They got it right for the TV series. R.O.D TV is everything that Read or Die the OVA hoped to be. It's epic, it's got a great cast of very detailed and flushed out characters, it's got some twists and turns that would make Space Mountain proud, and it's really really fun. Not that Read or Die didn't get some of those points right. I mean, it was fun, it had some great action... but plot and characters were sacrificed for a quick buck. Never a good thing.
Read or Dream (to be refered to as R.O.D TV for the rest of this review) has a lot more characters to work with, a much bigger and more involving story, and most importantly it makes the Read or Die OVA a better series by explaining all of the hubbub that was going on in that short little order, and by making it directly responsible for the events that take place in the new series. Got that? Understando? See, my main gripe with the original OVA was the fact that the bad guys just seemed to be bad for no real reason. Yeah, it was cool to see their super powers in action against the British Library agents, but there was nothing solid there for the action to fall back on. R.O.D TV takes the whole OVA story, and makes you see WHY it happened, and HOW it is incredibly relevant to the new events that are now taking place. Think of it this way. Say you just watched Debbie Does Dallas. You're entertained (who wouldn't be?). But you thought the whole thing was kind of thin. You wondered WHY Debbie actually did do Dallas. You wonder what drove her to it and why it had to be Dallas she did in the first place. But then, let's say, a sequel was made. Let's say that Debbie Does America is produced. It's bigger, it's got more of what you loved about Dallas in it, and it actually tells you Debbie's backstory and the reason that she felt that she had to do Dallas in the first place, but then realized that Dallas just wasn't enough! No, now Debbie had to do ALL OF AMERICA. See? That's kind of what R.O.D TV is to the OVA. Bigger, more of the good stuff and explanations.
Let me reeeeeewind a bit. R.O.D TV takes place some years after the OVA took place. Nenene (Yomiko Readman's best friend [the person who left all the money and sticky-notes all over Yomiko's apartment in the first OVA episode]) is looking for "The Paper" (aka Yomiko), as it seems she's disappeared without a trace five years before. Since then, Nenene's been in kind of a funk and hasn't been able to write anything since the loss of her pal (Nenene being a famous author and all, this is a bad bad thing). Nenene's editor is very concerned for her and sets her up with three new paper users (the Paper Sisters: oldest blonde Michelle, tall and quiet Maggie, and pink-haired Anita) as bodyguards for her as she visits Hong Kong for a book signing. Well, shit goes South fast and the tres hermanas save Nenene's butt several times in a row. Thereafter they move in with the author in her Japanese apartment, and quickly make themselves at home. For a while they try to get used to their new lives (Michelle and Maggie go on book-buying sprees seeing as they're just as book-crazy as Yomiko was, and Anita starts going to school and making new friends, one of whom is the mysterious, blue-haired Junior), while still accepting special "retrieval" jobs from their old bosses in Hong Kong, who run the organization known as Dokusensha. It's these missions that keep the feel and the action of the original OVAs flowing into R.O.D TV for the first half of its lifespan. Soon though, bigger and badder things are revealed to be going on behind the scenes. It seems that Joker and Wendy are still alive and not pleased at all with the swan dive that the British Empire has taken in the last half-decade. But is Joker a bad guy? What does Junior have to do with any of this? Are the Paper Sisters related to Yomiko? Why the shit are "paper powers" popping out of the woodwork all of a sudden? What does that pigeon, John Woo, have to do with anything and everything? Just what the hell happened to Yomiko's old boyfriend, Donny? Will Nancy ever remember the bad shit she did in her former life? Will we ever get to see Drake's daughter? Is all the crap that's happening really what the Gentleman would have wanted? Why the fuckadoodle do the Japanese get such a kick out of watching a US President pee his pants all the time? Will the British Library's plans really be as beneficial as Joker hopes they'll be? And what does that wolf at the end of episode 26 do to Joker? Seriously, that was just weird.
Lots of questions there. And, for the most part, R.O.D. TV provides lots of answers... But unfortunately it doesn't provide us with all of them. The show starts with a bang, slows down a bit for some much needed people development, picks up the pace with a great middle and then never slows down until the finale. The trip is long and very twisty turny. There are so many cliffhangers peppered throughout, and so many revelations that I began to think that the R.O.D people finally made their wish come true and were able to produce a "new Giant Robo" of their very own. But the best part about Robo (i.e. the ending), turned out to be the weakest thing about R.O.D TV. R.O.D TV rocketed to the 26th episode on a Tokyo bullet train (hypothetically of course since the finale takes place in London), but then it sputtered. It lost its momentum in the last 20 minutes and kind of forgot what the whole crazy trip was about. Even the original OVA Read or Die had a really strong ending (sacrifices everywhere and yet hope for redemption), but R.O.D TV just forgot what it was trying to say. I actually might get kind of spoilerific here, so skip to the next parragraph if you want to go in blind..... Ready? I was most disappointed that there was no heroic sacrifice in the TV series. At several points it looked like there might be some (like the tease of Junior's condition and Anita's blackout), but sadly not even the bad guys suffered much in the end. Yeah, their goals were shot to hell, but it seems like they were allowed to go free with no major repurcussions. In other words, the end kind of fizzled like an open bottle of Coke slowly losing it's carbonation in the fridge.
End of spoilers.
But, despite that, R.O.D. TV has plenty more good stuff to make up for the ending. It has pretty good animation (which the animators actually drastically improved from the TV broadcast version for the DVD release), nice, jazzy muzak, and a mysterious overall mood that served it well without being overly mysterious (like, they laid out a giant puzzle of a naked woman, but kept feeding you the finished picture piece by piece, just enough to keep you hanging on, but not enough to blow all of the surprises at once. Like part of a breast, then some leg, and OH, a nipple!, then an eye, etc.). Plus we got to see Nancy in full Ms. Deep bodysuit again. That made up for a lot. But, I must say, overall I truly liked what I saw. R.O.D TV made up for its predesecor, and kicked some pretty good global ass all its own. And any show that has a pink-haired schoolgirl jumping all around a fully armed SWAT team like a crack monkey, while slicing them all up with a single sheet of razor paper is alright by me. Little monkey girls are awesome.
Okay, holmes, I think I get it now. I kinda gets the whole idea of these freaky paper chicks and all that cuttin' they's be doin' what with the magic paper they's gots... But that don't mean that I now has a hankerin' for library chicks or nothin' now. Well, 'cept fo that one bizatch at the county book farm where me and Jamiqwa was gettin' it on like two weasels in the moment, see. That chick was all about the peepin'. See, Jamiqwa and me wuz gettin' the freak on in the Ren-no-sance booky section when alla sudden this pouty library girly turns the corner wid a book cart and all. I wuz too busy tryin' ta pull Jamiq's panties off the long way so I's couldn't tell the mousy biyatch to either go away or pay me for da show, and Jamiq was all just about goin' "Oh baby! You KNOW dat direkshon ain't gonna work" and shit so she din' even see the chick. But after I gave up on J's panties and just started humpin' her leg (hey, ho, that still fuckin' counts!) I kinda got inta the fact that we wuz bein' watched by some stranger. That really turned me on, G... Too bad it just turned out to be Candy, my old blow-up doll that the Rossman propped up against the book cart to watch me do it wid Jamiq. I... I never felt dirtier...
This was an odd little show. Pretty mindless and all up until that whole Fahrenheit 451 reference kicked in. That was kind of.... out there. Then the global mind-melding device to let some old dead guy control the minds of everyone in the world?... Seriously, what the heck?
I'm all for strange goings on in visual media and stuff, but when the collapse of one building blew up all of Hong Kong I think I got a little confused. And was that pigeon smarter than most of the human characters? And after that Dojinshi Organization was finished, well, what happened to them? I could have sworn that they were going to show up again in the end and throw a literary monkeywrench in Joker's plans. Honestly, that probably would have been a better ending than what we were given. It just didn't have enough "umph!" It could have used some more "BAM!" too, you know?