R.O.D.: The TV Vol. 1: We Are the Paper Sisters Detective Company
R.O.D.: The TV features a new sister act
Cynthia Ward · August 5, 2004 | I watched Japanese animation for twenty years before I saw an anime that reminded me of American director/auteur David Lynch. Barring sequels to Texhnolyze, I knew I'd never see another Lynch-like anime.

Was I wrong. The very next anime I watched was Lynchian. However, Texhnolyze reminds me positively of Lynch's excellent movie Eraserhead, whereas R.O.D.: The TV Volume 1: We Are the Paper Sisters Detective Company reminds me negatively of Lynch's interminable TV series Twin Peaks.

Excluding its great artwork, R.O.D.: The TV Volume 1 represents a near-total break from its superheroic secret-agent prequel, the witty and action-packed original animation video R.O.D.: Read or Die. The most obvious change is the new cast; R.O.D.: The TV has four new leads, a hot-tempered Japanese writer named Nenene Sumiregawa and the titular "Paper Sisters," a trio of Hong Kong-Chinese bookworms/private detectives/paper mages named Anita, Maggie, and Michelle King. Their names are a transparent homage to Anita Mui, Maggie Cheung, and Michelle Yeoh, the stars of Hong Kong's classic live-action martial-arts movie, The Heroic Trio. Alas, the homage is misleading, for R.O.D.: The TV has little action.

Episode 1, "The Papers Have Landed," does not set the tone for R.O.D. Volume 1, as it has plenty of action. Someone's sending Nenene death threats, but she refuses to cancel her book-signing tour of Hong Kong. Her editor hires Anita, Maggie, and Michelle to protect her. When a terrorist handcuffs Nenene to a bomb, the sisters unleash their magic, which can turn ordinary paper into anything from a lock-pick to a 747-sized bird.

The remaining three episodes are static, even though they hop genres. Episode 2, "Rise Up, Oh Dregs of Humanity," is a sitcom about Anita, Maggie, and Michelle moving in with Nenene. Everyone bickers in traditional sitcom fashion, but the arguments, contrived and annoying, are no substitute for secret-agent or private-eye action. Episode 3, "Let's Meet in Jinbo-cho," shows the sisters shopping in Tokyo's bookstore district. It's true many readers love visiting multi-bookstore meccas like Berkeley's Telegraph Avenue, but not even the most ardent bibliophile wants to watch somebody visiting bookstores. A bit of ninja action enlivens "The Seventh Grade Course," but this fourth episode focuses on the insufferable brat Anita's first day at a Japanese school. Apparently, the writers can't decide whether R.O.D.: The TV is a school comedy, a shopping show, a sitcom, a fantasy series, or a private-eye series.

R.O.D.: The TV Vol. 1
Geneon Entertainment, 2004
Originally released in 2003
Directed by Koji Masunari
100 minutes

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It gets worse. The four episodes devote extensive screen time to the sisters reading and the writer staring at her computer screen, the only two activities more boring to watch than paint drying. R.O.D.: The TV Volume 1 put me in a coma.

What's Good: Excellent art; good soundtrack; strong first episode.

What's Bad: Boring; unfocused; few DVD extras; the label says "Episode (sic) 1-5" but the disk has only four.

DVD Features: 2.0 Dolby Japanese audio; 5.1 Dolby Digital English & Japanese audio; two English subtitle streams (dialogue translation and signs-only translation); promo trailer; full color art gallery with comments; U.S. production commentary.
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