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. (:


  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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  • Bam
    (Tuesday, Dec 1. 2015 04:46 AM)
    @Kaiser: so far it’s good. I’ve been hearing the buzz but I wished someone had nodged me to watch it sooner.
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Tuesday, Dec 1. 2015 04:42 AM)
    You’ve reminded me Bam that I’d been meaning to pick up ash vs the evil dead sometime.
  • Bam
    (Tuesday, Dec 1. 2015 04:39 AM)
    @Kaiser: the remake was still pretty entertaining, but it lost the silly comedy edge the series was known for. I still think that the 2nd film had the most unique and prominent voice of its own, and all of that is present in the new series’ pilot. If anything Raimi cranked it up a couples of notches here and there.
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Tuesday, Dec 1. 2015 04:35 AM)
    There was a mean spirited feel to the remake I found pretty appealling.
  • Bam
    (Tuesday, Dec 1. 2015 04:27 AM)
    @Kaiser: the original Evil Dead was playing the horror genre straight, but it had a strata of slap-stick that was partially unintended. With Evil Dead 2 he doubled down on the strange horror/comedy dynamic and it became fantastic. Army of Darkness was very entertaining, but it strayed very far from the series’ roots. The remake was only produced by Raimi, while he got back on the writer/director chair for the pilot of the new series, and proved that he still got it sharp as ever.
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Tuesday, Dec 1. 2015 04:19 AM)
    Then again I believe Raimi was fairly involved with the remake.
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Tuesday, Dec 1. 2015 04:18 AM)
    The remake as far as remakes go should have been worse but it worked much better than I would have thought and I say this as someone who hates reboots/remakes.
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Tuesday, Dec 1. 2015 04:16 AM)
    @Bam: I’ve only partially seen the first evil dead but I don’t think its aged well, the second one I’ve seen and its hugely entertaining later on but its army of darkness that was the most enjoyable of the three for me.
  • Bam
    (Tuesday, Dec 1. 2015 03:47 AM)
    Wow Ash Vs the Evil Dead 01 was a blast; I really should’ve gotten into this sooner. I was smiling thru most of it, either because it was funny or slap-stick gory, or because it was a blast to see that Sam Raimi still got it. I guess the only time that Evil Dead works is when he’s involved. Seeing Bruce Campbell again with the chainsaw was a treat which I didn’t know I needed in my life.
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Monday, Nov 30. 2015 10:31 PM)
    I’m trying not to get my hopes up however, given that it wouldn’t be surprising if he gave us another filler chapter like he did with that pointless flashback.

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