Read or Die

I asked for recommendations a while back, and one of the recommendations was a series called Read or Die. The series was universally hailed as being stupid, but some people thought it was a “fun” stupid and enjoyable nonetheless. While I do believe they’re right, I also wish they would have fleshed out some of their ideas a little more. I only watched the OVA (which is only 3 episodes) and not the TV series, so I guess it’s possible that the TV series goes into more detail, but the OVA seemed a little rushed and cramped. At its core, there’s a pretty good story here though, and I did enjoy it.

The premise is that a Special Operations Division of the British Library employs various librarians with superpowers who fight book-related crime. It’s actually a neat sorta mixture of James Bond, super heroes, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and… books. Anyway, the story details a particular incident in which clones of major historical figures threaten to wipe out civilization. The details of how these clones were created, who they are, and why they want to destroy the world are glossed over a bit, but that’s because the story focuses more on the relationship between Yomiko Readman (aka Agent Paper, who has the power to manipulate paper – which is more useful than it sounds: she can stop bullets, shoot paper projectiles, among other improbable but clever uses (more on this below)) and Nancy Makuhari (aka Miss Deep, who can make herself intangible and pass through matter – walking through walls and whatnot). It’s reasonably involving, though again it feels a little rushed.

Behold, I can move paper!

So yes, it’s silly, and there’s lots of Huh? moments that even the most unflappable viewer will think are odd. Still, there’s a certain charm to the flight of fancy that underlies the series. Its the same sort of feeling I get when seeing steam-punk technology (which actually features significantly in this series as well, so it makes sense). After an initial confused reaction, I generally found myself amused at these episodes, such as when Yomiko creates a paper airplane so that she can chase after one of the villains (who’s flying a jet):

A paper airplane!

Yeah, it’s absurd, but it’s fun, and the action sequences are actually well staged and quite entertaining. As previously mentioned, the writers did a good job coming up with clever ways to use paper as a weapon or shield or whatever. Most of the villains don’t have much of a back story, and their powers are sometimes a little over-the-top, but that ends up being fine.

Hi, I'm a villain.

The animation is pretty good and the music is fantastic (it’s got a very Bond-esque feel to it). Overall, it’s entertaining and fluffy, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I’d like to have seen some of the villains and the story fleshed out a bit more, but that’s surprisingly not much of an issue. It’s just good old fashioned mindless fun (which was actually good, considering my busy schedule of late). Thanks to Roy and Wonderduck for the recommendation. As usual, more screenshots and comments below the fold.

This is Drake, the third member of the team (along with Yomiko and Nancy). He doesn’t have any superpowers though, and seems to be a bit of a third wheel, though he appears to come into his own towards the end. The role of regular, non-superpowered folks is a bit strange, especially when it comes to the military. Huge amounts of military power is neutralized and destroyed several times throughout the film, and the US president is portrayed as something of a weenie. When confronted with the destruction of a helicopter fleet, for instance, he literally falls to the ground and wets himself. This seems a bit out of place, but it’s a minor quibble.


As previously mentioned, they come up with lots of ways to use paper, as in this paper parachute or a paper sword:

A paper parachute? Why not?

Paper Sword gets destroyed

There are lots of books in the movie, and occassionally some of them are rather strangely titled in English. Who could forget such riveting titles as Mr Bad Guy, I Can Hear Music, or At Tha Close of the Century

Mr Bad Guy

I Can Hear Music (hey, me too!)

And finally, here are some pictures of the striking Miss Deep herself, Nancy Makuhari. She’s a badass.

Nancy is hot.


That’s all for now. Not sure what’s up next in the Anime realm, but I’ll blog it when I watch it. In the mean time, I’ll be working through season two of The Venture Brothers, and will be catching up on some of my live-action viewing:P

10 thoughts on “Read or Die”

  1. I haven’t seen the OVA. I have seen the TV series, however, which is a sequel. It is stupid but not fun-stupid. It’s just stupid-stupid.

    Definitely not recommended.

  2. As I said, it’s mindless fun. I can see why you wouldn’t like it (I wouldn’t recommend the OVA to you) and I’m not sure I would have enjoyed it as much if I hadn’t been brain-dead from working so much the past few weeks. I came home late one day, heated up some leftovers and vegged out in front of this, so it worked well in that respect. I suspect that if I was a little more coherent, the inconsistencies and silliness would have gotten to me more than they did. As it stands now, I’m not all that interested in watching the full series just yet… from what I’ve seen it sounds different and not quite as fun.

    I think I’m going to try to download disk 5 of Martian Successor Nadesico, so that I can watch that next. Barring that, I’m thinking Banner of the Stars or Cowboy Bebop.

  3. I thought that the Nancy and Yomiko bond was very nicely done. I’ve got the TV series on DVD upstairs, but my anime watching is very slow at the moment and I’ve got literally hundreds of unwatched DVDs stacked up.

    I’m looking forward to that day.

  4. Alex, I agree that the core of the story is the relationship between Yomiko and Nancy and that it’s relatively well done. Without that, it wouldn’t have worked at all.

    Pete, My review may indeed paint a brighter picture than it deserves, but I’m a victim of context in this case. I can see some of the things that were wrong with the series, but I was too tired to fret about them and for the most part, they didn’t impact the core of story (the aforementioned relationship between Yomiko and Nancy). I realized that I haven’t been giving star ratings for these reviews. This would probably be somewhere around **1/2 (out of 4). Maybe, upon further deliberation, it would move down to **. It’s probably not something I’d recommend to anyone, but I’m not upset that I watched it…

  5. I think the official subtitles in the OVA stink on ice (“Eat This! Up! Up!”), but it’s fun in the same way that a mindless action flick is fun (and that’s really the way to think of it; not as three episodes, but a single movie in three sections). I don’t deny that it has it’s share of problems, but so what? Does every show have to be Haibane Renmei? Heck, SOME people like DBZ after all…

    The first half of the TV series is quite good, the second half not as. Overall, I’d give it two stars, MAYBE 2-1/2 if you think the idea of some pretty flashy fight scenes with paper-wielding girls sounds good.

    I enjoyed it, but then, I also liked Ikkitousen, so…

  6. I was re-reading my capsule comments at the ANN list and was reminded how Nancy executed her Darth Vader moment in the rocket. I think it was the best part of the show. Cliche, sure, but still… The relationship, well, it was good but not as climactic, so it left less to remember.

    The worst thing about Stellvia for me was how Ayaka received her pass in exchange for nothing (I’m spoiling because I presume you won’t be seeing Stellvia since you’ve seen Vandread already.) Nancy has done the right thing even though it was self-destructive. That’s strong.

    The picture I’m trying to build is, ROD have got lots of things wrong and one thing right, while Stellvia got lots of things right and this one wrong. Why can’t they create an ideal show, goddamit!

    For some reason, I keep forgetting good things about ROD. If someone asks me, I say, “It was crap”. Although I definitely have seen worse.

  7. hmmm dunno what this is just searching R.O.D stuff on google BECAUSE IT’S AN AMAZING SERIES!!! Had to comment, the OVA’s not the best of all the Read or Die and Read or Dream stuff they have! In fact’s it’s probably the worst out of the manga’s and the television show! The characters are great, and it’s so believable the way everything fits into history. The paper fighting stuff is far from stuiped-fun! More like amazing-fun! There great fight scenes and as to almost no backstory on the villians, they’re historical figures and they have legitimite reasons for being there plot wise. Also every good Read or Die fan knows the the relationship between Nancy and Yomiko is no where near as great as the one between Yomiko and Nenene! Watch the television show it’s much better, and clears a few thing up if you do that and read the manga. ZOMG! *mocking tone to that (not meaning to offend all in good fun I hope :D)

  8. “kyocat83” means well, but he comes across a little crass… so I thought I’d lend some support to his general argument: the Television show is good fun, and I believe it’s definitely worth watching, overall.

    If you’re not big on spare time, and you seem to be, then maybe you should give it a miss, but I think a lot of the above posters sell it short.

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