Foreign Friday: Angelic Layer

“I love to play Angelic Layer!” – Angelic Layer

This week’s Foreign Friday entry is Angelic Layer by CLAMP. Yes, I read a lot of CLAMP.

The Story

In the distant future, the most popular sport in Japan is Angelic Layer. Contestants use fighting dolls that they hatch and raise from eggs, called “Angels,” and battle them in an arena. Mentored by the mysterious Icchan, 12-year-old Misaki has entered the tournament with her doll Hikaru, and together they plan to take the sport by storm. Is this mere child’s play or are more sinister forces at play?

The Characters

All the characters in Angelic Layer are oddly mature for their age. The main character is bright and energetic, but also more grown up than your average child.  Misaki and her friends are in middle school, but their emotions and interactions are often akin to high schoolers; and the fact that kindergartener Hatoko is giving Misaki life lessons is slightly alarming. They are all fun and enjoyable, but I suppose their ages aren’t particularly realistic.

What I Thought

CLAMP never fails to pull together an interesting plot, and in this the relationships and gaming style action are well mixed. Also, if you are a CLAMP fan, it is always fun to watch out for character crossovers and cameos from other series. However, in comparison to their other works, it does feel shallow. The idea behind the angels is intriguing, but this as well as the character development wasn’t taken as far as one who reads CLAMP would have anticipated. Part of that problem (or maybe the whole problem) is that the series is only 5 volumes long, and the ending gives the feel that it was cut short. They are all available in English in the US. My ultimate judgment: good, but not great.

It is strange to say this, as one who prefers to read books over watching TV, but the anime version of Angelic Layer is both longer, fuller and much more satisfying than the manga. Perhaps they were given more time to flesh out the story in the animated version, like they did with CLAMP’s Cardcaptor Sakura. Whatever the case may be, if you’re interested in Angelic Layer I will have to say that you’re better off watching the anime.

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