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Watch & Learn: READ OR DIE #1

These girls beat ass for literacy.

"Support your local libraries... or we&squot;ll skin you!!!"
"Support your local libraries... or we'll skin you!!!"

Before I get to anything else, I want to say it’s pretty clear that whoever wrote this (or the manga it may be adapting) was clearly working out some fierce frustrations with wannabe writers. The inspiration somehow manages to be even more transparent here than it was in that part in LADY IN THE WATER when the film critic gets mauled by a giant monster.

As for this pilot episode on the whole… shit, I don’t know… “page powers?”

It doesn’t seem useful anymore to comment on the sort of bewildering tonal shifts in these shows, but I suppose I ought to give READ OR DIE some credit for at least being on steadily-escalating slope of absurdity instead of a jarring switchback turn. It sure looked like it was going to be a straight drama about a willful author and the tribulations she suffers while navigating her writing career. I was even going to question if there was much sense in animating a story that could very easily play on one cozy on Lifetime. Then they borrowed a big explosion from Michael Bay, followed it up with a death trap out of SAW and then capped a vision of what Green Lantern’s powers would like if they black and white and read all over.

In short, this felt like the most demented READING RAINBOW episode ever conceived...

To its credit, the girls are all good foils for each other and, yes, their interplay actually grounds the ridiculous portions and makes parts like the “rainstorm rescue” even a little touching. But I’m still going to take off the relativist’s hat that I usually TRY to wear and say that this was straight-up silly. Not funny, not imaginative… silly.

I love this field for taking up ideas that are often too “out there” for Western media and pushing them in creative and unpredictable ways. But then shows like this remind how “out there” can sometimes be a synonym for “tenuously conceived.”

Watch this episode “The Papers Have Landed” below and decide for yourself.

Tom Pinchuk’s the writer of HYBRID BASTARDS! & UNIMAGINABLE. Order them on Amazon here & here. Follow him on Twitter: @tompinchuk

Lurkeroon Oct. 12, 2011 at 6:19 a.m.

If you were expecting something normal for an anime called "Read or Die" then you are the crazy one. You should certainly know better after watching so many anime.

ROD wasn't very memorable the whole way through, but I did watch it all so following this watch and learn may help me refresh my memory.

Mesoianon Oct. 12, 2011 at 6:36 a.m.

One of my very favorite opening songs.

Though, if you're planning on watching RODTV, you should watch the OAV first. It's a fun little movie that provides backstory into why the hell you should care about Yumiko Readman and why the British Government doing what their doing is so fucked.

DocHauson Oct. 12, 2011 at 6:43 a.m.

The OAV version of ROD was one of my favorite animes back in the day. The TV version did have an amazing opening track, but was not as memorable when the story just got infodumped in the second half of the series. Just accept that this is an alternate reality where book-publishing companies secretly rule the world, and you'll be fine.

pikahyperon Oct. 12, 2011 at 7:45 a.m.

Hmm guess I'm in the minority cause I didn't like the OAV very much and thought it was rather boring but I loved the Read or Dream manga and its anime version ROD the TV.

Babylonian staff on Oct. 12, 2011 at 8:13 a.m.

I remember being way into the Read or Die movie early on in high school. I also remember watching the show a little bit - this first one is the episode with the crazy pen-balancing bomb thing, right?

@Mesoian said:

One of my very favorite opening songs.

Totally. Just seeing the words "Read Or Die" is enough to get that James-Bondian theme playing in my head instantly. The theme song of Driver: San Francisco last month was the first thing to give me ROD opening vibes in a loooong time.

rubberluffyon Oct. 12, 2011 at 8:23 a.m.

Read or Die is awesome (OVA and TV) and the paper powers are generally used in clever (and awesome) ways. But yeah, you should probably watch the OVA first.

PenguinDuston Oct. 12, 2011 at 8:31 a.m.

I really liked the Read or Die TV opening theme song because I am a huge jazz fan. It's up there with Cowboy Bebop's "Tank" in my opinion. As for the show itself, I liked it and I found surprisingly entertaining. There's something about the concept of paper witches that I find appealing. It's an everyday object manipulation that's different from the run-of-the-mill fireball hurling sorcerers that permeate most magical anime.

I think you might be getting burned out a bit if you're citing Michael Bay's use pyrotechnics as something to discredit the series, though. On the other hand, no one said you have to like everything (and who does?), so if this wasn't to your taste, time to move on to something else. Although, I really do think you need to take a break because you read a little crabby in this W&L.

Bigheart711on Oct. 12, 2011 at 10:31 a.m.

I've read the manga versions and seen the Read or Die OVA (and thought they were great), but not the TV series. I'll give it a whirl to see how it goes from here...

kashif1on Oct. 12, 2011 at 2:46 p.m.
I have seen the OVA, and now I've got an excuse to watch the tv show
buhssuhton Oct. 12, 2011 at 4:14 p.m.

loved the series as a whole but my only complain is their power. i'm not saying it not cool or anything, it just that their powers are just there. there is no origin of those power or so whatsoever, so imagine how i felt when one of my friend showed me OVA first time when out of random people starting using power. Maybe the staff were expecting viewers and readers to know that from the beginning.

Also the music is still badass

Mesoianon Oct. 12, 2011 at 5:45 p.m.

@buhssuht said:

loved the series as a whole but my only complain is their power. i'm not saying it not cool or anything, it just that their powers are just there. there is no origin of those power or so whatsoever, so imagine how i felt when one of my friend showed me OVA first time when out of random people starting using power. Maybe the staff were expecting viewers and readers to know that from the beginning.

Also the music is still badass

Ooh...oh no. There's an explanation. WOW, what an explanation. It's like...whoa, really? REALLY?!?

It was one of the more, "JESUS CHRIST!!" moments of the show. But again, it only makes sense if you've seen the OAV.

buhssuhton Oct. 12, 2011 at 5:55 p.m.

@Mesoian: must have forgotten about that part, can you elaborate to refresh my memory?

zaldaron Oct. 12, 2011 at 9:14 p.m.

Ah read or die! As others have said REALLY need to see the ova first but um yeah...as much anime comedy as you have seen (you have seen anime comedy right?) the steadily increasing absurdity shouldn't have surprised you. A lot of anime comedy does to much of that for me. Many of the "classic" anime comedy's like puni puni I can't stand for that very reason.

I own this show and love it dearly. Does it make sense from a realist perspective? Um no....but then did claymore really?

SuperWristBandson Oct. 12, 2011 at 10:15 p.m.

ROD was one of the first anime I had seen and it remains one of my favourites. I really like the three sisters and the slice of life thing it has going on. Now I want to go watch it again.

Mesoianon Oct. 13, 2011 at 6:18 a.m.

@buhssuht said:

@Mesoian: must have forgotten about that part, can you elaborate to refresh my memory?

It's a MAJOR spoiler, so not here.

Dig Deeper into Read or Die

In an alternative world where the British Library wields great power, a group of supernatural agents defend the nation.

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