by Timothy Georgi
The long wait is finally over as one of my favorite series makes its way in the U.S. anime scene. The fun, fanciful world of manga powerhouse CLAMP explodes onto the TV screen with the latest release from ADV Films, Angelic Layer!
Our story begins as 12-year old Misaki Suzuhara has just arrived in Tokyo from her home in Wakayama to come live with her Aunt Shoko. She hopes that she'll be able to somehow reunite with her mother, who has been working in Tokyo for several years and hasn't had any contact with Misaki. She steps off the train, looking for her next connection when she gets lost inside the station. As she roams around, she accidentally leaves the train station. In the shadows and background, a strange man in a white lab coat is trailing her...
Outside, Misaki ends up in a large crowd that's assembled around a large outdoor TV screen. Misaki is mesmerized by what she sees on the big screen. She finds out that it's a game called Angelic Layer and the fighters are dolls called Angels that are controlled by the thoughts of the owners.
Our strange shadow man finds Misaki in the crowd and explains to her about the angels. He introduces himself as Icchan and proceeds to tell her about the world of Angelic Layer. He tells her that she can join in the fun and points her to the toy store.
Inside, Icchan pulls Misaki away from a store employee and shows her to the vast array of Angelic Layer merchandise. Icchan tosses all the needed pieces to Misaki and she ends up spending all her money buying the various items to create her own Angel. Having spent all her money and losing track of Icchan, Misaki ends up having to walk to her Aunt's place, arriving much later than she should have.
After she settles in a bit, she begins to sift though all the things that she bought and set off to create her angel. She decides to make one that's small like her, but very strong. As she runs through the computer setup for the angel, she put in all the variables and then comes to the point where she needs to give the doll a name, deciding to name her Hikaru.
She goes on to meet some new friends the next morning. She first encounters Hatoko, a very mature student in the Erol Academy Special Kindergarten class and an expert in Angelic Layer. She sees Hikaru in Misaki's bag and asks if she can see her. Trailing Hatoko is her older brother and Misaki's classmate, Kotaro. After some introductions, Misaki and Kotaro head to class as Hatoko runs off toward her Kindergarten class.
Inside the school, Misaki and Kotaro are about to head into class when out of nowhere comes the flying forearm of Tamayo, Kotako's classmate since they had both been in grade school. She half tackles Kotaro as she introduces herself to Misaki. And the fun just goes up from there.
From that moment, Misaki starts on her road to becoming the hottest thing to hit the Angelic Layer world. Through lots of practice, some inadvertent matches, and a pile of help from Icchan, who is the master/creator of the Angelic Layer technology, Misaki is well on her way to taking over all that is The Layer. Can Misaki and Hikaru make it though all the trials and tribulations of the Angelic Layer competitions and life in Tokyo? You'll have to pick up the DVDs to find out.
This first DVD is pretty standard for ADV. It contains the first four episodes of the series and has a typical set of extras, the textless opening and ending, and audio commentary with voice actors Jessica Boone (Misaki) and Andy McAvin (Icchan). The picture quality is excellent and the sound is superb with the Dolby Digital 5.1 for the English track and 2.0 for the Japanese. The voice actors that ADV cast for the characters were chosen very well, and they did a good job matching the voice qualities of the original Japanese cast.
The only nitpick I'd have is a usual one when looking at the English dub. There are a few names, like Hikaru, that could have been pronounced closer to the original Japanese, but after a while, you get used to hearing it with the "English" pronunciation. The usual beginning-of-the-series voice actor's nervous sound is there, but as the episodes progress, the VAs get more into their characters, making the character's voices flow much better.
Overall the disc is a great tribute to the work of the masterful Clamp crew. It's full of fun, action, comedy and lots of lovable characters that will keep you hooked for hours of entertainment. If you like other Clamp shoujo hits like Card Captor Sakura and Magicial Knight Rayearth, you'll love Angelic Layer. It's got the right mix of hit elements to provide everyone with a series that should not be missed!