Oct 20, 2011

[TV] R.O.D. the TV

R.O.D. the TVI can't necessarily say that I'm a huge fan of Japanese anime, but I certainly appreciate their brand of animation. They certainly have a flair for interesting and often unusual story premises. the only thing that prevents me from saying I'm a true fan is that I don't always have time to watch / read a subtitled movie or TV series. While there are many versions of such shows dubbed in English, somehow dubbing takes away from some of the original spirit of the movie, especially when it comes to the voice acting.

But this was one of those rare anime TV series that had a nice balance of complexity of story and a sheer lack of episodes. Given the show ran for only 26 episodes (to be precise), it's one of those shows that you can actually watch from start to finish with some measure of closure. And that's a rather rare given how long a lot of anime series run for - don't get me started on talking about the like of Samurai X!

Still, this show really stood out and remains one of my favorite anime series. So it was fun to introduce my partner to the show more formally and re-watch the entire run in sequence. While it helps to have watched the OVA prior, in truth you don't absolutely need it. The series stands well enough on its own.

R.O.D. the TV is the Japanese cartoon series that used characters from both the Read or Die and Read or Dream manga novel series / franchises. The show was directed by Koji Masunari with writing by Yōsuke Kuroda.

Sometime after the events in the Read or Die OVA, we are introduced to Japanese author Nenene Sumiregawa (Satsuki Yukino / Wendy Tomson). Yomiko Readman (Rieko Miura / Helenta Taylor) was her teacher and a close friend but now she has disappeared and Nenene has been unable to write any new novels since.

While on a promotional tour in Hong Kong for her one and only hit novel, she meets the three "sisters" namely, Michelle Cheung (Shoko Kikuchi / Hunter MacKenzie Austin), Maggie Mui (Hiromi Hirata / Sara Lahti) and Anita King (Chiwa Saito / Rachel Hirschfeld), who are supposed to be her tour guides of sorts while in Hong Kong. However an attempt is made on her life and the three offer to become her bodyguards instead.

200Image via WikipediaThus the finally reveal their true talents - they are Paper Masters similar to Yomiko. Each have a different brand of paper manipulation skills at their disposal. Michelle creates paper bows and arrows. Maggie is able to create paper familiars that she can control. And Anita can create paper blades that she can use offensively. And thus they manage to become a group as they try to make ends meet, figure out what has happened to Yomiko and get involved in much bigger plots.

The metaplot behind this series and that of the prior OVA can be a little weird / confusing at times, I have to admit. After all, the Paper Masters seem to have a knack for getting involved in battled with villains who have rather lofty goals. In the OVA, it was about resurrecting the greatest minds of history to be used for some other purpose. Here, there's another world domination plot at work, although the role that the "sleeping books" have to play in this scheme is something best discovered for yourself once you watch the series.

The show suffered from odd pacing here and there. Despite the relative brevity of the series, there are a lot of episodes that have little to no action involved and just a lot of storytelling. The stories are certainly good on their own of course, but the we need to be honest enough to admit that a larger draw of the series is to see how they'd beat their opponents using their paper manipulation skills in increasingly complex or creative ways. That seems a cheap and shallow form of emotional payoff, but believe it it's worth it. 

The combat scenes are some of the best I've seen, especially with the added benefit of such unusual abilities. Beyond their paper skills, Anita is quite the martial artist after all. Then of course there are the side characters who come into play (yes, including Yomiko of course) who have other abilities beyond being Paper Masters. It makes for an interesting mix of specialized fighting styles that works visually.

R.O.D. the TV really is one of my favorite anime series even if I can't safely say that it's the best around given the weird pacing and direction at times. Still, the show has to get at least 4.5 crazy villains the sisters have to face out of a possible 5.

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