R.O.D Read Or Die Official Archive

Artbook Review

cover

Title: R.O.D Read or Die Official Archive
Publisher: Udon Entertainment
Series: R.O.D Read or Die Anime Series
Format: Softcover
Pages: 128
Release Date: January 2013
Special Thanks: Udon Entertainment for providing me with a review copy of this title to cover.

Official Blurb

Read Or Die is the story of Yomiko Readman and the British Library Special Operations Division, a secret group dedicated to the location and protection of rare books! A fantastic anime series mixing cute girls, intrigue and espionage, and even mecha, R.O.D has been a North American fan-favourite for years!

R.O.D Official Archive is a true fan’s ultimate guide to the world of both the original 3-episode OVA and the 26-episode anime TV series. Official Archive starts with a selection of gorgeous pin-ups and special illustrations created for the series, before moving into extensive character profiles featuring character designs and background and rough sketches. The book then moves into an episode guide with scenario and mechanical designs, an exploration of the opening and ending sequences featuring key-frame animation and roughs, and an extensive interview with the Director, Creator, and staff of the anime! Finally it finishes with even more behind-the-scenes development artwork and a glossary for the series… a ton of information is packed into these pages!

One of the original trailers for the US “TV” series release

Pre-Review Blurb

Originally starting out as a light novel series, Read or Die (R.O.D) was adapted into an OVA anime series and later a follow-up full anime season of 26 episodes in 2001 and 2003 respectively. I first reviewed the series in the early days of 2012 where the series walked away with an A- grade and has been a series I have watched a couple of times since my coverage. At the moment its availability NEW is becoming scarce in the marketplace – with Australian anime publisher Madman Entertainment recently dropping it from their store and the Blu-ray release by Aniplex of America’s listing recently disappearing from Rightstuf.com – leaving only a few individual volumes left.

However, while its availability in the future might be a tad uncertain, this has not stopped Udon Entertainment from releasing this great art book and compendium for the anime/OVA series – R.O.D Read or Die Official Archive, containing 128 colour pages filled to the brim with artwork, episode guides and other information that has been translated from its original 2010 Japanese release. While it may not serve as a supplement for the anime series, it does provide an interesting incite into the world of R.O.D.

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Content

While it may be shorter that most other book reviews I have covered on this site (Eg. Persona 4: Official Design Works), they work sufficiently with the space they had and it didn’t seem to result in any major compromise of content. Over these pages you are treated to a sizable collection of artwork, concept, rough and finalized designs, detailed information on the characters and the world as well as all the other goodies we have come to expect from an Udon Entertainment release – interviews, details on different releases made for the series and so forth.

R.O.D Read or Die Official Archive is split up into four individual chapters, each of which have a particular focus. The beginning of the book is adorned with many pages of artwork styled primarily for the TV anime series although comes with a nice collection of artwork from the OVA series – whose characters merge with the TV anime series a while after it begins. There is no uniform placement of the artwork – with some landscape artwork becoming two-page spreads or two on a page, while most of the portrait artwork were placed several to a page or merged with landscape visuals. In terms of the “Illustration Gallery”, there was a good selection of artwork on offer although it would have been nice to have something like they had with Disgaeart and included an index identifying the source and use of each piece.

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The first actual chapter in this book are character profiles for all the characters in both the OVA and TV anime series and are actually pretty detailed 1-2+ page biographies on each character. While the content does vary between characters as their role and presence in the series decreases, each profile contains basic stats and a headshot of the characters, alongside bios of the Physical Attributes, Character Attributes, Paper/Special Skills and artwork for most if not all of the clothing they wore during the series with a detailed (albeit tiny) index describing them and when they wore it in the show. In terms of the main characters such as Anita and Michelle this can take up to two pages for their apparel designs alone.

The second main chapter, and most prominent section of the book is the episode guide for both the OVA and TV series. The book dedicates a page or two for each episode which is split up into three sections usually – “Story” which describes the events of the episode in a paragraph or two, “Commentary” which provides some incite into the episode from the staff and “Points of Interest” which highlight key components of the story that contributed to the overall plot – all three of which proved quite interesting to read. Each episode also comes with associated screenshots, the odd character design for very minor characters and occasionall concept artwork (More prominent for the OVA episodes).

The chapter also provides incite in the opening and ending sequences for both series as well as the CD and DVD release “introductions” which I feel would have been better associated with the extra goodies – but I suppose that is a minor trifle. Another added addition to the chapter was a fully translated interview with the Main Staff of R.O.D (Koji Masunari – Director, Hideyuki Kurara – Original Creator / Script / Series Structure, Taraku Uon – Original Character Design and Masashi Ishihama – Character Design and Chief Animation Director). The interview spans seven pages and makes for an interesting read if you have the time and can draw your eyes to several pages of text.

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The final chapter goes by the simple title of “Materials”, and spread over several pages provides a look at the actual design process of many of the bits and pieces and environments that went into the series – from the weapons and equipment of Anita to the design of Nenene’s apartment. The drawings come with ample annotations and are interesting to read through. In addition, for quick reference a three page glossary of the series is included as the back of the book – providing brief descriptions of characters, places and events.

I was initially worried that the length of the book would not be able to sufficiently give enough space to cover everything they could have. While they could have expanded upon the content more in several areas, for those familiar with the series I think its content should suffice but is by no means a detailed enough replacement for watching the actual series or part thereof and fully appreciate its plot.

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Layout

As I mentioned above, one of my primary concerns with this release would be that the length of this book would not give it enough room to detail everything they could have. Fortunately while they cover a considerable amount of content they do not sacrifice design to do so. From the title to the “magical powers” involving books – it is only fitting that they carry a book theme to this release – and not taking into account the artwork section I think they did a pretty good job of doing so.

Character profiles appear to be written across older parchment (or something along those lines) and although they do some editing in order to make the text and artwork stand it out was a nice touch. The episode guide wasn’t as detailed however the script characters for each of the episode titles were portrayed in boxes similar to a grid-based writing pad and in capturing the theme of design, all the drawing designs were overlayed a design grid. While it was simple and didn’t exactly tie into the whole series – it was something different and better than just plain white backgrounds.

From what I have been provided, the font used is clear and legible, aside from a few pieces of artwork I think the sizing and placement of images was sufficient and that effort went into its design and translation on the behalf of Udon Entertainment.

Final Word

Let’s be honest…. there are many many art books, design works and so forth released in Japan and very few of them see a release internationally – with very few companies such as Udon Entertainment working on acquiring licenses to, translating and releasing them. That being said, while there are other anime series that MIGHT have been better off receiving a translated artbook release…. as a fan of the Read or Die series I am very glad that Udon Entertainment picked up the rights to R.O.D Read or Die Official Archive – and I think it proves to be a great companion for watching and appreciating the series with.

Content: A-
Layout: 
A-
Extras: B+
Personal Opinion: A-

Overall Score: A-

Want to Know More About R.O.D Read or Die?

In the very near future. 5 years after the incident called the”Human Annihilation Mission,” there is a detective company called “Three Sisters’ Detective Agency” existing in Hong Kong. These three beautiful (?) girls work day and night to solve cases that involve books.

Their names are Michelle, Maggie and Anita.

Not just bookworms Michelle, the eldest, and Maggie, in the middle, but even their youngest sister Anita, who doesn’t like to read, possess special abilities as paper masters. One day, they are requested as bodyguards for a Japanese novelist, Nenene Sumiregawa, during her visit to Hong Kong and her autograph session at a bookstore.

Sam
Sam
Founder of The Otaku's Study. I have been exploring this labyrinth of fandom these last fifteen years, and still nowhere close to the exit yet. Probably searching for a long time to come.

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