Read or Die: The TV Anime | My Reviews 15 MAR 2008

ROD The TVFive years after the infamous “I-Jin” incident, star author Nenene Sumiregawa, who hasn’t produced anything in the last couple of years, finds herself lonely, embittered and without her best friend, Yomiko Readman (also known as ‘The Paper’, an agent of the British Library Task Force) who disappeared during the whole debacle.

Even so, despite no new material coming from her pen for quite some time, a big budget movie adaption of her extremely popular first book is on the verge of completion and as a publicity stunt, Nenene finds herself in Hong Kong for a whirlwind stop. Her ‘escort’ while in Hong Kong turns out to be the three sisters, Michelle, Maggie and Anita who form the infamous Three Sisters Detective Agency.

Things however take a turn for the worst on her arrival as someone targets her hotel and then Nenene herself, forcing the three sisters to spring into action. But much to Nenene’s surprise, there is a little more to the three sisters than what is to be expected – after all, they are all three ‘paper users’, just like her missing friend Yomiko was! Could there possible be a link between the four of them?

On the other side of this scenario, two other powers that are tussling for control are beginning to get a little heated. The Chinese organization Dokusensha and the British Library are each wrestling for control over something known as the Gentleman’s books, the use of which no one seems to be too sure about. Little does Nenene and the three sisters know, but very soon they will be dragged into that particular knowledge-filled world of mystery and intrigue and become involved in a fight that may very well threaten the world’s existence as we know it!

Read or Die: The TV is a 26-episode anime series from the animators at J.C.Staff studio, produced by Aniplex and directed by Koji Masunari, the same man who brought the original and sublime Read or Die OVA to life. This particular anime series attempts to tie in all the various forms of the successful Read or Die franchise into one story, pulling characters from both the Read or Die novels, manga and OVA as well as the Read or Dream manga which originally had revolved entirely around the Paper Sisters.

As it goes, the storyboard for Read or Die: The TV is topnotch as it seamlessly welds all of these elements together in a way that starts off slowly but with enough substance to keep you hooked and then slowly builds up pressure to end off with a highly charged climax. The story focuses heavily on the four main characters at the start of the series, carefully balancing episodes between building up the main storyline, profiling each character and providing enough action to keep viewers satisfied and coming back for more.

As the series builds up steam the story’s scope changes ever so slightly and grows exponentially until what started off localized in Hong Kong ends up on an entirely global scale. However, despite this shift in scope, the anime remains firmly focused on the main cast, though one or two side characters do join the fray with a slightly more involved role to play.

Because of the constant switching of style, the writing has to be topnotch and in this case it is. The humorous, sentimental, mysterious and action sequences are all well scripted and mesh together so well that there is never a piece of the story that stands out like a sore thumb.

Of course, this switching between tone does have a slightly detrimental effect on the pacing of the show, particularly if you came here looking for an action-orientated show, but it must be noted that the story never gets that bogged down with sentimentalism or other deeper issues as to slow the pace right down to a crawl as is often the case with other, more intellectual series’. Throughout the show the story keeps you asking questions and reveals just enough information to keep you watching until the next episode, thereby hooking your attention in for the full 26 episode duration.

Visually, Read or Die: The TV is nothing short of exceptional. For a start, the backgrounds for the show are highly detailed and quite populated, and the sheer amount of effort is impressive. The character models are all highly detailed and very personalized which immediately makes for creating a stronger report with any single one of the show’s many characters. The animation itself is extremely fluid and the animators make clever use of angle changes and slight distortion to emphasis action sequences as well as gear down a notch for the more sentimental and many comedic sequences.

The actual paper manipulation itself is a marvel to behold. The animators have managed to bring to life this unique power based on paper manipulation and each paper sequence is both beautiful and awe-inspiring to behold. In particular the paper battle scenes are something out of this world and you’ll often finding yourself holding your breath at many exquisite fight sequences.

Taku Iwasaki provides the music for the series and manages to birth a wonderful score that captures the mood, the tension and the excitement perfectly, expertly playing the atmosphere up and down as the situation requires. The opening track for Read or Die: The TV is competent enough, but when paired with the visually clever opening sequence does it truly come to the fore. As for the closing track, it kind of feels ever so slightly out of place as it is a more peaceful, restful piece than possibly expected, but it does fall into place ever so nicely as the last episode’s credits ring out.

Read or Die: The TV has one or two faults that it can be accused of, mainly dealing with the pacing of the series as there are a couple of important character building episodes included that sometimes feel just a little too slow to my liking. Of course, as a fan of action-orientated anime, this could just be sour grapes on my part. So other than that minor niggle, visually, aurally and story-wise, Read or Die: The TV is one gem of an anime series that is equally dramatic as what it is exciting. It is a deep, thoughtful and polished presentation that holds something of everything for every fan and it is probably one of those titles (as was the original OVA) that every anime fan should watch and undoubtedly will enjoy and which might even creep into that viewer’s top anime series ever list.

This 2003 release is thoroughly entertaining and highly recommended to all anime fans, and you would do well to try and get your hands on it if you can.


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About Craig Lotter

South African software architect and developer at Touchwork. Husband to a cupcake baker and father to two little girls. I don't have time for myself any more.