Posted by psgels on 23 July 2009 with categories: Anime Reviews



Read or Die is the example of why you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover (har har har). I originally watched its first few episodes about four years ago, and even though I liked the premise of a professional writer hiring a bunch of bibliophilic body guards who attack with paper, it didn’t do enough for me to remain interested. However, as the series goes on it definitely proves that it does have its excellent sides.

But yeah, the first half of this series does little to stand out. It consists out of a bunch of episodic stories that either deal with some sort of treasure hunt, or the school life of one of the bodyguards (Anita, who’s just a little kid). These stories however are just too disconnected from each other, and too random to really care about them, and as standalone stories they’re just too formulaic, dull and uninteresting. It’s only when the second half comes and connects the pieces of the puzzle that you can see the merits that this series has.

Because the back-story of this series has tons of creative and original ideas stuffed in. Suddenly from out of nowhere we’re dealt to a multi-layered plot that has to do with books, brilliant minds, political intrigue, and pterodactyls. At the same time, the characters who previously weren’t that interesting suddenly come together as well and gain their share of depth. Especially Nenene was a delight to watch whenever she appeared on the screen, but the rest of the cast also has its merits.

As much as I liked it though, the second half does have its flaws as well. For the back-story to be so creative, sacrifices had to be made unfortunately; in this case, these sacrifices come in the form of plot-holes, and lots of ‘em. While some things are explained quite well, others require a healthy dose of suspension of disbelief to buy, especially the way in which the seemingly random events of the first half somehow magically all turn out to be relevant to the plot.

My biggest beef with this series however is that it tried to go a little too epic in the end. It’s a common mistake of anime (or just about any storytelling medium, really) that the fate of the world is a little too often put at stake as the big climax of the story, but Read or Die really takes it a step too far in the way that the bad guys at one point use politics in order to take control over the entire world: there are no protesters whatsoever, nobody aside from our lead characters finds it strange that suddenly every nation is being united out of the blue, especially considering the rather questionable things that lie in the past of the villains. This series definitely fails in making its setting come alive, because the world feels more like populated by a bunch of sheep rather than human beings.

Nevertheless, Read or Die is a great series with a select number of wonderfully animated action scenes. It’s not among the classics of anime due to its rather boring first half and the other flaws mentioned above, but nevertheless it really does make for a nice watch for anyone looking for something new and creative. And for me, that’s more important than having a plot without plotholes.

Storytelling: 7/10
Characters: 8/10
Production-Values: 9/10
Setting: 9/10

5 Responses

  1. c160 says:

    I considered recommending this series to you before,but thought you wouldn’t like it for pretty much the same reasons you don’t like it in your review.You should watch the prequel OVA too,though don’t expect it to answer many questions ^^;

  2. Protodude says:

    Yeah, you should definitely give the three episode ova a shot some time. You’ll probably like as much, though it does suffer from trying to be epic at the end too.

  3. Wyrdwad says:

    I’m actually really surprised you didn’t like the first half, since I found it to be a really charming slice-of-life show with occasional over-the-top action – something that seems like it would really appeal to you. I actually REALLY enjoyed this series… like, I rank it among my favorites. The characters seemed really likable and well-developed to me, and the random story arcs in the first half really helped me get a feel for their personalities, which then came alive in the amazing second half.

    I also really liked the “epic” ending, as it was just SO over-the-top, SO bombastic, that I couldn’t help but enjoy every last second of it.

    Definitely a top-notch series for me. At least you didn’t hate it, though. (:

    -Tom

  4. cody says:

    yeah I enjoyed the whole thing through as well. I suppose it depends on the viewer though and if they like slow pace or not. I like slow slice of life moments better then the times they try to throw drama in to get something out of people (code geass).

  5. dave@scifi says:

    I saw the original OVA series a few years ago,and enjoyed it so much I had to track down the TV series. You really do have to see the OVA first, to help explain the TV series. Just as a correction, the OVA was called “Read or Die”. The TV series is called “R.O.D.” aka “Read or Dream”.

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  • prince
    (Saturday, Feb 6. 2016 10:04 PM)
    I have commented on your Schwarzesmarken episode 4 review and also answered your questions so please check it out
  • wicked
    (Saturday, Feb 6. 2016 07:26 PM)
    Fire dragon arc! Fire dragon dies in the 5th episode
  • AidanAK47
    (Saturday, Feb 6. 2016 04:06 PM)
    @Bam, Well the three games were originally supposed to be one. But it turned out that the first two were bundled together and Alternative was made a separate release.
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Saturday, Feb 6. 2016 08:38 AM)
    Jesus I never expected that doing a myanimelist/letterboxd account thing would be so hard. I’ve seen a scarily higher amount than I thought, its insanely hard to remember everything to add.
  • Bam
    (Saturday, Feb 6. 2016 06:17 AM)
    It seems then that the future of the franchise’s anime adaptations rests a bit on Schwarzesmarken’s success, which looking at the buzz doesn’t seem favourable at all. I doubt it can regain the lost audiences.
  • Bam
    (Saturday, Feb 6. 2016 06:14 AM)
    That would suggest that the author(s) had the foresight of including seemingly useless stuff that will come into play later. That’d be impressive if they did, as these kinda series are make-it-as-you-go.
  • AidanAK47
    (Saturday, Feb 6. 2016 01:59 AM)
    It’s difficult to put into words but essentially while the first game isn’t good, it does work as a tool for introducing and endearing you to the characters. Then Unlimited sets down the rules of the new world. And finally alternative proceeds to kick your ass into next Tuesday.
    That’s sort of why I don’t think it would have the same effect if it was an anime. VNs allow you to get a more personal connection with the characters.
  • AidanAK47
    (Saturday, Feb 6. 2016 01:55 AM)
    It’s not quite the same. It’s more like there are things in extra which seem insignificant but turn out to play an important role later. It wouldn’t really work the same if you did it in reverse order. Character history is a bit different too as each game is essentially an alternate universe. The character histories in extra are different from those in alternative.
  • Bam
    (Friday, Feb 5. 2016 11:38 PM)
    And also remember how Darker Than Black had a big jump between the main series and Gemini of the Meteor. They later made a 4 episode OVA that covered the gap, and although you knew the outcome it was still entertaining; or at least more than the Gemini one. There’s merit to non-linear chronology and storytelling, but it is usually very hard to pull. The audience is intrigued by secrets that can later be uncovered, although in anime the pay-off is not always substantial.
  • Bam
    (Friday, Feb 5. 2016 11:32 PM)
    I don’t know, the audience usually only needs very limited information to figure out dynamics and histories between the characters.

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