This is another one of those "well, I read the manga, so how does the anime stack up" type reviews I seem to have been getting into the habit of doing of late. This time, Angelic Layer.
The basic premise revolves around two separate thrusts; Misaki Suzuhara and her mother, Shuko, and the popular game "Angelic Layer". Shuko left her daughter in the hands of her parents so that she could go to Tokyo do "work". The work, as it turns out, is that she became the multiple National champion in the game "Angelic Layer" which is effectively a fighting game involving two dolls or "Angels" that fight over 10 minutes in a circular "layer". Very clever gizmos indeed, and the brainchild of the initially mysterious (and somewhat strange) Ichiro or "Icchan". Starting a new middle school in Tokyo, Misaki comes to live with her Auntie Shoko and, on her way, spots a beautiful white angel on a large view screen outside a station and decides to get involved. To this end, Misaki designs Hikaru, her Angel.
The story follows Misaki through from her earliest rookie steps to the very pinnacle of the game, with all the various trappings of such sport and a few side stories including her relationship with Hatoko and her brother and all the various other players.
For the majority of the series, the anime and the manga are very similar. However, the anime introduces a twist that didn't crop up in the manga, that being the reason why the Layer exists. In the manga, Shuko's only real problem is her incredible shyness around people that she loves, while the anime introduces a mysterious disease that robbed Shuko of her ability to walk, the Layer being an offshoot of a project to develop artificial legs.
The fights, however, do not run identically between the two, with a number of fights only appearing in either the manga, as with the fight between Hikaru and Alice (who makes a brief cameo appearance in the final anime episode but does not fight) or the anime. Also, the anime features Shuko as part of the National finals but is only a guest in one specific round in the manga.
I can heartily endorse the manga as one that I enjoyed but I have a few reservations about the anime. While it does follow the manga in much of its content, it is plainly obvious where cuts and changes have been made in the story to insert content that the story didn't really need. I found it particularly painful to sit through episode 25 which seemed to cram as much exposition and more than one visual cliche into it (I won't tell you why as that is a certain spoiler). Another obvious addition for the jaded television masses was the "Entry Angel" which is this series' contribution to the "cringemaking repeated chant" sequence (OK, "Wings of an Angel please guide Hikaru and me" isn't quite as annoying as "Moon Crystal Power Make Up" or similar, but it's getting there!)
I believe that the problem is that the producers of this show saw this as a girlish take on the fight anime. A bit like Pokemon or Dragonball Z but with dolls. To an extent, you could be forgiven for thinking that. However it did have enough in it to keep me watching to the end, so it can't have been all bad, but I could have done without that awful 25th episode.