The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Real Drive

Title: Real Drive aka RD Sennō Chōsashitsu
Genre: Sci-fi/Drama
Company: Production I.G
Format: 26 episodes
Date: 8 Apr 2008 – 30 Sep 2008

Synopsis: The year is A.D. 2061, and for the last fifty years, mankind has transformed into an extensive “Network” society where individuals may directly connect with each other in an ocean-like virtual reality. However, the rise of cyber-social problems such as personal data leakage and information distortion has led to the development of a revolutionary, more secured Network sphere named the “Meta-Real Network”, or the “Metal” for short. But the “Metal” is not without flaws, as incidents resulting from friction between its existence and the real world occasionally crop up. People who investigate these incidents are called “cyber divers”, and Masamichi Haru is one such individual who, together with scientist Eiichirō Kushima, are also researching a phenomenon known as the Earth’s biorhythm.

The Highlights
Concept: Highly original; an imaginative blend of science fiction and marine elements.
Plot: Well-written and appropriately paced; episodic stories with interesting hypothetical themes.
Characters: Lacks characterization, despite detailed background exploration.
Shirow Masamune: His signature preference for story to character development is unmistakable.
Environmentalist message: Effective and competently delivered.

Shirow Masamune is quite the niche manga artist. By looking at his résumé comprising of Appleseed, Ghost Hound and the Ghost in the Shell universe, it’s evident that his works incline towards intricate, plot-driven stories. More importantly (and unfortunately), his writing style also regularly illustrates his imbalanced focus between story development and character development, where he tends to favor the former while the latter is left much to be desired. Real Drive is yet another example that reinforces this observation: a cerebral series that borrows ideas from Shirow‘s past works but is combined with new elements that results in something fresh and absorbing, but at the same time, suffers the same setbacks as his past works too. And not to my surprise, the setbacks centers mainly around the character department.

Real Drive‘s narrative style is very much like Ghost in the Shell SAC: a composition of plot-based and non-plot episodes based around psychological cyberpunk, a theme that Shirow covets and employs with much endearment. What’s unique about the episodic stories is how they explore different aspects of the human mind and coherently tie real-life issues and hypothetical situations into the storylines. Although some of the story developments are a little formulaic – they follow a certain pattern involving two separate events that eventually entwine into a single incident – it can’t be denied that they’re well-written and even thought-provoking. The only issue is the first episode, where its non-linear narrative order and introduction to biological theories might confuse some viewers.

What’s as equally commendable about Real Drive as its narrative style is the overall concept. A show that delves on the human psyche and is heavily laden with psychobabble and heavy dialogue is not that uncommon, and while the show is guilty of showing such traits occasionally, it breaks out from other similar shows with its creativity. An immersive virtual reality that resembles a vast ocean and overwhelming human desires that mimics powerful vortexes aren’t exactly something one would casually come across while looking for something original to watch.

The characters are however a mixed bag. Each of their backgrounds is explored fairly well but there isn’t enough character development to render them empathetic, and eventually, they only serve as good plot drivers. Once a viewer is done watching the whole series, it’s doubtful that he would remember them or even their names. Also, Aoi Minamo is in particular a weak protagonist compared to other lead characters. The majority of the characters are mature individuals that efficiently move the plot forward; her time is mostly spent on showing her naïveté and that makes her stick out like a sore thumb.

While Real Drive exemplifies Shirow‘s capacity and competency in storywriting and concept formation, it exhibits his weakness in creating characters with worthy depth. This may be forgivable though, since at the end of the day, the show is still an intelligent and visually polished product. Science fiction and cyber punk seem to be his comfort zone but I personally look forward to the day when he tries to do something radically different, and creates a cast that viewers can connect with at an emotional level. But until then, this series is high up there on the list of most conceptually imaginative titles, and on top of it, even conveys an environmentalist message effectively. Perhaps Mother Nature should be given some credit for indirectly inspiring Shirow to create Real Drive.

The Rating: 7
6/10

Reviewed by: AC

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