Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Angelic Layer - Divine Inspiration |
Actors: Mayumi Yanagisawa, Masayo Kurata, Atsuko Enomoto, Yuri Shiratori, Masaya Onosaka
Director: Nishikiori Hiroshi
Genres: Action & Adventure, Comedy, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Television, Anime & Manga, Animation
Studio: Adv Films Release Date: 10/14/2003 Run time: 100 minutes
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Thinking outside the boxing ring.
R. Rydberg | Anoka, MN USA | 09/30/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Your average adult can be forgiven for the impression that this is just another kid's show, because that's a fair assessment of the first couple episodes. There's little doubt that the younger set will love the story with its compelling simplicity. It's the triumph of the underdog; David and Goliath, Luke and Vader (but with a game instead of a big evil guy!); the `age and size doesn't matter' philosophy. Angelic Layer is straightforward, uncomplicated, devoid of innuendo or references outside the show itself.
All this might sound pedestrian, but that basic premise is the obvious layer over the more complex story of how champions are made. Misaki (the lead character) discovers that she's not using her angel (battle doll) Hikaru to fight another angel, but her human opponent; that growing, improving, participating and winning isn't vicarious, but comes from within through conscious effort. Sometimes, in true Samurai fashion, the game is over before it begins; the confidence and inner balance achieved before the start determines the outcome.
So perhaps the local grown-ups shouldn't dismiss it too quickly. This isn't just kids playing with toys; there are real life lessons that we've all faced, with circumstances that even the most jaded adult can appreciate: 1) We've all had a toy we thought of as `real' (the velveteen rabbit thing), and no toy seems as real or symbiotic as an angel in the layer. 2) The game is used as a metaphor/catalyst for the story. The character types and interactions are complex enough to be interesting, true to form with differing motivations for reaching the same goal. 3) We identify with the gaming angle, and we'd LOVE to play!
The series starts slowly as we become familiar with the characters and the game, but picks up as Misaki learns to control Hikaru. Misaki always has the ability to guide her and Hikaru's destiny, but she lacks self-assurance. But by skillfully observing others and events, she builds on her natural talents and overcomes her own self-imposed limitations. As in real life (and contrary to many modern-day edu-fads involving the often mis-named `self-esteem'), confidence to win comes not from without by being told we're worthwhile, but from within through achievement and self-determination.
Yes, it's an old story with few surprises. But the tale is rarely woven so well. The game and its use in the story is a brilliantly executed concept, using a variety of sub-plots and characters that come together to form a synergistic whole. Each player has their own story about why they're driven to play. The pacing is superb. The battles are beautifully choreographed. The mix of humor against tension is just right. Side issues and themes fit together logically. The artwork is excellent with brilliant colors and touches of soft focus. The Japanese voice actors pull off the required passion, ease and drama. The last episode, though predictable, is outstanding. The altered final closing credits and bonus shot at the very end are the crowning touch to a masterfully sculpted production.
But Hikaru is uniquely special. CLAMP hit a creative home run with her and the angels, making them almost more interesting than the players. You couldn't create a cast of main characters this unique and wonderful without losing story continuity. But in context of the game, it works like magic. As a result, Hikaru is the cutest, most compelling thing in the show, pulling anime double-duty as both star and mascot. It's a total winner in `supporting character' design. We care about Hikaru as much as any `real' person in the show, if not more.
The music is orchestral, lush and supportive, one of the best examples of a soundtrack setting the mood and complementing scenes. Particularly effective is the battle theme, with trombones playing in parallel, providing a Hollywood gladiator feel to the fights. Even the waltz during the final round of combat (yes, waltz!) fits right in. The start of the closing theme is evocative, mournful and whimsical as it gently breaks into the final moments of each episode. Unfortunately, half way through the series they change to a different theme that tends to `thud' rather than rise into the close (even though the whole song fits better than the first).
And one big hat tip to the English dub which keeps some of the `kun' and `chan' suffixes; at least some script translators don't view Americans as unteachable Neanderthals that can't handle a little colloquialism.
The series is rated for ages 13 and over, although I'm not sure why. There is no language or sexual content that made me hesitate allowing my 10 and 7-year-olds to watch. Some might be queasy at Misaki being so trustful of this stranger (Icchan) she meets in episode one, or the few `pervert' references early in the show.
So what's left to quibble with? 1) While the people in the story are interesting, they can approach being generic; some story lines and character types risk being somewhat old hat. 2) Misaki's `win ratio' is, er, difficult to believe, more so than the possibility of the game itself. 3) The motivation for Misaki's mother to be away for seven years is a big stretch. While key to the story, I really couldn't buy it. 4) Even with the thematic universality and cinematic excellence, it's probably `too cute' and predictable for most adults (but go ahead...sneak an episode or two!).
Will boys react negatively to the emphasis on girl players (just one tournament player is a boy)? If my own male offspring are an indication, no. The provided reason for the lopsided ratio might sound sexist, but has a degree of validity from my own observations.
Like many anime there's an underlying message: Do your best. Never give up. Love your angel. Size matters not. Find your weak point and make that knowledge your strength. Ignore the negatives others tell you. And remember; angels are not mere playthings...neither is life.
Strategos | In Space above Planet Earth | 01/22/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Angelic Layer is (to paraphrase one review I once read) the best Pokemon-style show in existence. All of the classic elements the now-tiresome-to-many collect and fight series are there. The difference in this show is that instead of being drawn-out and boring, or strictly little kid stuff, Angelic Layer has the polish and depth to attract and hold the attention of older viewers.The story starts out with cute-as-can-be Misaki discovering the popular tournament fighting game Angelic Layer the day that she steps off a train at Tokyo station. She sees a match between two high-level players and is instantly enchanted, not realizing at the time that what she is witnessing is not actually two people fighting, but two miniature robotic dolls.This brings to mind one of the coolest features of this show: Angelic Layer itself. Consider for a moment that every year people play countless hours of fighting games of all kinds. Yet, these games have several weaknesses. Sometimes people complain about the controls. Sometimes people say that they couldn't see what was happening on the screen. Sometimes people say that the controller wasn't responding at a crucial time. Imagine if there were a fighting game that allowed you to control a custom-made character with your MIND, and see the action from any angle you wish. Imagine the graphics looked REAL and could never be outdone. Basically, that's what Angelic Layer is. The dolls are controlled by the will of their master wirelessly, and obey their every command (no worrying about not having the right counter to a move or forgetting which button to press). Basically, in Angelic Layer what matters the most is your creativity and the speed and strength of your mind. Because the Angel will instantly perform literally ANY move you can visualize, and the limit to how fast the Angel Doll reacts is limited only by how fast your mind can think. Pretty cool, huh?Naturally such a cool concept wouldn't really fly if there weren't good action to back it up. I can honestly say that Angelic Layer features some of the best hand-to-hand fight sequences in ANYTHING I have ever seen. It features pretty much every sort of fighting technique you could imagine, and every battle is filled with tension. Backflips, cartwheels, and every sort of acrobatic move you could hope for is integrated into the fights, and pretty much every fight features an opponent with a secret move, special strength, or hidden weakness. And later on in the series... let's just say that when two Grand Masters (and one of them a pre-schooler!) square off the result is more akin to Kurosawa than recent Star Wars, with a Samurai-Style quick-draw fight that I still find amazing.Unlike most shows of the catch the creature and make it fight variety, Angelic Layer is all sweetness. That is to say, every time you think a character is going to be evil and turn out to be an arch-rival, they turn out to be really nice after all. Perhaps ultimately that is what makes this show such an uplifting experience. But with no evil rivals constantly showing up, does that mean that this show gets superficial or boring? By no means! There is character development aplenty later on, giving the various players a great deal of depth. And the emotion of the characters (to me at least) come across as very honest and heart-felt. The later episodes of this show in particular are fantastic, as we find out how and why Angelic Layer got started, and the reasons why some of the best players play at all.I would be seriously neglecting my responsibility to anime lovers everywhere if I didn't mention that on top of all the other great things this show has going for it, it also features SWEET animation (more of the new digitally cleaned up style than the old hand-drawn look) and a FANTASTIC soundtrack. Everything has a very Epic feel in this series, thanks in no small part to the wonderful purchase-worthy soundtrack and super-clean animation. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that the quality of the animation makes seeing this series on dvd a necessity. So there you have it. Angelic Layer is the best show of it's kind, with wonderful characters, great animation and music, and some of the best action to be found in ANYTHING. However, I would steer clear of the dub and watch the subbed version if I were you, as the Engish voice acting simply cannot compare with the Japanese track on any level. Nice to find an anime that's great for kids as well as adults. Highly recommended."
Dreams Come to Life on the Layer
Adrean Marx | 10/28/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I'm one of those kind of anime fans who got into the whole genre after growing up on DBZ and Sailor Moon. To be honest although I've seen a heck of a lot of DBZ I like Sailor Moon. I'd always get psyched for that show and ever since I've come up with concept that all girly shows are cool. Sailor Moon, Card Captor Sakura, and now Angelic Layer. Yes that's only three but still, I haven't been dissappointed yet. Angelic Layer came as no shock to me being a real cool show. The first volume tracks Misaki Suzuhara and how she gets introduced to and falls in love with the game angelic layer; as if drawn to it by fate. The best characters that I'm sure everyone is interested in more are the angels themselves, who although cease to communicate with words, do a fantasic job of expressing the deuce's (the player) emotions through their fist. This show is captivating with it's innocent fell and intense combat and strategies nicely intertwined. This show is a refreshing animation to watch that has a fairly simple story, great music ( such as the ending themes especially ), and lovable characters which are more than meets the eye. The further episodes of this show are just as good as these if not better, importantly when it comes to the battles and character development. Clamp is known for producing quality viewing pleasures and as I've said Angelic Layer fails to disappoint. This show is definitely worth checking out for all ages who seek to watch a simple and passionate tale.
Hope this Review was helpful."
Suprisingly engrossing battle series
J. Fink | St. Louis, MO | 10/18/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Obviously, this series has one major thing going for it before you even watch it; it is from CLAMP, the ones who have brought us wonderful series such as Chobits, Magic Knight Rayearth, X, and Cardcaptor Sakura. Upon looking at the DVD, however, Angelic Layer seemed akin to Pokemon, or Yu-Gi-Oh...one of those card battle games, or at least, a battle game. And the animation style seemed very childish to boot. But, what the heck, I told myself, I might as well give it a shot.
As I watched the first episode, I congratulated myself on my correct opinion of the show. This won't be anything worth continuing, I figured, but I might as well watch the rest of the DVD. And somewhere in there...I got hooked! Sure, we know what is going to happen during the fights, who will win and who will lose. Sure the animation does seem like you are about 10 years too old to be watching this, but the music is pretty, and the story is sweet. I actually can't explain why I like this series so much (I'm still trying to figure that out myself), but I would recommend it to most anime fans, especially fans of any work by CLAMP.
It may be a series for the fans of Pokemon and other battle series, but those who avoid such series should give Angelic Layer a try as well. It's a short (26 episodes) series with a little bit of heart, and a whole lot of sugar."