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Anime / Read or Die

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Read or Die is a three-episode OVA set in an alternate late 21st-century Earth with rare and mostly hidden superhumans. The story centres on the adventures of Yomiko Readman, an eccentric yet adorable bibliomaniac who is also a part-time substitute teacher and a super-powered agent for the British Library's secret intelligence division. Codenamed "The Paper" by the British Library, Yomiko possesses elemental paper powers—in other words, she can manipulate paper in practically any way imaginable. She also has an insatiable addiction to reading, which she feeds by spending thousands of pounds a week on books. Due to her work and her quirks, Yomiko is an odd combination of giggling innocent schoolgirl-ish woman—she gives off a distinct impression that her mental age and, er, general level of life experience are those of a twelve-year-old—and stone-cold killer.

The OVA follows Yomiko as she and a pair of fellow agents work to stop a mysterious group of supervillains who call themselves "I-jin" ("Geniuses") and resemble notable figures from history. The I-jin want, amongst 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. This conflict plays out as a globe-trotting rollercoaster ride of action, friendship, betrayal, wild plot twists, and a small leavening of sly humor. The show's superheroes are also far more Western in concept than sentai—atypical for a Japanese production—but the writers and producers make it work, showing a clear level of comfort with the idiom.

Read or Die was originally a book series, then a manga. The OVA follows some of the characterization introduced in the first manga chapters but drastically becomes an Alternate Continuity. When the OVA became a popular success, the creators followed it up with a 26-episode TV series titled R.O.D the TV (ROD TV or R.O.D. the TV Series in the West), which also became a popular success.

A new manga series began in 2012: "R.O.D. Rehabilitation", set in a Darker and Edgier Alternate Universe, features a different Yomiko who lives in a world where the printed word has been declared obsolete and the few remaining bibliophiles left are trying to create a rebel city-state.

There is a stalled community project to translate the original novels.

Read Or Die includes 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 R.O.D 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 R.O.D the TV, as a different voice actor provides her with an English accent. Meanwhile, her original actress is playing one of the other characters.
  • Apocalypse How: The I-jin plan to use the Suicide Symphony to wipe out the human race.
  • Art Initiates Life: Ikkyu can do this in illusion form.
  • A Sinister Clue: The final episode features this trope prominently.
  • Badass Adorable: Junior in R.O.D the TV. He is capable of jumping from moving helicopters and is skillful at using guns and martial arts. And he's only about eleven. Six biologically.
  • 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.
  • 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."
  • Brits Love Tea: Both the British Joker and Gentleman are seen drinking it, with Joker not willing to start work without it.
  • Brown Note:
    • Beethoven's "Death Symphony", which causes anyone hearing it to commit suicide.
    • Maggie got wacko for a short 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.
  • Cute Clumsy Girl: Wendy Earhart, Joker's assistant
  • 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 realistically.
  • 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.
  • Historical Domain Character: The I-jin are all clones of famous people, including Beethoven and Mata Hari.
  • Historical Domain Crossover: The I-jin are clones of famous historical figures with fantastical powers based on their contributions.
  • 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.
  • 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 can phase her body through just about anything: walls, doors, machinery...flesh and blood...
  • Invisibility: The Mirror Man can render himself invisible.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Despite being in love with Hisami, and seeing Anita as a rival for Hisami's affection, Tohru pushes Hisami to reveal her feelings for Anita before she leaves for good, knowing that she would be torn up inside if she didn't.
  • 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, a Paper Master can do this with paper. One did it over his entire body, fooling Yomiko into thinking he was her deceased lover and successfully seduced her.
  • Meganekko:
    • Yomiko Readman is widely considered the Queen of All Meganekkos.
    • Nancy Makuhari in one of her disguises.
  • Midair Repair: Yomiko manages to add a tail to her giant paper airplane in mid-flight. It helps that it is, you know, made of paper.
  • The Mole: Nancy, for the I-Jin. She is a clone of the great spy Mata Hari, after all.
  • The Mirror Shows Your True Self: The Mirror Man, an agent of the British Library, can appear as someone else, but a mirror reveals his true form.
  • Monumental Battle: The first episode of the OVA ended atop the Statue Of Liberty after already battling at the White House and World Trade Centers.
  • Monumental Damage: Gennai Hiraga blows up the White House in the very first scene.
  • Multinational Team: Yomiko (Japanese/British), Drake (American), and Nancy (Dutch).
  • Mundane Made Awesome: The franchise as a whole is ... you know, an action/espionage series about books.
  • Nipple and Dimed: Lily under the shower in Read or Dream.
  • 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.
  • Paper Fan of Doom: Anita uses this to discipline her older sister, Michelle.
  • Paper Master: The Trope Namer.
  • The Pollyanna: Yomiko never loses her bright disposition and her love of life and books. Even though most all of the villains she faces are psychotic and do not inspire much hope for the world.
  • Theme Music Power-Up: The main theme kicks in during particularly important battles, such as the aerial fight against Otto.
  • This Is Unforgivable!: When someone as nice as Yomiko-chan says this to Gennai, you know he is pretty much fucked.
  • This Means War!: "As of now, we begin Operation Exterminate I-Jin Corps!"
  • 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 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.
  • Vapor Wear: Nancy
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: In Read or Dream, when the carsick child writer Hisami accidentally fell on Anita and puked in her 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 saltwater 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, as Joker asks Wendy at the end of episode 2. She is glad to do so, and despite everyone else is ready to go, Joker does not start the operation until Wendy serves the tea.
  • You Said You Would Let Them Go: Nancy complains to Ikkyu that he promised he would not kill Yomiko. He explains that while Yomiko does need to die, he will clone her and alter her personality to be more in tune with his goals, so From a Certain Point of View he was telling the truth.

Alternative Title(s): Read Or Die