Read or Die (2001)

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Released 2-Jul-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Anime Main Menu Audio & Animation
DVD Credits
Trailer-Original trailer
Biographies-Character-Historical biographies
Interviews-Crew-director and crew
Trailer-Madman Propaganda (5)
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 99:14 (Case: 90)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Kouji Masunari
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring None Given
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $34.95 Music Taku Iwasaki


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles English Titling
English
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

You're worried about a teaching job when the world is at stake?

    Read or Die is an OVA series. That means that it was created with the intent of being released on video. Like most OVA series, it is quite short — this one is only three 30 minute episodes — but it has a coherent storyline that holds the three episodes together. The episodes don't have meaningful names — they are simply labelled Book 1, Book 2, and Book 3. As they play one after another anyway, this is unimportant.

    I think this series is the perfect length — too many episodes, and it would lose some of its charm. Interestingly, though, there is a sequel coming...

    The central character of Read or Die is Yomiko Readman. She is a reasonably cute young woman with big glasses who is obsessed with books, especially old rare books. She spends all of her money, and then some, on books. She is excited to get a phone call offering her a position as a substitute teacher for six weeks because it means she will earn some money that she can spend on...you guessed it...books. But there's more to Yomiko than appears on the surface.

    Yomiko is also a secret agent, codename The Paper (even on the Japanese soundtrack the codenames are said in English, albeit with a Japanese accent). She is actually a kinda superhero, with remarkable powers over paper. She can throw paper (causing serious paper cuts!), she can block bullets with a sheet of paper, she can whip up a defensive shield or even pick locks, all with paper. In her hands, paper is an amazing material. It's very entertaining. She's also very well-read, of course.

    The Paper is one of many special agents for the British Library Special Engineer Force — think of them as MI5 staffed by librarians, complete with somewhat daggy clothes (sleeve protectors, even) and sensible shoes. The opening theme sounds very much like early James Bond, emphasising this idea. Lots of classic Bond-type action, but with unusual heroes. We even get a classic "hero left to die in a flooding room" sequence...

    The bad guys, we discover fairly rapidly, are genetic re-creations of some of the geniuses of history. They are called the I-Jin, and while some of them are reincarnations of figures from Japanese history, others are European. There are details about each one of them in the extras. A highly literate choice of foes, and fully documented, of course — the inside of the cover gives citations for many of the references. The more you look at the details, and the more you know about books and scholarly works, the more entertaining this anime becomes, because they have gently sent up the whole milieu.

    I do love the opening sequence, with its homage to ID-4 and its complete lack of respect for the American President. There are some rather subtle references in this show, such as the blinking eyes on the communicator (echoes of Thunderbirds), and some less subtle ones, such as the references to Monkey.

    I fear that part of the reason I like the character of Yomiko is that I empathise with her obsession.

    This is an entertaining story, featuring interesting characters, and told with gorgeous animation.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    This DVD transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, and is not 16x9 enhanced. That's exactly what you'd expect for a show that originated as an OVA.

    The foreground characters (which look like they were drawn in ink) are sharp and clear. The backgrounds (which look like they were painted) are softer — this is characteristic of this style of animation. There is no film grain, and no low-level noise.

    Colour is gorgeous. They used a diverse palette of colours, and it is beautifully realised. There are no colour-related artefacts, although there are occasional shots that seem a bit too bright (such as at 52:35).

    There are no film artefacts that I could see. There is some very minor aliasing, but surprisingly little. There's no moiré. You won't find any MPEG artefacts, either. There is some interleaving, probably courtesy of an NTSC to PAL conversion, but it is only visible when freeze-framing and single-stepping — run the show at normal speed and you'll never see it. All up, this is a nice clean transfer.

    As usual on a Madman disc, we get two sets of English subtitles, one just covering signs, the other giving full dialogue as well. I watched the full dialogue subtitles, and they are easy to read, and seem mostly well-timed and accurate. They don't match the English dub, which is normal, because they translate the Japanese fairly literally, while the dub has been adjusted to better match the mouth movements.

    The disc is single-sided (with a nice label), and single layered. There's no need for a second layer, and that means no layer change.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The soundtrack is provided in English and Japanese, as usual for anime. Both are Dolby Digital 5.1 at 448 kbps. I watched the whole show in both languages. The two soundtracks are very similar, with the same music and sound effects, and only the language different.

    The English dialogue is clear and easy to understand — a few words might be wrong (judging by comparison with the subtitles). The Japanese dialogue sounds clear, too, but I cannot assess comprehensiblity.

    The marvellous score comes from Taku Iwasaki. It's an interesting blend of musical styles, from the straight orchestral through to cool jazz using a vibraphone. An awful lot of it feels like James Bond without being James Bond, which suits the show very well.

    This soundtrack makes good (albeit occasional) use of directional sounds from the surrounds. The subwoofer gets a decent amount of work, too.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

    The menus are animated with music. They are nicely themed to the show.

Original Trailer (1:32)

    Quite similar to the credits, as is common among anime shows.

Historical Biographies

    Brief bios for the (real) historical characters brought back as I-Jin or mentioned:

Interview — director and crew

    This was recorded at Anime Expo 2002. An excellent idea, but very poorly executed — the director and crew members talk at length in Japanese in response to questions that are shown on-screen. If their answers were subtitled, this would be good. As it is, there is a translator speaking after they've answered, but his voice is virtually inaudible. The video quality isn't very good, either.

Trailers — Madman Propaganda

    Five trailers that can be selected individually:

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 version of this disc was released in May this year (this is a very recent series).

    The Region 4 disc is missing:

    The Region 1 disc is missing:

    It sounds very much like the two discs are quite similar, but we get a better deal on the subtitles — one of the reviews of the R1 makes a point of criticising the legibility of the subtitles. I'm not convinced of the value of the 2.0 soundtrack, so I'd say we get a slightly better disc. No complaints there!

Summary

    An interesting little series presented superbly on DVD. Strongly recommended if you like your anime with some subtlety and depth.

    The video quality is excellent.

    The audio quality is excellent.

    The extras are a bit limited, and the interview is a missed opportunity, but the historical bios are useful.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Wednesday, July 09, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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