It would be too obvious to say Judge Mike Pinsky tells you to read this review or die.
"Ugh, we have to go through that jungle of books again."—Anita
Inspiration is a funny thing. Coleridge was inspired by opium dreams to write "Kubla Khan." Euclid was inspired by a nice, hot bath.
But if I were Hideyuki Kurata, I'd stop bragging that my inspiration for R.O.D. The TV was the Charlie's Angels movie. Any television series so devoted to bibliomania should at least take credit for something better.
A little over a year ago, you might have read my review of the anime OAV Read Or Die. You might recall that I enjoyed it, even if it was fairly silly and about as deep as a Dick and Jane reader. Apparently, I was not the only one who liked it. Read Or Die has turned into quite a little franchise. Following the lively animated adventures of Yomiko Readman, secret agent and master of paper, there have been manga and novels to flesh out the world we learned too little about in the three-part OAV. Creator Hideyuki Kurata added to this world of mad book collectors and magical "paper masters" with a manga series called Read or Dream, about three sisters and their wacky detective agency.
R.O.D. The TV (Kurata is deliberately evasive about what the D stands for this time out) combines the two series for a 26-episode romp. When mousy novelist Nenene Sumiregawa (from the Read Or Die manga) comes to Hong Kong, her literary editor hires the Three Sisters Detective Agency to serve as bodyguards. Bubbleheaded Michelle digs Harry Potter; depressed Maggie prefers Hemingway. Bratty little Anita hates books altogether.
Named evidently after the three stars of the Hong Kong actioner The Heroic Trio, these teens are all Paper Masters, gifted with the ability to shape paper into anything from tools to weapons to animals. They also have a tendency to cause lots of unnecessary property damage, as they rescue Nenene from a pair of deranged hack writers in the first episode.
Sure enough, the Paper Sisters move into Nenene's Tokyo apartment, setting the stage for the traditional wacky domestic hijinks. Meanwhile, Nenene suffers writer's block and broods over her best friend, Yomiko Readman, who mysteriously vanished several years ago. Does Joker, Yomiko's old boss from the British Library, have a clue where she is? And what sort of sneaky business is he up to anyway?
You will not learn much about that in these first four episodes of R.O.D. The TV. Even the commentary track for episode one, with Kevin Chu, Jonathan Klein, and Taliesin Jaffe from the American production team, does not offer much help, although the participants seem to be having a good time.
The breathless ride that was the original OAV has been replaced here by more character-driven humor. Of course, the first few episodes are setting up the premise, so the action comes only in short bursts. The characters so far do not seem like retreads, and Kurata strikes a solid balance between the humor and an attempt to ground the R.O.D. world into something resembling reality. And when we do get action—like the wild climax of episode one, where the sisters save a hijacked airliner with a giant paper phoenix—it is clever and well directed by OAV helmer Koji Masunari.
It is always hard to tell how a series like this is going to pay off, but judging from these first chapters, R.O.D. The TV is what the publishing trade would call a page-turner.
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• Audio Commentary by Members of the US Production Team
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