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Review: Read or Die OVA (Sub)

Read or Die Media: OVA
Genre(s): Action, Science Fiction, Spy
Director: Katsuhito Akiyama
Studio: Studio DEEN
Number of Episodes: 3

Yomiko Readman is a Japanese substitute teacher and hardcore bookworm. When she is attacked one day by a strange man on a giant bug who is attempting to steal a book she just bought, she is called back into the British Library Special Operations Division. The Library, run by the still-active and powerful British Empire, has discovered that someone has revived famous figures with superpowers, and they are trying to steal a book that has the key to their dark desires. Yomiko, who is known as “The Paper” due to her ability to control paper, joins forces with team members “Miss Deep,” who can phase through anything or anyone, and Drake, the team’s weapons expert.

Who would have thought that Paper could make a cool power? We’ve seen spiderpowers, invincibility, super-strength, but never the ability to control paper. Luckily, Read or Die, based on the manga of the same name, makes this power work, which makes up for other errors in the plot.

Yomiko is the driving character of this series, in both her sincerity and likability and her awesome power. She is completely trusting of her teammates, and seems a little weak sometimes. However, when her friends (or her books) are in trouble, “The Paper” jumps into action.

And some action it is! Yomiko’s power is so cool that one can enjoy the entire show simply on its merit. She carries around a large suitcase full of sheets of paper. When she allows these to fly out, Yomiko can send them flying at enemies, sharpen them, and change their shape. Throughout the series, she finds very unique ways to use this power, which is one of R.O.D.’s best features. Sadly, Yomiko falls into the problematic rut of moe, oftentimes acting unrealistically cute and clumsy.

As for the other characters, they are undoubtedly cool, but lack a lot of depth. Miss Deep’s powers, though unoriginal, look amazing and are used for some awesome fight scenes. Drake and “Joker”, the investigator and commander of the team, who stays at the British Library Base, are interesting and likeable.

With such a focus on action scenes and this fascination with very cool characters, its a good thing R.O.D. has good animation. As an OVA, it has high-quality animation. Everything moves smoothly, and the action scenes are incredibly kinetic and action-packed. Character designs are usually very bright and distinguishable, and the backgrounds fit in nicely with the show’s bright, lively tone. The final episode has some of the coolest, best animated work in the entire OVA, showing off some very original and fun fight scenes.

The voice acting is pretty good, with some of the most natural performances given to Drake, Joker, and Miss Deep. Yomiko’s voice is high and unnatural, furthering her moe categorization.

As soon as the opening begins, Read or Die makes it clear that it intends to have some really interesting music. Combining motifs from Cowboy Bebop and James Bond, the opening shows us people shooting, sillouettes of women, and plays an energetic Jazz peice that will remind viewers unstoppably of Yoko Kanno’s classic Bebop opening, Tank.

Of course, Read or Die has its faults. Namely, the plot is contrived and often is full of plot holes and unanswered questions. Even so, this is perfect popcorn entertainment. With only 3 episodes in this OVA, each with some very sharp animation and amazing fight scenes, this DVD is perfect as some mindless entertainment on a rainy day with some friends. Read or Die hands us a paper-thin plot, where the superficial action written onto the paper is much more important and interesting than the paper itself.

Animation:   3.5   Average:

(3.0 stars)
Plot:   2.0
Voice Acting:   NR
Sound:   3.5
Overall:   3.0
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