Read Or Die TV Vol. #4 (of 7) (Mania.com)

By:Bryan Morton
Review Date: Wednesday, January 11, 2006
Release Date: Monday, January 09, 2006



What They Say
The paper Sisters declare war on Dokusensha! Anita, Maggie and Michelle launch an attack on Dokusensha's headquarters in Hong Kong to rescue Nenene and face off against a building full of machinegun-armed private security guards and robots and a paper master even stronger than they are! As they carry out their dangerous plan, Mr. Carpenter, Junior and Wendy execute their plot in the background taking advantage of the chaos. The world will soon tremble from the conflict!

Episodes Comprise
13 - Twilight of the Papers (Part II)
14 - Paper Leaf World
15 - In the Gray Light of the Abyss
16 - Fahrenheit 451

The Review!
After one of the best single volumes of anime I’d seen in a long time, Read or Die TV uses this volume to take a breather, fill in some back-story and re-introduce some old friends.

Audio:
Audio is provided in three versions - 5.1 and 2.0 Japanese language tracks, and a 5.1 English track. I listened primarily to the Japanese 5.1 track. Audio is extremely clear and makes a lot of use of the front channels to provide depth and direction to both dialog and effects. Music comes across particularly well, although the rear channels don't get as much use as they could have. There were no obvious audio glitches.

Video:
Presented in its original 1.33:1 full-frame format, the video continues to be of very high quality. Great use is made of backgrounds and vibrant colours to produce a disc that just looks great. Subtitles use a yellow-on-black font and are clear and readable. Two tracks are provided - one full translation, and a songs & signs track for dub watchers. There were no apparent problems either with the transfer or the subtitles.

Packaging:
No packaging was provided with our review copy

Menu:
The main menu is a simple static screen, as before using an open book as its main theme. Wendy features on one 'page', while the other page has options for Play, Episodes, Extras and Setup. The show's theme tune plays throughout. The Episode menu has a static screenshot for each episode (there’s no option to select individual scenes), the Setup menu is plain text against a line-art background, while the book theme continues onto the Extras menu.

Extras:
Two main extras are provided – a commentary for episode 13 by Taliesin Jaffe (ADR Director), Wendy Tonson (Nenene), Patrick Seitz (Lee) and J.B. Blanc (Joker), and an art gallery featuring character lineart, some detail sketches, DVD artwork & promotional pieces.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
The first episode on this volume finishes off the story of the sisters’ raid on Dokusensha’s building in Hong Kong. Realising the three of them can't defeat Wong, whose paper-master powers seem to be significantly more powerful than their own, Anita and Michelle try to get into the building by another route while Michelle stays behind to face Wong herself, the plan being to delay him long enough to give the other two a chance. Elsewhere in the building, Junior, Joker and Wendy are on an information-gathering mission of their own, while Dokusensha eventually order the evacuation of their building and the disposal of their test subject, Nenene.

The episode is pretty much it as far as action scenes go on this volume, but its really been done with some style, and the aftermath of events here turns out to be a disaster of epic proportions – although in a way that perhaps foreshadows some of the revelations later in the disc, it’s left intentionally vague who was responsible for most of the destruction.

From there it’s back to London, with an episode that focuses on Wendy and feels a lot like a recap episode, even though most of the information given out here would be new to anyone who had only seen the anime. Under the guise of writing a report for Joker, Wendy fills in a lot of the back-story that has led to recent events, including how the TV series ties in with events in the ROD OVA series – the British efforts to extend the life of Mr Gentlemen, their running “cold war” with Dokusensha, and the story behind the UK’s fall from being a country with major influence on the world stage to a bankrupt backwater of a country.

In amongst all the plot exposition, there are also a few scenes dealing with Junior, who seems to be becoming a little less subservient and more keen on having a “normal” life. It seems all that time he spent at school with Anita has had some effect on him. The have also been a few times when he’s come to the sisters’ rescue (without giving himself away, of course) – put all that together and I do wonder if he’s going to switch “sides” at some point.

The final two episodes bring us back to the present, as Nenene and the sisters return to Japan. Thanks to Dokusensha, they’ve been linked with the disaster in Hong Kong and are being seen as terrorists. With the authorities keen to have a few words with them, it’s disguises and new identities all around as the try to keep a low profile, but it seems someone’s keeping a close eye on them as no sooner have they arrived at Nenene’s flat than the police descend on the place in numbers. While keeping a low profile and trying to figure out what to do next, the sisters find orders from Dokusensha in Lee's old Zippo lighter: to retrieve the Book of the All-Seeing Eye from one Yomiko Readman.

Nenene’s reunion with a reluctant Yomiko kicks the story back into high gear again. Having possession of something that both the British Library and Dokusensha would dearly love to get their hands on means that Yomiko’s had good reason to be in hiding for the past few years, but Nenene’s efforts to find her again only serve to lead Joker to her. Yomiko’s not the only OVA character who makes a return here, either, but I’ll keep that surprise to myself for now.

With reunions out of the way, Yomiko’s put in a position where she has to choose sides again – which is where things start to get a little bit murky, as it becomes increasingly hard to tell who the “good guys” really are. To Yomiko’s mind, Joker and the British Library have obviously done something in the past to persuade her she no longer wants anything to do with them, while Wendy’s reaction on meeting her again clearly shows her feeling that Yomiko has betrayed her and the British Library. The background information from episode 14 paints Joker and the British Library acting more out of national patriotism than any real aggressive motives, but the methods they’ve been using have at times been hugely destructive. Dokusensha’s possibly the easiest group to label as “evil”, but even with them there have been times when Wong has come riding to the girls’ rescue. By the end of this disc, I was left decidedly uncertain about who was really on the “right” side, something that only makes me keener to see the next volume.

In Summary:
This volume definitely slows things down a little bit, giving the viewer a chance to take a breather and catch up with what’s been happening in the grander scheme of things. It’s great to see Yomiko and other OVA characters back in the game, even if the way that it’s done does try to raise a few questions about who’s on the “right” side.

Features
Japanese 5.1 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Art Gallery,Episode 13 Commentary (Taliesin Jaffe (ADR Director); Wendy Tonson (Nenene); Patrick Seitz (Lee) and J.B. Blanc (Joker))

Review Equipment
Panasonic TX-W28R30P 28" widescreen TV; Pioneer DV-626D player; Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.



Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: A
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: N/A
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: MVM Entertainment
MSRP: £19.99
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.