Yomiko Readman lives in a world surrounded only by books; her life exists entirely for the purpose of reading. To an outsider, she doesn’t look like much, but indeed she’s one of the Royal British Library’s Division of Special Operations’ top secret agents, code name The Paper. She is called back to duty after a long sabbatical when a mysterious force is cloning deceased geniuses from around the world and stealing rare books. Teaming up with the dark Miss Deep and Drake Anderson, and lead by the introspective Joker, this group of super heroes must uncover the sinister plot before more thefts occur.
summary by Kain
Highs: Grand soundtrack; unique characters; wicked, nonstop action
Lows: Odd names; side characters make only token appearances
Forget the nonsense title and the strange names (The Paper? Miss Deep? Joker?). Read or Die is far and away the most fun I’ve had with a strictly action anime in a long, long time (Laputa: Castle in the Sky aside). I pray to Kami-sama that this isn’t the end to such a splendid OVA.
Let’s start off with the undisputed standout: the music. Iwasaki Taku, who had previously done the music for Rurouni Kenshin: Tsuiokuhen, has put together perhaps one of the best soundtracks I’ve heard to date; the intro has a cheesy, jazz band note that reminds me eerily of Mission: Impossible. All the songs have that feel and beat that is sure to be a cult classic in otaku circles.
Music can only create ambiance; the characters and story must carry the bulk of the burden. Again, what a resounding success! From the good guys to the bad guys, each one had clever attacks and plenty of outlandish style. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m hardly the #1 fan of computer-assisted graphics in anime, but Read or Die pulls it off with aplomb. Fight scenes are inventive, and the action choreography is done with a master’s eye. The overall feeling is one of superb quality; I can tell a lot of love went into its creation.
Much praise goes out for putting together a package that is so refreshingly stylish and free of excess debris. One minor quibble I have is that some of those “resurrected” geniuses don’t get enough screen time, which is a shame since some of them are pretty interesting. Other than that, I see no reason to miss this adrenaline-pumping anime!
Highs: Wonderful animation; great characters
Lows: Too much too soon
Ever have that feeling when you sit down to watch an anime and right from the start you say to yourself “I know that I’m going to enjoy this”? Read or Die was just like that for me. I knew right from the amazing opening theme, and the animation that accompanied it, that I was dealing with something extraordinary and unique.
And unique it is! The most interesting factor of this series is the selection of their main character. Take a look at your stereotypical all-action anime… who is usually the hero? Either the cool attitude bishounen, the muscle bound type, or the supermodel femme fatale, right? None of these would describe the heroine in Read or Die, The Paper.
On the downside of things (and the first episode is notorious for this) is that here and there during the series, you encounter names and characters that are only mentioned or heard from a few times, and they don’t really advance the plot. This tends to be a bit confusing at times. Also, since Read or Die is only three episodes long it’s hard to get a ton of character development in. If they had a few more episodes to advance the characters a tiny bit more, it would be near perfect.
All in all, with its unique presence and wonderful animation, Read or Die is definitely the most fun I’ve ever had with a pure action anime. If had to choose one OVA series to become a full length television series, this anime is near the top of my list.
Highs: Eye candy galore; excellent pacing; OST that fits like a glove
Lows: Development skimped
Whether or not you love to watch action anime, it is hard to deny that Read or Die is good. Push past the agents’ “weird” names and you will find an unpredictable, fast-paced ride that will not stop until the very end.
The first attention-grabber is the fantastic art and animation; vibrant colors combined with excellent choreography show all of the action with a frightening amount of detail. The seamless integration of CGI and conventional cels helps everything come to life without any hesitation. While Read or Die may pack a punch with all of the eye candy, the action-packed story would go to waste if it was not for the superb pacing. Even the slower parts are kept going strong and seem to slide into faster parts without any hesitation or hang-ups. Perhaps what keeps the pacing so well-balanced and consistent is the musical score composed by Iwasaki Taku. Sure, some of the music may sound similar to other OSTs that he has helped create in the past, but that does not prevent it from melding perfectly to every scene each piece is applied to.
Perhaps Read or Die‘s only flaw is that its action-based nature and three OVA length puts a limit on any serious development; such concentration on action leaves a lot of unanswered “how did this” and “why did that” questions. Consequently, things just seem to happen and you are left in the dark as far as characters’ powers and abilities. Admittedly, this tactic does work in the series’ favor because part of the thrill is not knowing or being able to guess what may happen next, but one too many things were left unexplained by the end.
Being the prequel to Read or Die: the TV, a lot is offered and delivered in Read or Die. This OVA series makes expectations for a television series sequel very high, but by itself it is quite enjoyable.
Read or Die can be downloaded legally in the United States HERE.