Read or Die - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: A-

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: A
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: N/A
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Manga Entertainment
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 90
  • 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

By andrew     October 15, 2003
Release Date: May 27, 2003



The Review!
One of the biggest OVAs in recent history from Japan has finally reached the US. Are we ready for a heroine called ?The Paper??

Audio:

Manga decided to go all out and placed four different soundtracks on this DVD. There are 2.0 and 5.1 versions of English and Japanese. For my primary listening session, I listened to the stereo Japanese track, which is closest to the 2.0 PCM stereo track the original Japanese release had. Dialogue was clear, and directed towards the front sound stage. The music in the series plays an integral role and it pours out beautifully. Sound effects are also well mixed in. This is a great sound mix.

I listened to the English 5.1 soundtrack while writing the review, and everything sounded great. My only problems with it were the additional dialogue Manga decided to add. This included a comment by Ms Deep near the end of the first episode when she compares her name to a porn stars.

Video:

This 4:3 original aspect ratio OVA was released in 2001 and the picture is absolutely gorgeous. The transfer here is absolutely perfect, except for some instances of line shimmering. With the detailed work done on the backgrounds for this series, it?s not surprising that line shimmering is present. Colors are bright and solid, and the animation flows wonderfully. No cross coloration is present, and blacks are also solid. Digital productions don?t get much better than this.

Packaging:

None was provided, as this was a check disc.

Menu:

The main menu is highly stylized in an attempt to make it look like an old library type of setting. The main theme plays with video playing in the style of the opening for the show. I wouldn?t look too carefully at the video as you might notice a spoiler from episode three. Menu transitions are fast, and the scene select menus look a lot like a bibliography. The setup menu contains no indicator on what language or subtitle has been selected.

Extras:

Manga provided some pretty good extras here. The one I like the most is a Historical Bibliography section on each of the I-Jin, the cloned historical figures. There?s a one-page description on the real life story of each figure. The highlighted extra though is a seventeen minute Q&A from Anime Expo 2002 featuring Koji Masunari, the director, Hideyuki Kurata, the screen writer, and Masashi Ishihama, the character designer with the interview being done by Keith Burgess. Unfortunately, the sound quality is so poor on this camcorder interview that you really have to turn up the volume in order to make anything out. I really wish Manga had subtitled this section. A lot of time is wasted hearing everything asked and answered twice due to the translator.

To round off the extras, there are some screen shots and the original trailer for the series.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)

Read or Die was released back in 2001, and went unnoticed for a couple of months, then an explosion happened and everyone learned about the series. By the time the second episode was released, a large fanbase had already developed. The third episode was delayed, so anticipation for it ran very high. Now, we have Manga?s release of Read or Die so that everyone can see it. This is a nice action adventure romp featuring a cute heroine, a sultry second, and a bunch of other supporting cast members.

We are first introduced to Yomiko Readman, who is supposedly just a substitute teacher. Her apartment, and in fact, her entire building is filled with books, and to says books are her passion would be quite an understatement. She even wakes up from within a pile of books. After getting a job, she begins her day by visiting the various bookshops in her neighborhood filling up her bags with even more books.

Eventually Yomiko enters a very special used bookstore that requires a special pass code to even enter. Inside, she locates a book called Immortal Beloved. As Yomiko reaches for it, another buxom lady reaches for the book at the same time. Yomiko calls firsts on it though. Leaving the store with the book, Yomiko is lost in her own world reading the book when a swarm of insects start to cause mayhem in the streets. Soon a man riding a large grasshopper enters the scene, and his target is the book Yomiko is holding.

This is when we learn there?s a little more to Yomiko then we thought. After the man with the grasshopper gets a hold of the book from her, Yomiko uses a paper streamer to wrap one of the grasshopper?s legs, and attaches the other end of the streamer right into the road. Yomiko Readman is also known as ?The Paper?, and apparently has complete mastery over paper. After she defeats the grasshopper, a man named Joker shows up. He helps run an organization called the British Library?s Special Engineer forces. This isn?t just a bunch of librarians, but a group of special agents that take care of special operations all over the world. Yomiko has worked for them in the past.

A new mission has come up, and Joker explains to Yomiko that the book she just bought is a part of it. The clone of Gennai Hiraga, a man from the Edo Era in Japan, attacked the United States Library of Congress, stealing over six hundred manuscripts. Apparently, someone stole the stem cels of several of the world?s most intelligent and influential historical figures and cloned them. In fact, the man on the grasshopper was also another cloned individual.

To investigate these matters, Joker sends Yomiko along with two other agents to find out exactly what is going on. One agent is Drake Anderson, a military type man good with guns and explosives. The second agent turns out to be the woman Yomiko met while obtaining Immortal Beloved in the first place, who?s name is Ms Deep. Ms Deep has the ability to phase her body through matter, similar to Kitty Pryde of the X-Men. Together, these three will go up against some of the smartest people in history.

That?s the basic set up of the series, but it?s everything about the series that makes this a fantastic story. First of all, we have our characters. Ms Deep and Yomiko are the stars of the show, and the banter they exchange with each other about their wildly differing opinions on life make for some great comedy. Joker has this suave British personality that meshes well with one of the girls who works at the British library with him.

The action scenes in the anime are also superb. The White House gets a spectular destruction scene in the first minute of the show, and there?s an aerial combat scene as the finale in episode one through the city of New York, complete with Twin Towers still intact. I?d compare the aerial combat scene to Miyazaki?s masterful flight scenes. Plus, Yomiko?s flight through New York is something not to be missed. The second episode continues the action with a lot more hand-to-hand type combat, with masterful battles involving Ms Deep?s powers.

That?s not to say Read or Die doesn?t have a few problems either. The three episode format of the series is definitely a detriment, as it could have easily used another episode since the last one seems very rushed. Also the animation quality drops a bit in the third episode. It looks like they were beginning to run out of money.

Manga kept the format of the OVA, and kept the credits between every episode. The opening credits are left untouched, and softsubbed if you turn on English subtitles. Sadly, Manga did not include a signs only sub track, which means if you watch the dub a lot of signs go untranslatated. Speaking of sign subs, Manga chose a particular awful font color for some of the signs in episode one. Black with black borders. You can?t choose a worse combination! Manga isn?t consistent though, and some of the signs actually go back to yellow. I have another complaint about the subs, actually. During one scene, with one of the I-Jin speaking, Manga places the subs squarely in the upper part of the screen thereby blocking most of the picture. Lastly, I?m gonna complain about the translation. I find it sub par, and some parts of it are just plain wrong. One instance is when Yomiko buys Immortal Beloved. The price is supposed to be around 20,000 yen, but it gets translated at 3,500 yen. This makes a major difference in a plot point!

Ok, here?s the confession time. This review marks the sixth time I?ve seen this series, and I used to own the region 2 DVDs. I still love this series, despite the few flaws it has. I was still noticing things I missed in the backgrounds during my sixth viewing, so it?s had a lot of replay value for me. Read or Die is not to be missed.



Review Equipment
Toshiba 3109 to a Toshiba 36? Cinema Series via component, Pioneer VSX-810S receiver via optical, Cerwin Vega front speakers, Pinnacle center and rears


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