Archive for the R.O.D. Category


ROD The TV Anime Rewatch (English)

May 5th, 2017

12 years have gone by since I last cracked open ROD The TV. Wow.

I had so much fun with the Girls with Guns Trilogy rewatch and wanted something else epic (but not tear jerking) to revisit, so the 7-volume box set of the Aniplex anime based in, around and on the READ OR DIE light novels and manga and READ OR DREAM manga series seemed like a perfect fit.  And it was. (For all the anime, manga and book reviews check out the R.O.D Category here.)

Three Chinese Paper Users are hired to protect Japanese author Sumiregawa Nenene. They save her from an attempt on her life, and come to Japan to stay with her. Nenene has been in a slump since her friend and inspiration, Paper Master Yomiko Readman, has disappeared.   Nenene, Maggie, Michelle and Anita are drawn into a plot that is meant to literally reshape the world, lead by Yomiko’s former boss at the British Library, Joker.  

The story turned out to be atrociously timed. As the United States is slipping more quickly than we could have imagined into a not-Democracy, with the assistance of Putin who would love to recreate the Soviet Union as the world leader, watching a story about Joker remaking the world in a former age’s image was hitting way too close to home. I was not series-angry with Joker’s stupid pretension of world peace, I was actually really angry. So that wasn’t so good.

But the story hangs together in ways that I could not have expected and the lessons I came out of the whole thing clutching at were these: In the penultimate episode Yomiko says of Joker “I have to make him give up or he’ll just keep trying again.” This is a lesson for the resistance to any repressive regime. We need to make them give up. And so we will.  It took 12 years and entire world to overthrow Hitler. My calendar is clear through 2028. We’ll get rid of these fascists, too.

Also, there is an important life lesson in the arc in which Joker “reveals” to the three Paper Sisters what the “truth” of their existence is. I use quotes because 1) ultimately it doesn’t matter, as they discover, that they were created and their memories seeded. Their feelings are real, even if the events are not and 2) why would anyone ever believe Joker in the first place? People who gaslight aren’t trustworthy. We’ll trust in our bonds, no matter what they say about us, that our marriages aren’t real, or our lives aren’t worthy. We’re going to tell our stories every day and not let the gaslighters get the final word. 

So plot and character wise, this series hold up really well. But animation-wise? Peee-yeeww. I remember vividly  when this ran on TV, fan complaints about the shitty animation and Aniplex promising that they’d do clean up for the DVD release. Well, they did, but not much and not really well. The first half is still really shitty, up to, including and past the linchpin moment when Nenene finds Yomiko in the stacks at the Diet. The animation is distractingly awful in many places. So awful that when it’s good, it’s distractingly good. “Oh! Look it’s not bad!” you exclaim and then “Oh, it’s bad again.” Over and over. This is not good for an anime series that is otherwise deep and complex and nuanced and needs your full attention to follow it all.

That said, the story is so good that, craptastic animation and all, it’s still worth watching for a definitive “history” of all the Read or Die timelines and a plot that ties them all up in a way that not only works, but provides satisfactory ends for everyone…even the bad guys, but especially the good guys.

Ratings:

Art – 3 Godfuckingawful
Story – 10
Characters – 10
Yuri – There’s a whole lot or none, depending on how you want to see it. I say 9
Service – 5 Boob mechanics are just the most pathetic thing ever,

Overall – 10, possibly 100

It’s still an amazing story. I just wish it had gotten the animation it deserved.

 

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Yuri Anime: R.O.D. – Read or Die

February 19th, 2017

How surprised am I to find I have never reviewed R.O.D. – Read or Die here? Very surprised. Although, in retrospect, I guess it’s not all that surprising, as it was released on DVD here in the US in 2003 (by Manga Entertainment! Wow, that was a long time ago) and we were talking more about anime on the Yuricon Mailing List than here on Okazu back then. When I pulled the DVD off the shelf, I found it had a little blue sticker on it, which denoted the fact that we had shown it at Yuricon in June 2003. ^_^ 

Friday I had a visit from one of our Superheroes, Alice D, and, while we were chatting, playing phone games, eating cookies and watching stuff, I decided to start my next epic rewatch, this time of the R.O.D. series (plural.)

And so I am watching R.O.D. – Read or Die for the first time in more than a decade.  And in that decade, I read all the novels, both the R.O.D. and Read or Dream manga series and watched the R.O.D. The TV series, so my perspective is somewhat different than it was back in those heady days of the early 2000s. Check out my reviews here on Okazu, from 2003-to 2014 when I finished the last novel that existed at the time. We’re supposed to get the final novel in the next year. If I were Kurata, I know exactly how I’d end it, too.

R.O.D – Read or Die, introduces us to bibliomaniac Yomiko Readman, AKA “The Paper” a secret agent for the British Library. While cloned geniuses from the past are engaged in an effort to destroy everyone in the world, special agents from British Library, The Paper and Miss Deep are hard at work, protecting humanity from a plan to make us all listen to Beethoven’s “Suicide Symphony.”

This 3- episode OVA is action-packed. From the first moment we see Yomiko use her paper powers to the last, we have to marvel at the creativity of the animators. This is especially true for the fight scenes, in which Yomiko’s obsessive bibliomania and skill with paper each serve an important place in the narrative.

The most interesting quality of the animation is the color palette, in which green and purple feature significantly in and around a London background. The animation itself does not hold up all that well to be watched at higher-res than existed when Studio Deen first did the work. If I have a specific criticism of Studio Deen it is that – their animation rarely seems to wear well with the passage of time.

Of course I asked myself as I hit the play button, “Are Nancy and Yomiko actually into each other?” I mean, it’s been 15 years since we first watched it. Maybe we made that up in our heads!

As we wrapped up, Alice and I agreed that no, we really didn’t make that up. There was a very definite chemistry between Nancy and Yomiko and no amount of rationalization was making that disappear. Yomiko makes Nancy question her affection for the leader of the I-jin, Nancy makes Yomiko see another person the same way she had only ever looked at books. Or so we thought.

Because of course, Yomiko already has a lover, although we in the OVA audience don’t know that. And that lover is already gone from her life, although we don’t know that, either. And soon she will be asked to guard a young novelist and her feelings will be unguarded once again. (Correction: This series is post- Nenene, as I missed the content of the notes in Yomiko’s apartment, thanks Sean, Matt and Shannon for the correction. I was chatting with Alice and the notes were subtitled in black so I missed them completely.) And then the world will explode and everything we thought we knew about Yomiko Readman will be rewritten. 

Ratings:

Art – 5 /cough/Not so good/cough/
Story – 9 Really everything you could ask for from a fantasy-action series, although I could do with less boob movement. Bras work, guys.
Characters – 9 This was the Yomiko we all fell for, not the creepy obsessive of the novels
Yuri – 6 Yup. Definitely. Not our imagination.
Service – 4 Breasts that act as if bras and gravity do not exist.

Overall – 8

It was great fun to re-watch this after so long. More well-written than I remembered, less well-animated than I remembered, and definitely Yuri. ^_^

Special thanks to Okazu Superheroes Alice and Louis, who were both loads of fun for me this weekend!

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Light Novel: R.O.D., Volume 11

October 2nd, 2014

rodln11Exactly 5 years ago today I posted a review of the first R.O.D. Light Novel. Here I am 5 years later, reviewing the last volume of this never-to-be-finished series.

As we begin R.O.D. – Read Or Die, Volume 11, Yomiko is trekking across China with Ou-En; his boss, the head of Dokusensha, the deathless immortal known as China; her bodyguards the Five Sisters. They have been deserted by the deathless immortal Faust and are  being chased by deathless immortal Gentleman.

Joker is protecting the Queen, who is a deathless immortal, from…threats. Drake and his team are joined by Nancy (whether they want her or not) in the hunt for Yomiko.

Nenene and Wendy are in India, meeting a friend of Wendy’s, named Shark, an occult enthusiast, who is going to get them across the Himalayas into China to find Yomiko.

Bets on which of these plots gets wrapped up by the end of the book?

More interestingly, a good chunk of the book is taken up with a flashback look at how Yomiko became The Paper. Donny fails to carry out a mission as The Paper, and tells Joker that he’s just not into it anymore. Yomiko is known to the members of the British Library Special Division from a party  some years ago. Upon watching a video recording of the night that Yomiko and Donny danced in the Library (from Volume 9,) Joker realizes that Yomiko also has paper-user skills. He tells Donny to bring her in, where she interviews for a staff position. After an interview in which she vehemently states her love for books, she is accepted. She and Donny are assigned to serve the rest of the team their afternoon tea. (She and Donny drink Lapsang Souchong, if you care. I do.) Six month pass and Joker relents on his punishment. He reinstates Donny as The Paper, and assigns Yomiko to him as support and a protege. Joker discovers that his assistant Marianne is a traitor and has to capture her, (presumably opening up the position for Wendy when/if she returns.)

We have one last glimpse of Yomiko, flying on a paper airplane of her own making, across the Chinese landscape, vowing to resolve the whole situation peacefully, Gentleman be damned. It’s all about the love of books. Read. Or Die.

In the final scene we indulge in one last flashback. We see Donny entering his apartment where Yomiko sleeps peacefully (and naked, we are assured) in his bed. So we know for reals that they were lovers.

“To Be Continued” the last page assures us. It lies.

Well, that was fun.

It was an interesting exercise to read this book knowing in advance that nothing at all would resolve. But probably only because I know that ROD The TV exists and rewrote the entire story so it made sense. It vaguely amuses me that this book was published in 2006 and in all those years, Kurata Hideyuki had energy to work on Read or Dream, the ROD manga, the Read or Dream manga, ROD the TV and R.O.D. Rehabilitation.(all of which have been reviewed here in the R.O.D and Read or Dream categories)..but not the final novel of this series. I sympathize, but dude, you spent two whole novels digressing, you could have just finished it!

Ratings:

Art – Never any pictures of the good scenes
Story – 5 Exposition and setup for a climax that never comes.
Characters – 7 They deserved (and eventually got) better
Yuri – 0
Service – 4 A few scenes were we are are told in detais about torn clothing and nakedness. And Nancy.

Overall – This book, had it been the first of a two-part finish would have been a 7.

The series overall is still an 8, a score that rests solely on the broad shoulders of ROD The TV.

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R.O.D. Official Archive Artbook (English)

June 21st, 2013

When Udon announced the R.O.D. Official Archive, I thought “Cool!” Then I thought, “Wait, you mean the cover art and the pencil board art? Ewwwww….”

Well, I went ahead and bought it anyway, (even though Udon offered to send me a PDF review copy, thanks folks) and I’m glad I did.

The images run the gamut – promotional art and cover images from Read or Die, the original OVA, the manga, the novels and even more from Read or Dream, the manga and the anime. A lot of the images would have been Newtype and other magazine stills, poster art, postcard art and, yeah, those super-skanky pencil boards from the anime. ^_^;

Taken as a whole, there is more good art than bad.  The middle of the book contains detailed character profiles and histories, setting and random other designs, like Maggie’s creatures.

But wait! There’s more! What makes this book a very cool thing to have is episode-by-episode synopses and insight to motivations and plot complications, by the staff. For that alone, the book is worth a look. I found myself totally lost in the episode section poring over the bit in ROD The TV where we plumb Yomiko’s memories. I wanted to know if my interpretation of what happened had any relationship to what actually happened. ^_^

Not a must-have, but if you’re a big-‘F’ Fan of the series, you’ll probably want to have this.

Ratings:

Overall – 8

A fun collection of ephemera from a series that was way better than it had any right to be. ^_^

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Light Novel: R.O.D. Volume 10

March 24th, 2013

I just don’t even…I…don’t…know what…/shakes head/

In R.O.D., Volume 10, Yomiko is sent by Joker to a fancy girl’s school to…something. She’s enrolled as a student, the main point of which is to get her in a school uniform. I gather this because it is mentioned about 8750 times that she is wearing a school uniform. At the school she finds a veritable book heaven. Books are everywhere, *all* the clubs are about reading and writing. Her roommate Kaku Izumi’s name refers to writing, as Yomiko’s does to reading. They become best friends.

There are a few disturbing things about the school – all the teachers are named Haga and they look identical. And while books are revered, romance novels, light novels and other light reading are forbidden. This means there are no books by Sumiregawa Nenene in the school. Heaven turns to hell instantly for Yomiko. But Izumi has one of Nenene’s books in their room. Phew!

Yomiko learns of the “Read Fight,” during which two girls read a book and are quizzed on small points of detail until one fails to answer correctly. Yomiko dominates Read Fight, utterly destroying the barely-in-existence-sanity of the champion, Mitsusei Utsuo. Mitsusei is also the chief dog and enforcer of the Student Council President, Kuniya Kino-sama, thus making their names two of the most tortured puns ever. (Kino Kuniya is easy enough to figure out, if you’re familiar with the Japanese bookstore chain Kinokuniya. Remembering that “mitsu” can also be read “san” and the character used for “Utsuo” is also “do”, instead of Mitsusei Utsuo, one gets Sanseido, another large Japanese bookstore chain.)

Kino-sama as Student Council president is beautiful, charismatic (we are repeatedly told) and prone to vomiting up blood.

With Izumi’s backing (who turns out to have a secret – she was the former Vice President) Yomiko runs for Council President and, after corruption in the count is uncovered, wins. As President, Yomiko gets the key to the secret book room, fights off multiple Haga-senseis and retrieves whatever Joker sent her there for. The end.

Aside from clone teachers and a Student Council President that vomited up blood, what made this volume particularly hard to read was the intrusive presence of the author, who not only made aside comments to us, and talked at Yomiko within the narration, he actually inserts himself randomly in two places. The first is an utterly pathetic aside in which he tells us he’s at Anime Expo 2004 in his room working, watching girls playing volleyball outside his window. Later there is a second scene in which he gets a text message on his phone.

These, and oh, the fact that two volumes ago the story was left hanging, unresolved, made this a particularly irksome read. ^_^

Ratings:

Art – 4 I think it’s getting worse
Story – 7 It might have been okay as the second book of the series.
Characters – 7
Yuri – 0
Service – Other than the frenetic repetition of “Yomiko in school uniform!” – 1

Overall – I can’t even….

Do you remember the Monty Python album named Contractual Obligation? This book had that title written all over it.

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