Yuri Manga: Read or Dream, Volume 1

February 4th, 2004

I have actually already covered the anime addition to the ROD series this past December in an earlier entry, but that was a while ago now and I want to cover the series as a whole continuity – and review the new manga.

As mostly everyone knows, the original ROD was a 3-episode OVA, and a 4-volume manga. Read or Die is the full title of this earlier series.

Read or Dream is a new manga, of which one volume is out, so we don’t quite know where it will end. And ROD The TV is the (so far) 26-episode anime currently running on Japanese television. What some of you may not know is that there are also several ROD novels, at least one of which may contribute to the current timeline in a meaningful fashion. (I have not seen, much less read, the novels, and everything I’ve heard about them are unsubstantiated rumor, so I’m including them only as a point of interest.)

I’m not going to explain the basic plot here – I’ll assume that you know the story at least a little. If not- click the links above and read up.

In terms of yuri, Read or Die the OVA has luscious subtext. Not a few folks, including the artists at Newtype and Megami magazines, had a field day with Nancy and Yomiko. As a story, it was a neat, enjoyable 3-episode action story with good music, and great characters.

Not so the original RODmanga. Read or Die the manga was a frankly mediocre exploration of fanservice, tedious plots and uninteresting characters. I tried and failed to be interested in the ROD manga several times. If you were *very* clever and ignored all the evidence to the contrary, you could *try* and make a case for Nenene and Yomiko…but you’d be stretching the bounds of plausability. As an action story it was…okay. (The worst of it was that Yomiko, who in the OVA was almost unconsciously competent, was rendered clumsy and goofy in the manga.)

Then came ROD the TV. In practically one fell swoop, it not only gave us Nenene and Yomiko as a viable relationship, it also gave us butchy Maggie (a yuri fan’s dream in terms of possibilities) and Anita’s relationship with Hisa. Then it threw in five years of something between Nancy and Yomiko, just to keep things interesting. Whether one sees it all as overt text, or subtext, the complex relationships between all the women in this anime keep me on the edge of my seat – not to mention the incredibly decent (if really goofy) plot, which has been crafted to even *my* standards. This TV series isn’t over yet, but so far, it’s been stellar. While it helps to know enough of the manga to know who Donny is, or how
Nenene and Yomiko met, it isn’t absolutely necessary. You can always catch up on the conversation at the Yuricon Mailing List, where we’ve dissected this baby within an inch of its life. ^_^

Which brings me to the new ROD manga. I didn’t, honestly, have much hope for the Read or Dream manga, given the crappiness of the Read Or Die quadrilogy. Well, once again, I’m wrong, because while it isn’t high art, the first volume (for all I know, it’s the only volume) of Read or Dream is a lot of fun and full of yuri. Of the six chapters, two deal with a blind girl who falls in love with Maggie. It’s an incredibly sweet story, right to the very end, with one amusingly mortifying scene for poor Maggie:

Faye asks her to read a story she has written out loud. Maggie begins to read the story, and realizes that it is a self-insert love scene between her and Faye. What’s worse is that Faye, being blind, had to have had her mother write it for her…but Maggie reads the story right through to the final kiss. So I’m raising the Yuri flag over the Read or Dream manga, too.

So far, with the exception of the initial manga, this entire continuity has Yuri all over it, and I recommend it strongly to all but the hardest-core shoujo fans. If you can’t stand a story that doesn’t have shoujo bubbles and flower-laden backgrounds, avoid the ROD series, but otherwise, learning Japanese is worth it, just for series like this. ^_^

Ratings:

Yuri – 8
Art – 8
Story – 10
Music – 9
Characters – 10
Overall – 9

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