Ride Back had all the qualifications for becoming a great show. Amazing production values (Madhouse is the king of tv anime shows), lively characters, well directed racing choreographies, political intrigues, and a pilot episode that promised a dozen different side stories. And it made a complete mess with them because of lack of proper duration and naive storytelling.
The story begins with the heroine Rin being considered a mediocre ballet dancer compared to her mother. In an almost stroke of luck, she finds a racing club in her university and drops ballet in order to delve into racing by using a new form of motorcycling called Ride-Backs. At the same time public unrest leads to various terrorist attacks happening around the world and the army plans to use Ride-Backs as a new form of weaponry in the upcoming battles. So this is the double story of a girl who chases her dream of beauty and grace by leaning how to ride properly a motorcycle that can transform to a robot, while all around her a war around terrorism takes place. It really sounds captivating and original.
In practice though, the premise was simply too complicating to fit in just 12 episodes, plus various events were presented in a most light and eventually passable way. Most of the disbelief lies in how Rin is pretty much undefeatable while on her Ride-Back and no matter how dangerous or hard is the situation she gets into, she always comes out a winner. So imagine mastering how to ride properly in a few attempts or storming in a battle field, finding her friend, and taking her out of the dangerous area, while being shot at a hundred times without a single shot managing to hit her. It looks completely immature.
If you see past the realism part though, the racing and battle choreographies are very well done. They are exciting in the way Ride-Backs can use their arms to maneuver properly or how they can use ballet moves in order to change direction or angle fast (and gracefully). Along with the mostly impressive production values, even during the simplistic slice-of-life moments, this is an easily enjoyable watch.
Still, not even that is enough to eventually save face in the show’s inability to cover properly all its potential. There is simply not enough time to develop its characters or expose the setting to all it could have been. Rin’s dream to be a great rider is left incomplete, and so does the whole war against terrorism theme. What feels weirder than that is how the interaction of these themes makes them both look bad. Do you know how stupid it looks when hundreds of elite soldiers are owned by an unarmed rookie civilian? Or how ridiculous it looks to have girl trying to ballet using a motorcycle while entire buildings blow up around her? Despite the show’s attempts to look realistic or serious in its themes of racing or political unrest, it ends up being a silly children’s adventure with magical robots.
And yes, they are magical since they have a lot of supernatural stuff going on around them, such as somehow choosing their riders or dancing their way out of trouble, even if their rider doesn’t directly tell them to do so. So even the lead robot Fuego ends up turning from an interesting and somewhat realistic racing machine into a (literal) Deus ex Machina that saves the day no matter what happens. This has the effect of trashing both the attempts of Rin to be a good rider-ballerina (because she doesn’t have control over the machine) as well as the whole social-political backdrop (because the military is unable to handle a civilian machine).
"She is not fighting... she is dancing!"
I was shaking my head while listening to this.
Skip that; not even Rin is that great of a character even without Fuego stealing the spotlight. She is very dynamic for a girl but always does it in a most annoying way. Every time she sees something dangerous going on, she will immediately rush to intervene. Although that sounds a lot more interesting than just standing still, it looks as if Fuego does all the work, while she is yelling, or crying, or feeling helpless, or showing off her pantsu to whoever is behind her. She just loves to ride while wearing an inappropriate skirt. Gets annoying fast.
The rest of the cast are just too simplistic to matter and the duration does not allow anyone to become memorable for any given reason. You basically get silly teenager stereotypes and cartoony military cop-outs talking and talking and supposed doing something that doesn’t matter because Fuego jumps gracefully and does things however it likes. Where is the interest in that?
Nice attempt Madhouse but you seem to think that the only way to have slice-of-life and political intrigue in the same package, is by making a silly fairy tale. Didn’t work out well.
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 9/10
General Artwork 2/2 (amazing production values)
Character Figures 1/2 (generic)
Backgrounds 2/2 (detailed and with good CGI)
Animation 2/2 (very good for a tv series)
Visual Effects 2/2 (good I guess)
SOUND SECTION: 7/10
Voice Acting 2/3 (good but rather cheesy on ideology)
Music Themes 3/4 (fitting but not memorable)
Sound Effects 2/3 (ok I guess)
STORY SECTION: 6/10
Premise 2/2 (Captivating)
Pacing 1/2 (erratic)
Complexity 1/2 (not much)
Plausibility 1/2 (mentally challenged but there)
Conclusion 1/2 (cheesy)
CHARACTER SECTION: 7/10
Presence 2/2 (bold)
Personality 2/2 (rather cheesy but well founded)
Backdrop 1/2 (generic and simplistic but it’s there)
Development 1/2 (mostly for Rin but it’s there)
Catharsis 1/2 (generic and simplistic but it’s there)
VALUE SECTION: 4/10
Historical Value 0/3 (none)
Rewatchability 1/3 (the action is interesting to watch again)
Memorability 3/4 (generally memorable for its weird premise but could have been much better)
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 3/10
Interesting for awhile but the lack of proper duration and the idiotic magical robots kills it in the longrun.