Wednesday, July 18, 2007

"many people love books but few are loved by books"

I normally don't do manga (except back when i was typing/word processing~or whatever the hell you call it~up our teen book reviews a few years back and i had to leaf few a couple of them to try and figure out what a couple of the kids were trying to say but that is an entirely other subject...), but i heard about this series and thought i would give it a shot.

Apparently the R.O.D. (Read or Die~now there's the ultimate ultimatum for you) started out as a nine volume series of "light novels" (which, i guess is the Japanese version of the young adult novel) by Hideyuki Kurata; which then spun off into the four volume manga series that i read (and a related manga series Read or Dream); three direct-to-video anime; and then a anime T.V. series. I think i saw it mentioned on one of my list-serves and it seemed somewhat appealing.

Yomiko Readman is a bibliophile ("a bibliophile is an alchemist of the soul"~or so says Yomiko) and oh, so much more. She is a "paper master" or The Paper (someone who is able to change paper into any type of weapon {or escape device~a sort of biblioMacGiver} she happens to need for whatever occasion she finds herself in~"paper would do anything for her") and a special agent for the British Library (or, actually, The Last Literatured Line of the UK). I found the plot a little hard to follow (and yes, i do know about the whole back to front, right to left thing, thank you very much), or maybe Kurata didn't lay it out clearly enough for me, or maybe i'm expecting more story than i should, or maybe i'm just stupid... whatever.

Anyway, Volume 1, introduces Yomiko, her boss "Joker", and some mysterious higher-up known as "The Gentleman". We also have the requisite number of interesting villains; little-girl-manga-style women in various costumes and stages of undress, as well as intimations of girl-on-girl action. There is also some back-story given for Yomiko's apprenticeship. I found Kurata to be quite witty, and there were some wonderful literary jokes thrown into the mix.

Volumes 2, 3 and 4 bleed into each other in that serial kind of way (although Volume 2 does include a special bonus featuring a little girl who hates books (they are all useless and boring~video games and TV are Way more exciting) and does not want to do her required book report until she stays up all night reading the book passed down from her grandmother through her mother and learns how wonderful reading can be, can we all say "ah, how cute" together now? . . .)

The basic plot line here seems to send Yomiko on a secret mission to the Manshu Academy. The exact details of the assignment appear rather murky, but apparently she is to find a secret underground library which contains the secret to life, the universe, and everything (whoops, wrong story...) The Manshu Academy houses A and B level students and Yomiko is a teacher of B level World History (which apparently ranks below the A level students.) The A level students are engaged in something nefarious, more details of "The Paper"'s past emerge, as well as those of the British library and their foes the ancient order of Hermit readers. In the end it seems it comes down to a choice of Read OR Die (who would have guessed), as Yomiko must choose to save the all important Book of Truth or people. I suppose in manga the large letters D O O M take the place of ominous music, and between the numerous spelled out sound effects, unattributed dialogue, and, seemingly, missing plot development i still found myself a little lost.

Kind of reminds me of the time one of my housemates (my first year in grad school, me, one other grad student and five undergrads~the landlord had promised all grad students~oh well) got us all together to go see Urotsukidōji: the Legend of the Underfiend as some kind of house "togetherness" project because it was supposed to be such an acclaimed Japanese animated masterpiece. About fifteen minutes into the film, most of the housemates had deserted (including the one who brought us) leaving only me and Mr. IamNotDepressed (but he so was) sticking it out until the very bitter end. It was a shared experience i will never forget. There was some point when a character says "Oh, now I see, it's all so clear now." or some such thing and that was Mr. IamNotDepressed's and my joke for the next month or so because it was so NOT clear.So i guess that confirms my non-manga-loving self~though i would recommend this one for its wonderful humour (and you absolutely must read the fine print~that's where much of the fun truly lies.)

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