the Little Red Reviewer

Read or Die vs Read or Dream

Posted on: November 16, 2010

Read or Die – the title immediately caught my attention. The main character, Yomiko Readman is described as a bibliophile, and that caught my attention too. In an alternate Britain, 25 year old Yomiko Readman works for The Library, a British secret service agency that rescues stolen rare books. Known as “The Paper”, Yomiko is a talented Papermaster, she can manipulate paper to what she wants (paper-bending?). But, since The Library doesn’t pay enough for her to indulge in her book purchasing addiction, she also works as a high school substitute teacher, and she has to balance both jobs.

Her idol is teenage author Nenene Sumiregawa, and when Yomiko is assigned a teaching job at Nenene’s high school, she becomes a rabid fan and drives Nenene nuts. Yomiko and Nenene eventually come to a “leave me alone when I’m working!!!” understanding, but she’s not Nenene’s only rabid fan. When Nenene is kidnapped by a superfan who enjoys calling her Paul Sheldon, it’s up to Yomiko to save her!

Read or Die tries to be every single manga genre at once: slapstick action, fan service, literary, alt history, sex comedy, supernatural, suspense, high school romance. . . and you know how it works when you try to offer something for everyone?

Read or Die was a real disappointment for me. An alt history story about a funny bibliophile who rescues rare books that have been stolen?? it had “Indiana Jones” written all over it. But the plot line was just all over the place – there are hilarious moments, but they are overshadowed by too many weird and awkward scenes. As the clutziest and dumbest smart person ever, Yomiko Readman as an interesting character just fell flat.

So the manga was a bit of a fail. But if I hadn’t come across the Read or Die manga, I would have never been tempted to watch the Read or Dream anime. And that my friends? That was a winner.

The “Paper sisters” are Maggie, Anita and Michelle. Like Yomiko Readman, they are all skilled papermasters, and manipulate paper to help in their investigations. Where the original Read or Die was overly slapstick and had fanservice in the strangest places, Read or Dream is peppered with humorous sibling rivalry and the serious issue of the Paper Sisters not being actual sisters, who they are and where they came from. They have no parents, they have no family, all they have is each other.

The three sisters run a detective agency, specializing in lost books, manuscripts, and missing persons involved with books. The youngest sister, Anita, appears to be junior high school or high school age, but she doesn’t attend school. Maggie and Michelle often threaten to send her to school if she doesn’t do what they say, like wash the dishes and clean the apartment. All three sisters are competent physical fighters, and they each have there own papermaster specialties.  

In the anime (there is also a manga that follows a slightly different plot line, but I haven’t read it) the Paper Sisters are hired to be bodyguards to Nenene Surimegawa, who is now in her 20’s and a highly regarded author. It’s been about 10 years since Nenene met Yomiko, and although Yomiko has become a hermit, the two women try to keep in touch. The paper sisters end up moving with Nenene, and driving her nuts, to much comic amusement.

Not to knock the original Read or Die series, but Read or Dream is just plain better written. The characters are fleshed out and interesting, the action and plotline makes sense, and I felt compelled to watch more of the series because I just really liked the three Paper Sisters. 

Final verdict – if you see Read or Die in the manga section at the library, it’s worth getting the first volume just for the literary jokes. If you see Read or Dream on Netflix, it’s definitely worth renting if you enjoy mystery/family dramedy/supernatural stories. Both series are worth renting/borrowing, but not worth buying.   I own the first three volumes of Read or Die. Not my best investment of $30.

Fun useless trivia of the day – the Paper Sisters are named for Maggie Cheung, Anita Mui, Michelle Yeoh, stars of Hong Kong action movies.

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3 Responses to "Read or Die vs Read or Dream"

Working two jobs to support a book addiction? That’s classic!

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and I can relate to that.

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I can remember not being overly impressed with Read or Die when it was suggested to me because “You love Books”. I’ve never tried Read or Dream thinking it would be the same way. I’ll have to see if I can find that one.

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