A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 288 – Read or Die (OVA)

Read or Die (OVA) – December 13th, 2010

I first saw this movie for work. A few years back we ran a regular anime night at work, showing episodes of shows and some movies and OVAs. We did a few episodes of Witch Hunter Robin and Here is Greenwood and to be honest I’ve forgotten a lot of what else we did. There was one incident where one of the regulars, who’d been trying to get me to show Naruto for months (no, kid, I can’t show your fansubs), stormed out when he realized that the version I’d finally gotten legal rights to show didn’t have as much skin as he wanted. It was an interesting experiment as programs go, and it got us in the paper, but eventually we discontinued it. We started it, however, with this. It seemed fitting, what with it being about librarians and books.

Oh, if only I could work for the British Library Special Ops division. According to the movie, the British Library has a Special Ops taskforce for the protection and retrieval of rare books all over the world. And in case you were wondering, yes, that is fucking awesome. When the Library of Congress is attacked and 400 manuscripts stolen from it the LoC calls in the British Library Special Ops folks for help. Bizarre attacks all over the place have resulted in missing manuscripts and books, all of which is totally horrific to Yomiko Readman, an agent also known as The Paper. She’s a voracious reader and bibliomaniac who also has an instinctual power over paper. She can mold it, throw it, make it sharp, make it hard, stick pieces together through force of will, etc. Sort of like Magneto, but with paper. Eventually it’s revealed that there was also an attack on a bank of genetic samples and the people responsible for the attacks are all clones of significant historical figures. And at the center of it all is an old copy of Immortal Beloved with some musical notations on the endpapers.

Right, so it’s bizarre. I mean, it’s got Jean Henri Fabre riding in on a giant mechanical grasshopper at one point, and the plot revolves around a plan to kill off the human race using a symphony that makes people commit suicide. Let’s just face up to the fact that it’s more than a little weird. It’s totally not a big deal, because it’s also fantastic. Yomiko is a great character, really, and while there’s a good backup cast full of her teammates, she herself is undoubtedly my favorite part of this movie.

Yomiko collects books with a passion. When faced with new reading material she goes into a sort of book-induced trance of bliss. So while she’s pretty bad-assed with her paper skills, tossing sharpened cards at people and using a suitcase full of paper to quickly make shields, gliders and grappling hooks, it’s all in pursuit of a good book. The initial fight scene has her take down the mechanical grasshopper and Fabre not because they’re causing destruction all over the city and are obviously Up To No Good, but because Fabre took her book and she’d like it back, please. I won’t say she’d make a good library patron, since she’s more likely to be the type who can’t bear to bring the books back. But she is certainly my kind of gal with her neverending love of books and desire to always have more. And that’s why she makes a good library employee. It’s a perk of the job that there are always more books.

I do admit to being slightly confused by the choices in historical figures. I can’t argue with Gennai Hiraga, Genjo Sanzo or Ikkyu Soujun, because while I’m not familiar with them, I’m also not familiar with the historical periods and areas they’re from. The others, on the other hand, seem uneven. After all, there’s Fabre, who was an etymologist but not really a big name outside the field, and same for Otto Lillenthal and Stephen Wilcox. But then there’s Ludwig van Beethoven and Mata Hari. So the names seem to vary wildly in terms of renown. I guess it’s Fabre and Ikkyu who confuse me the most. Fabre because… Really? Out of all the historical figures they could have picked they go with an etymologist and give him a giant grasshopper? And Ikkyu Soujun, from what I can tell from a quick bit of reading, seems an odd choice for an antagonist. They even say so in the movie and he responds by saying that once he came back in modern time he realized he could use his mind for world domination and most humans are too stupid to live or something like that. It’s always seemed a bit arbitrary to me, like the writers threw darts at encyclopedias until they hit names.

Confusion over the specific people involved aside, I do enjoy this. Mostly I love it for Yomiko and for the British Library Special Ops division. It’s got this great ultra-new technology combined with a semi-steampunk Victorian vibe that I adore. Oldfashioned phones but super high tech cameras. Perfect for a group tasked with protecting rare books the world over. Respect for the old but also embracing the new. I really need to get the series that followed this and watch it through. I’m told it picks up a few years after this plot, which could be very cool. And I’d just love to see more of The Paper.

December 13, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , , ,

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