Friday, November 21, 2008

Read or Die

Read or Die; Animated fantasy action series, Japan, 2001; D: Kouji Masunari, S: Rieko Miura, Michiko Neya, Hozumi Goda, Chieko Otsuda

Yomiko Readman has black hair, wears glasses, has a job of a substitute teacher - and is crazy about books. She bought so many love novels that her whole apartment is full of them. One day, a madman - the clone of Jean Henri Fabre - riding a giant grasshopper, steals her book, but since she has the special power of controlling the molecules of paper, she uses a ribbon to defeat him. Mr. Joker shows up, an officer working for the secret service, and it is revealed that Yomiko's codename is "The Paper" and that she is an secret agent. Together with the spy "Deep", who can pass through solid objects, and Drake, they fight against the bad guy Ikkyu who clones famous history personalities in order to destroy the world with Beethoven's symphony. Deep kills him in a rocket, but also dies, while Yomiko is comforting her sister.

"R. O. D." is one of the most bizarre and shrill examples of anime in the 2000's, even for that genre that is an axiom and a symbol for shrillness for itself. The director Kouji Masunari originally spoofs the James Bond cliches by giving the leading role to a woman and inserting all sorts of wacky jokes left and right, obvious already in the exposition: in the first sequence, a mythical samurai, Gennai Hiroga, destroys the White house with an explosion. The American president pees himself in the pants, but the samurai asks him: "Is this the city library?" When the president answers him that it isn't, the samurai leaves with a confused look on his face. Quickly, the story introduces the main heroine, the introverted Yomiko Readman, who is obsessed with books: her apartment is so full with books they peak the roof, so some book stores already have her photo where it states: "Greet at sight". The main tangle of this spy 3 part OVA combines science-fiction, spy adventure and comedy since it is revealed she has special powers since she can control molecules of paper (using paper, she assembles a paper airplane or a solid paper sword), yet that kind of an imagination works only in the beginning. Namely, with time, the story becomes more and more banal, confusing, brutal and weird. It's too bad the final result is only accessible fun since "R. O. D" is refreshing and Yomiko is an fascinating character, incredibly sweet and sincere, yet the story is too shallow and straight-forward in the long run, even though the action sequences with agent "Deep" who can pass through solid objects is virtuoso directed. "R. O. D." is one of those animes that we would love to love more than we do.


No comments: