV Shows, Reviews, TV Show Reviews, TV Shows

Angelic Layer Review

I read the Angelic Layer manga a long time ago. It was really fun with its constant action and was something that I didn’t really expect Clamp to do. The action scenes hold up as some of the best drawn ones out there. The only thing holding it back was some of the annoying characters who had a running gag of trying to embarrass the main character. The anime did a good job of fixing that although it came at the expense of the fight scenes. They’re still around, but the characters have been nerfed. It’s definitely a trade off I can live with and the anime definitely ended up being a great title.

Misaki has always lived a cheerful life with her grandparents as she went through school and made some friends. That being said, she’s always wanted to see her Mom again after being separated across the country. The Mom is busy with her work so she’s never had time to visit or write or phone so Misaki figures that going to Tokyo could solve this. Once she arrives, she sees an Angelic Layer battle being presented on a TV screen. It is essentially a sport where you fight using telepathically controlled mini robots called Angels. A mysterious man named Icchan helps her pick one out and get introduced to the sport. Along the way she makes a few friends like Kotaro, Tamayo, and Hatoko. Can Misaki make it all the way to the world championships and take the crown? If she does, then maybe she can work up the courage to find her mother, but perhaps she won’t have to look very far.

Right away you can tell that the show has aged well. The visuals are nice and crisp with all of the characters and backgrounds looking sharp. This is great for the fight scenes since they are pretty fluid and you can get into the show immediately. The directing and writing are just on point as some shows take a few episodes to get going, but this one catches fire immediately. The soundtrack is also quite good. The opening is fun and iconic and the ending is excellent. It’s a very emotional yet hype theme that plays during the final 30-40 seconds of each episode. It is especially powerful in episode 13 with the DBZ esque cliffhanger but works well in all of them. Sadly they change the ending for the second half of the show. It’s not a bad ending, but it’s a lot happier so it no longer works well with the cliffhangers. The rest of the soundtrack is also pretty good with some nice battle themes in there. One of them even sounds a whole lot like a Toonami promo theme from back in the day. It’s pretty nostalgic. A minor detail that is also fun to notice is how each tournament stage gets grander and grander. The National Tournament stage is easily the most prestigious one of all and the show did a good job of making them all different.

As I mentioned earlier, the fights are a little different than in the manga. Instead of the more intense blows like DBZ where characters are smashing each other into the ground with enormous force, they’re played out more like if they are dolls or angels. They attack but not with enough force to make you think the stadium is going to fall over and that’s because the show acts a little more like a Shojo the whole time. I’d prefer the manga fights, but these are still good as well. You just don’t want to compare them all that much. The actual hand to hand is still really good and we do get one really intense battle with a lot of craters in episode 13. The Champion’s angel also has a very impressive showing during her first round as she moves so fast that she can dodge while appearing to be in the same place. That may have been a little too exaggerated since she was nerfed heavily after that, but it’s how it has to be I suppose.

There is a little more romance in the show than the manga. I suppose that’s to be expected and at one point the show has quite a few people trying to get in on the action. Person A likes B, but B likes C, C likes E, D likes A. We even get a whole episode for this which of course takes place at the beach. One good thing about this being a Shojo is that the beach isn’t used for fanservice which is great. The show completely dodges that speedbump which is awesome. Many titles struggle there, but not this one. As far as romances go, it’s not all that bad either. Tsubasa was still the best in this area, but at least it’s not too drawn out. Take that episode away and the rest of the series barely messes with that. I think there were only 2 episodes total which focused on it.

Another area where the series excels is its pacing. It never drags on and there are fights in virtually every single episode. It’s always nice to see and while I doubt any title has a big fight in all of its episodes (Probably some exception somewhere) this one came close. The birthday celebration episode didn’t have a fight, but it had a cool hammer and plate minigame that was fun because I remember it from another show, but can’t recall where. It seems like a pretty fun game where you definitely need solid reflexes.

Misaki is a great character and someone that most other leads can learn from. She’s a very happy character who is always trying to make the best of things. She enters every battle with a smile and doesn’t hold grudges against any of the bullies. She simply wins them over to her side and keeps on going. Misaki tries not to let other characters worry either and keeps everything to herself. Of course, that ultimately puts more of a strain on her, but she is definitely a noble character through and through. Unfortunately because of her happy nature, she is also highly susceptible to mind games from her opponents and is a little too trusting. I suppose these traits were bound to occur though and it’s still a good thing that she is such an optimistic person. I believe that I liked her a lot in the manga as well, but the anime did an even better job of developing her character. She’s easily one of the most heroic ones I’ve seen.

Her Angel Hikaru makes for a perfect partner. Her design is on point and the fact that she is a speed model with solid attacks is an added bonus. She even reminds me of Megaman.exe because of the chest emblem she has. I’d swear that it’s practically the same. Hikaru is also so strong that the show constantly has to write excuses to have the opponents even stand a chance against her. Misaki only has 2-3 fair fights during the whole series as in just about every bout Misaki is either distracted or the opponent is cheating to the main character doesn’t just steamroll the opponent. It’s definitely a good change of pace and I rather like main characters who are pros as opposed to just barely winning each time. It can be annoying as these gimmicks keep almost stopping Misaki, but she always gets through.

Icchan is one of the main supporting characters. He’s the head scientist involved with creating Angelic Layer, but he makes sure not to tell Misaki this. He discreetly helps her from the shadows as she progresses in the game and knows more than he lets on. The character has been improved from the manga although he still acts a little iffy near the beginning. He’s a decent character I suppose although his mean pranks can go way too far at some points. It’s always hard to know what to think of him, but at the very least he is a charismatic boss.

Hatoko is Misaki’s first rival and one of the stronger characters in the series. She is sort of like the Chaud and Protoman of the series as she defeats her opponents in an instant and is known as one of the best players in the league. Her Angel is another speed type who is also very powerful. Her fight with Misaki was definitely a lot of fun and it’s just a shame that she didn’t really get to do anything for the second half of the series. Her fight against Shirahime was also very anticlimactic and disappointing. I never really like 1 hit KO matches since it’s hard to do anything epic in that time compared to a more prolonged fight. That’s why Shirahime vs Hikaru is probably the best fight of the series although Kaede’s battle with Misaki is very close. The fact that Hatoko is only around 5-8 years old makes her even more fun since she is such a little kid but can still fight it out with these professionals. She shows that age really doesn’t matter in this game as it’s all about the skills.

Kotaru is the main guy in the series, but he doesn’t have an Angel of his own so that makes things a little tricky for him. He’s Hatoko’s big brother though so that helps him stay relevant. I’m not much of a fan of his to be honest as he spends the whole show getting pushed around by just about everyone. He does get his own romance plot twice as he goes after Misaki but ultimately allows himself to fall behind to the rival and goes with the childhood friend. This felt a bit like a rebound as he was clearly losing the battle for Misaki and went from not even acknowledging Tamayo as anything other than a friend to completely getting over Misaki (Aside from a brief relapse during the fight) in the course of a day or 2. That romance was a little rushed to be honest, but we’ll roll with it.

Tamayo is definitely more likable than Kotaru. She’s a good friend who constantly roots for Misaki during the tournament and also isn’t petty. She realizes that her chances of getting Kotaru grew slimmer when Misaki joined up, but never resented her for it. Tamayo even told herself that blaming Misaki wouldn’t be fair and she stayed true to herself with that. So even if I didn’t really buy into the romance, Tamayo handled the situation as best as possible so she deserves some points for that. I’m also glad that she can fight and doesn’t take any nonsense from the bullies.

Ohjiro is one of the hype characters as he was the tournament runner up the year before the series started. His Angel Wizard is incredibly powerful because of his seemingly impervious defense. That being said, while I like Wizard, I don’t like Ohjiro. He comes off as too much of a flirt at times and it’s hard to ever know if he’s actually here to help. His prank to Misaki to build up her courage was just bizarre. The guy just rubbed me the wrong way from the start.

Aunt Shoko is a recurring character, but her role never gets that major. Since she is a reporter she is able to follow Misaki around discreetly as she keeps up with the tournament. She’s a nice character and helps support Misaki when possible. Misaki’s mother Shuko has a pretty different personality which causes the two to differ quite a bit. Shuko’s plot was vastly expanded in the anime compared to the manga and certainly made her a better character. I definitely still don’t agree with Shuko’s decisions, but at least they had a decent rationale to them and Shuko did manage to win in a pretty hype way most of the time.

Shuko basically decided to abandon Misaki because her legs were going bad and she decided not to return until they were fixed. The problem is that nothing could fix them in their current state so she kept pushing off the reunion over and over again. Eventually it got up to the point where she couldn’t work up the nerve to meet her. She suddenly decides to do it right before the finals which may not have been a good move. Honestly she probably could have handled it a lot better, but it was definitely an intense way to start the ball rolling, that’s for sure. I’m glad that the show doesn’t even try to hide the fact that she’s Misaki’s Mom from the start because the plot point just seems very clear. Even when the Angel first appears on the screen as Misaki arrives in Tokyo to find her Mom you can basically guess where this is going. The plot could possibly get a little over dramatic at times, but all in all it was a fun little subplot and while Misaki took it pretty hard I can almost guarantee that most characters would have taken it a lot worse. Misaki still handled the situation with her usual dignity and politeness even being the one to ultimately break the ice.

Sai is another one of the big rivals and became the second major threat to Misaki after she defeated Hatoko. Her ice Angel is pretty good since it is a power type but can still move with great speed. It was one of the best fights in the series because there were no gimmicks or mind games. It was simply a really good fight with both characters doing their best to adapt to the situation. Well…actually I kind of forgot about this, but there was a sand gimmick now that I think about it. Still a great fight, but once again the opponent needed an edge to stand a chance against Hikaru. Sai’s a pretty likable character as well as she stays tough and tries to win the tournament for her late sister. Her motives are definitely a lot better than half of the characters in this tournament and she always keeps up a tough exterior.

There’s also Kaede who is Sai’s friend, but a lot more morally dubious. Kaede believes in winning no matter the cost so she allows her Angel to overheat in the hopes of winning the battle. It can permanently damage her angel, but she doesn’t care as long as she wins. While this does make for a great fight, I have to say that I lost a lot of respect for her after that. Kaede’s a little too brutal and forgets that this is just a game. Misaki probably should have called her out on this a little more, but maybe the loss was enough of a message to send. Kaede’s Angel is definitely cool with its neat fighting skills and good dodging abilities. It reminded me of Rosalina quite a bit.

Ringo is a celebrity who fights Misaki early on and has some pretty good abilities. She can fire off invisible blasts of wind and is good in close quarters as well. She’s a pretty fun character to have even if she starts quite the panic during Misaki’s Birthday. The circumstances were only iffy because Misaki didn’t announce her decision in time though so I can’t blame Ringo for it. Ringo’s a fairly minor character in the series, but she appeared enough to be mentioned. There’s also a random boy named Misaki who decides to fight Misaki to prove that boys are superior, but he definitely doesn’t look too good. That was back before Misaki (the main character) could beat everyone with ease so that was his best chance and he still couldn’t take the win. The guy is comically petty to the point where he was an amusing character. You knew that he was doomed from the start though as Misaki was able to beat him while dancing. On that note, I have to say that the show knew when to pour on the disrespect. The heroes including Misaki can be absolutely brutal to their opponents at times. They don’t mean to show off, but it just ends up happening.

Madoka is another one of Misaki’s opponents who acts like a bully and resorts to cheating. It’s a shame since she seemed like a decent fighter, but this proved that she wasn’t actually all that tough. Her sister was just as bad if not worse. Misaki fought quite a few bullies or at least mean spirited characters like this. Another one complained that being tall was annoying and short people always got to have their victories. Misaki promptly beat her and then converted the bully. It’s great how Misaki turns so many lives around just by beating people in front of a national audience. Misaki has definitely made the country a better place.

Finally we have Ogata. He’s the main comic relief of the series, but I had to give him a mention because you can’t help but feel bad for the guy sometimes. I mean, he does ask for it on a few occasions as he accuses Icchan of iffy stuff and makes some big mistakes, but other times he means well and still gets into trouble. Inviting the main characters to the BBQ seems totally innocent..he didn’t realize that Misaki’s Mom would be there and that things could be tricky. The punishments can also be pretty mean like being attacked by an alien or getting tied up. He didn’t ask for this!

I suppose it should be mentioned that the ending of the show is a little cheesy. For once I wouldn’t call it rushed or anything and I was glad that the final episode was basically just one big fight, but they went overboard with trying to make it seem hopeless. Hikaru lost about 80% of her health in a flash and then got hit by a super blast. That should have finished off Hikaru and she stayed down for several minutes. Somehow her health didn’t hit 0 though…then she got hit again…and still had more health while the final boss lost. I would have been okay with that if Hikaru had activated a barrier or had a health regeneration abilitty, but it made no sense in context. She just doesn’t have that much health. Athena was just hyped to no return and it cost the writers a bit. Even in her first fight when she was moving at insane speeds, Athena lost that ability for all of her future fights. It was there for shock value, but then the writers realized that this would be too overpowered. It’s definitely something to watch out for as shows tend to bite off more than they can chew. Sai’s fight with Shuko was also cheesy, but just because neither one of them decided to fight seriously so Shuko won with ease. Isn’t that a little disrespectful to the contestants who lost to these two fighters earlier? I mean, it happens in Super Smash tournaments so it is slightly realistic, but just annoying to watch.

Overall, Angelic Layer is a great show. It’s a lot of fun right from the start. There is constant action throughout it and the pacing is always on point. The main cast is very strong and I could have easily seen this show going over 50 episodes. I definitely wouldn’t mind a sequel series someday where the characters have to fight new opponents or defend the world from evil Angels. I’d also like a sequel since Misaki is past the point of having any doubts so the villains would have to get stronger to deal with her since they can’t play with her psyche anymore. There’s a lot of potential here and a crossover with Megaman.EXE would also be fun since the two titles have so many similarities. If you haven’t seen the show yet, I’d highly recommend doing so. It’s aged phenomenally well and is probably one of the more underrated titles out there. After all, when was the last time you heard this show mentioned in any capacity?

Overall 8/10

Manga, Manga Reviews, Reviews

Angelic Layer Review

It’s time for a classic battle series that may not be the most popular series that Clamp has done, but it makes a solid argument for being their best. The series is only 5 volumes, but it’s essentially comprised of nonstop fights. That’s a winning formula if I ever heard of one and it comes close to 9 star territory, but it does stumble a little along the way to victory.

Misaki is the main character of the series and she grew up in a world that has become engrossed in a new game called Angelic Layer. Essentially, it’s like the Bionicle Meta game in real life, but with a bit more intensity. You buy a doll and then you customize her to be a speed, power, or defense fighter. After that, you can buy her equipment and accessories so that she can be a distinct fighter. Now that you’ve completed all of the steps, you’re ready to enter the tournaments! Misaki witnesses an incredible battle between the angels on TV and decides to enter one with her new doll. What’s the harm right? Maybe she’ll actually end up being the world champ by the time this is all over!

You can argue that Misaki’s road to the top is a little more lonely than the average main character. The reason being that she does have two friends who are main supporting characters, but they don’t play Angelic Layer. Most leads get to spar with their friends, but that isn’t the case for Misaki. I don’t mind the fact that the friends can’t fight though because they just aren’t very good characters. One of the friends is Tamayo and she’s definitely very annoying. She’s constantly beating up Misaki’s other friend and talking about romance when there is no need for it. Her over the top theatrics are not amusing and I would be able to take her a little more seriously if she could actually fight. She actually involves the one big negative for the series so we may as well get it over with as soon as possible.

It’s a running gag that Misaki’s undergarments are mentioned when Tamayo or Ohjiro is around. It’s completely unnecessary and definitely not a good way to throw in some comedy scenes. It’s safe to say that this prevented the series from getting 9 stars. It’s not bad compared to most other series since you never actually see anything, (There is basically no fanservice in the series, which is pretty exceptional) but it’s still not something that you want to see in a series. It just helps to make Tamayo even more unlikable than she already is and it also stops Ohjiro from being a good character.

Kotaro is the other main character and he’s much better than Tamayo. He’s pretty generic and he’s certainly not one of the best characters out there, but he tries hard to be cool. He knows how to fight in the real world and it comes in handy at the very end of the series, but he really needs to learn how to fight in Angelic Layer. He spends the series just getting beaten up on so this doesn’t do wonders for his character either.

Misaki is a pretty decent main character. She always fights to the end while never giving up. Misaki’s instincts for battle are typically spot on and she can decipher the weak point of any opponent that she faces. On the other hand, she can certainly be a little on the generic side and she gets flustered way too often. Misaki isn’t going to be the next Ichigo or Kirito, but I’ll accept her as a decent enough lead to hold the series up. If she was a little more hot headed with some trash talking to back it up, I think that I would probably like her a little more. As it stands, she’s pretty polite and she keeps everyone in the friend zone so I can admire that. Misaki’s other trait that can get to you is that she’s way too gullible. The scientist tries to help her get through this, but it’s a difficult task.

Icchan is the scientist in question and he’s definitely all over the place. He likes to make remarks that don’t make sense and he’s constantly ditching his job to help Misaki. He definitely plays favorites throughout the tournament, but it all comes down to Misaki’s cheerful demeanor. All of her opponents end up rooting for the main character after they lose because Misaki doesn’t want to win for the money, she wants to win for the love of the game. Icchan gives her the angel and he also helps Misaki customize her during the earlier stages of the manga. He’s definitely a decent character, but his almost literally all talk as he never actually fights even though he knows so much about the game. Ah well, he’s definitely a nice guy and he knows that ice cream is one of the best desserts.

Hikaru is Misaki’s angel and she’s one of the strongest fighters in the series. She is a speed fighter so she relies on a lot of quick hits and sudden moves to knock the opponents out of the stage. It’s good that she can do this since she usually starts the battle on the losing end. Her health goes into the red zone before she counters and typically she wins with a one hit KO or some quick attacks. She’s definitely a great angel and one who will certainly remind you of Megaman. She may not have a lot of flashy techniques at her disposal, but she gets the job done. She’s definitely the most likable angel in the tournament.
Hatoko is one of Misaki’s friends and her angel is named Suzuka. Hatoko seems to have a pretty good reputation as a very good Angelic Layer fighter and many thought that she would ultimately win the big tournament. Her angel is a powerful defense fighter so she is able to repel just about any blow with ease. Suzuka’s design is definitely pretty good and she shows that defense types can still match up against speed fighters when necessary. Her final fight in the series isn’t very satisfying since she loses in a single blow, but Hatoko made it pretty far. She’s definitely the best friend from Misaki’s supporting cast and Suzuka is probably the third best angel.

Ohjiro and his angel, The Wizard, are not some of the best characters here. The Wizard is actually a pretty good angel and he’s another defense type. He can block an opponent’s attack by reflecting their energy and making a barrier. He is said to have never been hit by an opponent before so his opponents have a lot of explaining to do. Naturally, it’s up to Hikaru to give him a pretty good fight and prove that speed really does trump everything else. The Wizard looks a lot like Syaoran or Fai from Tsubasa, which is cool since Clamp loves borrowing characters and designs from their other series. The Wizard is pretty likable even if he seems to be pretty weak once you get past his barrier. On the other hand, Ohjiro is definitely not cool. He talks a lot from the shadows about how cool he is and on Hikaru’s potential, but it never goes anywhere. Once he starts to make random comments about under garments that have no relevance to the plot, he immediately lost any chance that he may have had on being a likable character. Sometimes, that’s all that it takes to make a character plummet down the ranks.

Shuko and her angel, Athena, are known as the strongest fighters in Angelic Layer. After Hikaru wins the tournament, they have a quick clash. Athena is technically a speed type, but she’s also one of the strongest fighters in the series. I was pretty glad to see that after all of the defense and speed fighters that were featured throughout the tournament, it was a good change of pace. I did think that Hikaru was probably doomed though since attack power is probably the most important factor in a match like this. Not to mention that Athena still has enough speed to match Hikaru’s. Athena also comes equipped with a giant energy blast that really tips the scales in her favor. Athena is probably the second best angel in the series. It’s too bad that I can’t say the same for Shuko. Shuko has a pretty big twist that is pretty obvious once you see her, but I guess I’ll refrain from saying it just in case. It explains why she isn’t very likable, but it’s still pretty overdone. Shuko is incredibly shy so that she’s constantly blushing in just about every scene and she can barely talk to someone without looking away. She gets tricked at the end into finally seeing the main characters again and maybe this will help her as a character, but we never really get to see this.

Arisu and her angel Alice are the final fighters to face Hikaru in the tournament. It’s actually pretty anticlimactic since I would argue that Alice is much weaker than all of the other opponents that Hikaru faced. (Not counting one shot characters) Alice doesn’t really have any gimmicks and her special trait is that she has great balance. That’s nice and all, but it seriously doesn’t help in most battles. She just gets lucky because the stage is an ice rink so Hikaru’s balance is off for the whole fight. She quickly figures out a way around this though so Alice was doomed. Alice is all right, but she’s not one of the better angels. You could really say the same about Arisu. Arisu just doesn’t have a whole lot of character and she’s simply not that likable. I think that the Wizard probably should have been the final boss.

Sai and her angel, Shirahime, are pretty similar to Hatoko and Suzuka. Sai fights with complete seriousness and poise as she faces her opponents. Shirahime is also a defense type of Angel and her stats are almost identical to Suzuka’s. Their match was extremely close and she puts up a very good fight against Haruka. Once she sheds her protective gear, Shirahime is able to move at speeds similar to a speed type’s, but then she must lose her defensive edge. It’s a gamble, but one that I would definitely make since defense usually doesn’t trump a good speed character. Sai seems to be a little full of herself, but she is a good fighter and I like Shirahime. This is another fearsome pair who could have defeated most of the other opponents in the series.

There are a few other characters like a wind doll and one who could use Hyper Mode, but you get the jist of the series. It’s basically one battle after the next and the fast pace is one of the reasons why the series is so fun. It’s like a good ole Megaman manga and it never gets dull. The action scenes look very impressive and I have to say that it’ll be tough to adapt in animation. They’ll probably tone down the speed feats so that it’s lower tier, but maybe they’ll be able to do a good job.

Clamp just outdid themselves with the action this time. The fight scenes are similar to Megaman NT Warrior and DBZ. The constant hand to hand combos mixed in with the occasional special technique just makes the battles so exciting. The art for them is excellent and I can see why Clamp has such a good reputation. It may not be as impressive for the normal scenes, but they still look good. There’s a rough edge to it that will remind you of their other titles, but you can always clearly see what is happening. I’m not a huge fan of their art gags like the characters turning into octopuses all the time, but they’re not bad either. If they could just tone it down with the blushing, it would be even better.

Angelic Layer is just a very fun series to read. It’s pretty light natured and you could almost picture it in the real world. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that we’ll finally have virtual reality games like this one within the next 50-60 years. I may be too old to really enjoy them by then, but it would be pretty awesome to have a realistic simulator like this. It would probably be a bit more complex here and I doubt that a newcomer would become the world champ after a day of practice, but we can let that slide since Misaki may be the chosen one. She has a better battle record than most main characters since she wins just about every battle that she enters. The final battle may be unsatisfying to a lot of people, but you can argue that Hikaru was still battle fatigued. The actual ending to the series is better than most of the other manga titles that have ended and there is certainly lots of room for a direct sequel (So Chobits doesn’t count) if Clamp really wants too someday. That would definitely be exciting.

How does it compare to other toyetic franchises? Well, it definitely loses to Megaman and the Yugioh franchise is too massive to lose here. Aside from that, I dare say that it takes down Bakugan, Beyblade, and most of the rest. It loses to Cardfight Vanguard as well, but it puts up a brave fight. Power level wise, it’s probably above all of them and only Yugioh/Megaman could hope to stand up to them. Angelic Layer’s biggest advantage over most series is just how absurdly fast the angels are. Catching up to them is nearly impossible and their attacks have lethal amounts of power behind them.
Overall, Angelic Layer may only be 5 volumes, but it’s a great series to check out. This is definitely Clamp’s best work as it even takes out Tsubasa. It’ll be hard for them to top it, but it’s always possible. The nonstop action can rival any series since the fights are so good. In terms of speed, you could probably pit the angels against just anyone short of Goku and they could probably hold their own. Most of the characters are pretty likable and the art is solid. If not for the lines of the two annoying characters, this could easily be top 5 material. Nevertheless, I strongly recommend this title if you like action and it could end up being one of your favorite titles.

Overall 8/10