Ride Back

TV (12 eps)
3.712 out of 5 from 3,758 votes
Rank #2,923

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?

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Action is the spice of life. This fact seems to have passed Ride Back by; instead it reworks the mecha genre – get this – with less epic awesomeness and a lot more teenage moping!!!1! This is indeed deceptive stuff that begins riproaringly well in the first episode with outstanding stunts that only the likes of MADHOUSE could deliver. Only to deteriorate rapidly into a plodding account of the main character Rin being very, very sad. Why is she sad? Because she misses her robot, which has gone off somewhere. Hell, many (excluding me) took issue with Shinji Ikari's (Neon Genesis Evangelion) intensely tortured journey through deep-seated insecurities caused by the lack of parental love in his life. What would those same critics make of Rin's endless weeping over the loss of her oversized toy? But yes, returning to the lack of epic awesomeness, here are the words I uttered in the forum upon seeing the first episode: "FUUUUUCK did you see that animation?... If the next three eps continue to blow me away the way this one did, I'll definitely follow the rest as it airs." Ride Back looks like someone took a million dollars, used up half on the first episode, then flushed the rest down the toilet. This is the kind of grossly elaborate monstrosity that never grows any teeth. The first episode is a series of stunts crammed together to form the biggest stunt of all - making you think the rest of the show will be just like that! Once the plot gets going in episode two the animation reverts to something very decent but hardly mindblowing. Too much promise, no delivery. Overall, a disappointing experience.


Secret Santa Review You know those shows that make you think "only in anime"? RideBack is one of those shows. The name comes from an imaginary machine, which is basically what a motorcycle would look like if someone asked a 6 year old boy to make it cooler. It's an odd hybrid between a mech and a bike that only kind of makes sense... which is rather apt, since the show itself is a weird hybrid between a sports competition and political thriller that only kind of makes sense. RideBack was originally released in 2009, which is around the same time that the source manga was ending in its 10th volume. It had been running in the Seinen magazine Monthly Ikki, having launched in 2003, the same as the more popular Bokurano. The author/artist was Tetsuro Kasahara (currently the artist of Atom: The Beginning). Unfortunately, the manga was never licensed in English, but the anime was. It was produced by Madhouse, the same year they released projects like Summer Wars and Redline. Story - 3.5It all starts out simple enough, presenting itself as a sports show about a depressed girl named Rin who finds a new hobby racing Ridebacks and uses that to start pulling herself back together. She's trying to recover from an injury that made her realize that she will never be as good a ballerina as her deceased mother, which caused her to quit ballet entirely. Driving a Rideback gives her a new way to dance, and slowly our main character starts to open up again, making friends with her university's Rideback Club members and getting introduced to the pro racing scene. To me, that sounds like a pretty good setup for a character-driven sports series, but it seems like the author wasn't content with that. He must have wanted to take on bigger issues, instead dealing with things like political corruption and America's military influence on Japan. So, after only a few episodes, we start to transition into a political intrigue and terrorism plot that takes up the rest of the series. That's all well and good, and I love that type of story too, but the problems arise when it becomes clear that the story it's setting up is much larger than the 12 episodes this show has to work with. Since the manga was never licensed I only have secondhand sources to reference, but it seems pretty clear that the manga continues well beyond where the anime stops, despite the fact that the manga was nearly over by the time the anime was produced. The political story has the seeds of an interesting idea, but it's also quite complicated and not really explained clearly enough to follow easily. I get the feeling that a lot of what I think is a plot hole might just be from me not really understanding the plot. There's a global military organization that's clearly a stand-in for the US, and there's a big terrorist organization (which I guess makes sense, since the manga debuted in 2003), but it's not really explained how the world ended up this way besides mentioning some sort of war in Arizona. And even more unfortunate is that there's very little resolution offered at the end, with most lingering questions being swept under the rug as if they don't really matter, which rubs me the wrong way. The immediate issues are dealt with, but the big picture is far from done. This is all the more disappointing because, by episode 3, I was absolutely hooked. That's the episode where Rin competes in her first professional Rideback race, and it manages to strike the perfect balance between her clearly being one of the best racers out there, and also not having her dominate in the first race. That made me super excited, and I thought I knew where the series was going: Rin would learn from the mistakes in that race and use that to grow and win bigger and bigger tournaments, eventually taking on the current champion. But I was wrong; that's not what happens at all. Instead, that's the last we hear about professional Rideback racing, and all of the characters introduced in the race simply vanish from the story. It's squandered potential, made worse by the incompleteness of what it was replaced with. Characters - 3Earlier, I said that the initial sports premise would make a good character-driven series, but maybe it's for the best that they didn't go that way; most of these characters don't have enough depth to support that level of reflection. Our main character is Rin Ogata, the former ballerina turned Rideback racer turned vigilante, turned revolutionary, turned... She just kind of fits into whatever role the story needs her to be at that moment. Which is too bad; I really liked her backstory, and I feel like it could have been the spark for a lot more character growth. Instead, she's used as the audience surrogate while also being treated like the chosen one. The other main characters are the members of the university Rideback Club, with the supporting cast coming from the government and military and terrorists. But even with all those characters, only two others were given any real depth: Tamayo Kataoka (the senior) and Tenshiro Okakura (the advisor). Tamayo is presented early on as someone who has it all together; she's the Rideback champion of Japan, someone who is effortlessly confident in her skills. However, as we spend more time and learn more about her, we start to see how she's actually struggling. She's estranged from her father, an uber-powerful politician; her brother (a police officer) assumes the "Rideback Girl" on the news who commits crimes must be her; the only friends she seems to have are the Rideback club, and she hardly spends any time with them outside of club activities; she has an unrequited crush but is constantly ignored. The more we learn, the easier it is to relate to her see her as an actual human being. Okakura is the Rideback Club's advisor, and from the very beginning it's clear his past is complicated. He's presented as this mysterious figure who makes tough choices for unclear reasons, but over the course of the series we start to understand where he's coming from and actually learn quite a bit about his past. He's fits the archetype of the capable guy who's just trying to live a normal life now, which makes him easy to empathize with. Unfortunately, the other characters don't really exist beyond their roles in the story or their effect on Rin. What this ends up meaning is, when the story takes a turn for the serious and real consequences start applying, we don't really care about what happens to those lesser characters. All we care about is how these horrible things happening to other people will affect Rin, which is not the mark of a good character. Visuals - 5The shows Madhouse produces are known for being fairly polished, and this is no exception. I'm really bad at noticing things like off-model characters, so take it with a grain of salt that I didn't spot any in this show. The character designs are perhaps a little dated to current sensibilities, with a bit more of a sharp, pointy feel than the softer, rounder look that dominates today. Nevertheless, they're still pretty appealing designs... except for Okakura's. He has a massive nose and beady eyes that makes him look out of place in every shot. I could understand if he was supposed to be a foreigner or something, but he's clearly stated to be Japanese like the others, so I don't really get it. I particularly enjoyed Rin's design though. She's supposed to be this graceful ballerina, but she can never keep her hair under control and constantly looks like she has bedhead, giving her a bit of gap moe. The show manages to apply its backgrounds fairly well, even if none of them stand out on their own. The show is bookended by scenes practically swimming in cherry blossom petals, obviously signifying the rebirth and new beginnings featured at the start and end of the story. Of course, almost every show does that, so maybe I shouldn't be too impressed. As the show descends into its darker themes, the backgrounds appropriately follow, losing more and more colour as the show goes on. But crucially, whenever Rin gets on a Rideback, the world comes back to life a little bit. The animation is where RideBack really shines. Because the show came out in 2009, I'm obviously giving it some leeway, but even by today's standards I was reasonably impressed. All the Ridebacks themselves are rendered in 3D CG, but the environments and the characters riding them are all drawn in 2D. I'm sure you can imagine how easy it would be for that to look like a horrifying mess, yet somehow they pulled it off. The scenes on Rideback don't just look acceptable; some of them look downright fantastic. There's one shot in particular where the camera is spinning 360 degrees around a couple of characters on Rideback which floored me with how good it looked. The racing / fight scenes on Rideback are also exciting and even end up being more dynamic than the ones without them. There are a lot of nice touches too, like seeing the number of pictures remaining go down when looking through a camera viewfinder. Sound - 4To be perfectly honest, I don't really remember what the background music was like for the most part. I mean, I knew I was going to write this review, so I tried to take notes on it, but it never stood out enough for me to bother jotting anything down. Which I'm pretty sure is not a good thing. I guess it at least didn't clash with the action onscreen, but you still don't want your music to be invisible; that's not good enough. The opening is fairly nondescript too, mostly consisting of shots of Rin riding along a highway at night, set to a simple electronic song (though there are supposedly English vocals – the song is Rideback by Mell). It ends with some glimpses of Rin’s ballerina past and the fighting yet to come, but even that's pretty brief. There's no deeper meaning here, just showing off the Rideback since it’s kind of a weird machine. The animation looks good, it’s just... boring. The ending doesn't fare much better, though it chooses to focus on Rin sitting around being sad, and then her time as a ballerina looking up to her mom. It has a chill vocal track (Kioku by Younha feat. GOKU). Honestly, I started skipping both of them fairly quickly. As you would hope of a show about motorized vehicles, the sound design for them was pretty well on point. All of the Ridebacks sound like the powerful machines they're supposed to be (to my ears, at least). Stuff like the ignition choking or the scraping of a rider wiping out is pretty satisfying too. The sound of the guns that eventually come out is a bit less satisfying. While they don't exactly sound underpowered, I feel like they should maybe have been increased somehow to make them sound like they could be a real threat to a big machine like a Rideback. I watched this show dubbed, but I hopped over to the sub track from time to time to get a feel for it and make some comparisons. Congratulations to ADR Director Terri Doty, because I actually found that I enjoyed the dub more than the sub, especially for times like the monologue at the start of episode 11, which ended up feeling more poetic. Rin's voice was shockingly similar in both English and Japanese to me, and the rest of the characters meshed really well with their English portrayal too. The only one I didn't like that I may have enjoyed more in Japanese was the leader of the terrorists. He just spoke in the most pretentious ways and got under my skin. That may have been the point, I'm not sure, but it was still annoying, and it probably wouldn't have been so bad if I was reading his lines. As you might expect, they take some liberties with the dub script to make it sound more natural in English, but it’s all pretty minor and didn’t seem to change the intent of any scenes. Content (TV-14) - 4.5ViolenceDuring a race, a rider wipes out badly, and is knocked unconscious. Several other wipeouts occur as well. Terrorists attack a building, holding people hostage and turning some of it to rubble. Ridebacks are used to hit other people and Ridebacks, sometimes even causing blood to be coughed up. A gang smashes up innocent civilians' cars and runs red lights. Eventually, the fighting escalates to the point of actual death. Soldiers and terrorists both are shot; sometimes blood spray is shown, sometimes we see the bullets hit. A character is beaten to death offscreen. A character is stabbed in the chest with blood around the wound. Peaceful protestors are fired at. A character who has surrendered is murdered. Someone is tortured with electric shocks. Helicopters shoot and are shot at with missiles. An area presumably filled with people is carpet bombed.(-0.5) Sexual ContentA character is seen in the shower from the back, without nudity. Tamayo wears outfits that expose her midriff and accentuate her bust. Despite the fact that Rin flies around in a loose one-piece dress, we never really see any panty shots. One character has unrequited feelings for another. One character possesses a dirty magazine, and we see the model in underwear on the cover briefly. Drug UsageThe Rideback Club drinks alcohol at a celebration party, with some members getting a little drunk. Coarse LanguageA handful of uses each of a**, h***, and d**n. OtherOne of the groups who portrays themselves as the good guys is shown in a very negative light, with rampant corruption and use of excessive force. A character skips school to play at an arcade. A character ignores the police’s instructions. Someone joins an illegal street race using stolen Ridebacks. A character prays to God for protection. Characters offer incense at a family grave. Conclusion - 70RideBack is a show with a unique twist on motorcycle racing that isn't content to be about motorcycle racing; instead it would like to be a story of political manipulation and terrorism. Unfortunately, due to its length compared to the scope of its story, it leaves most of its plots unfinished. I loved the sports anime it started out as and wish it could have simply stuck with that angle, but even so, the story it ended up becoming wasn't bad, and I don't regret watching it. Reserved Recommendation (Incomplete Ending) I watched the streaming version on Funimation's website, where both sub and dub can be found (for now). Quality/Content Review Explanation


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.

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