Read Or Die TV Vol. #1 -

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Mania Grade: A

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  • 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.

Read Or Die TV Vol. #1

By Bryan Morton     May 02, 2005
Release Date: May 16, 2005

Read Or Die TV Vol. #1
© MVM Entertainment

What They Say
From bulletproof dragons to lock-picks, a paper master manipulates paper to their will. In Hong Kong, three young paper masters, Anita, Maggie and Michelle, use their formidable skills to protect Nenene, an author targeted by a mad bomber. As their bodyguard duties take them to Tokyo, they will be educated on the dangers of literacy!

The Review!
Read or Die makes a return, but this outing is a slightly different beast from the original OVA.

I listened primarily to the Japanese 5.1 soundtrack, and checked the English track for a number of key scenes. Both soundtracks are extremely clear, and good use is made of the front soundstage to give direction to both dialog and effects. The rear channels feel a bit underused in comparison - some background effects, but not a lot else. The show's music comes across particularly well and just begs to be played loud. There were no apparent audio glitches.

The series is presented in full-frame format (1.33:1). ROD makes some great use of highly-detailed backgrounds and bright colours, and it all comes across brilliantly - the transfer seems extremely good, with no obvious encoding defects.

No packaging was provided with our review disc.

The menu appears to a rustling of pages, with the menu options shown as items in an open book while the ROD theme plays in the background. The Setup & Extras menus both make use of a slightly service-y shot of Nenene looking back over her shoulder, while the Episodes menu, allowing direct access to each episode, uses a light green background with a static screenshot from each episode. None of the sub-menus have background music. In use, the menus are very responsive & easy to use.

The disc provides what is pretty much the 'standard' set of extras for recent releases. As well as the creditless opening and closing sequences, there's a 22-picture image gallery, including colour promotional art, design sketches and some black & white character drawings signed by the respective Japanese VAs. There's also a commentary track for episode 1, featuring producers Kevin Chu and Jonathan Klein and ADR Director Taliesin Jaffe, which provides some interesting trivia about the series and comments on their favourite parts of the episode.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
Nenene Sumiregawa is a writer with writer's block - she hasn't written anything since her best friend, Yomiko, disappeared four years ago. There's still interest in her books though, so she finds herself travelling to Hong Kong to carry out some promotional work. Not everyone there seems glad to see her, with a bomb in her hotel room being the first indication of trouble, but as Nenene's not the type to back down and is determined to go through with her appearances, bodyguards are needed. Enter Michelle, Maggie and Anita of the Three Sisters Detective Agency, a far from normal group of people - apart from a maniacal interest in books (except for Anita, who hates them), these three have an unusual ability to control paper that will be familiar to anyone who has watched the Read or Die OVA, and it's not long before they're required to put their skills to use as Nenene is attacked during a book-signing appearance & again later during her return flight to Tokyo.

Worried that she'll continue to be a target even once she's back home, her publishers arrange for the sisters to stay near her - the plan is that they'll become her full-time bodyguards, but Nenene doesn't want that sort of protection. What she wants doesn't seem to be of concern to anyone, and its not long before her temper is being pushed to the limits when the sisters move into her apartment. It's not long before they start getting into trouble on their own - when Nenene sneaks out without them, Michelle, Maggie and Anita try to follow her, but Michelle's love of books gets the better of her when she finds herself in a bookshop district, where the shopkeepers initially think she's a certain other book-mad friend of Nenene's.

There's also the small matter of Anita's education - much to her disgust, Nenene's arranged for her to attend the local junior high school. As if having to deal with making new friends and having Michelle turn up in class to keep an eye on her isn't difficult enough, a strange visitor to the school library puts Anita in serious danger.

Taking place a few years after the Read or Die OVA series, ROD TV has a different cast of characters and for the most part a more relaxed feel to it - so far, at least. The four episodes on this disc take the time to properly introduce Nenene and the three sisters, and gives them a chance to get properly settled into their new life in Japan before the first hint of the series' real story arrives in episode 4.

I get the feeling that Nenene would normally be a very forceful character, although since long-time friend Yomiko Readman disappeared she's had a harder time working up much enthusiasm for anything, especially if it involves writing. There's a passing reference to Nenene in the OVA, although if you were watching it subtitled you probably missed it due to a subtitling error. What she's initially sure about here, though, is that she really doesn't want the sisters around her. There are signs by the end of the disc that she's beginning to come around to the idea, but she's determined not to give in easily.

As for the sisters, Anita's unique in her loathing for books - both Maggie and Michelle can't get enough of them, with Michelle in particular being unable to pass a bookstore without clearing them out. Most of the time, she's quite flighty and a bit of an airhead. Maggie spends her life in a permanent daze, wanting to spend as much of her spare time as possible either sleeping or reading her books, while Anita is a typical high-school girl and the most normal of the three. Given the chance, she would have nothing to do with paper mastery or books, but she's stuck with the life she's got and at times comes across as a little resentful of it. One thing they have in common is that when they're put in a tight spot, they're lethal - each sister's mastery of paper takes a slightly different form (Maggie for defence, Michelle for long-range attacks and Anita for getting up-close & personal), and together they make a formidable team.

Talk of the girls' skills brings us nicely to the action scenes. The ROD OVA's action scenes could make jaws drop better than almost any other recent show - they were beautifully presented, had a soundtrack to match and were a real joy to watch. There are a number of set-piece action scenes scattered throughout these episodes that really indicate that the TV series wants to have the same sort of effect - in episode one in particular, they're as beautifully done as the OVA series and every bit as enjoyable to watch. The soundtrack is a mix of pieces from the OVA and some new tunes, and fits the tone of the series perfectly. There is a bit of a drop in the animation quality of these scenes after the first episode, but they're still good enough to put the average TV series to shame. It's also worth mentioning the difference in pacing - most scenes have a very laid back feel to them which makes the action scenes stand out all the more prominently. You can almost feel the adrenaline rush when the music kicks in and the girls go into action.

The combination of a great cast of characters, those wonderful action scenes and a 'feel' about the show that just makes it comfortable to watch add up to one great show. Now, if they can just keep this quality up for the full run...

In summary:
Overall, ROD the TV's mix of slow-paced, almost slice-of-life scenes and high-powered action proves to be an irresistible combination - if it were a book, I'd be calling it a real page-turner that's impossible to put down. The real plot is only just beginning to be revealed, but by the time I had finished these episodes I was finding myself comfortable with the characters and wanting to see more. Well worth picking up.

Japanese Language (5.1/2.0),English Language (5.1),English Subtitles,Japanese Next-episode Previews,Art Gallery,Episode 1 Commentary - Kevin Chu; Jonathan Klein and Taliesin Jaffe

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


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