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Friday, July 8, 2011

RideBack Blu-ray Complete Series Impression

When ballet, terrorist and motorcycle mechs collide

Rin was born to a dancer and all her life she knew nothing but the joy of dancing but an accident ended her dream. In FUNimation’s RideBack, Rin is introduced to robotic motorcycles called ridebacks which allow her to touch those sweet dancing sensations but how does this translate into an anime, let alone one full of terrorist and corrupt governments? Let’s take a look.

Story – A fallen ballerina set rise again. Rin held so much promise; a prodigy in her mother’s footsteps, but a knee injury crushes her dancing dreams and sets her on the path of ‘normal’ student until fate intervenes. Walking by her schools rideback club (mech-like, transformable motorcycles), Rin is introduced to a world where she can soar once again. As a test ride goes wrong Rin soon finds she has a true talent for driving the rideback Fuego. Ridebacks were first introduced during military rebellions which shaped the current social and political landscape and their military past soon catches up with Rin. Terrorist using ridebacks hold one of Rin’s friends and as she rides to the rescue she’s wrapped up into a world of terrorist and government where past relationships clash to affect the future. Rin must embrace this new life to clear her name and protect those she loves as her desire to ride, to soar, is so close to being stripped from her.

How does a ballet dancer get dubbed a terrorist? Just ask Rin as that’s the core story to RideBack where the mech motorcycle is as central a figure as character. The story, upon reflection, feels like the perfect infomercial for rideback showing its military past, public uses and policing effects. It’s a device which changed the political landscape, one that’s more than just a weapon or vehicle. There is a lot of story thrown into RideBack and the entire series would have served very well as a political/military throw down between, well that would be a spoiler, let’s just say using Rin as a way to tell a grander tale is how RideBack unfolds. Through Rin the abilities of the vehicle, its history and present all come to light. Sadly while she is a sympathetic character Rin is not too relatable as she’s a gifted, well provided for prodigy that loses her ability only to find another special one. She is not the average teenager-turn-hero but someone who comes off as cold as the vehicle she rides. So ballet dancer, bad knee, rideback, terrorist, political intrigue, social unrest and some sweet battles … and with all this there’s just something missing.

Animation and Art Style – The ridebacks themselves are a bit odd looking, motorcycles with arms, but seeing them in action shows the sense of beauty and grace seen in ballet … at least when Rin’s the rider. The world created is that as we see today, normal settings, solid detail that’s well above normal long running anime serious but not quite movie level and the mechanical level on the ridebacks is pretty sweet. Viewers could see one of these being constructed, never mind what type of OS would control its core CPU. The characters sport a unique look that feels anime, is anime, but just feels off. The same feelings of disconnectedness seen with Rin are amplified with the character designs. They are just not that striking to remember or really care too much about; not bad, just forgettable.

Voice work and Music – Opening theme is excellent and ramps up the action as Rin pushes on the throttle while the closing them is just soft and subtle enough. With FUNimation the voice work is almost 100% great and this is not an exaggeration. They pull from a stable of very talented voice actors who know what they are doing and anime fans will notice so many from prior series both from FUNimation and others. RideBack is just as solid but the soundtrack is so-so, does not really pop out of the speakers.

Miscellaneous – Was Rin really right? She feels cold and devoid of emotion through much of the anime and is not very relatable for viewers (unless you’re a broken dancer riding a cool mech). The story in RideBack would have been well told with just the political pieces, military past in place or even using a gifted, normal rider. Rin was supposed to bridge this gap but something with her just misses on the emotional level.

Overall
, RideBack is not a bad anime it’s just not one that captured this viewer. The story is unique in how it brings together so many separate parts and the history is solid, worthy of a show itself but tread cautiously with RideBack, you will either love it or just be ‘eh’ to it.

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