Title: Angelic Layer
Language: English & Japanese
Genre: Comedy, shoujo, sports, drama
I haven't done a full length anime review in a really long time, so I'm happy I'm back into an almost regular routine of watching anime. I know this is an older series, but I was introduced to Angelic Layer by one of my best friends back in 7th grade and I finally got around to starting from the beginning and completing it.
Misaki Suzuhara is a 12 year old girl who has moved to live with her aunt while her mother is involved business. During her transfer, Misaki sees an angel on a television screen and is instantly intrigued by the sight. Not too long from being mesmerized by the beautiful angel, she obtains her own angel and becomes deeply involved in Angelic Layer, a tournament that battles angels (which our custom dolls). With practice, observation, and obtaining new friends along her tournament journey, Misaki and her angel Hikaru become stronger and learn different techniques from the opponents as well as personal revelations.
As I mentioned in the introduction, I started this series a long time ago and I finally picked it back up to complete. I remember liking what I saw so far back then, then picking it up now, I was surprised how easily hooked I was to the story and its characters. All the characters are easily likable and very diverse from each other, not only in their skill sets with their personalized angels, but in their personalities. With such diversity adds entertainment value for the audience and growth from the main character Misaki. The story is pretty simple with it mostly focusing on the tournament aspect, but occasionally gives the viewer a break from constant angel battles to give the characters real life interactions such as a school, home, or beach settings. I think if it only stuck to the tournament, it would get boring real quick with such a repetitive structure. There are also some minor and supplementary subplots such as Misaki's feelings toward two male characters that she befriends and her relationship with her mother. The romance isn't too forced or unrealistic as you can't go too far with a bunch of 12 year olds, but her relationship with her mother is a persistent obstacle throughout the series.
I'll admit that I watched this entire series completely dubbed, which is pretty good, in my opinion. No one didn't sound more mature than they should or too childish either. The voice actors did a very good job portraying their characters and conveying each of their dilemmas whether minor or major. I did hear a little bit of the Japanese voice actors, but Tamayo, even in English, is especially annoying in Japanese. Because she is a frequent character due to being one of Misaki's close friends, I get to hear a lot of her. She's very loud and overly energetic and in Japanese, that loudness is at a higher pitch compared to the English dub. Of course, it's totally up to the viewer's preference, but the English dub is pretty good.
Since the story and structure is pretty straightforward, it was easy to get hooked and find yourself cheering Misaki and Hikaru on through each battle. When it came to the romance element, I was a bit worried it would go in some cliche direction, but I was pleased to find that the creator did recognize the characters' age and kept that as realistic as possible. As for the mother-daughter relationship, I got really annoyed with this supplementary plot and occasionally Misaki's lack of confidence that came and went, but I know that they are somewhat linked together. Every time Misaki and her mother are starting to get close, things retreat and prolong their long awaited reunion. As much as I was engaged in this series, I couldn't help but get frustrated at Misaki's mother's insecurities.
Ignore the fact that this an older series and might even be considered as shoujo, I think anyone whatever the gender could enjoy this series. It's very lighthearted and the characters are diverse and interesting. The battle aspect is unique and entertaining. In short, it's a very enjoyable series with a good balance of action, drama, comedy, and a dash of romance.
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