Most ROD fans are familiar with the anime – the OVA and the later R.O.D. the TV series. Fewer have read the two manga series, R.O.D. and Read or Dream. Each of these occupies a slightly different version of the ROD-verse, which the TV series neatly tied together in a strange, but amazingly satisfying package. Amazingly, because we end the series with many unanswered questions…but it’s perfectly all right that they remain unanswered.
Well, I had one question that I was NOT all right with not having the answer to. “What happened in the novels?” was an itch I couldn’t scratch any other way than by reading them. I obtained the entire series in pieces some years ago and there they sat on my shelves, visibly taunting me with their bright yellow spines. Hah hah, they seemed to say, you have no idea what happens inside us – and the pictures don’t help at *all*! Hah!
So, at last I have finally read the first light novel of the R.O.D. series.
The book begins with a really creepy scene as Joker confronts a book thief and Yomiko is introduced in the skankiest way possible, practically orgasming as she “confirms” a book’s provenance. Then a fight breaks out and it is revealed that she has super strange skills with paper.
Immediately, the book takes a right turn into a plot that you will basically recognize as the plot from the first volume of the R.O.D manga. Yomiko arrives at a school to become a teacher in order to meet and save genius teenage author Sumiregawa Nenene. The bad henchguy is different – where the manga has a fire wielder, the book has a guy called Scissorhands (because of his…you got it, right?) who had previously battled the former The Paper, Yomiko’s deceased mentor and lover Donny Nakajima. Yes, they were lovers.
Crazed fan “Paul S.,” who kidnaps Nenene, is all the same as in the manga. With extra creepy nuttiness thrown in for good measure.
Here’s the key differences – Nenene doesn’t kiss Yomiko upon meeting her, although she is still writing a different novel with each hand. There is way more actual violence in the novel, because Scissorhands cuts limbs off people.
When Nenene and Yomiko spend one quiet night together, there is a real sense of them actually thinking they might like one another, until the next morning Scissorhands blows it all to pieces. However, when Yomiko arrives to rescue Nenene, she actually does confess her love for the girl. We know this is what she meant by “Suki” because the narrator helpfully tells us so. “After this confession of love,” the books says….
Most importantly, the ending of the book makes it VERY, VERY, VERY clear that the emotion goes both ways. So if you weren’t really quite sure about Nenene and Yomiko the answer is – yes, they like one another.
Here’s the other thing of note that the anime leaves a little gray. In this version, Yomiko did definitely kill Donny, in order, she says, to become The Paper. As she so succinctly puts it, “He chose me over books – I chose books over him.”
Having finally read this thing I find myself liking Yomiko more than I ever have. She is very disturbed, that is clear. Her bibliomania is an advanced Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, yes. But despite the first chapter, once she meets Nenene, she becomes instantly sweeter, more human and more sympathetic. By the end, when Nenene finds and reads Yomiko’s farewell letter to her, I found myself saying “awwww.” Because it was a really sweet letter.
And, at the end of the book, when Nenene follows Yomiko to England, because she can’t get Yomiko – not The Paper, but the woman behind the title – out of her mind, I finished the book with a big ass grin on my face.
Definitely, positively not High Art. It’s full of service and the art really focuses on the insanity of the characters, as it does in the manga. But now I know what happened and I finally really like Yomiko. I just like her better with Nenene than without her. ^_^
Art – 4
Story – starts at 4 but ends at 8
Characters – same
Yuri – 5
Service – 5
Overall – If I had stopped halfway, 5, but by the end, 8
I liked the end so much that I immediately pulled the next one down and stuck it on the pile of “things to read.” But today my order from Japan came in (a mere 34 hours after I placed it…) and so now it will probably be another 5 years until I get to it. ^_^