O.K., I'll admit it. I downloaded this title via bit torrent after reading an online review, because I wanted to see something different. I watched it twice, and immediately ordered the box set. This is a real gem.
Angelic layer is the story of Misaki, a small, somewhat shy girl who was raised in the country by her grandparents. Misaki's father died when she Misaki was very young, and her mother (Shu) is away in Tokyo because of her work. At the age of 12, Misaki leaves for Tokyo to live with her aunt (Shoko), hoping for the chance to see her mother.
When Misaki gets off the train at Tokyo, she sees a live feed of a fight between two female opponents. She is quickly enthralled by the beauty of the fighters' movements, and begins to root for the smaller of the two, since she herself is small. The smaller fighter wins, and Misaki is hooked.
After learning from a mysterious stranger (Ichan) that the opponents are actually dolls (Called angels), she goes to purchase one of her own, then walks to her aunt's house, since she spent her train fare.
Misaki gets involved with Angelic Layer, the tournament series in which the angel dolls compete.
The great thing about this series is its continual emphasis on being successful through effort. Size doesn't matter in Angelic Layer, and Misaki proves to be a great competitor. Throughout the series, she is upbeat, cheerful, and quick to encourage others.
Her friends (a very fun group) are very supportive of her, and she makes many more friends through the tournament.
Angelic Layer is episodic and predictable (what will Misaki and her angel do to win?!), and would only garner eye-rolls from the older folks, if it weren't tied to a beautiful back story.
Yes, the series is about fighting, but Misaki, her aunt, her mother, her friends, and even that slightly creepy, mysterious stranger (Ichan) develop throughout the series.
Kids will love the school friends, the "punishments" that Ichan dishes out to his subordinate, and the well choreographed fight scenes.
Grownups will like the relationships between Misaki, her mother (Shu) Ichan, Shuko, and the story of how Angelic Layer began.
This is a title I use to introduce people to anime. It has always been well received, and has made many new fans.
Money well spent.