Title: Read or Die
Warning: Do big breasts count?^_^ A few scenes of extreme violence.
Acquisition Method: You could probably find it fansubbed, but it has been released on one dvd in the US.
Format: 3 part OVA. There's a sequel tv series but I haven't watched it yet. And the OVA pretty much stand on their own.
Genre: Sci-fi/action/parody of every action movie cliche there is. The term "mock epic" suits it best.
Plot: The main character is Yomiko Readman, a bespectacled substitute teacher who spends every cent she earns on books and who dresses like a stern librarian. Yomiko's book obsession reminds me of myself^_~ Her entire apartment building, which I assume she owns, is filled with books. The woman can't walk without stepping on paper. She's so absorbed in her books that she has these little stick notes on her door, fridge, bookcase, to remind her to eat, clean, and brush her hair. The expression on her face when she finds a book she wants is so ME that I couldn't help laughing^^ Anyways, Yomiko is The Paper, a special agent working for the British Library Special Engineering Force. Yep, it's set in Britain. When a weird humanoid riding a monster/insect tries to steal a rare book from her, Yomiko becomes serious and is amazingly competent as her special ability is to fashion paper into any shape and form she desires. Various people keep exclaiming: "The Paper!" during the anime like one would say "It's Bond. James Bond."^_^
So a crazy scientist is using mutated clones of other famous scientists from the past to steal rare books from libraries around the world. He plans to destroy the human race by broadcasting Beethoven's lost "Death Symphony," which will compel everyone who hears it to commit suicide. It's up to Yomiko and her team of assorted quirky characters to stop his evil plan.
Technical details: The animation quality is very high. The traditional character designs might fool you into thinking it's standard fare, but every few scenes the camera will shift and the colours will just surge in your face. Plus the little details like shining cut strings really add to the quality of the picture.
Music: Every cliched action movie piece is remade and placed here. Really enhances the mock-epic feel of the anime. The main themes, believe it or not, are remixes of the main James Bond and Mission Impossible themes.
Squee factor: Apart from the great animation quality and tight plot pacing and funny dialogue, and the appeal of Yomiko's character, who is such an unusual heroine as she's shy, polite, and a literary geek to boot. The attraction of ROD is that it's a mish-mash of every cliche there is in action movies. The opening sequence has the infamous naked ladies of Bond films but with a Japanese paper motif as background, the almost erotic prints you see sold in Japan. *laughs* It's not a comedy by any means, but the humorous side emerges because the viewer can see each cliche in the form of dialogue, moves, and presentation. So it's really fun to sit back and pick them out^_^
The supporting cast is also interesting:
All the characters are stereotypes of action movies, yet the series manages to imbue them with enough details that they stand out and can function on their own in the plot.
Nancy Makuhari aka Miss Deep: this is the busty, super cool heroine in action movies who doesn't take any nonsense from anyone. She's dressed in that trademark tight black leather suit and has the ability to phase through solid objects or surfaces. Note the pun in the codename.
Joker: head of operations and is presumably British since he dresses as though he came out of the 17th century. And he never jokes.
Drake Anderson: Your typical muscle man, who is made unique by being very superstitious and beholden to his little daughter^_^
Wendy Earhart: Joker's poor clumsy secretary who can't walk 2 steps without damaging something, but shows a strength of character when moral decisions arise.
Fans: This site lists anime information and links to all the ROD fandom online: http://www.readordie.org/
I hope you'll give this series a try at least. This is one very original and unique anime. The premise is going to sound weird and baffling at first but take it on faith and trust me that this is one anime you can't afford to miss.