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.