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Review: Angelic Layer (Complete Series)

Manga-ka: CLAMP
Publisher: Tokyopop
Rating: Teen (13+)
Released: April 2002 – October 2003
Volumes: 5

Synopsis: “Upon arriving in the city 12-year-old Misaki spots a competition being broadcast called Angelic Layer – the latest high tech battle game fought by using dolls (Angels). Enchanted with one of the Angels she sees fighting, Misaki is inspired to create her own Angel and it leads her on an adventure that she never in her wildest dreams would have thought possible!”

Angelic Layer is CLAMP’s take at the shonen genre, putting aside the serious dramatics and cute magical pretty girls for a more light-hearted action series. The tale begins with Misaki, a young girl new to Tokyo who discovers the popular game of Angelic Layer. Players buy a fully customizable ‘Angel’, a doll that can be controlled by a player’s thoughts (through use of the proper terminal equipment) and use them in competition. The players battle their Angels against each other, putting their skill, will and power to the test. Entranced by the battles, Misaki purchases her very own Angel and her rise to fame begins!

Some of the stereotypical aspects of shonen series are explored in this series: newcomer to ‘sport’ is suddenly inspired, becomes instant pro, fights way to top through seemingly unbeatable odds with friends supporting them, insert rivals here. It’s not a bad formula, and is obviously a vague and flexible one, which Angelic Layer forms to with its own charm. Misaki is energetic and adorable and her passion for the game is understandable (I’d be all over this game if it was real). Her impeccable skill so soon after starting the game is a little hard to swallow without a second thought but readers follow most of her progression so it makes for an interesting journey.

Other characters help bring an added spark of life to this series, including the crazy but brilliant, Icchan, the young but talented Hatoko, and Misaki’s new friends from school. CLAMP fans will also recognize some connections between Angelic Layer and their other books, as well as numerous little cameos and references, scattered throughout this five volume series.

I absolutely love the art style CLAMP has used for Angelic Layer. The line art is a bit thicker than their usual, with really solid artwork and nice proportions. There’s less attention on detail and more focus on dramatic posing and action. The use of squid-like features and other over-exaggerated features for the chibis are unique to CLAMP’s style here and worked really well with the characters. The Angels have eye-catching designs, fine balances between attractively robed and functional. Also, there are the fight scenes: one of the most important aspects of this series. They’re handled with skill and finesse, briskly paced but easy to follow, and CLAMP uses different situations and handicaps to make them uniquely interesting from one another. The cover images are cute, but not terribly eye-catching, and all very similar to each other, but the back of each book has a nice full colour image of a different Angel.

No complaints from me about Tokyopop’s treatment of the books. I like their logo work on the covers and use of the same front and back cover images as the originals in Japan. I don’t recall coming across any interior issues and it was generally a smooth read. The books are still easily found today through online retailers.

Five volumes later, Angelic Layer is a downright fun series. It mixes many attributes of shonen stories, sprinkles atop a cute art style and then layers in some shoujo aspects, making it a series that I think allows it to appeal to a broad audience. With likeable characters, some refreshing twists and appealing visual work, Angelic Layer is a series I highly recommend for an enjoyable read (and reread after reread as in my case over the years).

And on a final note, several of the aspects that I felt made the manga so unique were altered in the animated version and direct tie-ins to some of CLAMP’s other series were removed. So for those who’ve watched the anime series adaptation but haven’t read the manga, I extra-recommend picking up this book series!

Review written June 10, 2008 by Lissa Pattillo
Books purchased from indepedent comic book store, Wilkies Wonderful World of Comics


Volume One


Manga-ka: CLAMP
Publisher: Tokyopop
Rating: Teen (13+)
Released: June 2002

Synopsis: “Upon arriving in the city 12-year-old Misaki spots a competition being broadcast called Angelic Layer – the latest high tech battle game fought by using dolls (Angels). Enchanted with one of the Angels she sees fighting, Misaki is inspired to create her own Angel and it leads her on an adventure that she never in her wildest dreams would have thought possible! Now Misaki has entered the tournament with her doll, Hikaru, and together they plan to take the sport by storm!”


Volume Two


Manga-ka: CLAMP
Publisher: Tokyopop
Rating: Teen (13+)
Released: September 2002

Synopsis: “After a tough loss in her first battle, she’s ready to turn her luck around. Her next match: a one-on-one duel with Japanese pop star Ringo Seto. And on the horizon is a battle with the fearsome Fujisaki sisters, who will do anything to win. The odds are stacked against Misaki and her speed-type angel Hikaru, but with friends cheering in the stands and a mad scientist mentor watching her back, she just might stand a chance.”


Volume Three


Manga-ka: CLAMP
Publisher: Tokyopop
Rating: Teen (13+)
Released: November 2002

Synopsis: “For the first time ever, players must navigate their robotic Angels around an interactive 3-D environment filled with craggy peaks and smoky crevices. Misaki Suzuhara, the Angelic Layer prodigy who went from pretender-to-contender in her first day of competition, is the first unlucky player to fight in the new ring. Her opponent is the super-experienced Kaede Saitou, whose Angel, Blanche, has a wicked hyper-mode attack. Fortunately, Misaki’s got a few new tricks of her own.”


Volume Four


Manga-ka: CLAMP
Publisher: Tokyopop
Rating: Teen (13+)
Released: January 2003

Synopsis: “Nobody thought Misaki Suzuhara would make it this far in the Angelic Layer tournament. After a rocky start and some less than honorable opponents, she’s well on her way to victory. But her latest opponent is her most difficult yet. Ohjiro Mihara is called the Prince of the Layer, and for good reason. With his speed-type angel, Wizard, he’s unstoppable. Has Misaki reached the end of the road?”


Volume Five


Manga-ka: CLAMP
Publisher: Tokyopop
Rating: Teen (13+)
Released: March 2003

Synopsis: “The Fujisaka sisters are back! Misaki Suzuhara, rising star on the Angelic Layer scene, has already bested the older sister, but now she must face Arisu, a mechanical genius with one thing on her mind – revenge. For this long-awaited grudge match an all-new layer is unveiled: a winter wonderland that can freeze an unsuspecting angel. Can Misaki’s warm heart melt this cold competition and get her to the final battle? The battles get personal in the final volume of Angelic Layer!”

About the Author:

Lissa Pattillo is the owner and editor of Kuriousity.ca. Residing in Halifax, Nova Scotia she takes great joy in collecting all manners of manga genres, regretting that there's never enough time in the day to review or share them all. Along with reviews, Lissa is responsible for all the news postings to the website and works full time as a web and graphic designer.



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2 Responses

  1. i loved the series, but wish TP had done a better translation of it. They removed alot of Icchans jokes, as well as misaki's weird sounds. Plus the way they have them talking made me cringe at times. But that aside i still loved it, i cant resist misaki's cuteness!!

  2. anna says:

    hi. i am a huge angelic layer fan. i want one of the dolls to costomize it, but i do not know where to find it. if you find a place, please tell me. THANK YOU.

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