Producer: Madhouse (Licensed by Funimation for North America)
Genre: Action, Drama, Mecha, Sci-fi
Recommended/Similar Titles: IGPX Immortal Grand Prix, Over Drive, Oban Star Racers
Review Source: Bluray
Ride Back is about a girl who is the daughter of a famous dancer. During one of her performances she falls and then quits her dancing career. Some time later when she joins the Theatrical Academy, she finds out about a Ride Back club and then rides the bike to waste some time because of the very rainy weather outside. But something is wrong with the bike and she loses control. While trying to stop she finds out that the bike responds to her movements. She is able to sort of dance with the bike and gets inspired by it.
To quote one of Langston Hughe’s poetry pieces : “What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore–And then run?” It oblivious food for thought in Rideback that tells the story of Rin Ogata that loses her love for ballet, but reincarnated in the sport known as Rideback. For the first three episodes Rideback actually does a solid job of setting the world and keeping things interesting, but soon after the fourth episode the execution and story hits an awkward shift, but improves itself elsewhere (but more on that later). With the main plot of the GGP and BMA coming into play that adds the action element into the series, it creates some much needed movement, but at the same time making it somewhat unstable and unsure of where exactly it is traveling. Despite this, the overall story does not suffer, but it is unsettling to those seeking a more defined plot and the precise execution to match. It is a minor weakness, but not the biggest one, since it is reinforced very well with the mood and thematic messages.
Characters at best are lacking as well, but do manage to help the story sail along and fill support role aspect. While some are key to the plot progression, Rin is really the only one per say that matters overall, but if you count in the Rideback club members like: Rin’s #1 fan, Suzuri, Mechanic Haruki, Rideback Princess Tamayo, and the mysterious Okakura among others; then it would be fair to say that they do fulfill their roles and are generally likable. Both the English and Japanese voice actors do an excellent job in their casting roles, but comes down to preference of which is more palatable. With that said, 85% of the English script matches the original with some slightly weird conflicts (I.E: Rin stated to be 19 by the English, but 18 in the Japanese) although, nothing impeding the story or cause ire.
The animation for Rideback is very excellent and well done, meshing in harmony with the artwork. Since Rideback does deal with mecha based influences, their is also quite a bit of CG used in the animation process as well, but is handled moderately well instead of using it in a overexert fashion. Backgrounds are breathtaking stunning, which also add to the thematics aforementioned. DVD and Bluray releases are very well-done, but springing for the Bluray editions are worth it for the quality alone. The musical score is also quite noticeable, ranging from its excellent techno pop opening performed by Mell to its nice and solemn piano score. That said, both the visual and auditory aesthetics aid Rideback well in helping strengths its weak points. The director is Masayuki Kojima that has worked on a few well-received series such as: Chobits, Trinity Blood, and Gunslinger Gun to name a few. If you are familiar with any of these productions, then it is a slight jab at how Rideback is executed, but not a excellent measure.
As for my own viewing experience, I found Rideback entertaining, but the execution in the story was the only thing that did not allow me to enjoy it to the fullest. At first I had the hope it would be something similar to a racing themed series like IGPX, but the war themed arc for the second half just seemed out of place. Rin’s overall character at least was one thing that I like about the series, in which she struggles constantly to find what it is she truly desires and how the Rideback contributes to it. With that said, with all her faults and confusion – it makes her character development very solid over the course of the series and the probably the only (including a few minor character roles) that is the most dynamic. Everything else was also too my liking and nothing else I can think to criticize or praise.
To concluded, Rideback is by no means a bad series and one I think for its faults should be watched. While it is shaky in the “what is plot” department and the execution is less than smooth, it does not stop this series from giving its all and does offer you something more than eye-candy. Granted the main focus might not be for everyone, the messages and overall voice is and something that everyone can appreciate. If you dislike mecha and the common problems associated with it, then I highly recommend watching Rideback since it is a completely different series all together and not exactly what it seems. Both newcomers to anime and veterans to an extent will be able to appreciate this series not for story, but the message itself while others wanted something more structured and tidy are to look elsewhere. Given the chance to grade Rideback, I would give it a C- minus overall, but an A+ for the effort and theme(s) it announces. For some and including myself, that is all that really matters.
Pros: Excellent voice acting/actors from both the English and Japanese tracks, intensively dramatic and action fueled, superb animation and artwork, brilliant music score, elementary thematics make for a compelling watch (Minorly recommend for all viewers).
Cons: Shaky execution and ambiguous story, disappointing/ambiguous resolution leads more to be desired.