02 Oct 2003 8:42 pm

Read or Die TV (site in Japanese) has been ridiculously entertaining so far (around four episodes in with two more due imminently). This is somewhat surprising, as unlike the OVA, Yomiko Readman — our endearingly bookish heroine — has yet to make an appearance, and since she was 90% of the charm of the OVA, her absence could have spelled certain doom for the series. Instead, in four short episodes, we’ve seen great action, sweet character interplay and mysterious plot developments (wait ’til you see Joker-san and Wendy).

As our primary focus, we have her close friend Nenene (mentioned only by name on post-it’s all over Yomiko’s apartment). She’s suffering from writer’s block, which seems to be due to Yomiko’s absence, and is somewhat grumpier than she was portrayed in the manga.

These tax census forms sure are boring

Nenene Sumiregawa

It wouldn’t be a Read or Die title, however, without a Paper Master, and the series has three — the King sisters: Michelle, Maggie and Anita. Each seems to have a specific theme for the use of their Paper Master abilities — Michelle’s creates paper weaponry (bows and whips, so far), Maggie creates paper animals of enormous strength, while Anita’s abilities seem more general-purpose.

I will strike you right through the heart!

Michelle King, paper bow and arrow

Michelle and Maggie share Yomiko’s bibliophilic qualities and interstingly, each seems like the bookend opposite of the other (Michelle is flighty and energetic, Maggie is shy and introverted). I must confess that it’s nice to see a character like Maggie in anime — there aren’t enough tall, quiet girls floating around these days (shades of Millie Thompson!). Everyone seems to prefer the genki hyper-cute character with neon-colored hair. Which brings us to Anita, whom, as Karmaburn points out, is a freakin’ ninja.

Ma-nee, there's a pigeon on my head

Maggie and Anita King. And a pigeon.

Well, that she may be, but she’s also the most accessible of the three King sisters (at least in terms of character-empathy and audience identification), and it currently seems like she’s struggling to find her own identity and coming to terms with her “freakish” powers. As the youngest of the sisters, she seems to be staking out her own uniqueness by rejecting her older sister’s likes (she’s money-oriented and really doesn’t like books), but her compulsive obsession to collect stuffed frogs (or knick-knacks of a frog-like nature) indicate that she’s traded in her sister’s obsession with books for another. She and Nenene have a lovely adversarial-protective relationship, and I’m really looking forward to seeing that play out.

That’s the other thing I like about the series — they take their time to establish characters and impart mood. While I loved the OVA for its story and pacing, three episodes really isn’t enough to immerse oneself in that world, and with 22 more to go (for a total of 26) Read Or Die TV looks like it’ll give viewers a chance to really get into the world of “Ze Pay-pah”.

Read or Die TV has already been licensed, I believe, but it’s still being fansubbed by Anime Station (amongst others).

[UPDATE: March 18, 2004]
So, twenty-four episodes in and the story remains engaging and significantly entertaining. My only gripe is that the animation quality has suffered a fair bit in the last few episodes, but it turns out that it’s being fixed for the DVD release.

Contrast and compare: (you’ll have to scroll down quite a bit, but you’ll recognize the ROD TV segments if you’ve been watching the show)

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