One of the biggest problems with the Read or Die OVA was that it didn’t have enough time to develop its story. Three episodes just wasn’t enough time to fully explain the details of the story it wanted to tell. Being a TV series, ROD the TV is able to mostly avoid this problem, although it still occasionally struggles in the story department.
ROD the TV is loosely based on the Read or Die spinoff manga, Read or Dream, and tells the story of Michelle, Maggie and Anita, AKA The Paper Sisters. The sisters are all Paper Masters, meaning they have the same paper manipulation abilities as Yomiko Readman, and work as private detectives in Hong Kong. Also like Yomiko, Michelle and Maggie both love books, but Anita hates books and never reads. At the beginning of the show, the three sisters are hired to work as bodyguards to the famous author Nenene Sumirigawa, who’s friends with Yomiko, and end up moving in with her as long term bodyguards, even though they spend more time lying around and reading than actually working.
Not a whole lot happens in the first half of ROD. It’s mostly slice of life, although the sisters occasionally do missions for a mysterious organization known as Dokusensha. What really carries these episodes is the chemistry between the Paper sisters and Nenene. The sisters’ personalities naturally complement each other, with Michelle being the energetic and outgoing one, Maggie being the quiet one and Anita being the bratty kid. The three of them really behave like sisters; they obviously care about each other, but still fight occasionally and they’re clearly familiar with each other’s habits and routines. Nenene also complements them well since she’s more serious and down to earth compared to the sisters (Michelle and Maggie are obsessed with books and Anita is perpetually irritable). Even though she seems annoyed most of the time, Nenene also grows to like the Paper Sisters and being around them even seems to help her writing. Everything about the character interacts just feels easy and confident, similar to the OVA. I don’t normally talk about specific episodes, but the episode that reveals how the three sisters first met (they’re not biological sisters) is easily one of the best and deserves mention. I won’t go into specifics since that would spoil a lot, but it’s emotionally moving and really shows why they’re so close.
The chemistry between the main cast is enough to carry the show through the slower first half. Even so, the episodes where Anita just goes to school can sometimes drag. There are hints of something bigger going on, and characters from the OVA make brief appearances, but, similar to Steins;Gate, nothing major happens until around the halfway point. After that, things pick up a lot and the questions the first half brought up are answered. The pacing here isn’t perfect since it sometimes slows down for an episode or two right when things really seem to be happening, but overall it moves much faster than the first half. This is also where it ties into the OVA more directly (which is why I highly recommend watching the OVA first). The plot here is definitely a step up from the OVA, although it still leaves a few things unexplained, especially regarding a character called The Gentleman. He’s a major force in this half, but the anime never reveals much about him and some of the events involving him seem to happen more for the sake of happening than for any understandable reason. Still, it’s much more coherent than the OVA and even retroactively explains some of the loose ends the OVA left.
ROD also has its share of action scenes, although they’re not as flashy or as frequent as the OVA’s. Like the OVA, they mostly revolve around the manipulation of paper in creative ways. Even if they’re not as flashy, they make up for it by being arguably more creative. Michelle, Maggie and Anita each use paper in different ways, which keeps the fights from getting repetitive and makes for some fun teamwork.
The animation in ROD is generally good for a TV show in 2003, even if it isn’t as impressive as the OVA. It’s mostly smooth and the paper movement is especially well animated. The artwork is less impressive. ROD was made before HD was common, so a lot of the distant shots that wouldn’t be very clear in SD lack detail and the line work is pretty rough at times. The music in ROD is mostly just copied from the OVA, but it still works just fine and fits the tone of the series. The dub holds up surprisingly well for one made in 2004 with almost no well known actors. Even most of the leads haven’t been in much anime aside from this and Ikki Tousen, but they all give good performances. All of the returning characters from the OVA have been recast, but the new voice actors are generally well cast and the accents (there are a lot of British characters) are well done across the board.
Overall, ROD the TV is a worthy follow-up to the OVA and still holds up over a decade later. The characters are even better than in the OVA, the action is entertaining and the plot is mostly solid. There are a few issues with the story as it goes on, but nothing severe and the characters more than make up for it.
ROD the TV was available from Aniplex of America, but it’s out of print now. It’s available for streaming on Crunchyroll, although they don’t have the dub.
Final Score: 8.9/10