I really dig behind-the-scenes stuff and process books for comics and cartoons. It's not that I want to learn how to make my own so much as I enjoy seeing how things are put together. It can lead to a deeper appreciation of the work in question, which is always cool. Sometimes you like something more after you get to see how it's put together. And in the worst case scenario, checking out an art book gives you a chance to look at some cool art that builds on the original work you liked, right? A great example of the modern art book is R.O.D Read Or Die Official Archive, recently translated from the original Japanese and published in English by UDON Entertainment.Read or Die is a franchise composed of three short original video animations (OVAs -- think short films or long episodes) and one twenty-six episode television series. It follows the exploits of a small group of Paper Masters. What's a Paper Master? It's basically like air bending, only instead of bending air, you're bending paper. Each Paper Master has a specialty, and that affects their personalities and fighting styles. Some create monsters, others sharpen them to a razor's edge, and others tend to use overwhelming force.

The series hinges a lot on how the music, humor, and action build on one another, resulting in a stylish characterization-oriented blend. Once you watch the show or the OVAs, you'll get it. It's similar to Cowboy Bebop in that respect. It's more than the sum of its parts, and the parts actually sound pretty silly when taken on their own, but it's a very easy series to fall in love with.

So picking up UDON's official archive on a whim was a great choice. It provides a fun look at the creation of the franchise while simultaneously explaining where basically all of the random-but-official-looking Read or Die images you'll find online came from.

My favorite aspect of the Official Archives is how thorough it is. There are pages upon pages of charts of the various costumes that characters wore, including references to the episode they came from. Adjacent to that are explanations of each character's physical attributes, characterization, and special talents.

It's easy to lose sight of where these characters we enjoy come from, but this art book does a great job of showing the nuts and bolts of Yomiko Readman and the rest of the gang. It's also a fun trip down memory lane. I haven't watched Read or Die or R.o.D. the TV series in several years at this point, and half of my experience with the art book was marveling at familiar art and being stunned at how much about the series I've forgotten. R.O.D Read Or Die Official Archives is the total package, a combination of nostalgia-sparking images and process-oriented content. It's great. If you like Read or Die, or if you're just curious, it's well worth picking up.

Check out a quick preview below (and don't forget to click to check out the images in a higher resolution!) and make sure to visit UDON's official site for a longer preview. R.O.D Read Or Die Official Archives is in stores now.

(Click images to enlarge)

R.O.D. Read or Die Official Archive is available now at your local comic shop.