Total # of Volumes: 1
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Languages: English & Japanese with subtitles
Video: 4:3 NTSC Standard Aspect Ratio
Audio: 5.1 Dolby Digital
American Release Status: Unavailable
Creator: Hideyuki Kurata
Director: Kouji Masunari
Character Designer: Masashi Ishihama
Music: Taku Iwasaki
Animation Director: Masashi Ishihama
Animation Studio: Studio Deen
American Producers: Manga Entertainment
Title: Read or Die
Running Time: 90
Number of Episodes On This Volume: 3
1: Volume 1
2: Volume 2
3: Volume 3
Episode 1: Volume 1
It's night in DC; the nation's capital of the United States of America. But, all is not quiet in this city. At the White House, alarms are sounding and Secret Service agents are busy rushing the President to safety via a hidden escape hatch in the south lawn. What is the cause of all this excitement? A solitary figure standing atop the roof of the White House.
He dressed in the garb of a samurai and has a strange box, crackling with green sparks, strapped to his back. A pipe juts from his mouth. The President orders the agents to fire, and they unleash a torrent of bullets. The figure grunts, clasps his hands together and creates a larger field of electric energy about him. The field grows until becomes a massive bolt that rips through the building, destroying it. The figure glides down to the lawn and approaches the President, cowering in the grass. "Is this the Library?", he asks. The President, wetting his pants as he replies, tells him it is not. The figure announces that he is leaving, and the American leader asks who he is and the response is "I-Jin."
The next morning, in Tokyo, a phone rings in a room filled from the floor to the ceiling with books. Every surface groans with at least 5 books on it. A hand reaches up, finds the phone under a pile of books and answers it. The owner of the hand, Yomiko Readman, pops up as the voice on the line offers her a substitute teaching job. She accepts the job and with great joy in her voice cries "I did it!" After a brief breakfast, Yomiko decides to celebrate her success with a little book shopping; even though she is forced to live in a small corner of a rooftop shed in her 5 story apartment building because she has filled every other space with books. And the stores are more than happy to see her.
After having made several trips back and forth between her home and the bookstores, Yomiko stops to visit a very special rare books bookstore. She goes to an elevator, punches in a secret code and then swipes a card to be taken to the hidden store. There, she spots a rare copy of Beethoven's Immortal Beloved and she reaches for it. As she does, another woman tries to take the book as well. Yomiko refuses to let her have the book and purchases the book (on credit).
Outside, Yomiko is so thoroughly engrossed in the book that she does not even notice the swarms of bees, the skidding cars or the truck that overturns right next her, spilling its contents of paper. Only when the bees swarm directly at her does Yomiko react, using her special power to create a shield from the spilled pages. As she asks what is going on, a giant grasshopper, ridden by a man in a long coat, bounds into view and lands next to Yomiko. The man spots the copy of Immortal Beloved in Yomiko's arms and has his bug take it.
Yomiko, upset that she has not read the book yet, grabs a spool of ribbon and sends it hurtling towards the retreating insect. The ribbon wraps itself around the bug and Yomiko plants the other end into the street. Her powers have made the ribbon as strong as steel. She leaps up on the bug and confronts the man. He attempts to unleash his bees on her, but she stops him by throwing a sheet of paper over his hands where it seals like glue. She takes the book and leaps off, snipping the ribbon as she goes. The bug crashes uncontrollably into a nearby building and both bug and man are destroyed.
A car skids to a halt just as the crash occurs, and a tall blond man steps out. He wonders aloud if he is too late, and then he notices Yomiko struggling to free her rolling suitcase from a pile of debris. He approaches her and greets her as "The Paper." She returns the greeting, calling him Joker. He takes the book from her and tells her to follow. Yomiko does, still complaining that she has not yet been able to read her latest acquisition.
The two travel to the headquarters of the British Library Special Operations Forces, a fanciful place filled with huge rolling wagons of books and retro-technology; like computers terminals made from old fashion typewriters. There, Yomiko is brought to Mr. Gentleman, the head of the unit and she is briefed on the mission. She is told about the attack on the White House and how they believe the man that attack was an I-Jin clone of a Japanese inventor known as Gennai Hiraga. The bug man she fought in Tokyo was an I-Jin clone of the naturalist Jean-Henri Fabre, and the Library Forces suspect that both are looking for the copy of Immortal Beloved that Yomiko found. They ask Yomiko if she will help recover the transcripts that have already been stolen and stop those behind the attack and clones.
Yomiko thinks for a moment and then explains that she just got a maternity leave substitution teaching job and she needs the money. Joker is shocked that she would place money before world peace and tells her so. But Yomiko is unmoved. Mr. Gentleman laughs and tells Yomiko that she is just as he remembers her. He promises to give her the second volume of Immortal Beloved if she carries out the mission and Yomiko agrees to the job.
The call goes out, and Drake Anderson, a gruff marine, is disturbed at his pottery class by the sound of his cellphone. But he responds to the call and travels to DC to meet up Yomiko. She arrives via helicopter, and Drake informs her that he drew a paper fortune this morning and it said, "Great Fortune" and then he got the call that he would be working with her. If this is what is considered great fortune, he does not want to ever see terrible misfortune. But Yomiko misses his insult, absorbed as usual, in a book.
The two enter the ruins of the Library of Congress and Yomiko asks what she should do. Drake tells her to go sit in a corner and not cause any trouble. Yomiko does as instruct but is soon bouncing through the undamaged areas gleefully calling out the names of her favorite authors as she spies them on the shelves. She reaches up for one particular book and once again, the woman she encountered at the rare books bookshop in Tokyo is there. This time she introduces herself as Miss Deep. She is Yomiko's new partner. She demonstrates her power - the ability to "dive" through solid objects - and explains that is where her codename comes from. Yomiko asks for her real name but she declines to share it with her. Their introductions are cut short but the sudden appearance of a man in amazing glider-like craft. He snatches the Immortal Beloved book from Yomiko and blasts off north towards New York City.
Drake, Yomiko and Miss Deep are sent after the man while Joker researches him at headquarters. The pilot is another I-Jin, this time a clone of a German glider era inventor named Otto Lilienthal. The team races to catch up to him.
Meanwhile, the US Army attempts to down the jet-powered glider with attack helicopters. They are not match for the super-powered clone. The military then sends in a huge squadron of helicopters to trap and down the glider, but they are defeated by the I-Jin Gennai Hiraga, who uses his energy powers from atop the Brooklyn Bridge to destroy the machines. His powers also disabled Yomiko and company's helicopter and they are sent crashing into the roof of the World Trade Center. Drake and Miss Deep watch Otto pirouette over midtown and wonder what to do next.
Yomiko has an answer and she pops open her suitcase, dumping out hundreds of sheets of paper. She quickly fashions the paper into a giant paper airplane and orders Miss Deep aboard. Drake hands her his rifle and asks her not to blame him if she dies. Miss Deep tells Drake that she will blame him and Yomiko urges Drake to launch her and Miss Deep. He counts down to zero and lobs the plane off the room. They quickly give chase to the I-Jin.
A thrilling dog fight zooming in and out of the canyons of Manhattan ensues as Yomiko and Miss Deep battle with Otto. Finally, they lead him out over the harbor and Yomiko drops Miss Deep off at the Statue of Liberty. Yomiko leaps aboard the glider and Otto tries to shoot her with his pistol. But Yomiko's paper easily stops the bullets. Otto then tries to shake her off but is unsuccessful.
Unaware that Yomiko attached a tail made of paper to his ship, he swoops close enough to the statue for Miss Deep to snag the paper tail with a cable attached to the statue's up raised arm. Yomiko recovers the book from the I-Jin just as his ever tightening flight circle closes in on the top of Miss Liberty's torch. The sculpted flames become real as Otto collides with the torch and explodes.
Yomiko, meanwhile, manages to hang onto the book and saved when her jacket snags one of the spikes on Miss Liberty's crown. Miss Deep walks out and offers Yomiko a hand and, after she has tested it to make sure it is solid, clambers up onto the spike. Yomiko begins to thank Miss Deep but she cuts her off, saying that her real name is Nancy Makuhari. Down in the harbor, Gennai and another I-Jin observe the death of Otto and depart. This is where the episode ends.
Episode 2: Volume 2
High above the Earth, a spy satellite zooms in on its intended target. Gennai, the electricity-wielding I-Jin, has been spotted in India. The camera tracks him as he walks through the market and meets with another man. This second man looks up as if he can see the satellite hundreds of miles above him and he glares. The satellite suddenly explodes.
Joker ends the review and explains to his team of Drake, Nancy and Yomiko that Gennai appeared in India at just the same time that the stolen books surfaced on the black market there. The second man is a mystery but for now, their mission is to recover the books and capture any I-Jin alive. Drake leaves the room to catch some rest before they arrive in India and Yomiko and Nancy remain in the lounge.
Nancy braids Yomiko's hair, using tiny pieces of paper to tie off the locks of hair, while Yomiko buries herself in Immortal Beloved. She reads one passage aloud to Nancy, but Nancy does not share the same passion for books with Yomiko. She does think that Yomiko's bookmark is cute and tells her so. Yomiko gives it to her as a present and tells her that if she holds it, it will help her health and if she places it inside a romance novel, it will make her lucky in love. Nancy grows pensive at that last comment and asks Yomiko which she prefers - a real romance with all the trouble that comes with that or a happy romance that is fictitious? Nancy gets up, apologizes for asking such a silly question and leaves.
Their craft, a submarine, arrives in India and surfaces in the river at the edge of the city. Inside, Drake rises and prepares for battle while Yomiko waits for Nancy outside her cabin door. Nancy comes out, dressed in her black battle outfit that leaves very little to the imagination, and Yomiko tells her that she has an answer to Nancy's question. Yomiko prefers a real romance because no matter what happens, you are always the main character. Nancy replies tersely that now is not the time for such chat, they have a job to do. Outside, as the Indians look on stunned at the huge sub that just appeared in their river, a young girl with the markings of an I-Jin, releases a small flying beetle, instructing it to "go get him." The beetle flies off into the city.
Back in London, Joker calls for his assistant Wendy. He asks her for her report on Nancy, and she informs him that her record and history are clear. Joker asks her to dig deeper and use dirty tricks if necessary. Nancy and Yomiko call in and report that they are outside the bookstore that they were ordered to investigate. The shop is closed, and no one is responding to their calls. They enter and begin to search the place while Joker watches from his office.
They turn up nothing but a strange beetle on the floor and as they turn towards it, the back wall of the shop explodes. It is another I-Jin. This time the I-Jin is the same man the spy satellite saw speaking with Gennai. He is a tall man with the rod, robes and elaborate hat of a Buddhist monk. He introduces himself as Genjo. He demands the book from Yomiko and when she refuses, he unleashes a blast of fire from his mouth at her. Nancy opens fire on him and he deflects the bullets with his spinning rod and then causes the rod to extend, attacking Nancy.
The battle quickly spills out of the shop and Genjo pursues the women as they make they way back to the sub. He chases them to the edge of river and then begins to chant as Nancy and Yomiko speed away in boat. Genjo finishes his chant the river parts, causing the water to recede and the sub to crash to the now dry river bed. Nancy and Yomiko's boat drops as well, landing among ancient ruins revealed by the receding waters.
Genjo chases them into the ruins and the battle continues. Drake radios Yomiko and tells her to lead Genjo to a specific point and they will fire on him from the stranded sub. Yomiko complies and manages to get him into position. They fire a torpedo at him and score a direct hit but Genjo avoids damage by rocketing skyward on his pole. He lands, slaps the sub with a massive strike from the pole and resumes his pursuit of Nancy and Yomiko.
The two ladies devise a plan to defeat the I-Jin, but it will require Nancy to suffer considerable pain and Yomiko to go on the assault; something she normally does not do. Nancy baits Genjo by donning Yomiko's coat and running out into the clear. Genjo spears her with his rod but Nancy uses her power to allow the rod to pass through her. She then solidifies, sealing the rod within her and allows Genjo to draw her up to him. With his weapon disabled, Yomiko pops out and throws one of her sheets of paper at him, sealing over his mouth. She then attacks with a rapid fire of paper blades, slicing and wounding the I-Jin. Finally, one of them stabs directly into the mechanical device embedded over his heart and he falls to the ground.
Yomiko rushes to her friend and tries to comfort her. Genjo, not quite dead, spies the book, which had dropped from Yomiko's coat and shoots across the ground towards it. Yomiko turns to intercept him but stops when Nancy coughs up blood. Genjo reaches the book and tosses it into the air. The young girl from the river swoops down, carried by a huge flying insect, and grabs the book. Genjo then dies as a figure from the shadows throws a deadly blow at him.
With Genjo's death, the river is released and the waters begin to pour down on Nancy and Yomiko. Yomiko rushes, with Nancy on her back, to the sub and manages to clamber inside before the river strikes. The ruins are submerged again and sub regains it buoyancy. Nancy to tend to and team heads back home.
In London, they analyze all that they have learned and they notice that Beethoven appears to be at the center of the mystery; not only as the author of the book everyone is chasing but also that his writings have turned up in the margins of other books taking from the other defeated I-Jin. Joker urges his staff to solve the puzzle.
Meanwhile, Yomiko sits at Nancy's bedside until she awakens from a two-day sleep. Yomiko tells the woman how happy she is that Nancy woke up and then announces that she will sleep and promptly drops unconscious on the bed. Nancy raises up her finger and finds the bookmark that Yomiko gave her looped on her finger.
A short while later, out in the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii, a sport fisherman sits on his boat, listening to the radio. Suddenly, the radio fills with static and then the sound of "Ode to Joy" from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. The sound grows stronger and a huge fortress rises from beneath the ocean. The signal coming from it overwhelms all communication across the globe. The image of an old man, surrounded by other I-Jin and holding the stolen book appears on screens across the planet.
He identifies himself as Ikkyu and he proceeds to announce that he believes that there are too many people in the world. It is unhealthy for the planet and he has decided to correct the problem. Biological weapons are too difficult to manage, and nuclear weapons do more harm than good, so he has devised a better way to thin the population.
As Ikkyu speaks, Joker's assistant Wendy struggles to enter the control room where he is watching the broadcast. She finally makes it to the podium and she tries to get his attention. Joker ignores her until she blurts out that Nancy Makuhari died years ago in college. Joker grabs the papers out of Wendy's hands and looks at them just as Ikkyu calls for Nancy, whose actually identity is Mahta Hari, to return.
Joker immediately orders her capture and on board the plane carrying Nancy/Mahta Hari, Drake and Yomiko, Drake pulls out his gun and points it at her. Yomiko leaps up and stands between the two, pleading that there must be a mistake. But, Mahta Hari puts a gun to the back of Yomiko's head and tells her that she is too trusting. She runs her fingers through one of Yomiko's braid, taking the paper from it and places a vampirish kiss on her neck. Mahta Hari then drops through the plane's floor and is retrieved by another flying insect.
Back in London, Mr. Gentlemen tells Joker that they are suspending "Operation Manuscript Retrieval" and commencing "Operation Exterminate I-Jin Corps." He instructs Joker that he will have the full cooperation of all land, air and sea forces and that his name may be used to smooth over any problems. Drake and Yomiko fly on towards the fortress and this is where the episode ends.
Episode 3: Volume 3
Battle preparations are proceeding at full speed. A huge fleet is steaming towards the I-Jin fortress and Drake and Yomiko are closing in by air. Back at headquarters, Mr. Gentleman and Joker go through the list of countries to be notified of the plan and those to be incorporated into the plan. Other operatives work on deciphering the notes in the book and creating a map of the fortress.
On the plane, Drake prepares for the fight, cleaning his guns and checking his equipment. Yomiko peers out the window anxiously and Drake asks her why she is acting so differently. Yomiko explains that she wants to find Nancy and rescue her. Drake tells her to forget it; Nancy is a spy and cannot be trusted. Yomiko disagrees.
The steam surrounding the fortress breaks and "Mother Goose," the plane carrying Drake and Yomiko, swoops in. It rotates its propellers to a hover mode and comes to a stop next to the structure. Through the open back door of the craft, Yomiko spots Nancy/Mahta Hari standing on a pipe jutting out from the main structure. Yomiko rushes towards her but Drake pulls her back.
Suddenly, the plane shudders as one engine is hit. The order is given to pull back, but it is too late. Hundreds of beetles rip through the craft and plane crashes into the towering fortress, exploding in a huge fireball. Drake and Yomiko manage to escape, and they express their condolences for the pilot. Joker tells them to stay put and he will send them a plan of the fortress in few moments. But, Yomiko does not listen and she starts off towards the place where Nancy/Mahta Hari was standing. Drake orders her back and begins to lecture her on how important it is to stay focused on mission.
Unfortunately, Drake is too distracted by his lecture to notice the huge beetle that creeps up behind him. The insect grabs him and tossed him off the fortress. The small child that has been following them on the bug all along then press a button and the lipstick from Nancy/Mahta Hari's kiss on Yomiko's neck glows and is absorbed into her skin, causing her to lose consciousness. Joker tries to contact his two operatives and the child picks up Yomiko's headset, informing him that Drake is dead and Yomiko captured. Headquarters confirms that Drake's ID has ceased operating.
Yomiko awakens to find herself handcuffed to a post. She is also standing in water up over her knees. Ikkyu, the creator of the I-Jin and the shadowy man who killed Genjo sits across from her on a small platform. He apologizes for the conditions, but they fear her power so such measures are required. He holds up her small sheets of paper and sets them aflame. He then does the same for her suitcase of paper.
He then introduces an old friend of Yomiko's, Nancy/Mahta Hari. Yomiko brightens and asks Nancy to tell her that this is all an act. That she turned on them just to win Ikkyu's confidence and that she is still on the side of good. But Nancy does not answer. Ikkyu then explains that he is going to kill everyone, including Yomiko and Nancy gasps, grabbing Ikkyu and saying that he promised to spare her. Ikkyu chuckles and says that he intends to keep his promise, just with one minor change.
He will make a clone of Yomiko from her DNA that he will control instead of letting the real Yomiko live. "Just like I did with you," he tells her as a clone of Nancy shoves her arm through Nancy's chest. Nancy drops to the floor and blood pours out. The clone steps on her and forces her body through the floor. Ikkyu and clone then leave; sealing the door to the room has water begins to pour in.
Meanwhile, back at headquarters, Wendy arrives at the lab to pick up the notes that Joker requested. She is horrified to discover everyone dead. They all committed suicide. Joker receives the report, and his team of scientists informs him that they have figured out Ikkyu's plan. He has used the music abilities of a cloned Beethoven to compose a "Suicide Symphony." The music, which is what the poor people in the lab were exposed to, causes those who hear to kill themselves. They tell Joker that Ikkyu plans to launch a rocket and place a satellite in orbit that will saturate the world with the sound. Ikkyu appears on the monitors and confirms the scientists theories. He tells them that they have one hour before the rocket launches.
The American President freaks out and orders a full assault. The amassed navy launches all its missiles at the fortress, but they are easily shot down. The fortress retaliates and destroys the navy. As this happens, Drake manages to climb back up to the level where they first landed and recovers Yomiko's headset. He contacts headquarters and Joker, relieved that Drake is still alive, orders him to find the power source of the base and destroy it.
Down below, in the chamber that is rapidly filling with water, Yomiko gasps for air. She notices the tiny slip of paper at the end of her one remaining braid and grabs it with her teeth. It transforms into a sharp needle, and she sends it flying at her handcuffs, freeing her arms. She swims across the room, opens the door and escapes her watery trap.
Drake descends deeper into the fortress. He pauses as the base shakes as massive steam engines roll away large sections of the tower, revealing a rocket. He arrives down near the power level only to find Gennai, the electricity using Samurai, waiting for him and they prepare to battle.
But, before they can fight, Yomiko appears and she grabs a wad of bills from Drake. She tells Drake go and complete his mission - she will take care of Gennai. She transforms the bills into a rod and Gennai forms a light sword. Yomiko wards off some of his blows but then scrambles away, crawling under a maze of pipes. Gennai follows and soon the two are battling in a room filled with huge gears. Yomiko forms a sword and slices the catwalk out from beneath Gennai, sending him tumbling down into the gears. But, he uses his powers to stop his fall and comes charging back up after Yomiko. She escapes over the gears and her follows. They end up on another platform where Gennai slices through her paper sword, sending bills floating through the air. Gennai declares the battle over but Yomiko stares with steel in her eyes and says it is not over yet.
She holds one bill up and all the airborne bills suddenly straighten in response to her command. Then she sends them all flying at Gennai. He is plummeted by the swarm of bills and his box is damaged. Yomiko finishes him off by sending her last bill up into an overhead pipe, bring down a deluge of liquid nitrogen, instantly freezing the samurai into an ice sculpture. The Gennai statue shatters and Yomiko reports the defeat of Gennai to headquarters.
Up on the main deck of the fortress, Drake plants a bomb on one of the huge engines and sets it off. It destroys the outer skin of the machine, but it keeps moving. Drake rushes up, climbs in and heads in deeper, intent on finishing the job. He finds the beetle child and another I-Jin awaiting for him inside.
Meanwhile, Yomiko rushes to stop Ikkyu and Nancy. Ikkyu leaves Nancy to deal with Yomiko and heads off for the rocket. Yomiko attacks Nancy with her paper but it passes right through her. Nancy responds by thrusting her hand into Yomiko's chest, intent on ripping her heart out. But, she stopped when the original Nancy appears and knocks her away from Yomiko. The original Nancy orders Yomiko to go after Ikkyu and stop him and tells her that she will take care of her clone. Yomiko races off after Ikkyu.
Down on the train, Drake battles with the beetle. He fires into the child and then rips off one of the claws of the bug. He plants his bomb and races out. The explosive detonates and the train is stopped before it can reach the end of its track and activate the rocket launch. Headquarters erupts in cheers. But their joy is cut short when Ikkyu appears on their screens and presses a button on his timer, causing the launch to proceed.
Back inside the fortress, the two Nancy fight a fierce battle. They morph through steel and toss each other about like rag dolls. Finally, they splash down into a large pool of water and disappear beneath the surface. A few moments later, one Nancy floats to the surface and the other climbs out of the water and heads up towards the rocket.
The rocket launches and on board the cloned Beethoven plays "Ode to Joy" as the massive ship rises on a column of flame. Ikkyu smiles and calls Beethoven a true genius. But, Ikkyu's bliss is shattered when Yomiko appears outside, clinging to one of the huge glass windows. She shatters it and enters the room at the top of the rocket. A steel shutter closes behind her and she orders Ikkyu to stop the rocket and return the book to her.
Ikkyu asks her why the book is so important and, while Yomiko is distracted thinking about the question, he causes a tiger to appear, sending it at the girl. She tries to defend herself, but it is just an illusion and Ikkyu uses the deception to get close to Yomiko and knock her down with his cane. He prepares to finish her off, but Nancy appears.
Nancy draws her gun and points it at Ikkyu. She then turns and fires on Yomiko. Ikkyu smiles with glee and goes to hug Nancy but his joy is short-lived as she reaches within him and squeezes his heart till he dies. Nancy tells Yomiko to finish the job and Yomiko severs all the cables attached to Beethoven and the I-Jin is destroyed.
Nancy then tells Yomiko that they must escape quickly or end up in space forever. And only way that they can escape is if Yomiko creates a parachute out of the Immortal Beloved book. Yomiko agrees reluctantly and they go to the escape hatch door. Yomiko opens it and tells Nancy not to let go. She then leaps out. But Nancy remains behind by her own choice. As Yomiko floats down towards the fortress, headquarters asks the status of her mission. Yomiko reports all I-Jin exterminated, mission completed. She notices Nancy's crumpled bookmark in her hand and reads a hastily scribbled note on from Nancy - please take care of my little sister.
Weeks later, Yomiko places a call to Joker. She has finished her maternity leave substitute teaching job and she wishes to visit with Nancy's younger sister. The younger sister is the clone that Nancy drowned in the pool on the fortress. She suffered brain damage and has been secluded at a secure prison hospital. Yomiko is given permission to visit and she arrives to find the younger Nancy siting on a bench overlook the ocean, struggling to make origami. Yomiko joins her and creates a paper butterfly that actually flies. Nancy is overjoyed by the toy and chases after it. She returns after catching it and sits next to Yomiko. She asks whether she know her and Yomiko introduces herself. She tells Nancy that she was a friend of her older sister and that her sister was a hero that saved the entire world. This is where the episode, volume and OAV series end.