Movie: I have a confession to make. I like books. It doesn't matter if they're science fiction/fantasy, science fact, non-fiction, humor or whatever, I just really like to read. Like most such people, I never find enough time to do it (there was a great episode of the Twilight Zone with Burgess Meredith "Time Enough at Last" that details such a character) and I have heaps of books (as well as dvds to review) scattered about my apt. When I heard about a 3 part OVA, Read Or Die (ROD), based on a person with a similar love for books, how could I resist getting it?
The show started off by showing a guy who blows apart the White House in Washington D.C. with lightning bolts that come out of a device on his back, thinking it was the Library of Congress. He's searching for something but no detailed were provided. We then go to the room of a gal who obviously loves books. They're all over her apt and she spends all her money on them-enough that she has her picture posted in the bookstores as a heroine-as much as I do dvds. She comes across a rare book by Beethoven and after a small fight for it, finds herself in the middle of a battle with some crazy super powered, bug controlling guy. That he's riding a large Grasshopper and controls zillions of bee's is the second clue that this is going to be different. The gal is a bit of a geeky looking character (much like the show's creators were in the Q&A session) but obviously has some form of superpower herself. She can control paper, yeah, everyday old paper, on a molecular level to the point she can fly with it, stop bullets, and otherwise use her abilities. She becomes part of a team of agents, including a demolitions/firearms expert and a woman who can walk through walls, in order to fight whomever is threatening the world. In this case, it's a group of cloned historical figures from around the world with weird powers, typically relating to their fields of expertise. Pretty weird stuff but ultimately it was original and a lot of fun.
The anime style was very colorful and detailed in the artistry. The story seemed well written and the characters were not cookie cutter clones (surprisingly given the nature of the villains here) of other anime shows. While the action was similar to many other shows, conceptually at least, it was done in a new, fresh manner that really involved me with what was going on. It also used historical figures in a manner that showed the writer was pretty sharp and inventive. So it succeeded not only as a roller coaster ride but on a thinking man's level too. On a related note, many have pointed out over the years that anime lovers everywhere are, more often than not, a bit on the intelligent if quirky side (ie: we're called geeks by the jocks for example) so having a heroine who loves books with a bit of a demure nature (she isn't a big egocentrical, demanding jerk like so many anime protagonists) is also a plus. For those who like the busty anime gals, the lead's fellow agent, Ms. Deep, has the curves that drive you crazy too. In all, something for everyone done in an original manner with some thought-pretty cool, huh?
Picture: The picture was presented in full frame, 1.33:1 ratio as it was originally designed. It looked very sharp and colorful with no major problems, although at a bit after 24 minutes into the show (and a few other times like during the opening credits for the second volume, near the end), there was a bit of a micro-freeze that didn't appear to be the layer change. Just a slight nuisance in an otherwise great looking picture.
Sound: The sound gave you several choices. You could pick from 2.0
Stereo in Japanese or English or 5.1 Dolby Digital for each language. The English subtitles were removable and quite clear if you choose them. The music score was very appropriate with the right touch and the Japanese 5.1 track also top notch. I actually liked the English dub nearly as much as the slightly better Japanese 5.1 track and some care was put into it. Maybe the score will be released by itself in the future.
Extras: The extras here included a really insightful Q&A session with the Director, Screenwriter, and character designer. It lasted 17.5 minutes and went into several aspects of the show, helping provide details that help understand some of the show. The questions are asked and answered in Japanese but then translated for the audience. I would've preferred subtitles here since the vocal track wasn't always very clear but I made out most of what was said. The next extra was a series of Historical Biographies for the main villains here. Again, this helped fill out a lot of information that the OVA didn't cover. There's a photogallery and original trailer as well as the usual Manga catalog and trailers too.
Final Thoughts: This complete OVA screams out for a follow-up series. The picture and sound were great, the story interesting, and the characters worth watching. The extras were better than most from Manga and I was more than a bit pleasantly surprised at the quality of this one. Manga has apparently been listening to the fans lately and this was the best release I've seen from them-challenging some of the real heavyweights of anime with it's release. I found it to have a lot of replay value too which made me rate this as a strong Highly Recommended (nearly a Collector series rating too). Good job, just work on whatever issue it was that I referred to in the picture category above.