Saturday, June 7, 2008

R.O.D.: Read or Dream (manga, vol. 1) by Hideyuki Kurata (story) and Ran Ayanaga (art)

This is the first volume in the series featuring the Paper Sisters Detective Company - two women and a young girl who use their incredible paper-manipulation skills (more in the realm of telekinetically created bullet-proof paper walls and other creations than good origami) to help people with their problems. With the exception of the young girl, Anita, who hates reading, the Paper Sisters are book addicts. These are the kind of women who will spend their food budget on books, despite having a potential avalanche of books in their home.

Each chapter features a separate story, and few of the stories are in any way connected to each other (characters from one story do reappear in another, but rarely). In the first story, the Sisters help a woman find a stolen book. In the second story, the Sisters help a young boy fulfill his elderly friend's dying wish to return a book to a mysterious library. The third story doesn't have much of a plot - it's just a funny snippet about the Sisters trying to deal with the results of one of them spending their entire food budget on books. The fourth story is about an alien who's threatening to destroy the world unless the Sisters can show her a book that can convince her that humankind is worth keeping alive. In the fifth story (which is told in chapters 5 and 6), one of the Sisters, Maggie, befriends a sick young girl by reading to her. The sixth and final story, like the third story, doesn't have much of a plot - Anita has become fed up by the books cluttering up their home and tries to get the book-loving Sisters to clean things up and get rid of any books they don't need. Unfortunately, Anita, not being a book-lover, doesn't understand that, for a book-lover, all books are potentially useful or have some emotional value.

If you're going to spend your money on manga, I'd probably recommend getting something else instead of this - the art is kind of boring, the artist's use of tones could've been better, and the stories aren't anything special (I kept feeling like I'd read most of them before, in other books and manga). However, it's not the worst manga I've ever read, and I felt that it was actually better than the series that came before it, Read or Die by Hideyuki Kurata (story) and Shutaro Yamada (art). Whereas that series was more action oriented, this series is more humorous and occasionally touching. Read or Die's main character, Yomiko, had a love of books that was almost sexual in the way Yamada drew it, whereas the Paper Sisters have a very intense, but more normal-feeling love for books.

If you like the Read or Dream manga, I should mention that there's also an anime TV series , called R.O.D - The TV - I haven't seen very much, so I can't really say how similar it is to the manga. The three paper sisters are still there, but I think the anime series also brings in some characters from the Read or Die series.

  • The Eyre Affair (book) by Jasper Fforde - Readers who are interested in reading something else where books play a vital role and who don't mind reading an actual novel, rather than manga, might like this book. This is the first book in Fforde's Thursday Next series. Thursday is an operative in the Literary Division of the Special Operations Network. In this book, she must find and defeat a villain who is kidnapping the characters from the original manuscripts of cherished literature, thereby removing those characters from all copies of that literature. Although it would probably add a level of interest if readers have actually read some of this literature, it's not really necessary to have read any of it to enjoy the book.
  • Read or Die (anime OVA) - The anime Read or Die, while short and unfinished-feeling, is much better and more fun than the Read or Die manga. Yomiko Readman is "The Paper," a bumbling, yet powerful operative working for the British Library. Like the Paper Sisters, Yomiko can manipulate paper, and she uses this skill to try to retrieve valuable stolen books that a mysterious group plans to somehow use to take over the world. This anime is more action oriented than Read or Dream, but it's based off of the same idea that books are so important that there are people who'd be willing to fight (and maybe die) for them. In Read or Dream the manga, books can change people's lives, while in Read or Die the anime, they can potentially lead to world domination.
  • Yume Kira Dream Shoppe (manga) by Aqua Mizuto - The only characters that show up on a regular basis are Rin, the owner of the Yume Kira Dream Shoppe, and Alpha, Rin's helper at the shop. Rin and Alpha use the magical items at the shop to make people's desires a reality, at a cost. As with this volume of Read or Dream, each chapter is its own story. Also, as with Read or Dream, some of the stories end in a sweet and happy way, while others are more bittersweet. This single-volume series is neither violent, nor action-filled. There are occasional humorous moments, but I don't think any of the stories are devoted to humor in the same way that some of the stories in Read or Dream are.

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