Mania Grade: A-
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- Audio Rating: B-
- Video Rating: B+
- Packaging Rating: A-
- Menus Rating: B
- Extras Rating: C
- Age Rating: 13 and Up
- Region: A - N. America, S. America, East Asia
- Released By: Aniplex USA
- MSRP: 199.98
- Running time: 740
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Disc Resolution: 1080p
- Disc Encoding: H.264/AVC
- Series: Read Or Die / R.O.D.
Read or Die (R.O.D.) The Complete Blu-Ray Box
Read or Die (R.O.D.) The Complete Box Blu-ray Anime Review
By Chris Beveridge
January 10, 2011
Release Date: January 18, 2011
Read or Die
© Aniplex USA
The OVA and TV series get the high definition upscale treatment with this complete collection that just demands that new material be made to continue it on.
What They Say
Read or Die: OVA
Yomiko Readman is a lovable, near-sighted bibliomaniac working as a substitute teacher at a Japanese high school. Her real identity, however, is that of a secret agent for the British Library Special Operations Division. Her codename: "The Paper." The moniker denotes her supernatural ability to freely manipulate paper into any object she can imagine, including tools and weapons in her fight against the powerful and self-serving IJIN (Great Historical Figure) Army! Along with her partner, the enigmatic "Ms. Deep," Yomiko travels across the world in attempt to solve the mystery behind the reincarnation of historical figures and their attempt to control the world.
R.O.D: TV Series
Five years have passed since the occurrence of the incident known as the "Human Annihilation Mission." In Japan, a novelist is dealing with writer's block after her friend has gone missing. In Hong Kong, three sisters, masters in the use of paper, run their own detective agency to solve cases that involve books. When these people are brought together, a bond greater than blood is formed - a bond that will be sorely tested by the evil powers intent on taking over the world.
Join Anita, Maggie, Michelle, and Nenene as they travel the globe in order to save the world from the evil mastermind, Mr. Carpenter! Of course, that's if they can find the time to put down the books they're reading...
The audio on this release is going to frustrate people across the board, but for some of it it's hard to pin down where the issue really came from. For both the OVA and TV series, the Japanese track is a PCM 2.0 mix encoded at 1.5mbps which mirrors the Japanese Blu—ray release from early 2010. The English is also a 2.0 mix for both the TV and OVA done at 384kbps Dolby Digital. For the OVA, if you go back to the Manga release from earlier in the decade, they remixed the Japanese 2.0 mix into their own English and Japanese 5.1 mixes so I can't complain too much there, but they should have included the English 5.1 mix here or at least in PCM stereo as well. The TV side is stranger as Geneon released both tracks in 5.1 during its initial run in 2004 and yet we get the stereo mixes here. The Japanese 2.0 PCM mix is really good overall and feels like it serves the material very well, especially the thrumming in the opening sequence, but I have to wonder where Geneon got their 5.1 mix for and why it isn't here. And it's incredibly frustrating that on a US release, the English track couldn't get a lossless mix, especially after so many other companies have been raked over the coals about it for so long. Even more damning, and essentially casting it as an extra, is that they couldn't even max out the lossy encoding as they did it at 384kbps, or just double of a standard DVD mix. The differences are certainly pronounced here and it's unfortunate for fans of the very good dub.
Originally released in 2001 and 2003-4 respectively, the transfer for this OVA and TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio in 1080p using the AVC codec. The OVA is on a disc of its own while the TV series is spread over four discs in a 7/6/7/6 format. As stated on the packaging, this uses the Standard Def materials and upscales it to 1080p with a bit rate that spends its time in the high twenties and low thirties overall. Because of its age and origins, the upscale works pretty nicely here but it isn't a huge leap forward but rather a minimal but effective gain, mostly for the TV series as Geneon did such a solid job with it. The OVA makes out a bit better overall but both shows had good releases back when they first came out and the upscale essentially gives us that and improves on it in a small scale by letting the colors be a bit more vibrant, a bit more solid and on fewer discs overall, especially as two companies owned the rights previously so no true complete collection was coming. There's a lot to like about this transfer overall and if you've never seen the show before, you'll like it overall, but it's a hard transfer to get too enthused over because those like myself who had seen the show previously won't see all that much of an upgrade here.
This set is one that really uses the theme of the show to great effect as it runs with the book idea and goes to town with it. The main box, which is a heavy chipboard slipcover, comes with a full cover wrap around it that comes off easily enough that's full of color and vibrancy. One side features character artwork of the sisters together while the other has just Yomiko herself, both sides of which are done through the really well done coloring to tie it to the backgrounds. The wrap has a lot of text to it and it breaks down the technical side as well as what to expect from the set for discs and episodes but it is essentially an advertising piece to draw you in . Under the wrap the box is designed like a hardcover book in appearance with the ornate front cover highlighting the title and that it's the complete Blu-ray edition. The back of the box is kept very minimal overall. Inside the box we get three things; two digipaks and a great book. The digipaks fold out with the exterior showing a library scene with numerous characters across it from both shows that are mingled a fair bit. I was really surprised they didn't make the two digipaks connect to form on really big picture so that we'd have them all together. The inside of the digipak uses the same background but removes the characters from it. They do include what's on the discs though with episode breakdowns along the bottom and a smaller summary along the top of it. The library look really works well here and made me smile a whole lot looking at the pictures and character configurations that are here.
The book that's in here is really fantastic, especially right from the start as we get a production timeline on how everything came together, including how they original light novel had to be dealt with in order to explain the world to the staff. There's a lot of neat little nuggets in there as it carries up through the Blu-ray production release. The illustration artwork, mostly from limited edition pack ins, continues to be gorgeous and reminds me of the pencilboards we used to get years ago. I also loved the genga section since it's something from a day that's long gone. There's a lot of material on the characters with full translations and more. My second favorite section has to be the closer look at the books that populate the show as it goes into those designs rather nicely and gives us a chance to see them without it being in the flow of the animation.
The main menu for the release is pretty slick in its look and design as it features the logo going across the screen in different directions with lots of text characters and papers floating about. It also brings in a lot of shots from the show and some very appealing character artwork and clips while the main theme plays out. It's a really solid menu that reminds you how important mood setting can be and adding some pizazz and splash to the menus can be. The navigation strip is alopng the bottom and is very small overall with each disc using a different color for the background. The standards are all here and it's very responsible and quick to use.
The pop-up menu uses the same kind of style as the main menu but does it as a side-loading piece with a nice bit of mild ornament to it in order to give it a slightly richer book feeling. They're like the main menus in that they're using different colors for each volume and only offer the ability to go to the setup or chapter menu for that episode in addition to returning to the top menu, meaning that you can't load up any extras during regular playback.
The extras for this release are all in standard definition and spread across a couple of discs. There isn't a lot here (and the commentaries from the Geneon releases did not survive the transfer) but there are some nice things to be had. The best one for me was the visual gallery, hard to navigate as it is, which shows off a lot of really great images from the two shows, from character designs to promotions and more. The remaining extras are pretty standard pieces with various commercials to be had as well as the Pay Per View second opening.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Read or Die and the subsequent TV series based off of the Read or Dream material came at the right time for anime fans at the turn of the century. The three part OVA series, originally released here by Manga Entertainment, gained a whole lot of traction at the booming phase of anime fandom in the retail market and the follow-up of the TV series a couple of years later took that world and looked at it from a different side while packaging it with lots of dirty, dirty pencilboards from Geneon Entertainment. The shows had such a theme about it coupled with great visual designs and some neat tricks for the characters with powers that hadn't really been seen before that let it stand out among other shows. The two properties have been largely off the market for awhile, though some volumes can be found secondhand, but a solid complete collection of both shows working off the most recent materials from Japan hasn't been out there until now.
The three part OVA made the show extremely accessible as it introduced us to the start of the new century where we meet Yomiko Readman, aka The Paper, a special operative for the British Library Special Operations unit. Yomiko is a huge book fiend, so much so that the building she lives in is filled with books to a critical level. She finds herself drawn into a new mission for the enigmatic secret organization of the United Kingdom that has her dealing with people called I-Jin, obscurely famous people from the past who were innovative ahead of their time that have been recreated in order to steal something. Yomiko ends up working alongside a beautiful agent named Nancy who can phase through walls and Drake, the die-hard soldier type who keeps them grounded. Yomiko has the most fascinating power as she uses paper to create all manner of things, from paper planes she can ride to creatures that can fly and cause trouble as well as defensive moves that block bullets and more.
The OVA series is pretty tight and contained in the story it tells but it offers up a whole host of potential to it. The British Library has a pretty extensive program to it as it's run by a very old man named the Gentleman who has gained a lot of information over the years. The Library is primarily run by a man named Joker though with his assistant Wendy and he has this proper British attitude in how he organizes the missions and run things. Because of the generally short running time overall for the OVA, it runs through the basic plot with the I-Jinn well as it goes big with how it intends to end the world and the flow of it works exceptionally well. It knows when to go big but it also has those quiet moments that really lets some of them shine, especially with Yomiko. It's Nancy that wins me over the most though with her style and attitude.
The TV series which followed a couple of years later advances the story by about five years and surprised a lot of fans as it focused on an entirely different cast. The show introduces us to the three Paper Sister Detectives made up of unrelated young women who operate out of Hong Kong. They end up being hired to protect Nenene Sumiregawa, a famous writer who hasn't written in a few years but is the target of attacks. Nenene is also the friend of Yomiko who looked to her for inspiration years ago and has been frustrated ever since Yomiko ended up disappearing. The arrival of the sisters throws everything into a tizzy as they become her bodyguards and live with her.
Two of the sisters are very much like Yomiko in that they adore books far too much while the youngest has an adverse reaction to them because of remembering the death of her parents in a fire in a library. They're also like Yomiko in that they can utilize paper in the same way. Yomiko has a lot of skills but these girls operating as a team take it to another level. With the assignment of guarding Nenene, they find themselves caught up in a few fun adventures before things get very dark and threatening. That period comes near the halfway mark when the couple of minor nods towards characters from the OVAs become full blown as Joker starts orchestrating a fascinatingly large (if plot hole filled) story about taking the memories of Gentleman, putting them in books and then putting them in a new human container so as to move humanity forward. The start of this storyline brings back characters like Yomiko and Drake and really expands the cast in a natural way, allowing us to know the sisters and Nenene very well and seeing how they interact with the established characters from the OVAs.
Whereas the OVA was compact and tight, the TV series obviously has a lot more time to work with things and they take advantage of it. The first half works well to really highlight the four core characters with their quirks and how they slowly become friends after starting off fairly adversarial in a way. The three sisters shine really well with some of the missions they go on but also just from their pure love of books, at least for the elder two who take it to such fun extremes. When the series goes into the second half, with one of the best recap episodes that highlights the events of the OVAs and then ties it heavily into this series as we see the real story going on, everything picks up a lot. The scope and scale changes dramatically and while it's not an out of the park hit, especially when it deals with the books taking over London in a fast forward way, it manages to give you something that feels like you could be conflicted about as to whether it's good or bad. And with the OVA cast making more prominent roles, they blend in rather than dominate and that helps it immensely.
Though some of the visuals are a bit dated at this point and it's a full frame adventure, as well as a show from early in the decade that doesn't really take into account the Internet, R.O.D. has a very good look to it overall. It's love of books is very apparent throughout it and book lovers will get giddy watching the girls get all excited when they arrive in Jinbo-cho for example or make their way through various libraries and Yomiko's place. The three sisters are all very unique in personality and appearance and they really drive home the personality side is as it goes on. I have a particular affection for Maggie with how she's quiet and goes to reside under the stairs to read her books, but there's a lot to love about Michelle with her taking on the motherly role and Anita's hatred of books while trying to fit in at the new school she's enrolled at. Everyone gets their chance to shine but I would have preferred to see Joker more humanized and gotten a greater understanding of Wendy in order for their plans to really feel more realized in their minds.
It's been about six years since I last saw the TV series and even longer for the OVA, so revisiting it in this form was wonderful. Tying the OVA and TV together and watching it over just a couple of days really drive home the connections between the two that were harder to see with the gaps between shows and the bimonthly 3-4 episode disc releases we got for the TV series. Looking at this as a whole, it's an expansive and intriguing work that has a whole lot going for it with great characters, really slick action that I think still stands out strongly today and a world where you want to know more about. With a lot more material out there in light novel form, I keep hoping that some day someone will get more of this made so we can revisit this world like revisiting a good book. While this Blu-ray set is not a huge upgrade, it's definitely the best presentation of the show in one place in a lot of ways, but it falls short because of the audio issues. It's a release that conflicts me on the technical side but it wins me over completely with the content.
Japanese 2.0 PCM Language, English 2.0 Dolby Digital Language, English Subtitles, Trailers, Commercials, Artwork
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
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