Misaki’s Angel Tournament
The Angelic Layer anime is bright and cheerful, with vivid colors. The matches between the robotic battle dolls, or Angels, are a joy to watch in particular. Misaki and her Angel, Hikaru, fight tournaments and rise through the ranks with a new match every episode or two. They almost always learn something new about the game to win the match, and eventually, they meet the top Angel of all: Athena, who was Misaki’s original inspiration.
The story opens with twelve-year-old Misaki Suzuhara traveling to Tokyo to live with her aunt in order to go to middle school there. When she arrives, one of the first things she sees is a public screen on a building displaying a match between two Angels. Entranced by Athena, a beautiful and powerful Angel dressed in blue and white, she instantly decides she wants to play this game and have an Angel of her own. She is especially impressed that the relatively small Athena defeats the larger Angel in black who is her opponent.
Inspired by Athena’s performance, Misaki chooses a small frame for her Angel, designed for speed rather than power, because she also is small for her size and knows how to move quickly. In the manga, she apparently gave her Angel the name Hikaru and designed her based on Hikaru Shidou, a character from one of CLAMP’s other series, Magic Knight Rayearth. In the anime, there is no specific reference to this other than that the name of the Angel is still Hikaru.
Showing an extraordinary sense of style, Misaki also makes Hikaru’s red and white outfit herself rather than buying a premade one. Once she has her Angel, she then has to learn to use it. Angels are controlled through brain patterns via an electronic link to the tabletop area called a Layer. They can then fight each other on this Layer, and if one Angel loses enough power or is knocked out of the Layer, the other one wins the match.
Misaki soon discovers that she is a natural at learning to control her Angel and also analyzing and defeating the strategies of other opponents. She immediately begins competing in tournaments, and as she gradually moves up the ranks toward Athena, she meets a number of interesting friends both as her classmates and as her rivals on the Layer. She eventually discovers the truth about Athena, what happened to her mother, and why she has such a talent for Angelic Layer.
The only negative point might be that two of the female Japanese voices, including Misaki’s, are extremely high-pitched. They are intended to be cute, and for Misaki this is somewhat appropriate because she is short and appears to be younger than she is. Sadly, Angelic Layer doesn’t exist as a real game yet either, but perhaps some day…
The anime is quite fun to watch due to the bright colors and cheerfulness. Each Angel has its distinctive outfit and often individual techniques on the Layer. Most importantly though, the story itself is about resourcefulness, ingenuity, and inner strength to pursue a goal and see it through. A middle schooler could do worse than to emulate Misaki’s good humor and determination.
Based on a five-volume manga series by CLAMP, Angelic Layer consists of twenty-six half-hour episodes. Similar series might be Pokemon (as shallow as that sounds), Hikaru no Go, or CLAMP’s Magic Knight Rayearth.
Here is a Fan-Made AMV for you to enjoy with scenes from the series.