By far and away, the standout anime on Japanese TV this season has got to be R.O.D. The TV.
R.O.D. (this time it stands for Read or Dream) is the television anime sequel to Read or Die, the three-episode OVA. Amazingly, R.O.D. the TV is a melding of the OVA, the Light Novels and original R.O.D. manga story-lines -something that seems unlikely considering how unrelated they were, but is executed in the most astonishingly competent way.
ROD the TV begins four years after the OVA. Yomiko Readman, aka The Paper, has been missing for the past four years. Sumiregawa Nenene, the author that Yomiko so admired in the original R.O.D. manga, has fallen into a slump, at least in part because of Yomiko’s absence. Where in the original manga Nenene was a hyperactive, over-achieving and slightly callous young author, the 20-year old Nenene is far more mature, and more than a little melancholy.
The series begins as Nenene visits Hong Kong to be present for the opening of a movie based on one of her novels. Because there is some concern for her safety, she is assigned three rather scattered young women as her “bodyguards.” In an action-filled and very well-crafted episode, these three sisters turn out to be paper users, just like the missing Yomiko. The first episode looks and sounds like a James Bond movie (a feeling accentuated by the three sisters being named after three popular female HK action movie actresses.)
In the end, the three sisters, quiet, butchy Maggie, flighty Michelle and cynical Anita return to Japan with Nenene to be her bodyguards. At which point the truly most amazing transformation occurs – the entire anime shifts gears.
It took me a while to figure out what was going on. From high-powered, intense action in the first episode, the second appears to be written by a completely different group altogether. Then, bizarrely, so does the third…and the fourth episodes…at which point I realized just what was going on. The episodes switch back and forth between shounen and shoujo style writing. In the shounen episodes, we follow the efforts of the three sisters, as they battle vampires, adventurers and opportunists to retrieve rare books for the mysterious company “Dokusensha.” In the shoujo episodes, we follow the sisters and their relationship with Nenene,and Japan in general. Each of these episodes reads like a different kind of book – one a romance, one a suspense novel, etc…
Somewhere about episode eight I realized that this series is, by far and away, the most finely crafted anime I’d ever seen, in terms of writing. As we learn that Dokusensha isn’t what it seems, we are reintroduced to some old friends, Joker and Wendy, who may not be our friends this time, and introduced to new ones like Junior, a mysterious young boy who shares the phasing ability Nancy, aka Miss Deep, had in the OVA. And all through this, every episode is filled with the spirit of Yomiko who affects this series so strongly by her absence, that one is literally on the edge of one’s seat every time. Even the use of music is breathtaking in this series.
So, where’s the Yuri, you ask? Everywhere. Nenene claims she is not “in love” with Yomiko, but her behavior belies the fact. It’s obvious to anyone who has ever had an absent lover that she is, in fact, very in love with Yomiko. But that’s not all – the three sisters have very ambiguous sexuality, but their sensuality is obvious. Nenene picks on butchy Maggie constantly in ways that one could consider Yuri fan service.
But the real relationship in the series is left for Anita, the youngest of the sisters. In the beginning, Anita seems asif she’ll be no more than another annoying young girl character, but its not long before the viewer comes to realize that she is, in fact, the star of the series…R.O.D. is, quite literally, all about her. Anita is enrolled in a local school and almost immediately she and Shiishi Hisami
become friends. Their relationship is very real and very sweet and fills at least one entire episode with smiles and nods for us Yuri fans.
But here’s the kicker…the series is only half over.
So far, the first 13 episodes of ROD the TV have been *amazing*. So catch up, with the rest of us and sit down with your popcorn to find out just what this brilliant team of writers will do for the second half!
Animation – uneven
Music – 9
Character – 10
Story – 10
Yuri – 7
Overall – 12 ;-)
Watch the best new series this season. Then join the Yuricon Mailing List and rant and rave about it with us. :-)