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Read Or Die: The TV Series - volume four
voice cast: Chiwa Saito, Hiromi Hirata

director: Kouji Masunari

100 minutes (12) 2003
MVM DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by J.C. Hartley
Bizarro anime featuring Anita, Maggie and Michelle as the Paper Sisters, a private detective agency hired to protect blocked authoress Nenene with their 'paper master' power which, I kid you not, is a kind of violent origami. The first confusing episode is the battle to rescue Nenene from the HQ of the Dokusensha, a Chinese secret organisation battling for world domination with agents of the British Library (bear with me); it's an exciting episode with superpowers and gunplay and an introduction of sorts to the main characters.

The second episode is more enlightening in that it begins with a resume of the story so far, to wit the British Empire is the creation of a long-lived character called Mr Gentleman, father of the Empire, who is reaching the end of his days, British scientists decide they can clone the old guy and his genome is impregnated into special paper, after the Chinese Empire interferes through the agency of its secret service the Dokusensha. There has been some fun and games in the meantime, with the wholesale cloning of giant intellects from the past using genetic material harvested from copies of their books and manuscripts housed in the British Library. Unfortunately for Britain, due to meddling by the Dokusensha, the cloned likes of Beethoven and Da Vinci came on like Dr Doom with powers to match and laid waste to God's own country. Britain is now pretty well getting back on its feet, Mr Gentleman's clone has been born apparently but the genetically impregnated paper hidden in certain books has been lost. The responsibility for retrieving the books has fallen to the suave and polite Mr Carpenter who has forged a deal with the Dokusensha to that end. Nenene was kidnapped by the Dokusensha because her ex-girlfriend, a librarian, is supposed to know the whereabouts of one of the missing books; the story is complicated in that the Paper Sisters were once employees of the Dokusensha and further complicated in that as a British viewer you assume that we're the good guys but apparently not.

The two middle episodes in this volume are a bit slow and concern the search and eventual discovery of Nenene's girlfriend; the final episode sees a battle with Mr Carpenter and wholesale book burning by the British Library with the tacit support of the Chinese.

There are some great ideas in this series but, as with much anime, it's a bizarre mixture of the sophisticated and the juvenile that threatens to pitch the viewer into the culture gap. Given the audience for the series much of these subtexts are barely subliminal but are clearly there. On the basis of these four episodes, Nenene and the librarian were clearly a couple; Nenene's discovery of her ex-girlfriend shacked up with a young girl in another library is a cue for long pregnant suspicious stares. The opening credits sequence would do justice to a Bond movie, with a tattooed naked girl writhing about against a montage of action sequences, and what can only be assumed to be some of the Paper Sisters topless holiday snaps. There is a strange sequence where Nenene chases her erstwhile girlfriend around a library only for the latter to fall against wire netting, her ample bosom filling the screen for longer than seems necessary. Sequences like these might have been included to make it easier for dads, or indeed mums, to watch with their kids, or maybe I just spent too much time on deconstruction in my Open University film course.

DVD extras: gallery, trailers, and an interesting commentary by the voice talents.

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