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  • Full Frame
  • Dual Layer ( )
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Japanese: Dolby Digital Stereo
  • Additional footage - creditless opening and closing
  • 4 Theatrical trailer
  • Audio commentary

Angelic Layer 1 - Divine Inspiration

Madman Entertainment/AV Channel . R4 . COLOR . 97 mins . PG . PAL


I must admit having heard the title only and having watched an incomprehensible trailer on various other animé releases, I was a little skeptical about the quality of this series. However, while some fears were reasonably founded, the rest were not.

Angelic Layer tells the simple yet effective tale of Misaki Suzuhara and her adventures in the Angelic Layer, a game in which small 'battle dolls' are controlled in fights by their human controllers, or 'Deuces'. Arriving in Tokyo to stay with her Aunty Shoko and attend a new school, Misaki soon makes friends and explores the world of Angelic Layer, a very popular pastime in Japan. She also seems to be guided by a mysterious professor who is subtly orchestrating her movements so as to get her into the upper echelons of the tournaments. Why? We have no idea - yet.

I did find myself enjoying parts of this series, though there are an equal share of cringe jokes and situations that seem more aimed at the local sense of humour in Japan. Some gags border on plain old silly, and the not quite-full-use of the cartoon spectrum is employed in the surreal aspect of some comic gags. This will work well for the people this show is no doubt aimed at; little girls. The majority of characters here are female and the males seem either hunky or idiotic in their movements. This being said, there are more than several references thrown in by (no doubt male) animators to more adult matters. Costumes are figure hugging in the (again, mostly) female Battle Dolls and some of the girl-on-girl action goes slightly beyond what would be deemed necessary for the plot.

At any rate, the kids will probably like this as it follows similar themes to those found in other cheaply produced Japanese animation like Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh. However, while those shows actually had a saleable product used within, I daresay the Angels of this show aren't available in any mechanical sense. These are hi-tech robots controlled by thought patterns, so we’re probably at least six months away from anything like this yet. OK, maybe three...


Another perfect Madman transfer of an animé series from Japan. This first disc of a projected box set of seven discs contains four episodes and these all look deliciously colourful and even garish at times. There is no over-saturation though, this is just the heavy use of bright and lurid colour to attract the younger eye. Delivered in the TV format of 4:3, the layouts all work well for this smaller aspect ratio. There is a very nice interaction between CG elements and traditional hand-drawn and digitally painted animation, although there doesn’t seem to have been an English proof-reader floating about in the studio during production as numerous English misspellings occur throughout. Oh well. The line work is razor sharp, as is the complete picture quality, and there are some exceptional captures of human movement in the animating itself. Very nice.


Surprisingly delivered in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround, Angelic Layer does the best it can to utilise the various channels with nice immersive crowd noise during the battle and schoolyard scenes. There is also occasional use of city noise, though this is more rare. The music too travels about a bit and keeps the subwoofer active (while employed) with plenty of almost militaristic tensions brought out by deeper cello and kettle drums. In fact, the whole score by Kohei Tanaka is among the most versatile I’ve heard in an animé, let alone a relatively cheaply budgeted animation. Sometimes cheerful, silly and comic or appropriately dramatic, the music supports the action brilliantly without overshadowing it. The only sorry thing is the music does dominate the dialogue for the majority of the piece, with the necessity to amp up the volume. I even once had to check out the subtitles.


While the rear of the DVD case states there is much more here, there is, in fact, not. Perhaps this is an error in the part of this being the first disc in the set and overselling the entire series of extras available on follow up discs. At this point though, it claims there’s original Japanese art and production sketches that don’t appear on the disc.

What we do get is a voice actor commentary from Jessica Boone (Misaki) and Andy McAvin (Mr. Icchan). These two seem to have just met and make for a quite bizarre AC as they discuss varying life matters that bear no relevance to the show itself. This sounds like the first time they’ve ever seen the show too, and they throw in lots of excited appreciation of the art, but on the whole this is fairly inane and not more than a one-time listen. This also is only available for the first episode.

There are also the clean opening and closing titles which is just the animation devoid of text. This is not much by way of an extra and together the two run for a grand (and quite large, comparatively) total of 3:34.

Finally, a bunch of trailers for King of Bandit Jing, Final Fantasy: Unlimited, Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi and Excel Saga!. I love the Magical Shopping Arcade one. It has hilarious lines like Don’t miss the insane social satire! Funny.

So, where those other artworks went is anybody’s guess. Being a DVD 5 there’s no way it was left out due to disc space constrictions. Oh well, maybe they’ll show up on volumes two through seven?


While I found this appealing, it isn’t exactly something I’m hungry to follow up on. The younger folks might find a lot more to enjoy here than I, as it is no doubt aimed at a younger market rather than poor old grizzled me.

The colour and transfer are brilliant and the action, while simple storywise, is well captured by quality animators. Those interminable moments of a slow pan across a still image still abound, but them’s the breaks in TV animation. Everyone does that. Worth a look for fans of the genre, but this one seems directed straight at the youngsters.

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      And I quote...
    "Slightly above average younger series about mind-controlled robots who fight each other in the arena of death called the Angelic Layer. Not too bad, but still miles from brilliant."
    - Jules Faber
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Teac DVD-990
    • TV:
          AKAI CT-T29S32S 68cm
    • Speakers:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Centre Speaker:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Surrounds:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Subwoofer:
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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