The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials


Title: RideBack
Genre: Action/Drama
Company: Madhouse Studios
Format: 12 episodes
Date: 11 Jan 2009 – 29 Mar 2009

Synopsis: Ogata Rin is a talented ballet dancer who is following the footsteps of her late mother to be a prima ballerina. During her first performance as the lead role, she tore a ligament and subsequently, lost her passion for the art and quit ballet. After enrolling in a college, she stumbles onto a state-of-the-art hybrid contraption, a cross between an android and a motorcycle. It is called a RideBack and the moment she rides it, she is mesmerized by its sheer ergonomics and more importantly, how it enables her to do feats impossible due to her injury. Hence, her passion for ballet is reignited in the form of the RideBack, where she discovers that she is born natural on the machine.

The Highlights
Animation: Fluid, vibrant and crisp.
Story: A great blend of action and drama; each shines without overshadowing the other.
Side characters: Fall victim to becoming plot puppets.
Ogata Rin: Takes center stage both figuratively and literally.
Camera work: Captures moments fit to be scenes of the year.
Ending: May benefit from an additional episode.

Madhouse has a knack for producing great series that are different from what you would usually see in the mainstream anime industry. This is why I have a strong fondness for those produced by Madhouse, and RideBack is an instant selection in my list. Right from the start, the series introduces the main character Rin and paints the world around her, contrasting the political upheaval her country is experiencing and her own distant haven that revolves around the center stage as a ballerina. Rather than showing the ups and downs of her tumultuous life, the series explores her character development such as how her spontaneous actions are sparked by her deepest beliefs on friendship and responsibility, and her self-discovery while with her prized RideBack. These eventually render her to become an exemplary strong female lead in a world where the machine is stereotypically perceived to be ridden mostly by male riders.

Equally intriguing as the female lead Rin, is the gradual development of the story, where the action and drama blend well in order for each to shine without drowning the other out due to careful timing. The series takes three unrelated matters – ballet, mechanical engineering and a military fallout – and coherently fuses each of them together with the help of a well-thought, well-paced plot. The term “twist of fate” may be the motif of the series, as shown right from the first episode, and this is realized by the presence of deliberately placed plot twists throughout the show.

Aesthetics – never an indispensable aspect one may argue – is always welcomed in any series and RideBack proves right from the start that fluid animation and high-quality CG can make a series not only visually intriguing, but memorable as well. This of course may not be possible without the presence of amazing camera work to accentuate riveting moments, making it as if time has stopped to capture the essence of the scene and the emotions felt by the characters involved. These moments are captured so brilliantly that a few may be serious contenders for the most memorable moments of the year, such as the symbolic climax in the final episode or the end of the first episode.

As mentioned above, Rin is the lead character that takes center stage both in the figurative and literal sense and this is marked by the dilemmas she faces in the series. Unfortunately, these dilemmas are triggered by the characters around her and a number of them seem to be there just to thicken the plot, or to cynically put it, make Rin’s life as complicated and tumultuous as ever. The spotlight is not adequately focused on these characters and subsequently, they become shallow and surprisingly, they end up being less outstanding than even Rin’s RideBack, Fuego, itself. Worse, one side character finally, and ironically, justifies her presence only through her own demise. Another gripe I have about RideBack, concerning the side characters yet again, is how several character issues are not properly resolved, leaving question marks about their outcomes and the viewers with a sense of dissatisfaction at the end of the series.

Despite the character development issues plus a somewhat abrupt ending that could’ve been avoided with just one more episode, RideBack is in overall a great series with an unconventional plot, beautiful aesthetics and an admirable female lead character. It shines from many other series by successfully combining three unconnected elements to form a unique world, and then capturing its some amazing moments. The term “poetry in motion” is vividly shown in the series, where ballet and modern technology never had such a beautiful relationship in full view right on center stage.

The Rating: 7

Reviewed by: AC

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