Angelic Layer sets its eyes on Suzuhara Misaki, a first year middle school student who moved to Tokyo to begin the first year of her middle school life. Upon getting lost in the highly metropolitan area, she comes across a large screen displaying a fight between what appears to be small robots controlled telepathically by their owner. After a stunning fight, Misaki became quickly interested in this game, of which a suspicious man in a lab coat introducing himself as “Icchan” introduces her to the game while giving her several hints and advice on how to play the game. Little did Misaki know that this game that she just started out will create a chain of fortunate and unfortunate events as Misaki will later realize why this game possesses a major significance in her life.
Like most action series, the premise of the show is to reveal the main characters growth as s/he challenges many obstacles until obtaining certain victory or defeat to learn a lesson. While Angelic Layer did not really provide anything new in that context, what makes this show unique, to me, is the idea that characters are able to play a game by controlling dolls using brain waves in a specific area, different from the typical mecha storyline or shows like Chobits. I think what really made Angelic Layer captivating is the overarching plot of the story behind these matches and tournaments. Beyond the action, beyond the movements, beyond the fights, lies an indecisive girl who just wanted to see her mother. She, who was separated from her due to her mother’s decision to go to Tokyo for work, was only showing that she was okay with the dismissal, but was crying on the inside. She was just a child when her mother left her, and without a father or siblings (she was living with her grandparents), life was quite lonely for her, even if she did or did not make any friends during her elementary school year. While her arrival to Tokyo was mainly to continue her schooling there, there was no doubt that, in the back of her mind, that she can used this chance to search for her mother, even if it were an accidental glance. Just a quick peek at how she was doing was enough for her, believing that she should not be selfish and bother her during her work. Yet, she wanted to be with her, to be hugged by her arms, to feel her warmth after so long, and to make up for the lost time that she could have been together.
The mother is in just as much fault as the daughter. She, Suzuhara Shuko, blames herlsef for leaving her daughter while her daughter faked a face that she was okay. To properly be with her, she decided that she will not be with her until her disease is cured, an illness that prevents her nervous system from sending any signals from the brain to the legs, said to be an incurable disease. She would search everywhere for a cure until Mihara Ichiro, also known as “Ichhan,” was a doctor studying the nervous system, believing that her illness can be cured. Working with Ichiro, the two would eventually come up with a concept known today as “Angelic Layer,” a game where people would send messages from their heads to a doll to make it move and fight in a specific area. The game was easily a top seller and a hit, as many people started to create their angels on the first day and use them to fight. The popularity skyrocketed to the point that a tournament would hold these fights annually, of which Ichiro can use their data to figure out how to cure Shuko’s legs. All was going according to plan until Shoko Asami, Misaki’s aunt and Shuko’s sister, informed Shuko that her daughter has arrived to Tokyo and that she is taking care of her for the time being. This placed Shuko in a lot of stress, for she will know that there will be a time when the two will meet each other, even by accident. This causes her heart to waver between wanting to see her daughter now after so long or wait until her legs are fully healed in order to meet her. Shuko would choose the latter, not wanting Misaki to pity her poor state and wanting to show her that she was fine for the seven years that they were separated. As time passed by Shuko would continue to see Misaki from afar without her daughter’s realization of it. Every time she wants to see her, a part of her stops her from doing so because of the current state she is in. Like mother like daughter, she, too, is indecisive of what to do during situations like these, However, she chose the tournament as the main place for them to meet, for it will be here that Shuko can show Misaki how far she has gone and tell her that she was alight.
As far as the man reoccurring cast concerned, none of them really stood out to me other than Misaki. I guess the three people that are in need of mention are her first friends since arriving to Tokyo, Kobayashi Kotaro and Kizaki Tamayo, her middle school classmates, and Kobayashi Hatoko, Kotaro’s younger sister. Kotaro originally had a crush on Misaki, which was the basis of tease for many who knew of his crush, but eventually turned to Misaki, a childhood friend who mainly performs submission maneuvers at him upon encounter but tells him that she loved him for a very long time. Despite being five-years-old, Misaki treats her as a friend, guide, and teacher for Angelic Layer and cares about her deeply. In return, Hatoko treats her as a dear friend who actually sees her as a mature person than a five-year-old. This creates a strong bond between the two where they are eventually seen together through the later half of the series.
Overall, Angelic Layer is an interesting ride to come by. Although it may not be as catching as today’s anime, it can still provide its own hidden gems to hold out on its own. This is an anime recommended by those interesting in these types of fights and are willing to cheer for Misaki and her angel to not give up and overcome any hardship thrown at them.