Read or Die TV is the 26 episode sequel to the short, campy and unique 2001 seinen anime Read or Die. This sequel is a bit more slow paced since it has many more episodes to fill. It still has the espionage, action and superpowers of the original, in some ways toned down but in other ways even crazier. It lives up to the original and it carries on the story from a different perspective. While the older characters reappear and remain relevant, the main cast is all new. Go here for my review of the original series.
The animation quality isn't too bad. It's kinda average for a 2004 anime and 480p was the best quality I could find. Everything is well defined and there isn't much to complain about. The style of the animation isn't too unique and seems a bit generic. Some of the characters may seem like you've seen them in many other animes. As for fan-service, despite the main cast being all female, there isn't really any pervyness. Thank goodness. The worst it gets is one instance of nudity/toplessness which is fine due it being justified by context (i.e. it's not there for pervyness) and in a few scenes Nenene's breasts seem more pronounced, one scene in particular they jiggle around but nothing majorly bad. They've dealt with it in a mature and respectable fashion, so well done.
The sound and music is very similar to the 2001 anime, it still has that jazzy campy feeling. I got a 80s/90s vibe from it, in a good way. So to quote my review of the 2001 ROD:
"The music is very suitable for an anime like this. I feel like it could be a movie with this soundtrack. Good instrumentals, with orchestra and sometimes feeling a bit jazzy like something out of a spy movie. Not mind-blowingly awesome to make me want to download the soundtrack though, probably just due to my taste in music. This anime is available in English as well as Japanese..."
But a few things I want to add, all of the returning cast had their VAs changed, which bums me out. Many character are actually voice acted by British, which makes sense given that those characters are British themselves. As for the new characters the only thing worth mentioning is that Wendy's old VA now does the voice for Nenene. Patrick Seitz does the voiceover for Lee Linho and he's been in quite a few big animes, including Eureka Seven as Charles Beams (my fave character in that anime!) Overall, nothing too amazing in sound, but at least the music is catchy and the sound design works out. Those are the important bits.
The central character is an adult woman, Nenene Sumiregawa. She is a writer and has been writing books since she was a teenager. Currently, at the start of the anime, she has not written any books for four years (writer's block) and one of her books is being turned into a movie. Part of the reason for her lack of new writing is that her best friend, Yomiko Readman, has gone missing. Oh yes, the main character of the original is referenced and involved in this story. Nenene apparently met Nenene, when Nenene dropped in as a substitute teacher at her highschool. In this series, she must deal with the antics of the 3 sisters (more on them in a sec) and she gets easily annoyed. She is rather stubborn and gets upset and angry at the 3 sisters often, but has a kind heart inside. Cool character IMO.
Possibly the most important of the 3 sisters is the youngest, Anita King an orphan girl with short pink hair of the middle school age. As well as being a paper master, she is very agile athletic and is just an overall prodigy. However, unlike her older sisters and Yomiko, she is a paper master that hates books and this is explained in some of her back story. In this series, she gets more screen time than her sisters, especially since she enrolls in a Japanese middle (junior high) school and her adventures there are shown, along with the friends she makes. Also unlike her older sisters, she can get upset and angry about things, which in combination with her agility makes her hot-headed and difficult to deal with at times. She likes frogs a lot and her best friend at her new school is Hisami Hishishi. I hated this character at first, but grew to like her.
The outgoing yet not so smart eldest of the 3 sisters is Michelle Cheung. A gentle, blonde woman with a refined appearance and 'blonde' moments to boot, she is a paper master and much like Yomiko from the first ROD, she loves books. Her favourite author is Nenene Sumiregawa and she is over the moon to have a job helping her out. As you may have noticed, she doesn't share second names with her sisters, this is because they are 'adopted' sisters who came together. She smiles a lot and makes a fool of her self doing silly things like dressing up in a Cheongsam (a sort of formal Chinese dress) to be Nenene's maid and writing a fake diary by Anita to try and make Nenene laugh. Probably the funniest of the three sisters and she also makes funny noises in her sleep.
The third of the 3 sisters is Maggie Mui. Maggie is a very tall, masculine, somewhat shy woman who can easily be described as a gentle giant. Like her two sisters she is a paper master, the most powerful of the 3 it seems and she absolutely loves books. So much so, that she will have withdrawal symptoms without books to read. Just like Michelle, her favourite author is Nenene Sumiregawa and she is embarrassed and bashful when she finally gets to meet her hero. She likes small confined spaces, a tad funny given how tall she is, in which to read and sleep in. She also can drive and is capable of ineptitude like her older sister Michelle.
So the 3 paper master sisters are cool characters who I adore, but there are others that deserve a mention. Junior is a gentle young boy with long grey hair like Griffith from Berserk and is shrouded in mystery. Hisami Hishishi is the sweet adorable little girl who is Anita's best friend, man I'm jealous of her parents (yeah ik she's a fictional character, but who wouldn't want a kid like her). Lee Linho is a man who is Nenene's agent and is also a fan of her work. Tohru Okahara is a young boy from Anita's school, who is actually a bit of a tsundere. He seems to be hiding the fact that he like Anita, which is fine in this case since he is just behaving as a normal kid. Some of these characters start to appear less in later episodes though, which is a bit of a shame.
I had to start a new paragraph for this, but returning characters. They are done so well. They appear more in the later episodes and are very relevant to the story.
The events of Read or Die TV are set a few years after the events of the original. This story is very faithful to the original series and refers to a lot that happened to it. It's a worthy sequel. Nenene is targeted by certain individuals and it's up to the paper master sisters to help her out. Though this is just the first part of the story. The second part is very relevant to the original. I love how they explain a lot of the backstory. They even provide an explanation of the events of the original anime in a sort of story recap filler episode, though calling it a recap does it injustice since it really fills in the picture which we never got in the original anime. It also explains how characters have changed and there is much political intrigue, especially to do with Britain and China. My patriotism may be positively skewing my views here. I don't want to spoil anything, but its a very unique and possibly mature story? It touches on subjects like war, immortality, torture, human experimentation and more that I've likely forgotten. There is a lot of action, though not as concentrated as the original. But it does get pretty crazy with multiple paper masters on scene. Just great
This anime is awesome. It gets even better in the second half, particularly if you've watched the original anime. The story and characters really make this one. I'm having trouble trying to think where it could improve? Of course, this anime is definitely recommended for those that enjoyed the original. And if one likes unique plotlines and great character, then this is also worthy of that, though one would preferably have watched the original beforehand. This is a must watch anime! I want to give this a perfect score so bad...!
Family-friendliness Rating: 5/5 Just one scene which is fine but is still nudity all the same, the intro is still a bit sensual though (lower is better)
Overall Rating: 9/10 (higher is better)
I shouldn't be rating this after only seeing one episode, but I'll come back and update if my opinion changes. I have good feelings about this and will continue watching.
My favorite thing about this is that it has a great variety of female protagonist that aren't completely sexualized, it's one of the few anime's I've seen with that. Plus their powers are pretty cool.
It has a bit of a slow start, but is still interesting enough to carry the narative. I found the animation was good, nothing spectactular but it doesn't detract from the story. Voice actors I thought were pretty good, overall sounds didn't stand to me though.
Remember last time last year, when I watched an OVA called Mezzo Forte and I thought that was one of the many entertaining anime I had ever saw and then after that, I’ve reviewed Mezzo DSA, the TV series to follow it and I thought the TV series was very bland and vanilla compared to the OVA, offering nothing to the table aside from a few basics from the OVA. Well, I was very cautious when going into the Read or Die franchise as I know a few friends of mine said that OVA is very underrated and I wholeheartedly agree about. Now with this TV series, that might say the opposite that it isn’t as good as the OVA but hey, who knows? I might find a different opinion on it.
The series begins in 2006, five years after the "I-Jin" incident detailed in the Read or Die OVA. Yomiko Readman (a.k.a. "The Paper", agent of British Library Task Force) has supposedly gone missing, and Nenene Sumiregawa, her former student and best friend, is still in Tokyo after her parents moved to the USA. Nenene has not written a book since Yomiko disappeared, as she has become lonely and frustrated that her sensei has never read her last book, and she feels she can't write again until she hears Yomiko's reaction to the book, so Nenene often disappears for long periods of time searching for Yomiko, and has been periodically doing so ever since her "disappearance".
During a trip to Hong Kong, Nenene meets the three sisters, Michelle, Maggie and Anita (from the Read or Dream manga), who are supposed to take care of her during her visit. However, the hotel at which Nenene is supposed to stay at is bombed, and at a press conference Nenene is briefly held hostage by a jealous rival in her industry. The three sisters end up becoming her bodyguards and join her back to Tokyo.
As I watched the series, I will know there will be additional characters made into main characters from the aforementioned manga and the plot expands to more than just 3 episodes (to a full 26 episodes) and I only have half enthusiastic when I was watching this. The plot of this is as like the OVA but it’s sliced and diced to either the average bad guy of the week to these character pieces that are more akin to the slice-of-life genre with one part being Anita in middle school (or it is high school? I couldn’t really tell. They looked way too young to be high school.) but it just feel odd and jarring as most characters from the first half disappears and then appears from out of the blue and/or a long time period for forced character development, which just puts me out of interest altogether.
Funny thing about the main 3 sister characters, all of them are named after Hong-Kong action actresses, hence Anita King (Anita Mui), Maggie Mui (Maggie Cheung, part of Anita Mui) & Michelle Cheung (Michelle Yeoh, part of Maggie Cheung) but yet, the fact is the only thing that is interesting about them as they aren’t that strong as characters but more of anime archetypes: Anita being the youngest but the most capable and often more focused on than the other sisters, Maggie being the quiet and silent one, and Michelle is the cheerful, older yet ditzy sister. Throughout the show, they do go through this sisterhood bond with another new character in the mix, Nenene Sumiregawa and yet, she is a very irritable and screechy character, whose only reason to appear in this is because she has a connection to the earlier master Yomiko Readman and yes, most of the characters from the OVA do appear in here, including Joker, Drake & Nancy, but if you’re expecting the femme fatale Nancy was in the OVA, prepare to be disappointed, as it was explained that she did suffer some brain trauma that had her in a childlike state.
The animation here as in the OVA, Studio Deen did the previous one, while in the TV series, they are replaced with J.C. Staff for this time and it was just……average. The paper battles were very spot-on with the previous installment although they appear within long periods of time. Character designs are actually faithful as I can’t spot the differences of how they were designed. The music is still the best part of the franchise as it still retains the spirit of the OVA and it even got more funkier when the opening theme for the show. Plus, the original themes from the OVA among other pieces are heard in there. I can say less for the ending themes as they are standard pop songs that seemed forgettable.
Fuck it, this English dub is bad and I mean it was grating as like the animation, the voice actors from the Manga dub was replaced by company Geneon / New Generation Pictures and most of them tried to do British accents and some can’t do it well, especially the replacement actress for Yomiko (Hellena Taylor), Joker (J.B. Blanc) & Junior (J.D. Stone) and some of the main female character voices are often shrilly and screechy, mostly Nenene’s voice. However, I’m not going to fault the dub that much as they did hire kid actors to play the younger characters and if you try to find some recognizable voice actors in there, the only people whose voices I got from there are Hunter MacKenzie Austin (playing Michelle), Carrie Savage (replacing Amanda-Winn Lee for Nancy Mukahari) & Patrick Seitz.
FINAL VERDICT: The show isn’t wholly unfaithful to the OVA, the spirit of that is still present in the TV series but I just don’t think it was ready for a TV format, even the plot as ridiculous in the OVA seems better suited to that. Mainly one character left somewhat of an impact of the show, only 50% less than Yomiko. I wouldn’t say it’s inferior to the OVA but it’s nothing that most people would say when talking about most anime out there. By any chance, you should stream or rent before buying.
Excellent. Now that we've established that...
Read or die follows three sisters and an popular author. The author looks for an old friend and continues to write. The three sisters are paper masters, this basically means they can manipulate paper to do awesome crazy stuff (think green lantern except he needs lots of paper and the skills to manipulate it properly). During the story the sister will randomly have their own episodes where they go on missons, these seem random but hold purpose later.
Characters. Are great! Real, authentic, believeable and honest. Most mesh well together but the ones that don't, dont' for obvious reasons.
Sound/Music. Amazing. Possibly the best I've heard in an anime to date. The opening theme sents the pace with a jazzy exciting beat, read or die will continually use music to match the mood and build excitment throughout, they do this masterfully. Also the voices (i watched the subbed version, so if you are watching the english dubbed, i don't know how it'll sound) match so well with each character, even though i don't speak japanese i can tell the tones and understand each characters general emotion. Voices are so perfect.
Animation is great. Smooth free of flaws, it follows explosions, detailed paper construction, and fights without flaw.
Overall this is really really great. Music and voices are so marvelous, the characters are really great, and work so well together. The story really picks up after episode 13 and things become EPIC. With a little bit of sillyness, some growing up, dire situations, and creative stunning battles, read or die balances battle and emotion with precisly as it shound be. Also has lots of book references so prepare for that. DON"T SKIP THIS ANIME IT IS GREAT