" I guess you used up all the ugly in the family "

MRQE Top Critic

Alias: Season Three

In its third season, Alias pulls off a hat trick with another round of pulpy page-turner adventure —Matt Anderson (DVD review...)

Sponsored links

As an Animé title, Read or Die held particular promise: it has a bookish girl hero, and it is ostensibly about reading, hardly standard fare for Animé, which is usually defined by violence and technology. Putting the Manga DVD in my player, a James Bond-like theme promised action and adventure, a nice mix with a literary hero.

 Ms. Readman elementally controls paper
Ms. Readman elementally controls paper
Unfortunately, the mix is heavy on the James Bond, and light on the literature. Some evil genius has been cloning famous people of the past — Ludwig von Beethoven, aviator Otto Lilienthal, Mata Hari — and raising them as supervillains. The agency tasked with stopping the madman and his clones consists of two superheroes — Nancy Mukuhari (AKA Ms Deep), who can walk through walls, and Yomiko Readman, AKA Agent Paper, who can elementally control paper — using it to stop bullets or shape itself into a giant paper airplane. They’re joined by an ordinary soldier whose special power is simply an assault rifle.

The story is impossible to take seriously, but it is delivered earnestly. That means you’ll end up laughing at the movie, not with it. Read or Die does have camp value (a terrified U.S. president wets his pants), but the laugh-out-loud moments are too few and far between to make all 3 episodes (90 minutes) of Read or Die worthwhile.

The quality of the animation in Read or Die is fine, but it is not particularly amazing, outstanding, or evocative. It’s nothing you haven’t seen before.

I had hoped Read or Die would make a nice companion piece to Stone Reader, a fascinating mystery/documentary about reading and books. Instead, Read or Die is just another Animé title. It tries to set itself apart with a unique hero, but it’s just not enough, even with a great theme song, to make good entertainment.