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[R1 DVD art]
AKA: Read or Dream
Genre: Action / mystery
Length: Television series, 26 episodes, 23 minutes each
Distributor: Currently unlicensed in North America.
Content Rating: PG-13 (brief nudity, violence)
Related Series: Read or Die
Also Recommended: Gunsmith Cats, Read or Die, Noir, X-Men (non-anime)
Notes: Based on the "Read or Dream" manga by Kurata Hideyuki and Yamada Akitarou. This *is* the sequel to the Read or Die OAV, and watching the OAV is a prerequisite for viewing this title. If you don't, you'll miss out on a good chunk of the plot.
Rating: Five StarsFive StarsFive StarsFive StarsFive Stars

R.O.D. -The TV-

Synopsis

Anita, Maggie and Michelle are three sisters who run a detective agency in Hong Kong. The two older sisters (Maggie and Michelle) are crazy about books although Anita is not. Far from being normal detectives, the three are actually paper-users - people with the ability to form and control paper just like Yomiko Readman.

They later find themselves as bodyguards to the author Sumiregawa Nenene, who in turn used to be friends with Yomiko in her younger days. However, as events unravel, they begin to question the very nature of the organizations involved in this whole scheme. What is the mysterious organization Dokusensha, and why does it want certain books retrieved? What do the British and Chinese governments have to do with this? What is the reason behind Yomiko "The Paper" Readman's sudden disappearance?


Review

Vindication!!! Vindication!!!

If you've ever been ridiculed for reading too many books or just BUYING lots of them, then don't miss this one. Read or Die had a refreshing concept of the ultra-cool female lead being a bookworm, but controlling the unconventional medium of paper; Read or Dream continues along those lines. The three sisters (who are not blood related) have slightly varied versions of paper-control that Yomiko Readman originally had, and while they have been using this power in their detective work, the true test of their abilities comes when they find themselves freeloading in the home of Sumiregawa Nenene.

If you've read some bit of the manga, Nenene (darn, that's so hard to type) used to know Yomiko when she was still in school and it was Yomiko that gave her the support to keep writing. Now Nenene is all grown up (awwww), but she has not written a novel for a few years and has fallen into a bout of depression. However, as she goes to Hong Kong for a book signing event she becomes the target of an attack, but is saved by the powers of the three sisters.

As with any good mystery novel, people switch sides, shadowy figures go about their business, and conspiracy theories spring up like bloodthirsty Jack-in-the-boxes. ROD is just about as good as the best of them, and the plot loves to toy with the question marks above viewers' heads. While some filler episodes deal with everyday life (namely, Anita's school life), they also manage to make some progression to the plot or add some extra shadowy dealing to the mystery. If that's not enough, it also involves the Chinese and British governments, and illegal human experiments. Chris Carter must be raising his eyebrows now.

No matter how good the plot may be, if it doesn't have interesting and convincing characters then it will still bore you to death. Having audiences pass away in large numbers doesn't bode well for *any* anime producer, so the creators of ROD came up with some pretty interesting personalities for the three sisters. Michelle is the oldest, and naturally the leader of the three - rather ditzy, but very responsible. The middle sister Maggie reminds me of Sakaki from Azumanga Daioh - she's too tall, and as a result she's extremely shy and quiet (also preferring to read her books in a closet under the stairs). Youngest of all is Anita, who is still in middle school, and is by far the character with the most depth. Unlike her sisters, she *hates* books and while at first she might come across as a spoilt brat, she's actually exhibiting symptoms of a deeper problem (one that I won't spoil for you) and the exploration of her character is a key part of ROD's plot. While the "secondary" characters don't feature significantly in the story during the initial exposition of the main characters, later episodes reveal quite a lot of startling things about almost all the characters in the OAV and here, and I really can't say any more to avoid spoiling any part of the plot.

Anyone who has watched Read or Die will certainly have been surprised at the uber-coolness (if there is such a word) of the paper fights. Yomiko could bend and form paper to block bullets or even slice through solid material, and with great action choreography the AWESOME-factor multiplied to levels surpassing that of the X-Men cartoon's greatness. Shockingly, Read or Dream manages to top even that. As mentioned before, the sisters have more varied powers than Yomiko originally did : Anita specializes in attack because of her speed, and she usually tosses paper cards (a la Gambit) that slice through most material. Maggie forms the defensive backbone of the team and can create large robots or monsters to attack or walls to shield them from enemy fire. The leader, Michelle, coordinates battles from the rear and gives supporting fire with her bow. I cannot begin to describe how cool this is in the actual execution, because the sisters complement each other perfectly and the coordinated strategies used by them is something even Read or Die could barely pull off. Besides that, there are other cool touches, like Anita keeping her "ammo" in hip cartridges, Michelle's in her briefcase with a roll dispenser, and Maggie's in her coat.

The art and animation are very impressive, and though the art does drop in quality occasionally, the general character design and attention to detail are at levels almost reaching the original OAV. The other thing that amazes me is how much effort was put into animating the action scenes. Besides having the usual special effects and movement to deal with, there's also lots of paper flying around as each attack sends sheets flying in all directions (in place of the usual explosions). All this was captured with fluid movement and sets the standard for many action titles to beat. Even the soundtrack has drawn comparisons to that of the James Bond theme, and rightfully so. The music is just like anything you'd hear in the movies, and with the pre-existing impression of James Bond in the back of your head, Read of Dream seems all the more impressive.

At times, the pacing does slip a bit and as expected it's during some of the filler episodes. However, When you reach the second story arc of the series, you begin to understand that the "filler" episodes actually aren't filler, and play an important part in the whole story after all, making it seem all the more amazing. When I first wrote the partial review of this title, there was some debate about whether this title is actually related to the original OAV. Having finished it all at last, it's absolutely safe to say that it *is* a direct sequel, but I have to stress that you *must* watch the OAV before this, or the second half of the main plot will have absolutely no meaning to you. There are countless references to characters and events in the OAV, and everything that happens here is almost directly related to them too. When you finally pass the "filler" episodes, the mai thread of the story does border a little on the absurd, but is not significant when you remember that you're watching a show about girls flinging paper. Hey, it's anime!

I have only one complaint about Read or Dream : It's not the ultra-cool action, the interesting and suspense-filled plot, the fun characters or the excellent action choreography - it's the wastage of good paper.

This title is going into my Top 5 list. Pacing is very slow, but the story is one of the most interesting ones I've seen in a while. I've added an extra star than the earlier partial review because I enjoy good mystery/conspiracy plots, and this one turned out to be *great*. Drop two stars if you can't stand long periods of dialogue and slow plot movement (although it speeds up quite a bit in the second half), or if you haven't seen the OAV.Enoch Lau

Recommended Audience: It was pretty okay until there was an episode which suddenly had frontal nudity in a scene, although this was not used as fan service nor was it used as a joke. It felt like it was more matter-of-fact, but this would probably be objectionable to some audiences. There's also some graphic violence and blood. For teens and up.



Version(s) Viewed: Prerelease fansub
Review Status: Full (26/26)
R.O.D. -The TV- © 2003 JC Staff
 
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