Movie: One of the ways you can tell that anime has made it to the big leagues is in how many shows are either directed at a female audience or at least consider that portion of the potential audience. It wasn't that long ago when network executives thought only pre-pubescent boys would be interested in the genre and that caused a self-fulfilling prophecy. In essence, if you exclude a large part of the potential audience, you prove yourself right, more often than not. Since those early days of anime, a number of releases have shown the wisdom of targeting the female audience; Sailor Moon, Wedding Peach, and Arjuna are a few that come to mind. One of the latest releases, Angelic Layer 6: Inherit The Layer, borrows heavily from a male dominated section of the market, the fighting sub-genre, and has young females using small battle androids to duke it out in what amounts to a ring (ie: layer).
The series tells the story of a twelve-year-old girl, Misaki, who is instructed in a technological game that involves using robotic dolls. The dolls are programmed to fight in a special arena and the games are quite competitive. The dolls, when put on a special arena surface, come to life and are thought controlled by the owner. Two go into the arena and fight, with various rules and regulations to control aspects of the contest, and how well they do will dictate how many points they get and their ranking in regional bouts.
As the sixth DVD began, Misaki had already fought her way into the national finals by virtue of her intellect, cunning, and ability to decipher the moves of her opponents, even though she was a beginner. She starts off this volume having already defeated a couple of very strong challengers, and takes some time off to be with her friends and family. While there were only three episodes on the DVD, they all contributed to the larger show and helped keep the usual fighting game formula from getting stale. Here's a quick breakdown of those episodes:
Episode Twenty-One: Summertime At The Sea! Someone Is In Love With Someone!:
The beach beckoned the group and Misaki went with her friends to enjoy some well deserved down time. Mr. Icchan also had the same idea and brought his staff so the two groups spent the day together, complicating the fact that Misaki's mother is among them secretly. Love is in the air for a couple of the friends but it's not as simple as it appears at first glance.
Episode Twenty-Two: Suddenly Just The Two Of Us. Secret Double Dates:
Most of the episode dealt with the romantic liaisons between the cast members going on dates. The couples get to know one another outside of the ring and become more comfortable with one another in the process. The episode ends with Misaki fighting her next opponent, Ohjiro, with Hikaru fighting Wizard for the chance to advance in the finals.
Episode Twenty-Three: Break Up The Magic Wall! Misaki Versus Ohjiro:
As the round continues from the last episode, Misaki appreciates that Ohjiro is not holding back in the deployment of his Magic Wall technique. She tries to figure out a way to break through in time to win the honor of winning a chance to fight the ultimate opponent, Athena. Even if she busts through his wall, will she be able to defeat such an experienced, totally capable player such as Ohjiro? This episode had a decent audio commentary, as described in the extras section.
Picture: The picture was presented in the usual 1.33:1 ratio full frame color, the standard for television anime shows for years. The picture was very clear and colorful with no artifacts or other problems observed. The transfer was solid and I had no problems with the picture.
Sound: The audio was presented with a choice of either a 5.1 Dolby Digital English track or the original 2.0 Dolby Digital Japanese track. I favored the original track on the vocals but preferred the dub on the effects with the better spatial characteristics. The dub vocals weren't bad, I actually enjoyed them a lot, but some of it was due to the writing.
Extras: The best extra was an audio commentary on one episode by Chris Patton (voice actor for Ohjiro) and David Williams (the ADR Director). The two spent a fair amount of time introducing themselves and their background as well as some information about the show. There was a paper insert that described two of the leads and their dolls, clean openings and closings, and some previews.
Final Thoughts: Angelic Layer 6: Inherit The Layer, was another fun episode but didn't rely on the standard formula as so many other fighting anime shows have done. I think I'd have preferred the non-fighting episodes to be spread out more but I still think this one deserved a rating of Recommended. The commentary was better than average and I think the series showed lots of improvement as it continued.
Check out more anime at: DVDTalk's Best Of Anime