R.O.D. the TV Vol. #1 (also w/box) - Mania.com

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  • 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: 29.98/44.98
  • 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.

R.O.D. the TV Vol. #1 (also w/box)

By Chris Beveridge     June 21, 2004
Release Date: June 29, 2004

R.O.D. the TV Vol. #1 (also w/box)
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.

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!

Each volume contains a limited edition mini-pencil board and the first volume is also available as a collector?s boxed set (details to be announced shortly).

The Review!
After a highly successful OVA series, ROD the TV takes all the best elements of that show, wraps it around a new cast and produces what looks to be an amazing series.

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, we get the trio from the Three Sisters Agency together all doing poses that are appropriate for them, including Anita holding up that cute little frog. The artwork looks a touch washed out and not as vibrant as I'd expect but it seems to mirror what I've seen of the Japanese version online. The front cover has such a strong focus on the characters that the minimalist background works well enough. 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. I continue to wish that Geneon would adopt a grid format for basic technical information however as it would make finding things all the much easier. The insert has a great image of Nenene where we get to really oogle her posterior and that opens up to a two-panel spread with the three sisters manipulating paper. The back panel is a very heavily text filled piece where Hideyuki Kurata talks about how the show went from an OVA to a TV series, filling in many neat little bits of information.

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 first 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 included in this release, though with an appeal to only part of the market, is a commentary track by several members of the production crew at Geneon and New Generation Pictures. The commentary runs for the length of the first episode and it basically has the folks who worked on it talking about some of the nuts and bolts of the show, the voice actors and some of the quirks and little hidden jokes that are in the first episode. It's a fun and very fast moving commentary with a group of guys who are definitely comfortable around each other and makes for a good listening experience.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
ROD The TV has some scary origins. After the success of the OVA series for Read or Die (which is based off of the novels, where as Read or Dream is based off of the manga), the creators were being pitched a variety of ideas on what to do next. Splice it together as a movie with some new footage by bringing in the Nenene character, doing a 5.1 upgrade or maybe some sort of single spin-off OVA to flesh things out a bit more.

To think that we owe the existence of this series to the Charlie's Angels movie is, well, scary.

As the tale goes in the insert, that particular movie had just hit Japan and the idea of doing something with the entire property but different just managed to click at the right time. It took a bit to get off the ground, but in 2003 the twenty-six episode series ROD The TV was launched. According to the commentary track, the title is labeled as such by Japan to serve as a bridge between the two properties, to allow pieces of each to move back and forth in a sense. Since both the manga and the novels are ongoing, the TV series stands alone in a sense by bringing in elements of each while not affecting the other. The end result is a very curious series that's all about reading books.

How can you not love that? Coming from a big book reading family and background, I can easily relate to the characters here as they let their love of books overtake their lives. We're introduced quickly to a young author named Nenene Sumiregawa (whose name, for those who have the Read or Die OVA, was mistranslated not as a name but "Up! Up! Up!"). It's been four years since she wrote her last novel so she's essentially deadwood when it comes to the Japanese literary scene, but her novel has been bought and is being turned into a film in Hong Kong. So without her editor, she's flying over there to meet up with the producers and others to get a feel for what's going on with her book. Nenene isn't terribly interested in this but she does as her editor asks, especially since she hasn't produced anything in so long.

Her arrival in Hong Kong is subdued after she meets her guide, a young blonde woman named Michelle. She seems a bit flighty and far too happy in general to be sane, but there's definitely more to her. She's accompanied by her sister Maggie, a complete opposite that's a good foot or two taller than her and with short black hair and the most uninterested drab facial expression you'll ever see. When they arrive near the hotel that Nenene is staying at, Maggie manages to keep things under control in the car when the entire penthouse level explodes and debris is flying all over the place. As it turns out, some psycho is trying to kill Nenene since he's a fair bit xenophobic and doesn't believe she should be getting the movie deal when he can't even get his own book published.

While everyone is trying to get Nenene to cancel her plans, she instead goes on the offensive and insists on carrying through and not letting every psychopath she encounters determine her destiny. To keep her safe in the interim, Michelle and Maggie bring Nenene home with her where they live with their other sister, the pint sized and spunky Anita. Their residence is obscene to some to be sure, filled with tons upon tons of books. A wave of books flows out from the front door alone and nearly suffocates young Anita. Nenene has a difficult time dealing with this trio though. Michelle and Maggie are nearly reverential around her since she's an author and they're so dedicated to books, but Anita isn't interested in the slightest and just grouses the entire time. But as a group, they all manage to work together during the time they're spending together while Nenene deals with her book tour and the psycho that's after her.

Nenene's eventual return to Japan includes the three sisters, who also coincidentally have their own detective agency. Ending up stranded in Japan, they take on the job offered by Nenene's editor to be her bodyguard since there are still plenty of things that could go wrong, plus Nenene seems to have changed since the incidents in Hong Kong. This is kept from Nenene initially but the sisters accept and take up residence across the street so they can watch her. But their inability to control themselves leads to spending all their money to fix one of their mistakes, which then lands them as tenants in Nenene's own apartment. Now living together, the four women deal with every day life and books.

In a way, it's really hard to put into essence what's going on here. Part of it is that there is some reliance on having seen the OVAs. While Nenene wasn't actually in them, she was friends with the lead character Yomiko from there. It's been four years since Yomiko disappeared, which is also when Nenene finished her last work, a work that Yomiko never got to read. In the time since, Nenene has cared for Yomiko's residence, a sizeable building that's filled completely with books, and spends her time fishing through the various bookstores for things she thinks Yomiko might like to read when she returns. So there is a huge appeal for OVA fans in revisiting many of these places. Nenene takes Anita with her to the apartment building and Anita's distaste for books makes it a real challenge. But there's also the element of the people around the area knowing Yomiko, so when there's a bit of mistaken identity and people think she's back, there's some great humor in seeing all the booksellers prepare for it. You can get the gist of it from what you do see with Nenene's tour, but it and the specialty book store have more of an impact with the OVAs being seen.

The three sisters themselves are a great bit of fun. Michelle takes on the role of the slightly daft bubbly blonde but who is filled with quite a bit of information. Maggie looks like a walking zombie half the time who simply wants to read anything and everything. When they run out of bed space, she's more than happy to live in the crawl space with a small light and all the books she can cram in there. Only Anita really comes across as normal, but she's got her own issues with her powers. Yes, powers. All three women are Paper Masters, a group of people who are able to manipulate paper into just about anything they want, from massive flying dragons that can swallow an airplane to twisting a small piece of paper into a makeshift key and everything in-between. Their special abilities are mostly kept a secret but these three tend to be a bit more flagrant than you'd expect and it tends to cause problems.

In the first four episodes, there are a handful of scenes that have them using their abilities. These are pure money shots when it comes to this series. The bulk of the episodes are very much character and dialogue driven as Nenene deals with her life and her missing friend Yomiko while the three sisters deal with being Nenene's bodyguard or just reading books. But with there being some action involved, such as the psycho author in Hong Kong, the three sisters utilize their powers in some of the most stunning action sequences I've seen in anime. The manipulation of paper into any form you want, something that's familiar to US comic fans from various mutant related series, is beautifully animated here and is incredible fluid. The number of individual pieces floating about, the way they form things such as barriers or other objects, is highly detailed and takes on a real life. One scene has Anita leaping through the cockpit window of a plane in flight, having the paper created the break in the glass, allowing her to roll through and then sealing it up behind her, all in one fluid motion. The replay value of these scenes are very high.

What's even better is that while these scenes are gorgeous and quite detailed, the rest of the series is much the same. While the pacing is much more lackadaisical and meandering in its nature, it's richly animated and filled with lots of characters and a lively world. The best thing that was kept from the OVA series is the stunning backgrounds. When we pan over a few of the backgrounds that were directly lifted from the OVA, you realize just how well the TV series managed to recreate that feel and to give the city a real life of its own. Whether it's the big exterior shots or the pieces inside the dark and eerie bookseller basements, this just looks fantastic.

In a way, there isn't a lot of plot going on during these early episodes. The first one is filled with the psycho author storyline, but once they all get back to Japan, things slow down and move in a very leisurely way (well, up until Michelle and Maggie hit the bookstore district). This pacing is definitely different and it does feel slow, but it also really emphasizes the money scenes a great deal when they do happen. It's a necessary piece of pacing though, as you are dealing with a cast of characters who simply love to read. You have to spend time showing them absorbing as much as they do.

In Summary:
I had no idea what to expect going into this series and it really surprised me from a number of angles. The tying together of the series, the forward shift in years from the OVA, the beautifully animated action sequences and the very fun and likable cast all made this a very easy show to get into. At the same time, you find yourself becoming very comfortable around the characters and enjoying their little quirks as they're slowly revealed. There's a lot going on in the background and you can see the smaller plot points that are going to be important going forward. It's interesting to see a series that opens by spending time with the characters and showing them doing almost nothing but reading and trying to just figure out how to survive and acquire more books. I can't wait to see where this is all going as I'm already hooked on the characters.

Japanese 5.1 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Japanese Previews,Art Gallery,Episode 1 Commentary (US Production Staff)

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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