Rideback (image from Pixiv)
Yesterday I finally had the free time to watch one of the anime that was dusting in my backlog for so long: Rideback. This show aired back in the winter season of 2009 (I think sequels of both Clannad and Gundam 00 were airing at that time), so I never got around this show back then. But I was planning to watch this anyway, because of the incredible premise: BALLERINA ON FUTURISTIC ROBOT BIKES. How awesome is that?
By the way Natalie Portman in Black Swan is great
The story is simple: A very talented ballerina, Rin Ogata, suffered an injury while performing in front of a major crowd, so she has to quit ballet indefintely. Fast forward to college, a depressed Rin comes across this club called the “Rideback Club”, which has these weird-looking motorcycles with arms called Ridebacks, which intrigues her. As she continues to ride it, she discovers that her innate balance skills and reflexes from doing ballet makes her good in a Rideback, and the Rideback gave her the same feeling she lost from quitting ballet long time ago.
Apparently parkour was also taught in ballet class.
Meanwhile, there is this military group called the GGP (Global Government Plan) that was regarded as “the ones who changed history”, gaining military power with just a few men and a few Ridebacks. Now you see where this is going. The GGP now goes to Japan for an anti-terrorism exercise, and the GGP and Rin Ogata would soon cross each other.
Shinji Aramaki can kiss his ass.
The best thing about this show is probably the political and military aspect of it. We have such few anime that’s set this contemporary, urban setting, and covers serious themes like political unrest, terrorism, and the military intervention in a democratic society. Though the plot is a little too far-fetched, you can still see the benign sense of realism. You can feel how the society, the media, and the government reacts to these harsh methods of the military. And this show will remind you many a times, YOU DON’T WANT TO MESS WITH THE MILITARY.
I wanna get me some of those tachometers.
Another thing that I liked a lot in this show is the animation. The CG (Yes, CG) Ridebacks were not actually that distracting. We have seen much, much worse CG in anime (with Gonzo being the greatest offender), and often a times CG does not blend well with the 2D digipaint characters and backdrops. But in the case of Rideback, the frame rate of the CG was slowed down, and you can see more renders in detail and lighting, which makes it look more believable rather than annoying. Madhouse really did some intelligent choices in putting the CG. Also, the Ridebacks themselves are GORGEOUS, just looking at their transformation, their movements, and generally the design sense that was put forth. This is definitely a watch for any mecha lover/geek out there.
This show’s level of fanservice is classy.
Probably the best character in this show is Rin herself. She is not your average teenage whiny kid who is forced to pilot a robot because the plot tells to do so. She pilots Fuego (the red Rideback she’s riding) at her own accord. Because she wants to. Because it gives her the rush and excitement she wants. And her personality is very, very likeable. She’s very reserved but confident at the same time. She tends to make some bad decisions here and there, but it is of proper reason and age mentality. You could say she’s a “strong female lead”, a worn-out term to describe any female protagonist with that sort of thing running around. And who could ever forget that one-piece dress she wears everytime? That is simply, to put in layman’s term, HOT.
Anyone knows which Gundam show was this line stolen from?
But Rideback is not without its flaws. First, if Ridebacks were that potential of a danger from the beginning (remember it caused a major military upset), then why the hell does Japan still allow use of those things for sports and recreational purposes? It’s like saying we can race tanks or something. And isn’t that terrorist a former member of GGP? Then why the hell was his name not in the GGP database? What the fuck? And why the hell are those gaijin terrorists in my beautiful Nippon anyway? And of course, Rideback seem to do every trope that every mecha anime has done to death many times. Like “the leader of the enemy is actually sort of a good guy because he believes in a world without military”, and “you did not choose the machine, the machine chose you”, and many others. Rideback has also some rough edges in animation (you know they have to do that because they lacked budget in that scene), but if you can make it past those and the plot holes, then Rideback is definitely a good show overall.
The grand jeté of a lifetime
In the end, I enjoyed Rideback for most of the time. I can say I would watch this multiple times, just for the well-thought out story and the semi-realistic political and military aspect. As I said before, there is not much anime out there with these themes, some have succeeded (i.e. Patlabor and Ghost in the Shell), and most have failed. And both those shows are lengthy, unlike Rideback, which is only 12 episodes long. You can get a bit of everything: good characters, a good storyline, good music, and pretty awesome mecha and bike action scenes. Now if this review make this title sounds like a serious “for guys only” show, let me tell you it is not. Anyone can get hooked either by the bike action, or the beautiful character development of this ballerina who has to give up her dreams, but has found something else that gives her a new meaning in life; that is, RIDING AWESOME MECHA BIKES!
VERDICT: Buy this on DVD when it comes out, otherwise get the Bluray fansubs if you can