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Read or What?

There is a bit of confusion in the U.S. (and presumably elsewhere outside of Japan) about what "Read or Die" and "R.O.D" and "Read or Dream" all is and how they relate. I thought I'd put out what is my understanding of the series and what order it came out in, to help clear a few things up. Do note it is my understanding and so may not be completely accurate, though I have done my best. I have gotten some useful information from various articles in Wikipedia, Yomiko's Library, and Dreams of Twilight. A very special thanks to Sean Gaffney who, knowledgeable in the ways of older R.O.D materials, especially the novels, helped clear up a few things for me.

This is a second revision, as I have now read all the manga, as translated by Viz.

Read or Die novels: An 11-novel series by Hideyuki Kurata. They are about Yomiko Readman and her adventures working for the British Library. I have not read these (they are not translated into English to my knowledge, and my knowledge of Japanese is minimal). There are summaries of the books in Japanese here at Shueisha's site. You can run them through Babelfish and get something that makes almost completely no sense, but if you need help, here's a start: "Don't You Know?" refers to Nenene, and "Reading Child" refers to Yomiko (Babelfish transliterates their names). My understanding is the novels focus on the British Library and its rivalry with its Chinese counterpart Dokusensha. These novels feature Nenene, Nancy, Wendy, Joker, Drake, and the rest of the British Library crew. The first of these novels began the "Read or Die" phenomenon. For a period of time, some of the later novels were being published as the manga began to come out. Some of the information in the novels may contradict what happens in the manga and animes (notably, Yomiko meets Nancy Makuhari in a different way, and Nancy has a somewhat different background).

Read or Die manga: This comic is also about Yomiko working for the British Library, and its first story about rescuing Nenene is the same as in the first volume of the novels, according to Gaffney. It's four trade paperback volumes long, published by Shueisha (I believe originally in serialized form in Shonen Jump). Wendy, Joker, and Drake appear in addition to Nenene; Nancy does not. Yomiko Readman's past with her teacher/lover Donnie Nakajima is revealed in detail. Up until the last few chapters of the manga, the story and characterization is consistent with other iterations of R.O.D, but its ending definitively places it in its own canon. Nenene meets Drake and Wendy in the story (where she has never met them before in the anime, when she is five years older), and Wendy's fate is particularly different. Sean Gaffney suggests a quasi-link to the anime in that Yomiko disappears and Nenene goes in search of her, but the circumstances as to why are different (and Nenene is clearly not suffering writer's block after Yomiko disappears). I generally assume that whatever is true in the manga that doesn't contradict events in the anime is probably more or less true; characterization is pretty consistent. This is especially the case, I think, with Donnie Nakajima, as there are both subtle and overt references to him in the anime, but nothing detailed is provided, so we have only the manga (and perhaps the novels) to fill in the gaps.

Read or Die OAV: This three-part direct-to-video series is based loosely on the manga and novels, featuring Yomiko as the heroine. The character Nenene is acknowledged in the opening scenes but does not appear (she has signed post-it notes in Yomiko's apartment, though unfortunately in the U.S. edition her name was mistranslated to "Up! Up! Up!"). Yomiko meets Nancy for the first time, which separates it canonically from the novels. We see Drake and Wendy as they were when they started in the manga (but not how they end up): respectively, an American mercenary working for the British Library and Joker's assistant/liaison. The anime was made by Aniplex and distributed in the U.S. by Manga Entertainment.

Read or Dream Manga: Another serialized manga which takes place in the same world as Read or Die. It takes place in Hong Kong and is about the adventures of the Three Sisters Detective Agency, i.e. the Paper Sisters, Maggie, Anita, and Michelle. Read or Dream is fantasy-comedy whereas Read or Die is action-based. From what I've gleaned from the "Reading King" in the R.O.D. the TV box set, Read or Dream was conceptualized as they were working on a concept for a R.O.D TV series and so in some senses serves as a prequel to the TV series, at least up through the third volume, which ends with the sisters being hired to look after a famous Japanese author coming to Hong Kong. Also, Anita has a brief flashback in R.O.D the TV to an event that happens in volume 1 in the manga. The fourth and final volume came out during or after the TV series, and veers canonically in another direction, where Hisami appears and meets Anita "for the first time," and she is a novelist. Fan talk on the 'net says that the first three volumes work in canon with the TV series, but the 4th series is an "homage" without following the same storyline. I would say, given Anita's flashback, it's at least safe to say volume 1 is canon with the TV series.

R.O.D the TV: The (as of now) final culmination of the R.O.D-verse. It was produced by Aniplex and distributed in the U.S. by Geneon. The TV series serves as a sequel to both the OAV series and the first three volumes of Read or Dream. The plot elements from the OAV don't become immediately apparent until later in the story (although hints are dropped from the start). It begins by introducing the "Dream" Paper Sisters into the world of "Die" character Nenene, where they take over what was Yomiko's role as Nenene's protector. Nenene's characterization is consistent with her "Read or Die" manga personality, taking into account that she is older and a bit jaded because of Yomiko's disappearance. Although the early episodes focus primarily on those four characters, the series gradually brings in all of the main characters from "Read or Die" and introduces a new character, Junior. The TV series eventually encompasses all of what both the earlier novels, comics, and anime contained: the British Library and Dokusensha's rivalrt and their quests to attain special books, rescuing Nenene from kidnapping, Yomiko's anti-heroics, and the often-amusing adventures of the Paper Sisters. Really, it's quite an ambitious project if you think about it, and it's amazing they did so well with all the characters involved.

A note: the title of the TV series is officially R.O.D the TV. It is NOT "Read or Dream the TV" or "Read or Die the TV," despite the fact that many people refer to the series both ways. Since the TV series combines "Die" and "Dream" together, the creators chose to simply call it "R.O.D" without spelling out what the "D" stood for. This is mentioned in the Reading King and by ADR director and translator Taliesin Jaffe in the DVD commentary, who says he was told this by the series creators.

SO, DQ, if I want to experience the joy of R.O.D, what order should I do it in?:
Technically, more or less the order listed above–novels (if possible), then "Read or Die" manga, then "Read or Die" OAV, then "Read or Dream" manga (maybe skipping the 4th volume for now), then the TV series. Even though the two manga aren't fully canon, they still provide character background useful for appreciating certain things in the anime.

ON THE OTHER HAND, probably like many American fans, I experienced all this stuff in the order it was released in the U.S.: OAV, TV Series, then "Read or Die" Manga, then "Read or Dream." I managed to make sense of it all eventually; to some degree, all of them can stand alone if necessary.


Death Quaker's Realm All original creative materials © 2005 R. Pickard. Read or Die, R.O.D. the TV and all related concepts were created by Hideyuki Kurata and are ©2003 Aniplex/Studio Orphee.
Contact: mistress@deathquaker.org