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First of all, what kind of title is that? I read somewhere that it was supposed to be Read or Dream at first then they changed it to Read or Die and to mask the change just wrote the abbreviation. It's a series about heroines with superpowers – original isn't it? But the superpowers element is handled superbly – the series is neither a boring sequence of battles against ever stronger enemies, nor was it all angst along the lines of "Should I use my superpowers or not? Ah, what am I going to do with my life!".

Furthermore, the series offers a lot of eye-candy and manages to combine well character and plot development. And that's exactly the problem – great potential which creates great expectations which in turn are never fulfilled.

The story revolves about the so called "Paper Sisters" – three girls who have the ability to do almost everything with paper – to make it harder than steel, to create a giant familiar or even a paper aeroplane. After thwarting an attempt to kill the Japapanese writer Nenene Sumiregawa they are hired as her bodyguards. Later on, they and some returning characters from the Read or Die OVA will have to save the world – original, isn't it?

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The plot has enough twists and turns to keep you interested but it does also have some annoying holes which I will point out in the spoier-full rant in the end of this review. For now let's just say that at one point it has a lot of promise but doesn't meet the expectations fully. Not that this is a rare thing but I had to mention it.

It starts with the three sisters moving to Japan and for a time nothing much happens, the plot concentrates on Anita's school life and a few missions that the sisters have to perform to earn some money. Then we get to the point where the plan to change the world is introduced and as we all know someone must stop that and no one but the main characters can fulfil this role. The events from the three parts Read or Die OVA are important for the understanding of the plot so it would be better to watch it first. But don't expect an action packed series in the style of the OVA.

Let's start the overview of the main characters with Anita. She is just 13 years old, rather obnoxious at times, so "genki" that she even could overshadow Arika from Mai-Otome and has superpowers. Yet, I couldn't help liking her, she posseses the determination that is lacking in her sisters. And she knows when to stop being an annoying brat (very much unlike Arika, I must say). She has the most screen time of all characters.

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Then we have Michelle, the oldest of the three paper-using sisters. Her problem is that she is just way too nice. She was calm in almost every situation and is just ridiculoulsy optimistic. Notice that these qualities are generally commendable but not when taken to extremes.

Next is Maggie who could easily be mistaken for a boy. She is really tall and shy. Her voice is usualy so low and calm that you could sometimes mistake her for a robot. It's funny that she likes dark cramped spaces. You'd expect tall people to hate places they have difficulties getting in, let alone stretching their body.:) Just like Michelle she loves books and their apartment is filled with books to the roof, literally. I forgot to mention that Anita hates books so she is not happy about that.

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Since R.O.D. seems to have some reputation for shoujo-ai overtones I'd say that Maggie x Michele would be an interesting couple. And no, I not an a fan of incest but then again they are not really sisters (this is something of a spoiler but not exactly a surprising twist since the three girls don't resemble each other at all). The main problem would be Anita, she would probably make their life hell if they even try it…

Nenene does not have any superpowers but she is probably the only character who doesn't have moments when you wish to hit her with something in order to make her realise how stupid she is being. Determined, often sarcastic, often scolding her friends but when needed she was really supportive – great character.

Yomiko and Nancy who were the main characters in the OVA return in the second half of the TV series. Yomiko is interesting but has some sudden bouts of stupidity and has a knack of going into the enemy stronghold, overpowering her opponents and then instead of finishing off the business just talk and talk and wait for her friends to do the job. Nancy was basically hinted to be her lover (when I say hinted, I mean it was quite obvious to me, just not said explicitely) and didn't do much else.

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Junior was annoying and his motivation was very much unfathomable. Joker and Wendy were really cool vilains but their motivation also left a lot to be desired, alas but that's common enough in books and movies.

The action scenes were very well done but quite rare. So many pieces of paper flying, smooth movements of the characters, diverse fighting techiques and ingenuity shown by the paper users and their enemies. The paper users not winning every time was also a good thing.

The animation and artwork are one of the of thе strong points of the series, full of detail, consistent, interesting, distinct settings (London in the end was very impressive, indeed). I am not that fond of the character design, though, the big blushing spots appearing on their cheeks were particularly annoying. The designs are not bad by any means, they just cannot match the quality of the rest of the art, IMHO.

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The music is very much forgettable except for some of the tunes played during the battles but they get repetitive Brilliant voiceacting, though. Maggie's phlegmatic voice is quite memorable indeed, ditto for the hyper-energetic but adorable Anita. And I just cannot imagine Yomiko voiced by someone else, the seyuu has totally nailed all aspects of this controversial personality which switches from annoying to awesome in a second.

Character-interaction was the best thing in this series. Every important character had a distinct, interesting personality and a consistent behaviour. In fact they stuck to their behaviour to a fault – Anita shouted all the time and took everything way too personally, Maggie never raised her voice and so on. Having a well-developed character is a very important requirement for creating scenes that can move the viewers and R.O.D. manages to achieve that – for instance the first meeting of the sisters or flashback showing the destruction of the British Library.

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The great thing about R.O.D. is that it manages to develop well both the characters and the plot, although the first half of the series seems too episodic and has almost no overall plot to speak of. It never loses track of the human factor and while it can be accused of having more than its fair share of angst, considering the situation the characters were in, I'd say the strong emotions were justified. But if you are going to watch it just because of the action scenes, you might end up being rather disappointed by their rarity. And of course, being quite a bibliomaniac myself, I can only aplaud animе about people who love reading so much.

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The series also has its fair share of hilarious moments mostly created by the conflict between Michelle and Maggie's total book obsession and Anita's hatred of books. Nenene's blunt character also came into conflict with their daydreaming and the results were often comical.

All in all a very enjoyable series but it has the potential to be really great…

Something of a rant about the ending and the whole plot follows, I'd recommend to skip it if you intend to watch this series.

 

SPOILERS!

 

 

The "I am going to change the world" plan was not exactly thrilling (although it was rather chilling). Following people with satellites and tracking devices often manages to freak me out, I hate the idea of someone having the potential to find whoever he wants, whenever he wants. It was never explained who the hell Mr Gentleman was and why he was so much more powerful than everybody else on the planet. I find it quite unbelievable that Joker would have found so many supporters of his plans. And why did he need Nenene that much if he had all these great authors at his disposal? Seems like the writers chaged their intentions in the end.

And what an overly happy ending that was! I love Anita but I actualy think it would have been better if she had died…or at least someone had died. The icing on the cake were the three sisters laughing after defeating the final boss, so to speak – so cheerful as if they were in their beds, not in the enemy stronghold. The number of chances that Joker and his minions had to kill some of the good guys (in this case mostly good girls) were staggering, the same goes for the number of chances they had to kill him or to decisively thwart his evil plans. It was a bit like -"You know, I really should kill you but we are only at episode 20 so I won't". Sure, most series have to deal with the same problem but often the survivals of the heroes and villains are a lot more plausible than in R.O.D The TV.

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Yomiko was so pissed at Joker and gang that she burned the whole British Library and yet she couldn't bring herself to harm him when he was on the brink of radically changing the world in the end. Yeah, very consistent behaviour indeed… Joker's claim that his followers were going to start everything anew was the lamest excuse I have heard since watching Mai-Otome. As if all the world leaders would fall for their tricks again or his followers wouldn't be bothered if our heroined killed Joker and Wendy and destroyed all the equipment. I couldn't help but see Junior's inexplicable changes of motivation as a contrivance to increase the number of episodes and create tense situation.

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