R.O.D – Read Or Die is available on Crunchyroll until May 28th.
Read Or Die is one of those series I think is fantastic, but that I didn't actively think about much until recently.
In theory, it's brimming with elements that put it square up my alley.
The plot feels just tongue-in-cheek enough that I can kick back and take it at face value.
The main characters are more or less paper-benders, which is a launchpad for aggressively creative action sequences.
It even spends a good chunk of its runtime on slice-of-life elements that smack of The Odd Couple.
And every last one of these things is absolutely catering to my tastes. But the thing is, half of my enthusiasm for Read Or Die is borrowed.
I was more or less made to watch Read Or Die the first time out.
Not that I was forced to, as little as you can really force a person to watch anything. More that I was told “you'll probably like this; just sit down and watch”. And hey, who was I to disagree? It was ostensibly an actiony show featuring a lot of books. I love books (or, at least, having a well-stocked bookshelf). Action anime are fun. Sounded like a solid hit.
But almost the entire time, I was sitting in somebody else's living room, listening to them repeatedly underline just how solid it was.
“Isn't that such a cool visual effect?”
“Ooh, this next episode is where it really takes off.”
“Man, do you think Anne of Green Gables could be our friendship-book?”
A regular peppering of enthusiasm. And we all know how infectious pure, unadulterated enthusiasm can be.
But that enthusiasm can wear off when it isn't being fed any more.
Even with the best of intentions, and even if you're pre-disposed to liking it anyway, being told to do anything can all-too-easily teeter on turning it into an obligation.
Which is tragically unfair, right? Read Or Die has oodles more going for it than being “that one show my friend is very excited about”. I mean, it's a show about physically manifesting the power of literature, with a main character named Yomiko READMAN. Surely the sheer cheekiness counts for an awful lot.
I mean, of course it does. Would I be assailing you with a thousand words about it otherwise?
Needless to say, I've been binging the show recently.
To no surprise at all, it held up so well that I'm already most of the way through its twenty-six episodes.
And I love it now for all the same reasons I said above, which I clearly already knew. The action beats are painfully inventive. The plot touches both “fully campy” and “thrillingly earnest” without making either feel at odds with the other. And the lovely little sitcom side of it – the “four women holed up in apartment” side – is its beating heart.
I'm not objectively getting any new information here.
But it feels like a whole different experience.
Some of that might just be that I'm not in school any more, so my brain doesn't immediately vomit at the notion of “prescribed reading”. After all, I spend two or three nights a week now in “book clubs” that may or may not actually be about books.
But I think it's purely down to tone. Both in the Anime Club on our Discord and elsewhere, the host tends to hang back. Instead of a guided tour, we have a multi-directional conversation as the story develops. You know, going through it together.
It's why I try not to give out many recommendations these days unless I'm asked – or unless you count how I readily I gush about certain things like I've already arguably done for Read Or Die.
Partly because I know there are just too many awesome things that people are already short on time to “get around to”.
But in larger part because people deserve to discover that joy for themselves.
So why am I only thinking about Read Or Die just now?
Well, the TV series is leaving its only streaming service this week. And considering that it's a two-decades-old show, that it was never overly popular, and that its source material has been out of print for some time now?
Its chances of getting picked up elsewhere are pretty slim.
Funnily enough, that's an appropriate fate for a series so enamored with the idea of books. To go out of print, to fade into the background, to have a very narrow but vastly-deep cache of fans. Can any of us remember what the best-selling book in our country was fifteen years ago? How about twenty? Thirty?
Manga and anime are honestly kind of lucky in that big-name series tend stay part of the conversation a little longer than that.
But by no means all of them.
So if ever I was going to give the show a fair shot on its own merit, now was ride-or-die for Read Or Die.
( Even if I can't re-watch the original OVA without shelling out for old, ludicrously-expensive DVDs. )
So, at the risk of asking you to get excited about it secondhand, too: now's the time for you to see it.
Even if it's just a few episodes to try and get a taste.
Some way or another, put it on your mental radar before it goes back in the archive.
People care about this one too much for it to simply fade out.