Read or Die Anime Review
R.O.D. (Read or Die)
US Release By
Science-fantasy Superhero Action
3 30-minute episodes
2001-05-23 - 2002-02-06
Amongst the smoldering ruins of what was once the White House, a mysterious figure with lightning at his fingertips emerges from the inferno, and asks a frightened secret service agent who promptly wets himself, "this isn't the library, is it?"
Meanwhile, Yomiko Readman is a top class agent, working for a clandestine paramilitary wing of the British Royal Library. Brandishing the codename "The Paper" and using her unique power to manipulate anything made of pulped tree-matter, she must retrieve a rare book from the clutches of some decidedly odd, and previously deceased suspicious characters.
However, not alone in her exploits, she is teamed up with the dark and enigmatic "Miss Deep," who has the ability to pass through matter; and the action hero type Drake, who has the ability to wave big guns at people, and pilot any heavy machinery that the team might happen to be making use of at the time, such as helicopters, jeeps or nuclear-powered hunter-killer submarines.
Although only a 3 episode OAV, Read or Die manages to pack a reasonable amount of character development into the short timespan, at least for the 2 main characters Yomiko and Miss Deep. Yomiko is knowledgeable and well versed in the area of literature, while retaining an endearing naivety and ideology, and miss deep is somewhat cynical and pragmatic, but ultimately kind hearted. I found the characters to be quite interesting, and although obviously not as developed as characters in a full length series, quite passable for the meagre timespan the anime allowed.
Despite the unusual nature of its setting and characters, Read or Die remains primarily an action flick and the unique abilities of the lead characters makes for exciting and original action sequences (such as chasing down an enemy in a giant paper aeroplane).
The high production values of this anime lead to neat, clean art, competent use of colour and silky smooth animation from start to finish, with lots of movement on screen and hardly any static shots at all. The fight scenes are impressive and well choreographed, making good use of the characters abilities, like using sheets of paper to block bullets, and a whole fight scene involving lots of passing through walls, floors and each other (very hard to follow but cool nonetheless).
In fitting with the visual dynamics of the animation, the music is faced paced to match with the action heavy plot, and complementing the material without ever really standing out.
The "cool-ness" factor plays a big part in the appeal of Read or Die, and is a prime example of the style over substance genre done right. Whether fighting in a huge arena reminiscent of Moses's flight across the Red Sea, or battling in the closed confines of a public library, Read or Die always retains a certain breathtaking flair that sets it apart from other similar animes that concentrate on action over plot.
I would recommend seeing this anime to anyone who can appreciate a good style over substance anime, in the same vein as stuff like Mezzo Forte, Kite or Hellsing.
Have something to say about this anime? Join our newly-resurrected forums and speak your mind.
Notes and Trivia
Based on a comic series with story by Hideyuki Kurata and art by Shutaro Yamada. It's available in English from VIZ. There is also a sequel TV series with a somewhat different set of characters and plot.
Yomiko Readman is a double-language play on the word "read"; Readman is obvious, and "yomiko" literally means "reading girl" in Japanese.
US DVD Review
Manga's DVD includes all three episodes with Japanese or English audio and English subtitles. It doesn't list any special features.
Manga calls it 13-up, which is about right.
Violence: 3 - Dripping, mangled corpses in the 3rd episode.
Nudity: 1 - A few bouncing boobs during chase scenes, but no actual nudity.
Sex/Mature Themes: 0 - She reads a romance novel in episode 2...
Language: 0 - Nothing I noticed.