Anime Spotlight: Angelic Layer
Remember when you were a kid and used to play with action figures with your friends? If so, then this anime will easily bring the child in you back to life.
Battle Doll: Angelic Layer is a 26-episode anime series based on the Japanese manga Angelic Layer by all-female studio Clamp. It takes place in modern Tokyo, where a young middle-schooler named Misaki Suzuhara moves to live with her aunt.
Shortly after her train arrives in the city, she sees a huge crowd of people watching a big screen television featuring two beautiful fighters battling it out. She is dazzled by the graceful moves and stylish armor they wear.
Once the match finishes and the crowd disperses, she asks someone what they were watching and learns about Angelic Layer. It’s a sport where human players, called ‘Deuses’, buy and fight with customized dolls, called ‘Angels’. The angels are placed within an arena called a ‘layer’ and the players use wireless headsets that monitor brain activity to fight with the Angels. In Tokyo, it’s a huge sports craze that’s sweeping Japan and had yet to hit Misaki’s hometown.
A strange man who calls himself “Icchan” quickly approaches Misaki and tells her to go buy an Angel. He gives her money and takes her to a toy store to buy her own Angel Egg. When she gets home, she opens the Angel Egg and customizes her own Angel, whom she names Hikaru.
The next day, at her new school, she meets kindergartener and Master Deus Hatoko Kobayashi, as well as her brother Kotaro and his friend Tamayo, who are both in her own grade. Together, the group grows up as they cheer on Misaki in her Angelic Layer career.
Although she lacks any initial skill, Misaki soon finds herself fighting small-time layer battles in recreational centers that are quite like cybercafés. After a while, Icchan returns to Misaki and helps train her to control Hikaru and become one with the Angel. Thinking of the Angels she saw at the train station, she drives herself to get better.
All the while, Misaki is occasionally haunted by memories of her mother, who she hasn’t seen since she was in pre-school. Her aunt often tells her stories and helps her grow up as a young woman, to contribute a family aspect to the show.
Eventually, Misaki begins fighting in large tournaments and faces great Deuses who all seem to have some strange personality issue or scarring backstory. One girl is cold and standoff-ish; another one is teased for being too tall. Through Angelic Layer, Misaki makes several friends and proves that even very different people can be friends with a common interest. Throughout her journey in Angelic Layer, she is supported by her friends, grows stronger as a Deus, and discovers the secrets of the creation of the sport.
This anime is excellent in all aspects and I would encourage it to anyone. There’s something for everyone in this show. The drama, action, suspense, and romance are all great elements that Clamp seemed to balance perfectly when they wrote the manga. The animation is great and the fighting is really brought to life. The anime isn’t terribly long, so you’d be able to finish it within a month or two. So next time you want to watch a good new show, check out Battle Doll: Angelic Layer.
Image Credit: ADV Films