Read or Die

I finished R.O.D., after watching the OVA first and then plowing through the TV series. Overall, it was a really entertaining little romp, with some genuinely unique ideas. And the series as a whole had an artistic streak that emerged from time to time, resulting in many iconic visuals.



More screenshots below the fold, and some mildly spoileresque observations.


Michelle, Maggie, and Nenene. Maggie was by far my favorite character.


Maggie, surrounded by books as usual. The visual clutter of books all over the place was a recurring, and by the end, familiar theme. It makes sense that paper users would want a lot of it around, but the obsession with books was another thing entirely. Near the end they do allude to having speed reading ability.


The otaku dream girl? Throughout the series, Sumiregawa Nenene reminded me of Reki from Haibane Renmei, actually – not the morose part, but rather the flash of temper part. (and significantly more.. ahem.. rounded out). Nenene has an attitude and is fearless. This makes her a great match with Anita,and their interaction was by far the best inter-character chemistry to watch and enjoy.


Nenene’s interaction with the other sisters was also fun. Here, she’s forcing Maggie to carry her to breakfast. I love that grin.


And here’s Nenene taking charge of the Sister’s Meeting. Anita gets outvoted here:


Anita’s half of the bed. She hates books (odd for a paper user, at least until we learn her backstory) and loves frogs. She really, really loves frogs.

And here’s Michelle’s side.


and Maggie? she loves to make a nest.


The plot of ROD in my opinion was nothing more than a vehicle for letting us hang out with the characters. By far the best moments of the series were when the characters were interacting in normal life. I could easily have enjoyed a pure sitcom-esque series with Anita going to school, the travails of Nenene writing her book and dealing with the freeloaders, and the occasional mysterious mission for Dokusensha.

As far as vehicles go, though, the plot was certainly unique. The British Library involved in a plot to restore the British Empire? OK, I guess, why not. The whole plot device of “Mr. Gentleman” made absolutely no sense to me, neither did the weird reference to The Ancients that was used for one episode and then discarded. Watching the OVA first was a huge help, I must say – without it I’m not sure a lot of the events in eth second half would have had as much significance (esp Nancy, who would have been an utter waste of screen time otherwise). But the central idea of “paper users” is so cool that I can forgive everything, especially when you see this:


Yomiko was indeed the Master. That’s why she was The Paper. Granted, Maggie’s flying bird thing was cool, but Yomiko had way more style.

I’d rate the first ten episodes or so as very high rewatch, for the group dynamics alone. These four women in particular really were the soul of the show.

7 thoughts on “Read or Die”

  1. I saw “R.O.D. the TV” when they showed it on TechTV and enjoyed it, but I missed some key episodes and wound up getting lost in the plot. It’s in my Netflix list, but there’s a lot of other stuff there (I’m getting towards the end of Inuyasha and the Zatoichi TV series, so it’ll soon be time to re-order my queue…)

    The movie was also fun, primarily because the concept of Otto Lilienthal as some sort of supervillian tickled my funny bone.

  2. Both the OVA and the series make a lot more sense if you have the backstory from the manga (now available in English) or the novels (not). Just knowing that Nenene exists adds a lot to the opening scene of the OVA, where her name is on all of the little normal-life notes in Yomiko’s apartment (which the translator didn’t know, causing him to subtitle “nenene” as “up! up! up!”).

    Unfortunately, the more you know, the less sense Wendy’s behavior makes…


  3. ahhhh…. I was wondering about that “up up up” thing! Figured Yomiko just needed extra motivation or something.

    Wendy was indeed an oddball character. She was scarily competent. i just assumed she was in love with Joker.

  4. I was WONDERING what that whole “up! up! up!” thing was about. I thought it was just a really bad job of translating, particularly in comparison to the fansubs. That explains it.

    I very much agree with your thoughts about the show being best when the sisters and Nenene are interacting, though I do like the whole series. I just turned off the logic and enjoyed it the way I would a Bond film.

    I dunno, though… I thought the paper dragon was a lot cooler than the paper airplane, particularly since we saw the airplane in the OVA.

  5. I agree Duck – the whole series was worth watching. It’s definitely a recommend and I don’t think it ever “jumped the shark” the way Last Exile did.

    the paper dragon was cool too – but i just have this visceral reaction to the idea of riding a giant paper airplane. Always wondered as a kid whether it was pssible to fold one big enough to fly on. It taps into that childhood thing.

  6. I loved both, and I think the TV suffered in terms of plot, as everything seemed kind of rushed near the end. The characters were great, and it was interesting to see what had happened to the crew we got to know in ROD the OVA. I still want to know how Wendy changed from who she was in the OVA to that of the form in the TV. It seemed damn scary.

    And I still think being able to wield paper into anything is one of the coolest powers that a person could have. On a side note, I do wish more people referred to Yomiko as The Paper in the TV. 😛

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