Saturday, July 27, 2013

Anime Review No. 61-Read or Die The TV Series

Read or Die the TV Series (2003-04)
Studio-JC Staff, Director-Koji Masunari, Writer: Hideyuki Kurata 
The Paper Sisters (Maggie, Anita, Michelle) and Nenene

Well now, here we are, finally taking a look at a series that I have known for quite some time. Yeah, that would be Read or Die the TV Series. I covered the OVA way back in January 2012 and for some time after doing that review, I always ponder about the TV series. Like Crest of the Stars, I watched this on the Anime Unleashed block back in the days. I have to say that this is the best series that block ever had, and considering what else constituted that block, that is saying something. After looking through Amazon for the complete series on DVD, finally was able to grab the full set of DVDs (rare feat since this title is out of print for DVD).

So, what is this show about you ask? Well, Read or Die the TV Series is based on a spinoff from the original OVA story called Read or Dream, written by Hideyuki Kurata (creator of both this along with Excel Saga and Battle Athletes). It tells the story of the Paper Sisters (Michelle, Maggie and Anita), a trio of sisters who live in Hong Kong and are assigned to Nenene Surimegawa. She is a young novelist who hit it big a few years ago only to then suffer from a severe case of writer's block. After helping Nenene out with some psycho-stalkers, The Paper Sisters are assigned as her bodyguards. While in the course, The British Library under guidance from Mr. Carpenter (now Mr. Joker) is formulating a grand plan involving the whole world of books. It is a romping good adventure with paper powered girls with kick-ass action and compelling drama.

Now, onto the specifics for this show. First off it has awesome opening song (ROD the TV OP). It is all jazz/swing instrumental, with strands of the OVA theme thrown in for good measure. It is even better then "Tank" (a point I will argue willingly). The rest of the music for the series is very good, as provided by Taku Iwasaki who also did music for Gurren Lagann and Katanagatari. Though, it does run into repeating tracks from time to time, but the tracks are good enough that repetition isn't boring.

Second, this series starts off as a separate story within the same universe as the OVA, even set a few years after the events of the OVA. Now, some people (as I do read other blogs) have complained that this part of the series is boring/lacking. I have to disagree as it strikes the right balance between sci-fi action and slice of life scenarios that one isn't bored at all, and even in the slice of life portions which could have been filler is actually important to the overall plot.

But then, halfway through the series, it converges with the story of the OVA (in the form of Yomiko Readman) and forms a natural fusion by expanding the world of the OVA. And I have to say, the second half of the series shines due to it. It is also where the themes of the OVA: problem of world domination, struggle of the individual(s) against authority, etc. More over, the series is crouched in the tropes and cliches of the spy action/mystery flicks (double crossings, secret operations, etc) and yet manages to be fresh about it.

The animation is fairly solid. Now, the studio that did the series was JC Staff as opposed to Studio DEEN which did the OVA. There are some subtle differences in animation, but it is rather solid effort throughout. It doesn't cut out too much in fight and action scenes, and the fluidity abounds (both in boob physics and other movements).

Finally, the English dub is very great given its great ADR direction and script by Taliesin Jaffe. He is an ADR Director and scriptwriter for New Generation Pictures, which did the english dub production work on this series while Geneon distributed it. Taliesin accomplished a great dub by doing two things: casting child actors in the kid roles (Anita for example) and getting actual Brits to play characters like Mr. Joker and Wendy. It also helps that the rest of the dub is consistently acted and well done performance-wise. Shame this group doesn't get much work nowadays, as the series they have worked on, like Yamamoto Yohko, Hellsing, etc are very good.

Overall, ROD the TV Series is a very good series and I recommend that if you want a great gateway anime, then this fits the ticket. Its got everything that is good in anime (good story with balance of action and drama, interesting cast of characters, fluid animation), and more.

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