Yuri Manga: R.O.D – Read or Die, Volume 1

April 10th, 2006

In an effort to enrage more people with opinions that are not theirs, I *promise* to review some new season anime from tomorrow on. However, today, I thought it might be nice if I got a break and let guest reviewer Sean Gaffney enrage a few people instead. Thanks again to Sean for his opinions which are not yours (or, frequently, mine.) :-)


R.O.D. – Read Or Die, Volume 1

I’ll take ‘Die’ for 500 please, Alex.

The Read Or Die OAVs, when they first came out, were a favorite of mine. Yomiko was scatterbrained and likeable, Nancy was beautiful, appealing, and tragic, Joker was cool yet detached and mysterious, and Wendy fell over a lot. Also, the story worked well and made sense. And Yomiko was a very likeable superhero.

Then there was Read or Die the TV. This introduced a grumpy writer friend of Yomiko’s, Nenene, as well as three other Paper Masters. Yomiko was the missing bit around which the first half of the series revolved. I fell in love with Nenene from the start. The Paper Sisters were all emotional cripples and freaks, but were also
likeable and sympathetic. Joker and Wendy had changed the most, and were essentially the villains of the piece, but even so I didn’t really mind as much. And when Yomiko and Nancy returned, things got even more complex. Yomiko wasn’t as shiny this time around, and she was far more practical and realistic. But she was still, despite it all, a likeable and sympathetic superhero, who in this series played a support role for the Three Sisters who starred.

I haven’t read the novels, so don’t really know what they’re like. If they’re like most anime novels, though, I imagine they’re written first person from Yomiko’s point of view, so I can imagine that, while they draw from the same plotlines as the manga, Yomiko has to be sympathetic purely based on the popularity of the series and the POV.

Then there’s the manga. This first one is basically an adaptation of the first novel, and contains the first meeting of Yomiko and Nenene.

Let’s get the good out of the way first. It’s hard to ruin Nenene, and she’s clearly the highlight of this story. Grumpy yet still energetically teenage, she is easily recognizable to those who know her older self from the TV series. She’s a good likeable audience identification character in amongst all these superheroes and supervillains.

OK, that’s it for the good. Let’s talk Yomiko now. I notice that the artist seems to enjoy drawing faces that are laughing maniacally, sneering insipidly, or just otherwise insane. Which is good, as this Yomiko seems genuinely unbalanced. This is not necessarily a bad idea. The TV series carried its flawed heroines off wonderfully, and I include Yomiko in there. There’s nothing wrong with a tragic/messed up backstory driving you, nor is it wrong to emphasize Yomiko’s book obsession.

But you’ve got to make her REMOTELY likeable! Come on! The Yomiko of the manga (clearly less experienced than the anime versions we know), is a headcase. She reads like a person who is a Bookevangelist, and like Jerry Falwell, it comes out creepy. She’s at her best in this first volume, working well in the conversations with Nenene, and the bit about her not taking her glasses off was one of the few really good pieces of writing in the volume.

I think another big problem is subtleties. The anime were both rather oblique in the way they handled characterization, especially in their plot revelations. The manga is as subtle as a hammer to the head. Plot points are shouted at the top of their lungs. “Did you know I can do this! Because I can! Now watch!”

Any other good news? Yes. This is the best of the four volumes. It’s still readable, if not likeable. There are occasional good bits. The ending is rather sweet.

But man, if you want your Yomiko fix, stick to the TV screen. And I say this as a huge Nenene fan. Yomiko’s a freak here, but not a fun one.

–SG

This is Erica, once again wth a note for Sean, really. I have a few of the ROD novels and for the one I picked up and started to read, the beginning was from the point of view of a completely, hopelessly insane villainess. I loved her instantly. I don’t know if the rest of the novel was from her POV, but we can both keep our fingers crossed. LOL When I complete the Marimite novels, the ROD novels are next up.

Let me also remind you that if you *do* desire to picke up a copy of R.O.D. Volume 1, you can simply click the picture or the link above and you’ll be instantly transported to the Amazon page. This goes for almost all the manga and anime I review here that’s available through Amazon or Amazon JP.

Thank you once again, Sean, for giving me the night off!

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3 Responses

  1. Reka says:

    I agree with that, somewhat. Except that I strongly identified with Yumiko, so I really had no issues. She was a little over-the-top, but most characters are. Over-the-top versions of real people, I mean. I’m an absent-minded bookworm, and I identify with other absent-minded bookworms.
    … I suppose that negates the entire problem, doesn’t it?

  2. I mostly disliked how clumsy and tedious the manga version of Yomiko is. In this first volume, she has a few likeable characteristics, but I agree with Sean, they disappear as the series goes on.

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