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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Read or Die OVA - Review

Based on a manga based series of light novels, Read or Die is probably one of my favorite anime of all time. To be honest, I need to go over what I consider to be the best in my opinion, but this 3 part OVA definitely is high on the list.

Read Or Die is about a bibliomaniac and agent of the British Library named Yomiko Readman. Her codename is "The Paper" as she has the ability to manipulate paper in any way as she pleases. She and two other agents, Drake Anderson (no codename oddly enough) and Nancy Makuhari, codenamed Miss Deep for being able to pass through solid objects, are given the assignment to find information about a set of stolen DNA of historical figures and to retrieve if possible.

What the OVA has done is condense what could have been a 12 episode story into an hour and a half. You get the crucial of crucial information presented as well as unique characterization in subtle hints. Since there can't be a lot of time devoted to pure character development, it overlaps with the progress of the story.

I feel that, in a sense, restricting directors to OVAs bring out the best work on the market. There can't be any time to flesh out characters too much nor can there be any space to simply stall for time. The audience gets what's only necessary and probably has most of the loose ends tied.

In terms of the story itself, there's so much to enjoy. First, there's this underlying tone that Britain looks down upon the US for lacking any tact. Then there's a set of characters who all work well with each other (in terms of character development and interaction), there's are very diverse settings which make moments of the story quite memorable and finally there's the original concept of a Paper Master.

The Paper Master is probably one of the biggest selling points of Read Or Die. Though it's never really explained how Yomiko acquired those powers, what pops in my mind concerning that is "Do I really care?" It seems quite fitting that an avid lover of books becomes a manipulator of paper and often provides comic relief as there are moments when Yomiko pauses to honestly consider whether it's worth using the pages of a rare book to save her life or her complete lack of concern for the value of money (bills to be exact). Still, I have to say that the "Paper Master" is definitely a concept which is quite hard to top. The animation that JC Staff provides to put this concept in motion is a thrill watching. Because of how original it is, you're only left wondering in what ways Yomiko could manipulate paper to her advantage.

The music is great. It's quite memorable and there's a great range from the grand orchestral pieces that glorify the British Library to the hard riff of the electric guitar that opens this animation.

Voice acting in both Japanese and English is great. Kimberly Yates does a great job in portray the seemingly ditzy Yomiko as well as Reiko Miura (who does quite well despite it being her first anime role).

Yes, it does have a major plot hole in that you never find out who started this mess, but it didn't seem like Read Or Die had any intentions of covering that anytime soon. Considering how focused it seemed on stopping the problems at hand, it does seem odd that there isn't any further analysis, at the same time, in the way the adaptation is directed, it seems fine that you don't know and that all that matters is that the issue is resolved.

I honestly believe this is a work that deserves to be studied. Yes, it doesn't carry a very atmospheric tone as "other great anime works," and it does use stock characters. At the same time, the quality of direction and the flow of scenes and transitions is something quite noteworthy. The use of CG is subtle and enhances the OVA quite a bit. Finally, because of Yomiko's use of paper as a primary weapon, it seems quite easy to clutter the frame, however the use of space was well done.

P.S. Ugh... i accidentally set the post time to 12:30 AM instead of PM. Well, no use in fixing it now....

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