Manga Mondays: Read or Dream

rod_read_or_dream_v1_p_0000I recently sat down and read the Read or Die spinoff series Read or Dream. As you might have guessed, given my very uncomplimentary review of the original R.O.D. manga, I didn’t exactly have high hopes for this series. However, much to my surprise, Read or Dream was everything I had hoped Read or Die would be.

Read or Dream follows three sisters who run a book-related detective agency in Hong Kong. All three are Papers, meaning they have the ability to telekinetically manipulate paper, and they use their powers to help them solve their cases. The two older sisters, Michelle and Maggie, adore books and are more likely to buy new novels than pay bills. Youngest sister Anita hates books because she resents her sisters’ love of them, and she is constantly trying to whip Maggie and Michelle into being more responsible caretakers.

The series follows the hapless trio through a variety of cases, from finding a book that someone borrowed and then accidentally lost, to thwarting book thieves, to acting as bodyguards for an author working on her next book. The story is told in brief episodes as the girls take new cases, but the characters from each adventure reoccur throughout the later stories, and the manga-ka makes sure to wrap up the plots concerning those characters.

2886_23_MNCUC_ROD [Read or Dream] v3 p 0087What I really appreciated about this series as compared to the original is that, while Maggie and Michelle love books more than anything, their love is not portrayed in the creepily sexual way that Read or Die‘s Yomiko’s was. They love books, they have trouble parting with a single novel, they have a tendency to buy new ones instead of food—but they aren’t shown basically orgasming every time they touch a rare book the way Yomiko is drawn. The series has faint suggestions of yuri; Anita has male friends but her closest relationships are with girls her age, and those are the ones drawn with the blushes and shoujo-flowers. It’s all very G-rated and innocent, and is a much less ham-fisted portrayal of same-sex romantic interactions than Read or Die featured.

Rather, this series focuses in a refreshing way on sisterhood, and how three very different young women interact and make ends meet. The stakes aren’t super-high—the fate of the world isn’t threatened as much as the fate of the Paper sisters’ wallets are in danger when they get near bookstores—but that gives the author time to really develop the characters past manga archetypes and into real characters. I was surprised how much I enjoyed reading this series, and I recommend everyone read this one and pretend Read or Die doesn’t actually exist.