Plot: "Amidst the turbulent revolution of 2025 wrought by the GGP government, Rin Ogata only dreams of becoming a ballerina; like her mother before her, Rin’s grace and agility mean she’s destined for success on the stage. However, an injury and the untimely death of her parents quickly shatter her aspirations and, for once, Rin’s existence seems purposeless. That is, until she enters the garage of a club one day and sits astride a RideBack! The RideBack, a motorcycle with arms and the ability to stand upright, offers Rin a new world of boundless movement! What she doesn’t realize, however, is that this club of RideBack enthusiasts is about to get dragged into the bloody war between the GGP and the terrorists intent on overthrowing them. Life may be more exciting now, but it’s also become very dangerous: will Rin’s natural talents as a pilot be enough in a world where racing is not just for glory, but for survival?" (site synopsis)
Story: After a long break from watching anime I have decided to pick up something a bit more different from a genre that I myself am not familiar with. Even though I’ve seen several animes which feature racing themes (Initial D and Oban Star Racers being the only racing shows that I kinda enjoyed) I decided to pick up Rideback but not for a change of mood or a new experience but from noticing some good reviews and positive recommendations for this show. Nevertheless, I was reluctant since this was written all over it “failure” since in my opinion these types of shows solely focuses on racing or driving issues and tournaments are uninteresting and lack development in other departments but in this case it was more than it meet the eye since it had more focuses. The beginning was exactly like I expected, the main female lead, Ogata Rin, a great ballet prodigy that was aiming to become like her mother, the well known Ogata Yuki, a great ballet performer quited her ballet lessons and career dew to an horrible accident that happened during a performance. Like many people that had to give up their dreams mainly because of a mere accident, Ogata Rin must’ve been pretty much destroyed, however in front of her friend Shoko, that she cared a lot, she never showed that side, she kept her feelings of sadness locked deep inside of her, trying to live a normal life as a normal college girl leaving behind her past experiences. Until one day when fate strikes again. Having moved from home, she went to live in the college dorms together with her friend Shoko. The university where she is attending is the university where a great Rideback pilot named Kataoka Tomoyo, the winner of several championships (or championship, I don’t really remember the exact details but I am sure that she won one or more championships) learns, together with the other memebers from the Rideback club. Rideback’s are crosses between a motorcycle and a robot. They can be controlled manually but also they can drive by themselves. One day, on a stormy weather, Ogata Rin takes shelter in the clubs headquarters, where she meets a sophomore, Haruki Hishida, a kind man who introduces Rin in the world of Rideback’s. He offers to Rin the opportunity of driving a Rideback even though she never tried nor seen one in her life. The first try proved to be an unhappy one but not something that will go unnoticed by the club members, since the Rideback that Rin used for racing, Fuego, could not be controlled even by the experimentated Tomoyo. Even though Fuego suffered several malfunctions while Rin was driving it, in the end she managed to control it. The whole madness ends up with a beautiful jump that not many drivers have the courage to do, however a beginner done it which raised Tomoyo’s interest in her. The second day, Tomoyo provokes Rin to a direct confrontation with a gamble in the middle. They shall race around the university to see if Rin is worth of joining the club and if she has true potential. The race revealed that Rin is nothing more than a rookie but with a monstruous potential because even though this was her first true race, she managed to use her skills as a ballet dancer when driving the Rideback resulting with Tomoyo’s inability to finish the race dew to an unfortunate accident. Tomoyo acknowledges Rin and enlists her in the next race so they can compete in true tournament and take revenge. However, things are not that simple and won’t remain the same. Aside from the racing issue there is another plot presented in this show which has in the center of attention a group of terrorists fighting against an oppressive military and political organization called GGP or GGF (infact this one can be compared with a political police, something like the former KGB from Soviet Rusia, considering that there are references in both character names, ways of action, etc) which masked its true intentions in the pretext of defending the citizens from terrorist attempts. Ogata Rin unwillingly involves herself in the schemes of GGP, while saving her friend Shoko from a terrorist attack and from this point on she proves to be someone special since not many people could face and escape from a military organization like GGP nor controlling a Rideback so easily especialy Fuego which is rumored to be a special one because it chooses its driver. Eventualy both the racing plot and the military-political plot will merge into a single one. A very interesting story, I was glad that it did not focus especially on the racing issue and that it presented something else as well in a non superficial manner. Rideback has indeed a story that keeps you in suspance, even though it’s a short show (only 12 episodes) it provides what longer series try but most of the time they fail shamefuly.
Animation and Sound: Rideback being an earlier work (a 2009 production) provides average animation, worth of appreciation but with room for more improvements as well. The landscapes and the background animation are well made, and some of the character designs as well which is a good praise for the character and animation designers, producers, the director of this show Atsuhi Takahashi and also to the formidable Madhouse studio a studio known for producing many good shows. The sound of this show was pretty much forgettable, while writing this review I thoroughly tried to remember the ending and opening song theme but without much results, however the background sound managed to not go unnoticed. The voice acting also is very well represented with exceptional voice actors such as Nana Mizuki voicing Rin and Romi Park voicing Tomoyo.
Characters: Character wise this anime will as well remain in my memory for a long time. Rin begins in a typical fashion, like many fallen prodigies, they discover a new passion that drags them in a world that they never came in contact with. However her talent and her perseverance will make her strieve for more but her abilities will also make her stand in the center of attention while performing a courageous stunt by saving her best friend from terrorist hands and from a tyrannical and corrupt military organization. From the second half until the end of the show, Rin, in my image became a model character, representing especially for the oppressed citizens a symbol of freedom and hope. Rin stands like a modern Joan of Arc with a happy ending until the end of the show, despite the loss of several friends and from her harsh experiences with the GGP conspirations and her interactions with the terrorist group called BMA commanded by Kiefer, a soldier that has been fighting in a war together with the leader of GGP, Romanov Karenbak (a reference to Russian former royal dynasty, the Romanoves) and with Tenshirou Okakura, the president of the Rideback club nicknamed Goblin. This is not a happy nor a sad show but rather a show that stands in the middle of it, since ages ago fighting for freedom has been an objective covered with blood and alot of sacrifices and this show shows it in the most realistic and also in what some people consider, in a more cruel manner.
Overal: Some people might say that Rideback is nothing more than a normal show that strieved to become more than it could have ever reached. Well it may depends from what vision you see it, I clearly expressed my own and fans of this show might agree with it. Rideback is a show that stands in the middle, not being too popular but not underrated as well, however it is not a show that worths to stay in anonymity. Those that are keen of the typical conspirative organization vs terrorit groups aspect will enjoy this however fans of racing shows might find this a little bit disappointing since it does not focus on that too much, only the beginning is allocated for this aspect as an introduction for this show. I highly recommend it, it should not be overlooked.
~Enjoy and Cya Around~