After the fight, there's a brief and kind of creepy bit in which shadowed spectators discuss the fight and Misaki's abilities. Two of these spectators (Madoka Fujisaki and Arisu Fujisaki) are involved in Misaki's next battle. Madoka's angel Mao (a kung fu kitty thing) is Hikaru's opponent. Although an angel's deus (the human being using the angel in battle) is usually the one who created the angel, in this case Madoka's younger sister Arisu was the one who created Mao.
Prior to Misaki's battle with Madoka, Ringo warns Misaki that not everyone who plays Angelic Layer is as nice as Misaki is. Of course, this warning becomes important right away - although Madoka and Mao are already pretty strong opponents, Madoka and Arisu don't plan on leaving anything to chance. Madoka plants a device on Hikaru, which allows Arisu to interfere with Misaki's ability to control Hikaru's movements at any time. Misaki has no idea what's going on, but Icchan, who's watching the game from behind the scenes, has a pretty good idea, and he's not happy. Icchan plans to stop the cheating, but Ohjiro, who has also been watching Misaki's battles, wants to take care of things instead. Ohjiro goes to see Arisu, who's sitting in the stands with the other spectators - it's at this point that Misaki first finds out that Ohjiro is a hugely popular Angelic Layer champion. Ohjiro quietly lets Arisu know that he knows she's been cheating and prevents her from continuing to do so. Now that no one is interfering with her control, Misaki easily beats Madoka.
After the battle, Madoka wonders whether she would have been able to win the fight if she hadn't cheated and had fought her hardest instead. Although Madoka appears to have learned something valuable from her fight with Misaki, Arisu is still too upset (and embarrassed about being caught by Ohjiro?) to admit that their cheating was a sign of weakness.
Later on, Icchan visits Misaki and talks about both her strengths (strong observation and memory skills, the ability to predict her opponents moves) and weaknesses (? - he mentions that Hikaru has a weak point, but he doesn't say what it is). Hikaru's weak point worries Misaki, but she gets through any remaining battles all right. The four semi-finalists of the tournament are Hatoko Kobayashi, Kaede Saitou (one of the somewhat creepy shadowed spectators), Sai Jounouchi (another one of the creepy shadowed spectators), and Misaki Suzuhara. Although Misaki had managed to put her weak spot out of her mind for a while, Sai brings it up again, renewing Misaki's worries.
Although Icchan knows what that weak spot is, he's not going to tell Misaki ("You know, having someone tell you, vs. discovering it yourself - which one leads to attaining real power?"). Unfortunately, Misaki really doesn't have a clue, so she can't help but wonder if Hikaru's weak spot is her small size. She consoles herself with the thought of the angel that first interested her in Angelic Layer, a light-weight model just like Hikaru. Kotaro also tries to cheer Misaki up by offering to let Misaki watch him do some karate. Whether or not it helps Misaki figure out Hikaru's weak spot, at least she'll have a chance to pick up some new moves for Hikaru to do (plus, it gives the budding romance between Kotaro and Misaki more of a chance to develop).
Oh, CLAMP wants so very badly to make readers squirm over the series' great secret. Ohjiro frequently comments on the similarities and differences between Misaki and...someone. Shouko worries about Misaki eventually meeting...someone. Then there's the tall, mysterious lady who may or may not be Misaki's stalker and who Misaki thinks looks strangely familiar. Having already seen the anime and read some manga spoilers, I know that "someone" (aka the mysterious lady) is Misaki's mother. The fact that she's standing and running all on her own is an immediate indicator that this is another one of those instances where the manga and anime are different. Once again, I already knew this from the spoilers (I both love them and hate them - I can't seem to keep away from them).
I hadn't realized, however, that manga Ohjiro is also a bit different from anime Ohjiro. Yes, he's still got some of the "Prince of Angelic Layer" aspects - he stops Arisu and Madoka's cheating in a fairly quiet and painless sort of way, after all. However, manga Ohjiro also has a pretty big mischievous streak. There's one part where he whispers to Misaki that her "panties are white with orange stripes." Although he's wrong, his comments have Misaki blushing with embarrassment and horror for three pages.
As the manga progresses and the various ways in which it differs from the anime become more important, I'm interested to see whether I start to prefer it over the anime. At the moment, I still sort of prefer the anime more than the manga, simply because I enjoy the battle scenes more in the anime than in the manga (however, the spread on pages 88 and 89, in which Hikaru knocks Mao out, is really wonderful).
There aren't really any extras in this volume, unless you count the one page and one spread of full-color artwork at the beginning. Also, if you look closely at the "Angelic Layer Daily News" pages at the beginning of the volume, you'll notice that some of the "news articles" cross over a bit with other CLAMP series (I noticed X and Clamp School Detectives, but there may have been others I missed). "Angelic Layer Daily News" also has a bit that explains some of the sound effects, which is nice, since these are left untranslated throughout the volume.
Read-alikes and Watch-alikes:
- Chobits (manga) by CLAMP - There is also an anime version of Chobits, which is very similar, but the manga is better and, at eight volumes, quite possibly cheaper. Hideki, a cram student, comes from the country and knows almost nothing about persocoms, robots that look and act almost like humans. Unfortunately for Hideki, almost everyone has one now for their computing needs, and there's no way he can afford one. However, Hideki gets lucky and finds one abandoned next to a dumpster. She's a bit broken and can only say "chi" at first, so that's what he names her. Chi adores Hideki, and, as the series progresses, he comes to care for her, despite his concern about the implications of humans falling for their persocoms. This series crosses over with Angelic Layer a tad. Chobits deals with somewhat weightier issues than Angelic Layer and contains quite a bit of fanservice, so it's not suitable for as broad a range of ages as Angelic Layer. I shudder at the thought of someone trying to explain Chobits' ending to a child or young teen.
- Dragon Drive (manga) by Ken-ichi Sakura - Reiji has never played a game that has managed to capture his interest, at least not until his friend Maiko makes him try Dragon Drive, a virtual reality game in which players team up with dragons to fight one another. Reiji's dragon, Chibi, seems worthless, but it's actually very rare and may be much more powerful than Reiji realizes. Those who'd like another story involving a kid who gets wrapped up in an addictive fighting game might enjoy this series.
- Hikaru no Go (manga) by Yumi Hotta (story) and Takeshi Obata (art); Hikaru no Go (anime TV series) - Twelve-year-old Hikaru is looking through his grandfather's things for something he can sell when he comes across a haunted Go board. Sai, the ghost of a long-dead Go instructor, is delighted that Hikaru can see him and basically forces him to give him opportunities to play Go. Hikaru is reluctant, at first, but he gradually learns to love the game and starts on the path to becoming a professional Go player. Those who'd like another story in which a kid gets hooked on a game and gradually gets better at it might enjoy this series. Also, the anime, at least, also has at least one part in which the issue of cheating is dealt with (the manga may as well, but I haven't read enough to know for sure). Unlike Angelic Layer, this series is based on a real-life game - you can try finding Go players to play against in your area, you can download the game and play against a computer, or you can play online against real players (be careful where you play, however - players are known to cheat more on some sites than on others).
- Cardcaptor Sakura (manga) by CLAMP; Cardcaptor Sakura (anime TV series, plus a few movies) - [Note: if you plan on getting the anime, make sure you're getting Cardcaptor Sakura and not Cardcaptors - Cardcaptors is an extremely edited version of Cardcaptor Sakura that barely resembles the original.] After Sakura accidentally opens a book containing dozens of magical Clow Cards, she works to get them all back, with the help and encouragement of her best friend Tomoyo and Kero, the cards' guardian. Those who'd like another CLAMP series starring an energetic young girl might want to try this - in addition, I think this is meant for a similar age group (although it should be suggested with care, as some parents might object to some of the character relationships and romances).