Posted on November 30, 2012 AT 07:37am
I first heard of this odd little mecha anime through a feminist blog a friend linked to me on Twitter. The part that intrigued me was that the feminist blog was actually recommending anime, and it had nothing to do with politics. So I decided to give it a shot and found a streaming site.
RideBack is based on the manga of the same name and follows the story of Rin Ogata, a 19-year old freshman at a college, that in the anime at least, remains unnamed. In the manga, it’s Musashino University, obviously quite fictional. Rin was once a promising ballet dancer, following in her startlet mother’s footsteps, until one day she broke her foot during a performance and gave it all up. Years later, she starts college with her childhood friend, Shōko Uemura.
One day, while walking in a rain storm, she comes across a small warehouse and sees a man drive out on a small motorcycle with robotic arms. Curious, she wanders inside and discovers a much larger version of the same vehicle, only it’s red with a flame paint job. There she meets Haruki Hishida who explains it’s called a “RideBack”, essentially the bastard child of a robot and a motorcycle. After getting a crash-course in riding, the storm passes and Rin takes the red RideBack, Fuego, out for a spin. It is a surprise to everyone as it is quickly discovered that her skills as a ballerina make her a natural prodigy at RideBacks. After joining the school’s RideBack Club, she becomes embroiled in their world, and eventually, it all leads to the primary conflict at hand.
Rin’s world is ruled by the tyrannical militant group, the Global Government Plan (GGP), who, like our own US Army, have a vendetta against all terrorists. They go to extreme lengths to capture and kill the pests. The GGP use weaponized versions of RideBacks in their operations as do many of the terrorists they fight. Rin catches their cruel eyes when she uses Fuego to rescue her friend that was taken hostage by the primary terrorist group, the Borderless Military Alliance (BMA). Believing Rin to be one of the terrorists, the GGP relentlessly pursue her, forcing her to fight for her freedom.
RideBack is quite short at only 12 episodes. Unfortunately, because of this, it suffers from many of the same problems shorter animes often do. The writing is rushed at some parts and there are parts of the timeline that are just skipped over. For instance, at the end of Episode 2, Tamayo, a junior at Rin’s university and the current Japan National RideBack race champ, recognizes Rin’s talent and proclaims she will train the girl in the ways of riding. Then suddenly in Episode 3, the training is already done and they’re off to the National Championship. I seriously thought I missed an episode and went back to double check.
Towards the end though, oddly enough, we get the opposite problem, where Rin is stuck in a rut. She is convinced all the death that has occurred is her fault, instead of just moving on with the story and kicking ass. It was odd because up until that point the story was quickly moving along at an even pace. It picks back up, but not until the final two episodes. Another minor issue I had, is that we never see Rin actually attend college. She’s never shown to go to any classes, and seems to spend all her time on her RideBack. It would have been nice to see if she had any friends outside the RideBack Club and Shoko, and also to see what kind of student she was. It would have built up her character more and the same goes for the other main characters.
On the bright side, this was a breath of fresh air from all high-school aged animes out there. The best part in my opinion was that Rin wasn’t a sex symbol. She’s flat chested and very plain. She doesn’t act like a bitchy badass all the damn time and is a very likable character. That’s not to say large-breasted women weren’t in this anime, they just weren’t the protagonist. It was also very much aimed at college-age kids, through its use of slang and language. It really made the characters relatable and better as individuals.
Overall, I liked this a lot. I really wish it had been longer, but that’s life. I think more animes should feature the flat-chested women as heroines and other more prominent roles. In RideBack, the lack of boobs forced me to pay attention to this novel thing known as a story and really made it a very interesting anime to watch.
Summary: An excellent short mecha anime for all the feminists out there or dudes who just like watching women kick ass on motorcycles.
The Good: The main protagonist is female and not made out be a sex symbol.
The Bad: Short length causes the writing to suffer and story-telling can be a bit uneven in pace.
The Ugly: Suzuri is an obnoxious fantard.
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