Read or Die is a three-episode OVA about the adventures of Yomiko Readman — an eccentric (and very cute) bibliomaniac, part-time substitute teacher, and super-powered agent for the British Library's secret intelligence division. Yomiko (code-named "The Paper" by the British Library) possesses what can best be called elementalpaper powers, which allows her to manipulate paper in practically every way thinkable (e.g. she can stop bullets by holding a notecard in their path). She also has an insatiable addiction to reading, and she feeds it by spending thousands of dollars a week on books. Yomiko is an odd combination of giggling innocent schoolgirl-ish woman (one gets the distinct impression most of the time that her mental age and, er, general level of life experience are those of a twelve-year-old) and stone cold killer.Set in an alternate late 21st-century Earth with rare and mostly hidden superhumans, Read or Die tells of Yomiko's efforts along with a pair of compatriots to oppose a mysterious group of supervillains calling themselves "I-jin" ("Geniuses"). Strangely resembling notable figures from history, the I-jin want (among other things) a book once owned by Beethoven that Yomiko has recently purchased, within which lies the key to an evil plan with world-wide consequences. The result is a globe-trotting rollercoaster ride of action, friendship, betrayal, wild plot twists, and a small leavening of sly humor. Do not miss the highlight of the first episode, an aerial dogfight over the Manhattan skyline between a steam-powered glider and a giant paper airplane, punctuated by Yomiko's plaintive cries of "Please give me back my book!" There are other things not to miss, as well, but even mentioning them would be a spoiler!Originally a book series and then a manga. The OVA follows some of the characterization introduced in the first manga chapters, but then drastically becomes an Alternate Continuity.The first episode (made in the year 2000) clearly shows the World Trade Center in New York, with one scene actually set on the roof of one of the towers; those who have a sensitive disposition about the events of 9/11 may want to avoid it for that reason, but other than that, this is a must-have show. The show's superheroes are far more Western in concept than sentai — atypical for a Japanese production — but the writers and producers are clearly comfortable with the idiom and make it work very well.Read Or Die became quite popular, which led its creators to followed the OVA up with a 26-episode TV series titled ROD the TV (ROD TV or R.O.D. the TV Series in the West), which itself became quite popular. ROD The TV has a separate page; this page is for the OVA.A new manga series began in 2012; "R.O.D. Rehabilitation", set in a Darker and EdgierAlternate Universe, features a different Yomiko who lives in a world where the printed word has been declared obsolete and the few bibliophiles left in said world work to create a rebel city-state.There is a (unfortunately stalled) community project to translate the original novels here.Do Not Confuse WithMate or Die.
Read Or Die contains examples of the following tropes:
Alternate Continuity: The Read Or Die novels, the Read Or Die manga, the Read Or Dream manga, the animated adaptation (consisting of this OVA and ROD the TV) and R.O.D.: Rehabilitation are all separate continuities, but borrow key concepts and characters from each other.
Alternate History: Britannia still rules the waves (at least in the OVA) through the efforts of the British Library, but by the time of the TV series it has decayed and fallen even further than its real-life counterpart. In the OVA Joker has the authority to give orders to the United States military and government. In the TV series the United Kingdom has been expelled from the United Nations and is forced to infiltrate Dokusensha to regain power. Yomiko Readman is amazed to learn this from Joker.
Anime Accent Absence: Yomiko is half-Japanese, half-British, but in the English dub of the OVA, she speaks with an American accent. This is corrected in the dub of ROD the TV, as a different voice actor provides her with an English accent. Meanwhile, her original actress is playing one of the other characters.
Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: Although all of the Ijin are clones, they possess powers and abilities far beyond what the historical figures had done or accomplished. It is hard to tell who exactly the worst offender is.
Beware the Nice Ones: If you are dumb enough to get someone as sweet and kind-hearted as Yomiko-chan mad, you better damn well have your will written — because she is going to kill you with it.
Blessed with Suck: Being a Paper Master goes hand in hand with a crippling case of bibliophilia; Paper Masters have serious problems with money because they both tend to forget about work in favor of reading and are almost irresistibly compelled to purchase new books whenever possible. Furthermore, Paper Masters are prone to forgetting all about essentials, like eating and/or hygiene, in favor of reading.
Bond One-Liner: Nancy, right before clipping Otto Lilienthal's glider:
"Thanks for flying the friendly skies."
Brown Note: Beethoven's "Death Symphony", which causes anyone hearing it to commit suicide.
Maggie got wacko for a short period of time from reading a magic book that brought up suppressed aspects of her personality.
But Not Too Foreign: Yomiko is half-Japanese and half-British, while Wendy Earhart is of Indo-European descent.
Chekhov's Gun: See Kiss of Death, below. Additionally, the single braid left in Yomiko's hair after Nancy leaves. It is more than just a visual reminder of Yomiko's trust in Nancy; the (apparently paper) hair tie holding it in place turns out to be instrumental in her escape from Ikkyu's Drowning Pit.
Eagleland: Flavor Two. Drake might be a dynamic and competent character, but the President and military-at-large never seem to accomplish much of anything (except, impressively, wetting their pants three times in a three-episode series).
Easy Amnesia (Averted Trope): The amnesia comes about through massive head-trauma and prolonged asphyxiation, which realistically leads to brain damage and memory trauma. Her memory loss does seem a bit specific, but at least it comes about in a realistic fashion.
Foreshadowing: There's a blink-and-you-miss-it moment early on when Mr. Joker mentions that I-Jin DNA samples were stolen. One of the names shown in the background is Mata H — or, as we find out, Mata Hari.
Gag Dub: There's one point where Genjo Sanzo chants a Buddhist mantra to make the ocean part in two. You can tell the English voice actor had no idea what to chant and is just muttering gibberish. He even says Klaatu Barada Nikto at one point.
Gratuitous German: Otto Lilienthal manages to butcher the German language quite efficiently with a piss-poor imitation of a German accent and some German words.
Homoerotic Subtext: Yomiko and Nancy form an extremely strong bond over an extremely short time, and there are hints of deeper attraction that is never given time to develop within the OVA. These themes are followed up and developed in the sequel series.
Hot Librarian + Badass Bookworm: Yomiko. Her extreme love of books can get to be a very expensive habit (at one point, she even asks her boss for a cash advance so that she can purchase more books), but the British Library still regards her as one of the best in her field. When her voice actress was replaced for the dub, her accent suddenly became British. And yes, it made her even hotter.
Nancy Makuhari disguised herself as a librarian, when she first met Yomiko, getting the same book.
Ill Girl: Faye loved books, but went blind and couldn't read them anymore. When she started to make paper planes out of them, Maggie came to her room and started to read books to Faye to remind her of her love for them. She gets better.
Improbable Weapon User: Beyond the whole Paper Master schtick, there's also some strange weapons in the manga, such as giant matches and giant triangles (the mathematical tool.)
Intangible Man: Nancy has the ability to phase her body through just about anything: walls, doors, machinery...flesh and blood...
Kiss of Death: Sort of. Nancy gives a (delayed activation) Kiss Of Unconsciousness to Yomiko.
Large Ham: Otto Lilienthal's English dub actor sounds like he's having a lot of fun. "YOU CANNOT KILL ZE VIND VIF BULLETS!"
Latex Perfection: According to the manga, it is possible for a Paper Master to do this with paper. One did it over his entire body, fooling Yomiko into thinking he was her deceased lover and successfully seduced her.
Not Quite Dead: Drake and the team think they took out Genjo Sanzo with a land-based torpedo, but Genjo manages to avoid getting blown to smithereens by using Goku's staff to elevate himself into the clouds.
Oh Crap: Otto gets a pretty big one when he realises just who he's going up against.
The Other Darrin: The dub for the TV series recast all the characters from the OVA, which was not too jarring for the most part, except that Yomiko went from having a very American accent to having a very British accent. Plus Jason Lee had been awesome as the forever-put-upon Drake.
The opening credits as a whole are an obvious tribute to the James Bond opening sequences, complete with Lalo Schriffin inspired swing-band musical score and Sexy Silhouette shots. Yomiko even does her own silhouettes — and she makes them look good.
Trap Is the Only Option: In OAV, one clear path into the I-Jin fortress suddenly becomes apparent. Joker instructs his team to take that path, stating that while it is obviously a trap, he has a few tricks of his own to play.
You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: The "good" Nancy is deemed expendable by Ikkyu after she has delivered Yomiko to his clutches, and he feels that she has become too soft as well. He has the "evil" Nancy kill her and drop her into the ocean. She gets better.
Vomit Discretion Shot: In Read or Dream, when the carsick child writer Hisami fell accidentally fell on Anita and puked her in the face.
Who Would Want to Watch Us?: Invoked by Maggie, after a starving little girl they picked up from the streets chugged a bucketful of salt water as fuel and revealed herself as the judge of the world and judged the world to be destroyed due to human punk-assery.
You, Get Me Coffee: Well, tea, actually, as Joker asks Wendy at the end of episode 2. She is glad to do so, and despite everyone else being ready to go, Joker does not start the operation until Wendy serves the tea.