Read or Dream, Volume 3 continues with something for everyone (except, perhaps obsesseive Yomiko and/or Nenene fans….)
The inside cover has a fun surprise. Instead of the usual two-sided color poster, we get a color picture on the front of the three sisters and on the back, three book covers drawn by the artist for this manga. What makes these book covers interesting is that the author is Nishizono Haruhi.
I’ll wait while you try to remember who that is. (The sound you hear is my foot tapping)
I’ll give you a clue. The first title is Hatsukoi Hajimatta, in English – First Love Has Begun.
I’ll give you a second clue. In the TV series, the presence that fills the empty spaces is Yomiko. In the manga series, it’s Nenene whose presence hovers in the background, just beyond reach….
If you really can’t remember, look at the end of this review…* ^_^
Onto the actual stories:
The first chapter hits weird, fun and sexy at the same time – Maggie visits a strange bookstore and is given a book called, (loosely) “The 24 Faces of Maggie Mui.” (You all know the famous story, “The Three Faces of Eve,**” right? I don’t have to explain Dissociative Identity Disorder, do I?) Anyway, Michelle and Anita come home to find Maggie in a maid outfit, which then switches to a gang member’s gakuran, then a Vampire S&M ensemble and ending with a goofy fairy tale prince get-up. The story is silly and strictly a vehicle for the fanservice. It all ends with Michelle being given a book called “The 7600 Faces of Michelle Chan.” And we all laugh and shudder, since Michelle is already pretty schizoid. ^_^
The next chapter begins (as at least one story each volume does!) with the three sisters having had no income for some time. Michelle and Maggie fantasize about running a high-class restaurant, but for books instead of food. Instead, the three of them end up doing a comedy routine. Oooooookkkkaaaayy. Goofy and weird.
In the third story, they are all doing really well and, as a result of so much work, are eating regularly. Michelle has therefore gained a lot of weight. Ahahahah, we laugh as she tries and fails miserably to lose the extra pounds. Goofy and I guess someone will think its fun.
The volume gets a little more interesting and weird beginning with the next chapter, in which Anita gets a fever. She has a dream which ties into her memory from ROD The TV of the church in which she met Maggie and Michelle for the first time. (The subsequent refutal of this memory by Joker is ignored, or perhaps is merely irrelevant…) She wakes to find that Maggie has returned to be with her, and she discovers that not only is she *not* alone in the world, she has her sisters, but also that friends have sent get-well gifts and cards…including one from Lilth and Orion, from Vol.2. Although Anita has not told her sisters about Lilith, this is about to change. Echoes of the TV series start to build more and more with each chapter.
The next story is another Anita dream which is weird, goofy and fun. The inevitable cross-over to Alice in Wonderland, with a hefty dose of Wizard of Oz (Tin Man and Scarecrow played, respectively, by Maggie and Michelle) and Journey to the West (The Monkey King, Sun Wu Kung, part played by Chi-Hon, the boy Anita has befriended in previous volumes) ends with the Queen of Hearts being played by Hisa-chan!
Now, let’s back up…in this continuity, Anita has never *met* Hisa-chan. Even stranger, when, at the end of the dream, Anita wakes up and we see the pile of novels that the dream referenced, one of them is Anne of Green Gables. You may remember from ROD The TV that that novel is the one that Anita and Hisami read together and bonded over, identifying themselves with Anne and Diana. But, in this continuity they have never met, so, why would that book be there, and why would Hisa-chan appear as the Queen? Well, it gets more confusing in the next and final, several-part story, which is fun, sexy, weird and goofy all at once. ^_^
Hold onto your hat, it’s going to be a bumpy manga.**
The three sisters are contacted by a publishing company. They are asked to be the bodyguards to a Japanese writer who is coming over to do a book signing in Hong Kong. The author has received threatening letters and the publishing company is concerned with her well-being. The Three Paper Sisters Detective Agency takes on the job and heads to the airport to meet the author.
Sound familiar? Hmmm….gee, this is exactly the same way ROD The TV began, isn’t it? You think you know what’s coming, right? Well, hah on you.
The three sisters are greeted by a snazzy young blonde, who turns out to be the author’s manager. The author steps forward and she is…Hishiishi Hisami, 13, from Japan. Hisa-chan promptly throws up all over Anita, and thus a friendship is born. ^_^
At the book signing, the culprit shows and lo and behold! it’s Hisa-chan’s manager! Only it’s not, it’s Lilith in disguise and this time she doesn’t want a book – she wants the author! (It is during this section that we can be convinced that the lovely Lilith has a full-blown loli fetish, by the way.) She and her pet panther Orion take on the Paper Sisters. Anita has, of course, already encountered Lilith, so she isn’t tricked by the thief-turned-kidnapper’s wily ways. In the middle of the battle Anita has a revelation – she may loathe books herself, but she resolves to be the protector of authors who bring joy to so many *other* people. Of course, she rescues Hisa-chan and they become instant best friends. Is there implication of more? There’s plenty of room for believing that in this series that seems to be very Yuri-friendly.
In the end, the publishing company and Hisa-chan are so pleased with the sisters’ performance, that they are asked to come to Japan to do more bodyguard work. Michelle turns to us and tells us that their Japan arc is beginning and we should make sure to come back for the next chapter…! Well, duh. *Now* I’m hooked.
Where before it was mostly fluff, the story has actually evolved to a parallel universe to the ROD The TV and now I wanna know where it will go!
Story – 8
Characters – 8
Art – 8
Yuri – 4
Overall – 8
If the manga series is crafted *half* as well as the TV series, it’ll be great. If not, it’s goofy fun, weird, sometimes sexy fluff with some Yuri implication and space for plenty o’fanfic. ^_^
* – Nishizono Haruhi is the older sister of Anita and Hisa’s classmate, and the author that debuted after Nenene, that we meet several times in the TV series. Remember?
** – I wonder if it means anything that I have *two* Betty Davis references in this review….