Aug. 2nd, 2010 12:54 am
salinea: (meta)
[personal profile] salinea posting in [community profile] abymage

In the near future, Ogata Rin is a ballerina who retired from dancing after a leg injury. As she begins college, she finds a new passion in RideBack; a sort of bike-like mecha that can be used in racing and war. Meanwhile, in the background, the GGP who was a resistance group which succeeded in overthrowing the former global government and took power, is slowly showing itself to be quite autocratic itself as they fight against offshoot terrorist groups who use RideBack machines in their urban guerilla attacks.

Even with only 12 episodes, RideBack is a pretty brilliant anime series, which especially shines with the strength of the character exploration of Rin; and with the beauty of its action scenes.

For someone like me who finds mecha based series pretty boring as action scenes; this was the first time while watching a mecha show were I found the machine highlighted genuinely cool and fun to watch around, probably because of their down to earth bike-like design; and the emphasis on the aesthetic of dancing and on chase scenes. The production values are decent for the most part in rendering those scenes; and i rather like the character design despite the small permanent blush lines everyone seemed to be affected with.

However the true strength of the series comes from the characters. Rin is interesting because she's portrayed as a very traditionally feminine girl, she spends most of the series wearing a white summer dress, she is polite, unassuming, responsible and friendly in a way that is typical of female socialisation; and at the same time she is competitive and at times reckless, and shown to be as awesome as a RideBack pilot as as a dancer. The exhilaratingly joy she used to take in dancing, and that she finds again in RideBack is very communicative. She is also very much fleshed out by the relationships she has; the one she had with her late mother who was also a famous dancer, the one with her best friend Shouko; her fangirl Suzuri; her younger brother; her rival and mentor in RideBack Tamayo (who is portrayed as the cocky, aggressive girl that is more frequent in those type of action series), and various other friends from the RideBack club... Obviously not a show that has any problem passing the Bechdel test, and one in which I'd applaud the gender dynamic in general (and won't complain about the occasional bit of fanservice, because it always felt natural to the character and didn't steal focus from the action). The secondary cast in general are also furthered with their own relationships with one another and their own motivations in a way that doesn't feel artificial, though they didn't all have a plot line.

The political/war parts of the plot never quite leave the background, which might be regretted, though it is furthered by a string of secondary characters many of which interact with Rin or Tamayo directly. Interestingly, even there it seems to be more pushed by personal relationships and enmities than by political ideologies. And despite the lack of the female main characters actually driving the world changing part of the plot; there again I couldn't begrudge eventual resolution for gender dynamics reason. And the way it affects Rin and the rest of the cast made it well worth, creating some affecting drama. The series is well placed, making the best of the short run of episodes to tell a full story without wasting time. I have one big criticism which is that they built the final piece of drama by using a character that was just too damn aggravating for it to work well. Overall the storytelling is solid, but just lacks a certain something to really push the series into excellence. I also regretted that none of the various relationships that were highlighted really did gain prominence in the end, especially not the one betwee Tamayo and Rin, which could have been deliciously femslashy otherwise.

In the end, the series feels just a little off beat in an odd way, and could perhaps have been even more interesting if it had been longer. It is still an extremely charming coming of age series and successfully made the best of what it had.

Link to an interesting blog entry comparing the dancing in RideBack and in Princess Tutu.
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Etrangere's anime reviews

September 2011

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Currently watching

- Legend of Galactic Heroes
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- Senkou no Night Raid
- Madlax
- Welcome to the NHK
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