R.O.D. the TV Vol. #2 (of 7) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Saturday, August 14, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, September 07, 2004

What They Say
After years of writer's block, Nenene finally begins to write. Perhaps the Paper Sisters are more than just an annoyance. Meanwhile, Anita makes great friends at school, including the enigmatic Junior as the Paper Sisters continue to hunt down rare books on behalf of Dokusensha.

The Review!
Moving between domestic adventures and book retrieval operations, ROD TV continues to be a beautiful and exciting ride.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this series in its original language of Japanese. In a continuing trend, albeit a slow one, this series sports a 5.1 Dolby Digital mix that makes good use of the surround setup. While not as active as some other recent 5.1 series we've seen, the additional clarity to the soundtrack in general is a real plus here in allowing for not only the vocals to be sharp and price but for the simple fluttering of the papers across the forward soundstage. Right from the opening song, the audio here is just a solid mix that sounds great even on small tinny speakers such as a portable player. We had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing in 2003, ROD the TV is presented here in its original full frame aspect ratio. The transfer for this show is practically flawless as far as my setup is concerned. The visuals are striking to begin with as the show has a great sense of color and utilizes backgrounds in a near painted sense, some backgrounds being direct lifts from the OVA release itself. Colors are beautifully vivid and solid, cross coloration is non-existent and I'm hard pressed to recall any aliasing during camera panning moments. Some of the dark night time sky sequences are just great to look at as they maintain a very solid feel and avoid macroblocking. This is a transfer that you can simply lose yourself in once it starts playing.

Using the character artwork from the Japanese release, Michelle gets the cover all to herself for this volume and it's a great looking image for her, especially for fans of her cleavage. Leaning against a stack of books and just looking good with the mix of colors used, this is a very attractive and eye-catching cover.. The back cover goes for the case work format as along the top it lists seven color coded tabs for each volume. With this being disc one, we get a series of images and typed up notes related to these episodes next to a brief paragraph giving the gist of the shows premise. The discs features and extras are all clearly listed just above the big chunk of production information. The insert has a neat black and white illustration of Michelle and opens two a two panel spread with some small pictures and messages from the Japanese staff about their intentions and what they wanted to put into the show. Amusingly, as much as I like all the packaging, it's all getting tossed so the disc goes into the limited edition book casing.

With a style that fits the show perfectly, Nightjar scores big with this new series. From the opening animation moment (very brief) of the series logo flashing in and papers fluttering about, it settles to a very detailed image of an old book with ornate writing and artwork where in the center clips from the show play to the action theme from the show. The selections are laid out as a table of contents, though a touch hard to read due to the moving lighting at times, it's all very in-theme and you can imagine any of the girls just poring over such a piece. The layout is pretty intuitive and easy to navigate with fast access times and quick loading submenus. Unfortunately, the release did not register our players preset language selections in regards to the subtitles, resulting in Japanese language with English on-screen text subtitles instead of full translation subtitles.

The extras are somewhat minimal in a way with this release. The original previews for the four episodes are provided in the extras section and we also get a series of production artwork that you can manually move through. The big extra once again in this release, though with an appeal to only part of the market, is a commentary track by some of the voice actors and staff at New Generation Pictures. The commentary runs for the length of the first episode but I wasn't able to take it in due to technical reasons. For some reason, the audio level on it is so low that I had to raise the volume almost twelve points on my set to hear it at all, never mind a good listening level.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After the first volume, ROD TV became one of the few shows that rise right to the top of the pile when new material comes in. It's the show where we make sure that anyone else in the house is asleep and out of the way so that we can sit down and simply soak it up. Between the visuals and the quick bits of dialogue and general pacing, this is a show where we want no distractions.

The second volume manages to get past the slump that can occur early on in a series but mixing the stories up from domestic tales to a couple of missions. With the first volume, we had a huge learning curve to get into, particularly if you weren't familiar with the OVA series, but here things settle down into a bit of a routine and familiarity. This is sometimes something that can really kill a show since it may not keep up the hook or go into an area where it almost feels like filler. ROD manages to avoid this as there's plenty of growth for the characters to move through and areas that are actually explored in their relationships. If anything, the only one that comes up short for the most part is Nenene, but even she gets some good stuff for her brief time here.

The mix of episodes works well here. The action episodes, centered on missions assigned to them from Dokusensha so that they can get funds to provide for themselves and to buy more books, are intriguing and have ties to the OVA as well. One of the missions has the trio going after a book that had apparently been smuggled out of Britain before Britain fell, which was tied to when their Library went up in flames during the OVA episodes. Another mission is based on finding an actor who had been on the stage practically every night for almost twenty years but never gained fame as he was a character actor, never a main player. With his ability to turn himself into anyone, he blends in anywhere and is the perfect person to hold one of the rarest of books in existence that Dokusensha is trying to get back.

Each of these missions starts and ends within the episode so they're basically standalone tales, but they're executed very well. While plenty of time is given to the action and the use of Paper to achieve their goals, a lot of time is spent going over the relationship between the three women and what makes it so that they work so well together. Since their move to Japan there have been some additional tensions, mostly coming from Anita, and it's well handled here as it rises to the surface on more than one occasion. One of the episodes has the women dealing with a rather surprising villain that's based on sound and he runs roughshod over them throughout a lot of it while the other one has the three of them split up and manipulated by fakes of the others, but both episodes continually stress that the three work best together even though as unique parts they are good at what they do.

The non-mission episodes are equally entertaining though for different reasons since they focus more on Anita for now and her blending in at school and dealing with the mystery of the group that's gearing up to go after them. There are quite a few little nuggets mixed into these episodes, particularly as her adversary from the previous volume ends up showing up in the library in a school uniform, and it's working to make Anita's life a lot more interesting than the others. They're no slouches themselves and we get plenty of book based humor from them as they deal with being house-slaves for Nenene. All of them get some good material though, from learning more about Anita's dislike of books, Nenene's progress on her book and watching the reactions of both sisters when Anita brings home an actual friend from school.

Everyone needs someone like Michelle around for times like that!

In Summary:
The "sophomore" volume of a series can sometimes be the hardest one to get through but ROD TV aces it beautifully. With no visible drop in animation quality or story quality, the show pushes forward with some good growth episodes while keeping the larger plot in the background but still giving it enough of a nod. The characters are only getting more fleshed out as we go along here and these episodes do a great job of building them up and making them even more interesting. This is quickly becoming one of the highlights of the year.

Japanese 5.1 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Japanese Previews,Art Gallery,Episode 5 Commentary (US Production Staff & Voice Actors)

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

Mania Grade: A
Audio Rating: A-
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: A-
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Read Or Die / R.O.D.