Angelic Layer is a manga series released by Clamp. The manga is published in Japan by Kadokawa Shoten, and in English originally by Tokyopop, but has since been re-licensed by Dark Horse Comics. It is the group’s first work to use a quite different art style unseen in any other CLAMP series, which uses a more distinctly pared down style. There is less emphasis on detail and more on accentuated posing and gestures. This kind of artwork would later be used in series like Chobits and Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle.
Angelic Layer takes place in the same universe as Clamp’s later work Chobits, which similarly deals with the relationship between humans, human-created devices, toys, and godlike power. Several characters also appear in Clamp’s Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle including most of the main characters, as well as the angel Blanche.
The primary protagonist is Misaki Suzuhara. Despite her short appearance she is a seventh grader who just moved to Tokyo to live with her aunt, Shouko Asami. After arriving in the city outside of Tokyo Station, Misaki watches a battle between two dolls on a big live-screen called Angelic Layer, a highly popular game in which players (called Deus) buy and custom-design dolls known as Angels that are moved by mental control when on a field called the “layer.”
Interested in learning about Angelic Layer, an eccentric man wearing a white lab coat and glasses, calling himself “Icchan“, encourages Misaki to purchase and create her own angel. She wants the angel to be “a short girl, but strong and happy”, and names it Hikaru, based on Hikaru Shidō from Clamp’s Magic Knight Rayearth (a manga in Angelic Layer’s world). Even though she’s clueless about the game, Misaki soon competes in tournaments and is assisted and watched carefully by Icchan. Later, Icchan’s identity is revealed as Ichiro Mihara, the co-creator of Angelic Layer.
Misaki begins studying at the Eriol Academy, an educational institution which include grades from kindergarten through high school. There she becomes friends with Hatoko Kobayashi, a very intelligent and mature kindergarten girl who is a famous Deus and an Angelic Layer expert. Her incredibly fast angel Suzuka is a favourite contender in tournaments. Misaki also befriends Hatoko’s older brother Kōtarō and his friend Tamayo Kizaki, a girl fascinated by martial arts. Both turn out to be Misaki’s classmates.
While adjusting to her new surroundings, Misaki is also gripped by her past. Her thoughts often dwell on her mother, whom she has not seen since pre-school. Eventually, Misaki learns that her mother was key in the development of Angelic Layer, which she worked on in an attempt to develop a perfect prosthesis for her multiple sclerosis, which has confined her to a wheelchair. Her mother is also the Deus of Athena and the champion of Angelic Layer.
The differences in the anime series: Misaki names her angel of her favorite doll from childhood. The ending to the manga also has different couplings. In the manga, Misaki’s mother does not have multiple sclerosis. Icchan plays an important role in the Chobits storyline, but this connection was reduced to a single scene in the anime; the Chobits anime was also made by a different company. Kaede’s younger brother Minoru is also a Chobits character.