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Read or Die (OVA)
Reviewer: Rowena Lim Lei 05/20/2003

Yomiko Readman is "The Paper", a female agent for the British Library Special Engineering Force. Her nerdy appearance belies the fact that she is a highly skilled fighter who can manipulate paper any way she wants to, not limited to creating giant paper airplanes to chase baddies on or wielding a paper sword which is just as sturdy as a metal one. Yomiko takes on dangerous missions all for the sake of her passion for books... and saving the world is just one of the fringe benefits.
I was not too impressed when I started watching Read or Die. The first episode hit me like a brick and it took some degree of digesting before I could warm up to it.
Enter Yomiko Readman, a tacky, clumsy bookworm who lives in a messy apartment. She goes out, a bulky stroller bag full of paper in tow, in order to buy more books to read. She picks up a rare find at an old shop, after which she is attacked by a strange man who's flying around on the back of a giant bug. The man takes her new book and surprise, surprise... Yomiko starts sporting some exceptionally agile moves worthy of a ninja, takes the book back, and makes short work of the enemy. And then I ask... what the bloody hell was that? Yomiko is actually an agent codenamed "The Paper" because of her power to manipulate paper any way she pleases. She can turn a one dollar bill into a lethal weapon if need be.
Shortly after her encounter with the bug-man, Yomiko is called in to the Special Force's headquarters -- where she is briefed on her mission. As it turns out, someone is out to steal some rare books and Yomiko is going to be sent out to stop them. Two other agents are to work with Yomiko. Drake, a typical army-type macho-man with blazing guns; and Ms. Deep, an alluring and enigmatic young woman with the power to "dive" into matter -- she can pass through walls and solid surfaces... that kind of thing (think Kitty Pride of the X-Men). Yomiko and company come up against several of history's greatest men in their mission, and it is ultimately discovered that a madman who wants to eliminate "useless" human beings is behind all the book-pilfering. He has enlisted Beethoven's talents to play the "Death Symphony", which will make everyone who hears it commit suicide. Yomiko is instructed to stop this scheme at all costs. With all the great books involved, how can Yomiko possibly refuse?
The main thing Read or Die has going for it is its originality. I found it a bit hard-to-swallow at first, but after I had come to terms with the series' premises, it was one hell of a ride. Non-stop action ensues right after Yomiko and company start off the mission. I couldn't help but be amazed by Yomiko's paper stunts and Ms. Deep's superb fighting skills. The two women also develop a relationship that made Read or Die a lot more meaningful right down to its touching conclusion. I did find Yomiko's appetite for books over-exaggerated but hey... it's not such a big deal. Read or Die's main flaw would have to be the lack of backgrounders for the historical figures that Yomiko and company went up against. Why were they picked, and how did they come into being? How did they get Beethoven into the picture? It's not really explained. They just kept on coming.
The art and animation are excellent. I have to laud the distinct character designs -- everyone actually looked like an individual. Then there's the action. The fights are extremely well-choreographed and exciting to behold. Music-wise, Read or Die reminded me of older James Bond films. I quite enjoyed the stylish opening sequence as well.
Short as it is, Read or Die is surprisingly satisfying. I felt content after watching its entirety since there was ample closure for everything and everyone concerned. It's unlike most action-oriented series in the sense that it actually spends time in making you care for the characters. Definitely one of the better (if not one of the best) action-oriented series out there.
Read or Die is comprised of three episodes, all of which are in one DVD. There is also a Read or Die TV series available.

Read or Die (OVA)
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Review Title:
Read or Die (OVA)
Alternative Titles:
100 Minutes
General Rating:
0 out of 5 stars
Suitable For:
Action, Adventure, Historical,
Magic, Mystery, Sci-Fi
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