READ OR DIE (THE 3-EPISODE OAV)
Distributed by: Manga
STORY: Yomiko Readman, a klutzy and loveable substitute teacher who loves books so much that she forgets to do anything else other than read and has an apartment that might as well a library is actually a secret agent who can control paper. When a book that was in her possession is stolen for its prevoiusly unknown powers by a renegde group of ressurected and brainwashed well known historical figures ranging from Beethoven to Sanzo, she teams up with the immaterial (not just in clothing, though that aspect is certainly very noticeable…) Nancy Makuhari to chase it down and save the world from the destructive powers of the book.
Sound silly? Well, yes. I’ll be the first to admit that this sounded like the stupidest plot ever and I’ll be the first to admit that after watching the anime, the plot became absolutely brilliant. Because that’s simply what it was. Lame sounding but played out so well that my eyes were popping out of my sockets by the end of the first episode and my brain was in quite a few knots. Twist after twist is thrown at you relentlessly. The battles are choreographed excellently and transitions between fight and the ever essential explainations are as smooth as Dove soap and all the while, you’re kept wondering just what will happen. But the people who wrote R.O.D. aren’t that nice. They keep you guessing and pass out surprises like candy on Halloween right up to the very end. There’s a little bit of everything (fighting, romance, humour, magical girls, scifi, weird critters and people, fanservice…) for everyone. This thing is sheer genius.
Only one complaint – the explaination parts are boring.
CHARACTERS: Yomiko stays true to her manga persona though, for probably the first time ever, I find the anime personality to be more endearing. Character relationships are well emphasized, especially the friendship between Yomiko and Nancy. Both manage to be totally awesome characters while having distinctly different personalities – especially Nancy who develops so much as the story progresses; living and acting as a wonderful friend to Yomiko while hiding her terrible secrets and never for a single moment, until it all explodes out into the open, letting anyone know of it. Auxiliary characters can be empathized with easily, though they are not as relatable as Yomiko and Nancy. However, even people like “The Joker” have their fans, and personally, I think he and Drake Anderson are just hilarious.
ANIMATION: The animation for Read or Die is simply spectacular. The movements flow so well (Indeed, the action scene at the end of the first OAV episode contains one of my all time favorite sequences involving a character just jumping and flipping because it was so gracefully animated.) and though the CG can seem tacky, how the animators managed to handle all those frames and manipulate them as well as Yomiko can (Or is it the other way around?) is to be much admired. There aren’t enough adjectives to describe how good the animation is. It can only be described by seeing it.
MUSIC (OP/ED): All music is composed by Taku Iwasaki, who doesn’t get enough credit for the brilliant stuff he writes. Most of the music is written with a jazz design in mind, though there’s the occasional fanfares tossed in to represent Yomiko’s high-class agency as well as the technofied music that reflects the scifi elements of the series, of which there are many, and thus Iwasaki enforces it a lot. The less classical pieces are used less and more for suspenseful feel – all of which is achieved flawlessly. The main theme of R.O.D. (which also serves as the opening) – a jazz band against a full orchestra and some added techno blips and such -has a very 007 feel that serves its purpose of bringing excitement into the action more than well. The first ending theme is a jazz waltz that showcases the vibes and flute. It’s so catchy and happy that the listener will want to get up and dance to it. The second ending theme is the pompous fanfare that’s not so stuck up that it doesn’t move, but it’s not as relatable or happy.
FINAL VERDICT: Most definitely one of my favorite animes. While it might appeal more to those that like their brain wrenched in all different directions, overall, after most people have seen it, they’ve loved it.
Recommended for ages 13 and up for graphic violence. Highly recommended for people with high intelligences. Watch it. NOW.