Merry Days of Anime: R.O.D. – Read or Die (OVA)

r.o.d. cover

Today, a new trailer was revealed for the upcoming James Bond movie titled “Too Awesome to Die Horribly” or something. Today, I watched an anime OVA series that spoofs the secret agent subgenre of action flicks by adding a bunch of fantasy elements while reviving tons of historical figures and making them evil. Is this coincidence? Am I a soothsayer? Neither of these are 0% possibilities if you don’t think about it.

As someone who has been watching anime for close to eight years now, I have encountered many titles in my life. R.O.D. was not one of them, at least prior to yesterday. What makes this more surprising is that this OVA mini-series actually has decent ratings on MAL. Surely something this well-received would have flashed by my eyelids at some point, right? Apparently not, as this rarity has escaped my vision like a ghost playing hide-and-seek. With such an intriguing premise, too! Parodies are so far and few in the anime medium, and upon getting a whiff of what this series may offer, I locked it in as the next thing to watch for this merry block.

In the first two minutes, an electrifying baddie blows up the White House as the president cowers in fear and promptly pisses his pants. I was like “Hellllll yeaaaaaaaaah!”

r.o.d. 1
Two seconds after said pants-pissing.

Alas, the feeling wouldn’t last, because the truly over-the-top moments of the story are as far and few as the parody genre itself. About 80% of each episode is taken fairly seriously—a surprising lack of comedy bits. Among the most prominent criticisms of satire is that of indulging in exactly what they’re parodying, making it less of a parody and more of a cover. One can use this criticism with R.O.D., as they make little effort in filling the cracks left by the action-packed adrenaline. The most I could say is that the biggest evidence of satire is the fact that any of this—historical figures being revived and plotting a genocide—is being taken seriously at all.

That perspective out the window, one is almost forced to take it seriously. And, to my complete shock, it’s pretty interesting! Cheesy as all hell, absolutely, but the series succeeds in one key aspect: character. The main character, simply known as “The Paper” by most, is Yomiko, a sweet and gentle girl who loves people and is obsessive over books. Her docile nature makes her almost animal-like in her demeanor and interaction with others, which works well with her new partner, Nancy. These leading stars have a heartfelt chemistry that is tragically cut short by the amount of SERIOUS PLOT at hand.

r.o.d. 3
This was such a cute little moment.

Occasionally in fiction, it’s the little bits that make the biggest impact. R.O.D.‘s attention to developing their friendship gives more reason to follow the events that occur throughout. While limited, the tender moments between Yomiko and Nancy have enough juice to keep their partnership tight and the stakes of their missions more substantive. Frankly, it may have been the only reason I kept watching, as there’s nothing else too impressive.

Just prior to this entry, I dropped Master Keaton, an anime I complained was too “ugly.” R.O.D. was put to air just a year or two after it, so my fears of yesteryear were put to the test once again immediately afterwards.

However, this is a perfect example of how to compensate for somewhat shoddy visuals. The types of things happening in this narrative, with enemies blowing fire from their mouths or a girl using tons of paper to form a giant paper airplane, are bizarre enough to make things watchable. Of course, such things aren’t handy in realistic settings, so it’s a crutch used splendidly here. Nevertheless, there were various shortcuts taken to lessen the extremity of fluid animation, including a scene in episode two where Tomiko and Nancy sit on a couch and talk for, like, three minutes with minimal movement and no change in camera angles.

r.o.d. 2
She’s financially unstable, not a workaholic.

Most of the secret agent narrative tropes are here. Plots of world domination, baddies serving under a bigger foe, drama, human conflict, sacrifice, espionage, government stuff, yadda-yadda. Most of this doesn’t manifest into anything meaningful until the end of episode two, as the first was almost like an introduction to everything. This being only three episodes with each being an average of 30-35 minutes, the pacing is lightning quick, especially after the first episode. R.O.D.‘s duality shows yet again in how to react to it, with one side screaming, “Parody! Stupidity!” and the other going, “Serious business! Too quick!” Hard to pick a side, harder to want to. I liked the story when it focused on the two female leads; to hell with the rest.

As a 100-minute product, I enjoyed it quite a bit. Never felt too long and was only unbalanced by an incredibly heavy second episode. Characters are the main appeal here, though only the main two, as names like “Joker” and… uh… “Anderson” or something, hardly register due to lack of depth. However the parody aspect fares depends entirely on how much the viewer is willing to commit to its minimal, almost bare usage. For its length, I’d recommend it, flaws and all. I’d rather be read than dead, regardless.

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

If you’d like to see more reviews like this, feel free to look at my full list of anime reviews!

Thank you for your time. Have a great day.

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