Years before the beginning of the story, the Global Government Plan organization used new inventions called RideBacks to overthrow the existing world power to essentially control the world. RideBacks are part-motorcycle, part-mech machines that soon find a foothold as both new weapons for law enforcement and vehicles for citizens to use under the GGP’s rule. A college club dedicated to them is actually what pulls freshman Rin Ogata out of her haze. She’s the daughter of a world-famous ballet dancer, and Rin had once been determined to follow in her footsteps. After her mother’s death and tearing a ligament, though, Rin realized she could never attain that perfection and began wandering through life without a goal. Her training as a dancer gives her the skill and balance to pilot a particularly temperamental RideBack named Fuego. Rin’s new partner allows her to dance and shine once again, but it’s that very drive that leads to her getting entangled with the GGP, the rebel force BMA, and the Japanese government.
There are a few anime I’ve watched over the years that pulled me in just from their poster or promotional image or what-have-you. RideBack is one such anime. Years ago, I saw that image of the girl in the white dress sitting atop that red motorcycle/mech, and ever since then, I’ve wanted to watch RideBack. Just something about the image’s simplicity. Rin’s determined stare at the audience and Fuego’s clenched fists. It stuck with me. Did the anime live up that image that caught my eye? Kinda, so let’s get into that.
Think I’ll start with my gripes to kick things off. First, the characters can look a little wonky sometimes. For the most part, they look fine. The style and the animation go well together, but there are times when characters’ faces are a little too long or rounded and the camera has a tendency to linger on those shots. It was off-putting, to say the least. Second, the vast majority of the supporting cast gets almost no time to set themselves up. Rin’s close friends fare pretty okay in those terms (especially arguable deuteragonist Tamayo Kataoka), but everybody else sorta gets shafted. The main antagonist–new leader of the GGP, Romanov Kallenbach–did…something years ago to two other main-ish characters, but the audience never finds out what it was, why he did it, or why the two reacted so differently to it. He also has an aide who has her own agenda and plays a pivotal role in the final confrontation, but I could not tell you with certainty what she was after and why. Aside from Rin and a few of her people, the characters seem to be there just to be there most of the time.
The final main thing that bugs me about RideBack is the ending. It was pretty underwhelming. Now, there are aspects of it I like, and I’ll get into that, but it felt like something was missing to really hammer home the big climax of the series. Reminded me a lot of Tokyo Majin in that way. Mostly hype build-up, but the execution and payoff were lacking. Let’s get positive now, though.
I like Rin as a main character. Yeah, she has a tendency to react instead of act, but part of her character development is realizing and changing that. She starts having given up on a dream she had just so she could be like her mom, and then she gets on Fuego just because someone told her she should try it. Rin’s letting others decide what she wants to do with her life and fears her being drawn to RideBacks is just an extension of that. That’s why one of my favorite moments is the end (spoilers, I guess) when she decides to get on Fuego for one final ride to honor a friend. She doesn’t help the BMA fight the GGP, she doesn’t just run away, she doesn’t do that for anyone else. She does it because it’s what she genuinely wanted to do. And, to complain about the ending again, she leads a bunch of RideBack drones in a dance of death that we only get to see snippets of. Would’ve loved to have seen that.
The other character I really loved is Tamayo Kataoka. She wasn’t that well-written or anything, but she’s one of the best RideBack riders (RiderBacks?) in the world and hey, dark-skinned anime girls are treasures. Again, she should’ve been more important in the climax. Okay, I’m going to try and not bring that up again.
The RideBacks themselves are super cool. I love sports and mech anime, and this just combined the two to make neat robot/motorcycle thingies. I know IGPX did it too, but there’s something about the freedom of the RideBacks that appeal to me more. I do wish there could’ve been more races. See, the first couple episodes are standard sports anime fare: New student finds out they’re a prodigy at some sport, they prove themselves to the harsh member of the team, they train, they compete. For a bit, I thought I’d misread the synopsis of RideBack. Then one of Rin’s friends gets caught in a terrorist attack and everything changes. I would have liked more of the competition stuff, but the shift into action/thriller anime was also welcome.
One more quick thing I loved: The music. The opening was done by MELL (she also did the amazing nonsense-laden OP for Black Lagoon), and Rin’s main motif is “Pictures at an Exhibition”–Jerry “The King” Lawler’s entrance music. Great stuff.
I think a 7.5 suits this one pretty well. I loved most everything about it, but everything I loved had some big problems I just couldn’t get over. Certainly worth a watch, though.