September 4th, 2006

sharp, arrow, angry

"Read or Die"

I just saw (on blackwingedboy's recommendation) Read or Die (wikipedia).

Very, very odd. -- and yet, what a cool premise. The British Library is secretly (or not so secretly) in charge of secret operations of unknown (but presumably noble) ends, like retrieving hitherto unknown Beethoven works.

It's a funky hybrid of over-the-top anime action excess (psionic superpowers, implausibly clad ass-kicking babes, slightly mysterious and conflicted boss-man named "Joker", etcetera) and (on the other hand) occasional nods to literary and historical affectation (off the top of my head: references to Eugene O'Neill, Mother Goose, Ludwig von Beethoven, and Otto Lilienthal -- mostly as villains.

And the creators are obviously in love with both genres -- crusty literary nods are peppered throughout and the main character is a book fiend, while the action sequences are like X-men without any character constraints.

Or rather, the character constraints are (very loosely) those of the original literary figures. In this respect, it seems like a love letter to two genres at once. Like Alan Moore's League (tribute to the superhero team book and pre-1930 SF) or Warren Ellis' Planetary (a pastiche of 20th century pulps and 1960s comics characters retreaded), it's trying to serve two (or more) genres at once and though Moore and Ellis pull it off, they have an advantage: they deeply love the source material that they are ripping off.

Sadly, it's not so clear that the creators of Read or Die are interested in their literary historical figures except as a quick way to grab a character idea. Kinda too bad, because the idea is great.