Title: Read or Die aka R.O.D.
Company: Studio Deen
Format: 3 OVA
Dates: 23 May 2001
Synopsis: That Readman Yomiko likes books would be an understatement. Her apartment is filled with stacks upon stacks and she spends every penny she earns on piles more. One day she stumbles across a rare German book, first edition no less. On her way home she is attacked by a old man on a giant flying insect who desperately wants her new book. But Yumiko – code name ‘the Paper’ – is no pushover, for she is an agent of the British Library Special Operations Division and has the ability to manipulate pages she so adores.
Means to destroy humanity: You won’t ever guess it.
Style: James Bond meets X-Men?
Depth: Stays in the kiddie pool.
Action scenes: Creative use of uncommon abilities.
Readman Yumiko is pretty much your stereotypical nerd. She doesn’t brush her hair, she is clumsy and she doesn’t really have any friends. Yet she’s sincere and kind-hearted and a little romantic. It’s surprising to see a character like this heading up a James Bond style spy action story, but despite her timidness she has the bravery to pull it off. Yumiko is countered with Miss Deep, her special agent partner who can move through solid objects. Miss Deep is everything that Yumiko is not – bold, fearless and cynical. The two spark an unlikely friendship that forms the underlying focus of the action thriller that is Read or Die.
Yumiko and Miss Deep’s relationship is established well enough, but pretty much all of the cast is never really develop beyond stock personalities. Themes of friendship, love and duty are introduced, though not explored in any kind of depth. The question is, do we care? What truly matters here are the action scenes and the villainous plot to destroy humanity. Behind the plot is an absurd troupe of clones of historical figures endowed with a superpower related to their specialty. The famous entomologist has a giant insect under his command while the great Buddhist can move a river. The historical connection makes them more intriguing to watch than any other average goon. Where they and the heroes got their powers is never explained but it’s never truly important.
The over-the-top fights pit an interesting array of abilities against each other in a clever and creative ways. Very rarely do the characters rely on simple guns. Instead, the battles engage forces of nature, unconventional flying machines and, of course, Yumiko’s paper. This and the surprising method of human destruction chosen do a lot to counteract the otherwise fairly standard action plot. The result might be predictable, but the ride there is enjoyable.
Adding to the action is a soundtrack that absolutely screams Iwasaki Taku. The style immediately reminded me of his two previous efforts, Now and There, Here and There and Rurouni Kenshin: Tsuiokuhen. The animation by Studio Deen also really brings the story to life. The plot moves along swiftly and the action is balanced deftly with more thoughtful scenes.
At just three episodes, R.O.D is quick, fun watch if you are looking for some light action. It was popular enough to spawn a television series, R.O.D. the TV, based on the same manga, but taking place some years later. After watching the OVA, you’ll finally understand why paper beats rock.
The Rating: 7
Reviewed by: Kaikyaku