Angelic Layer-Volume 1: Divine Inspiration (2001)

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Released 14-Jan-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Anime Main Menu Audio & Animation
Menu Audio-Clean opening (2:03) and closing (1:31)
Audio Commentary-Voice Actors - Jessica Boone, Andy McAvin
Alternative Version-Clean Opening And Closing Animation
Trailer-King Of Bandit Jing, Final Fantasy: Unlimited
Trailer-Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi, Excel Saga
DVD Credits
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 96:49 (Case: 100)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (00:00) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Hiroshi Nishikiori
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Atsuko Enomoto
Jessica Boone
Masaya Onosaka
Andy McAvin
Yuri Shiratori
Sasha Paysinger
Jun Fukuyama
Kevin Corn
Satsuki Yukino
Monica Rial
Kotono Mitsuishi
Kelly Manison
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Kohei Tanaka


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles English
English Titling
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, next episode preview

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Angelic Layer is subtitled, well, supertitled (to invent a word) Battle Doll. And that's what it is about: fighting with dolls.

    The dolls are called Angels. They are a bit bigger than Barbie (and they could beat her to a pulp). When these dolls are on a Layer, which is a special table, they can be controlled by their owner's thoughts. An owner, who is called a Deus, wears a special headset to control his or her Angel. The ordinary Deus can move their Angel through a wide variety of fighting moves. A special Deus may have extra fighting abilities, including the ability to get their Angel to generate and use what looks like telekinetic power.

    A would-be Deus buys a generic Angel kit, and configures their Angel using a specialised laptop — choosing how much to emphasise speed, strength, flexibility, agility, and so forth. They then dress their Angel in a costume, and name it. Most of the Angels we see in these first few episodes are female, and so are most of the owners. (It's a bit irritating, but the American dub pronounces the word Deus as "doose", just like the word they use for the two of hearts — I'd expect to pronounce this word as "day-us", like the Latin from which it comes.) In case you are wondering, Deus means "god", and it seems appropriate that an Angel be controlled by a god, no?

    This story follows a twelve-year-old girl called Misaki Suzuhara. She arrives in Tokyo by herself. She has been living with her grandmother, but now she will be attending an exclusive school (Eriol Academy) in Tokyo. The first thing that she sees on arrival is a giant TV screen broadcasting an Angel battle. She is very impressed, and even more so when she learns that she can have an Angel of her own. She is advised, by a (very) strange man in a scientist's white lab coat that she can get one at any good toy store. He follows her to the store, and advises her what to buy, but while she's buying it he gets arrested. She takes her purchases home — she is now going to live with her aunt Shoko (a pretty 20-something newscaster) — and makes her angel, which she calls Hikaru.

    It turns out that Misaki is something of a natural Deus, and she and Hiraku make a potent combination. The strange guy introduces himself as Icchan (this is clearly an alias). Clearly Misaki has never paid attention when she was told not to speak to strange men, and they don't come any stranger than Icchan: he talks to cats, he wiggles, he hangs off trees, and he tortures his assistant Ogata — I think we're supposed to see him as a mad scientist, but he comes across as a bit of a pervert. But he is clearly interested in Misaki for purposes related to Angelic Layer. There are hints about this, just as there are hints about why Misaki is living apart from her mother, Shuko.

    Misaki rapidly makes friends, which is easy to understand, because she's a bright, cheerful, helpful girl. She also cooks, which endears her to her aunt. The friends she makes on her way to school include Hatoko, a precocious girl in kindergarten (but an Angelic Layer prodigy, we learn rapidly), Hatoko's big brother, Kotaro (who is in Misaki's class), and Kotaro's long-term friend Tamayo, who turns out to be something of a martial arts expert, having started at the age of 4.

    There's one thing I found kind of odd (apart from the live octopus in the trousers trick): both Shoko and Tamayo suggest that Misaki becomes their wife — I think this may be a slight problem in translation, but I'm not sure.

    The character designs are really attractive. They are the work of Takahiro Komori, but the original manga came from CLAMP, so I guess we should expect this to look pretty.

    The episodes on this disc are:

1 How do you do? My Very Own Angel Misaki arrives in Tokyo, and makes Hiraku
2 Do Your Best Hikaru! It's Your First Fight Misaki makes friends, and participates in her first Angelic Layer battle
3 Who Are You? Misaki's Nervous Lesson Misaki practices with Hikaru, makes another friend, and faces a stuck-up high schooler across the table
4 The Day an Angel Flew Down It's the Tokyo area qualifying rounds, and Misaki is competing!

    Judging by these first four episodes, this is a fairly simple show, aimed perhaps at older children or early teens, although I'm a bit dubious about Icchan. There is no wariness about Misaki's reaction to Icchan, which is a bit concerning — she seems to accept him at first appearance.

    This resembles shows like Pokemon, but it lacks the commercial intent of those shows because there's no product you can go out and buy, which is a shame — I'd like to buy an Angel doll that could fight on a Layer table.

    It's amusing to look at some of the English language written on backgrounds: in the control room for Angelic Layer we can see the main screen marked: "Main Controll Saver". One suspects the background artist didn't get top marks in his or her English classes... The Japanese dialogue includes the phrase "Angelic Layer" in English, and different voice actors pronounce it more or less accurately.

    Despite its target audience, I'm enjoying this show — it's a pleasure to watch an uncomplicated show for a change. There are no deep motives, no hidden agendas, and a heroine who is sweet, open, and whole-hearted. This is a show you can relax and enjoy. And there's plenty to enjoy, because plenty happens in each episode. I'm definitely looking forward to more of this show, and I do wish Angels were available at every good toy store...

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This DVD transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1. It is not 16x9 enhanced. That's the original aspect ratio, so that's good.

    The image is beautifully sharp. The picture is gorgeous. There's no film grain, and no low-level noise.

    Colour is vivid and intense, with plenty of well-saturated colours on display. There are no colour-related artefacts, although the light on the Angelic Layer table is very bright, and this is represented by some hot whites.

    There are no film artefacts. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that this was a digital transfer, because it's so clean.

    There's aliasing on virtually every pan, but more on vertical pans — the aliasing is a bit distracting, but I found I could ignore it, particularly because the picture is so beautiful the moment the pan stops. Still shots, and shots where only the characters are moving show no aliasing, and there are lots of these. There is no moirι and there are no MPEG artefacts.

    We are graced with two sets of subtitles, both in English. One set subtitles signs and songs, while the other subtitles everything. I watched the full subtitles all the way through, and they seem accurate and well-timed to the Japanese dialogue, as well as being easy to read.

    The disc is single-sided (with nice picture label) and dual layered. It is RSDL formatted (even though the back cover claims this is a single-layered disc). The layer change is placed between episodes 2 and 3, and it's not especially noticeable as there are pauses between each episode since each episode is mastered as a separate title.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The soundtrack is provided in English and Japanese. The Japanese soundtrack is Dolby Digital 2.0, not surround-encoded, at 224 kbps. The English soundtrack is Dolby Digital 5.1, at 448kbps. I watched all the episodes in both languages. The English soundtrack is a bit loud — I dropped the volume by 3dB before I was comfortable, and I think you could easily drop it 5dB. There's a third audio track, for the audio commentary, on the first episode.

    The English dialogue is clear and easily understood. The Japanese dialogue sounds clear, but I can't assess comprehensibility. Both dubs seem well matched to the mouth flaps.

    The score, from Kohei Tanaka, is pleasant stuff but nothing too memorable, although it does get a bit carried away on occasion. The opening and closing themes are more interesting.

    The English soundtrack is quite frontal, with nothing of any significance emanating from the surrounds, but it does make occasional use of the subwoofer. The Japanese soundtrack is plain stereo, and uses neither the surrounds nor the sub.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

    The menus are animated with music. They are easy to navigate, and nicely themed to the show.

Credit-less Opening (2:03)

    The opening sequence, but without the credits over the top. It's a nice extra...once.

Clean Closing (1:31)

    The closing sequence, without the credits. Again, a nice extra...once.

Audio Commentary

    This is a commentary for the first episode from the English-language voice actors for Misaki (Jessica Boone) and Icchan (Andy McAvin). They are fairly entertaining, but they don't say an awful lot about the show. There's a glitch in the commentary for about a second at about 0:32, which is a bit disconcerting, but it's not too annoying.

Trailers: ADV Previews (6:12)

    Four trailers, presented one after another, rather than individually selectable in normal Madman fashion:

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 version was released late 2003. It has the same four episodes as the Region 4 disc. The front cover has the same character shots, but the background on the R1 cover is much darker than the R4. As far as I can tell, the discs have the same extras, except for the choice of trailers.

    Judging by reports, the R1 disc has a somewhat better transfer, with minimal aliasing. I suspect that the R1 may be the better choice this time, but I'm going to stick with the R4.

Summary

    The first four episodes of a brand-new and quite entertaining anime series that's a refreshing variation. It is presented well on DVD.

    The video quality is excellent, except for the aliasing on pans.

    The audio quality is good. The English and Japanese soundtracks are both good, in different ways.

    The extras are good.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Monday, February 09, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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RE: Misaki as Tomoyo/Shoko's wife... - REPLY POSTED