Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Anime Review: Rideback

Earlier in the summer I had caught up with all my simulcast shows but still had a little bit of free time to watch something so I randomly asked one of my friends what I should watch, my options were I think "K-ON but art school or politics with motorcycles", and my friend actually recognized that I was talking about Rideback and told me to go ahead and watch it. I had been meaning to get to the series a little earlier actually (Funimation just released it and I was wondering if I would like it enough to get the LE set, even though that's a bit pricey) and was happy to see that they were still streaming it on their youtube account. 


Summary: Rin Ogata is a former ballerina who quit after a career ending injury and isn't quite sure what to do with herself as she enters college. But, one runaway motorcycle-mecha ride later, it becomes clear to everyone around her that she has a talent for riding ridebacks, a talent that could get her in trouble with the global military regime who are starting to tighten their grip on Japan.

The Good:  The show starts off with an interesting premise, both in terms of setting and in the ridebacks themselves, and it's quick to grab your interest. The series also neatly averts having a complete newbie be a great rideback rider from the start, Rin's dance background gives her the balance and reflexes needed to ride and there is some technobabble later on about ridebacks choosing their riders (which also works surprisingly well in context). The show has a nice sized cast that covers all the various factions (the rideback club at the college, the police, the reporters, the rebels, the government) and manages to flesh out all of the good guys. The reporter and police characters in particular become more and more interesting as the show goes on and the larger plot they're part of starts to eclipse Rin's part in the story.   

The Bad: While this story understands just how important the setting is to the shaping of a story, this setting makes no sense. The story takes place in the 2020s, before which the world had been taken over by a terrorist organization and, from what I gathered, they did it by taking over the American government which had already taken over the world. None of that seems particularly logical or doable and it's insane that there haven't been any large scale revolution attempts before this story*. Another big problem that happens later in the story is that Rin becomes less likable than she first was. She actually doesn't have much influence on all the events going on around her, the rebels would have started acting up against the government no matter what, yet she becomes very emo and spends several episodes not sure of what she can do or convinced it's all her fault. It's frustrating to watch one episode like this let alone several, thank goodness the anime focuses on the rest of the cast as well at this time or it would have been even harder to get through.

The Audio: For some odd reason Funimation has left the opening song untranslated even though it's only partially in English, I'm rather curious why they made that decision. The ending song is fully translated but the lyrics don't make much sense in relation to the rest of the story (it seems to be a love song of sorts but Rin is never interested in anyone romantically, unless the song was actually about the Fuego....). Other than that, nothing seemed out of place and the voice acting (the Japanese voices) went well, the visuals on the other hand were more hit or miss. 

The Visuals: This is a show from studio Madhouse who are well-known for doing good looking shows (including the recent movie Redline). Not surprisingly all of the ridebacks are done in CGI but the CGI works fairly well with all of the traditionally drawn items. The CGI is far from perfect but anime studios have made a lot of progress in just a few years at making it look better. The characters designs however didn't look as nice. Rin has permanent helmet hair, Shouko's hair simply looks awkward (and there is no way her hair ribbons would have stayed on like that) and none of the characters look attractive in the slightest. The art isn't exactly unattractive, although one or two designs are downright ugly, but aside from the racing or ballet scenes I didn't find this show to be ascetically pleasing which is a bad thing since this is a visual medium.

For me, the show started off really strong and interesting and slowly made me lose interest as it went on, I don't know how many times I ranted about the setting but it was a lot. What frustrates me about the show however is that it could have worked so much better if it was different. If the story was more about the rideback club pushing to make ridebacks street legal while dealing with an increasingly military government (of Japan) and having to win over the general public that these aren't just weapons of war. I saw someone comment on youtube that this show is about America's military occupation of Japan which would make a lot of sense, i just have no idea if that was the original manga-ka's intention or not. I am curious with how this holds up to the original manga, which was 10 volumes long compared to the show's 12 episodes, especially since it seems that the anime started right when the manga was ending. Sadly it appears that the manga has been neither licensed nor scanlated so I haven't been able to compare the two yet, if anyone knows of any detailed summaries for the manga (or scanlatiosn I overlooked) please comment and tell me!

*it doesn't seem like there have been any small-scale attempts either which is even stranger. There appear to be no restrictions on twitter/facebook/social media that is so great for organizing get t0gethers at all (although the original manga was published from 2003-2009 when this was less common) and it's simply a fact that humans in general really don't like being taken over. Heck, some don't like their legitimate governments so I'm supposed to go along with the idea that these people just went along with BOTH take overs? As of writing this, Libya is currently trying to overthrow it's dictator and since the year started there have been attempts in other countries as well (and possibly a successful one in Egypt, time will tell there) so I just could not take this part seriously at all. 

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