The original Read or Die OAV was a Bond-movie spoof with superpowers. Like most of Roger Moore’s Bond films, the action, humor, and engaging characters kept you from getting hung up on the basic silliness of the plot. And, of course, Yomiko’s paper-mastery power was novel and visually impressive. I liked it.
I liked R.O.D the TV more, despite its flaws. Why? Like some of my other favorites, it’s all about the characters. The “big plot” that ties it in to the events of Read or Die is not only silly, but overexplained as well. Nearly an entire episode is wasted on clunky “as you know, Bob” exposition, and the villain doesn’t just gather the heroes for one final monologue, he gives them an open mic to all his henchmen.
The truth is, the series didn’t need a “big plot”, and it definitely didn’t need one that depended so strongly on characters from the OAV, while fundamentally altering their personalities. I like Nenene and the Paper Sisters, and I think they could have carried the show on their own. Deep down, I think the writers knew this, too, which is why the “slam-bang action finale” took up so little time in the last episode, and was followed by quiet scenes of the cast getting on with their lives. Ultimately, R.O.D the TV wasn’t about finding Yomiko, saving the world, or even paper-mastery; it was about these four women.
I knew up-front that the series would include Bond-ish clichés and a villain whose plans made Doctor Evil look sensible. I knew there’d be paper-mastery. I figured Yomiko had to show up eventually, especially when I discovered Nenene’s history in the manga. In those respects, the series met my expectations. In the way it handled the personalities and relationships of Michelle, Maggie, Anita, and Nenene, it exceeded them.
The way it presented Joker was jarring if you’d seen the OAV, but a bit less so if you’d also read the manga. Wendy’s change was poorly explained, and made even less sense if you’d read the manga. As for Gentleman, “well, that came out of nowhere”.