Read Or Die (2001)
Genre: Fantasy Sci-Fi Fantasy Thriller Anime
Starring: Rieko Miura, Michico Neya (Gunsmith Cats)
Directed By: Kouji Masunari, Amanda Winn Lee (Super Atragon)
Overview: A girl with the elemental power over paper is faced by an archvillain who seeks to collect the books that are the recipe for the end of the world as we know it.
Acting: As voice actors go, there is an English version of this but as any good purist, one must watch it in its original Japanese. Having said that, acting is hard to gauge but for Anime standards, it's just melodramatic enough without going overboard. You won't find anything so perfect and cute as the girl's voice in Grave Of The Fireflies but there's some sultry voices as well as some gravelly-toned baddies.
Cinematography: Here's where the film suffers a little. Sure the action is good and yes the perspectives and angles are appropriately wild during those exciting high-in-the-sky scenes but it's animation and you can go far more vivid, far more technically superior. There isn't very much innovation here, but still good for the Anime style that we all know and love.
Script: Fluffy enough for the kids while still being adult enough for mature audiences, we have a script that doesn't take itself too seriously and just so happens to accept the occasional fantastical premise for the sake of continuity. You know: "It turns out this terrorist group robbed the International Cloning Institute and uh... yeah, the guy with the Tesla Coil on his back was a clone of the guy who originally invented the thing and he's the bad guy"...that kind of thing.
Plot: We have clones of famous men like Beethoven who are bent on world destruction and we have a cute little schoolgirl whose only claim to fame is the ability to manipulate paper and her Shadowcat-like partner who can drift through matter. This young schoolgirl plods along politely asking a series of arch-nemeses if they can please return her book. Of course they say no, she promptly dispatches them and goes on to try and save the world with a unique and original ending. Good times.
Mood: Here's the thing: when you're constantly bombarded with Hollywood, Hollywood, Hollywood, seeing something different might even make you cringe a little, and when you start watching this film about a polite naive bookworm who just wants a book back because she hasn't read it yet, you instinctively doubt the worth of such a thing. Then the action and the magic and the intrigue start, and even the totally out there accepted premises are endearing as just part of a fantastical story about a sub-culture of superheros and elementalists. In the end it's actually a very unique way of looking at a story, and the themes are mature in their innocence. Quite an enjoyable surprise.
Overall Rating: 76% (Well...Read Or Get Nauseous At Least)
Aftertaste: What a welcome little interlude from serious film study. After countless hours of tiring work, sometimes one needs a little break from the great artistic endeavour of Repertoire Building. This is one of those movies that reminds me why I like movies...cause they're fun!