A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Read or Die (OVA)

December 13, 2010

Read Or Die (OVA)

This movie is dense. There’s a lot crammed into a quick ninety minutes (three thirty minute television episodes.) I suspect that this is because it is adapted from a long running manga series, and so there’s a lot of plot to fit into relatively little space. I’m not saying that I was left feeling overwhelmed, or that it seemed like large parts of the plot were missing (I’m looking at you here, Escaflowne the Movie and X/1999.) Instead it just feels action packed, with hardly a moment between epic supernatural confrontations to catch your breath.

I hadn’t seen this movie in a couple years, and I had forgotten how much I loved it. Mostly for its unusual heroine – the book-obsessed substitute teacher Yomiko Readerman. We are first introduced to her as she is awoken by a phone call in her tiny apartment which is entirely awash in books. They are stacked in giant piles on every surface. They tower to the ceiling. Her bed is almost completely obscured by manga, hardcovers, softcovers, every conceivable type of book. The first five minutes that she is on screen are a montage of her joyously diving from bookstore to bookstore, collecting so many books in her rolling suitcase that she can hardly close it, and many bags besides, dumping them in her apartment and going back out for more. (In some ways it reminds me of the vast DVD collection that even now threatens to bury us here.)

Eventually Yomiko comes across a rare volume entitled Immortal Beloved, snatching it from under the disapproving gaze of a stern looking woman who also wanted the same book. No sooner has she started to read it than things begin to get weird. A mysterious madman on a giant grasshopper assaults Yomiko with a swarm of insects that are under his control in an attempt to steal her book. It is at this point that it is revealed that Yomiko Readerman is actually “The Paper” a superpowered agent of the secret British Library Special Operations Division. She can manipulate any paper she touches, transforming it into any shape and making it hard enough to stop bullets or cut steel. A mysterious evildoer has resurrected a group of extraordinary historical figures using their stolen DNA and is using them to steal rare books for some nefarious purpose. He has already stolen a bunch of rare volumes from the Library of Congress in America, and now his next goal is to get the very book that Yomiko has just purchased.

What I love about Yomiko’s character is that she’s so simple and open. She wants to make friends and she wants to read books. Not necessarily in that order. Throughout the ensuing adventure, even as the very fate of the entire human race is in the balance, it is her desire to get back her stolen book so she can finish reading it that drives her. That and her friendship with they mysterious woman from the bookshop who wanted the volume at the start. It turns out that this woman is Nancy Makuhari – aka Ms Deep – another library agent with the ability to phase through matter at will ala Kitty Pride. Nancy is a hard, lonely woman who can’t help falling for Yomiko’s wide-eyed trusting charm. Their friendship is largely the basis of the entire third act as everything starts to get dark and dire.

I just can’t get over how cool the concept of a librarian super hero is. Yomiko’s total obliviousness when reading and the way she glows dreamily when in the presence of large collections of old books is utterly irresistible. In addition there’s her very cool super powers and the fact that nobody in the British Library Special Operations Division ever doubts that she is entirely capable of overcoming any odds. She’s probably one of my favorite super heroes ever.

I find everything about this anime to be infectious fun. It has a wonderful jazzy soundtrack that perfectly sets the mood for the action. The i-jin (the resurrected bad guys) are a cool collection of historical and mythical figures. The end-of-the-world stakes at the end are well conceived and well played out. The characters are fun and the twists as the ending nears are cool. The sort of steampunkish technology used by Joker and Mr. Gentleman – the heads of British Library Special Operations Division is cool as well. I would heartily recommend this to anybody who is a fan of anime and of books.

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

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