“Read or Die” is a pretty fresh and original idea. The time setting takes place in an alternate history where the timeline is different. In Read or Die, the United States is very much portrayed as being weak. The British Empire remains a major superpower to this very day alongside China. To remain as a major superpower, the British Empire uses an external intelligence agency known as the British Library. It’s an intelligence and special operations division within the actual British Library.
The British Library on the outside is charged with the task of recovering rare books and artifacts. It’s devoted to the promotion of literacy and the greater glory of the British Empire. But by watching Read or Die, one can tell that the British Library is by no means your normal library. It’s a very powerful political organization with branches all across the glove including the United States. The British Library itself is headed up by a man named Gentleman who has extreme longevity. It is said that Gentleman is the father of the British Empire.
The British Library Special Operations Division is the combative arm of the British Library. They were charged with fighting book-related crimes and terrorism. Books are an important part of the anime. Agents are also assigned to acquire rare works for the Library under the slogan “Peace to the books of the world, an iron hammer to those who would abuse them, and glory and wisdom to the British Empire!”
The main character is a young woman named Yomiko Readman who is half-Japanese and half-English. The surname of “Readman” seems to be a pun on things since Yomiko enjoys sticking her nose in a book. Yomiko means “reading-woman.” She’s a bibliomaniac that likes to bury herself in the books. Most of her income is spent on books. Her entire apartment is filled with books.
She may look like a normal human being, Yomiko Readman is not. Yomiko has the ability of “paper magic” where she can bend paper material to her will. The paper can be made bulletproof or sharper than the sharpest sword. What Yomiko can do depends on how much paper she has on her. As a result, Yomiko is called “The Paper” or “Agent Paper.”
She is assisted by Nancy Makuhari who goes by “Miss Deep” because of her ability of phasing. She makes herself intangible in order to pass through solid objects.
Also assisting Yomiko is an older American special forces operative named Drake Anderson. While Drake doesn’t have any special powers, he has the skills and combat experience that more than makes up for it.
The three of them take orders from Joker who is the acting head. He’s the stereotypical Englishman.
In Read or Die, they’re main villains are the I-Jin whom are clones of various famous figures such as Ludwig von Beethoven. The two groups are racing each other trying to collect rare books for unknown reasons.
The United States is very much portrayed as weak. In the beginning of Read or Die, one of the I-Jin effortlessly blows up the White House. The President of the United States is portrayed as a coward. Perhaps he’s a caricature of George W. Bush. The US President is known to wet his pants in situations of extreme fear in Read or Die.
But, Read or Die remains an interesting anime to watch with an interesting plotline.