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RideBack Complete Series BD/DVD Combo Edition Review

10 min read

After the world changes dramatically, one young woman discovers a new life on the back of a robotic motorcycle in a surprisingly beautiful way.

What They Say:
After an injury forces Rin to trade her stage career for college life, she finds new thrills as a member of the RideBack Club. When she discovers an unusual connection with one machine in particular – Fuego – she is forced into the middle of a revolution. The tyrannical new government rules with an iron fist, and Rin is reluctant to take them on. But as her dearest friends suffer and the insurgency struggles to topple the increasingly powerful regime, Rin may have no choice but to gun Fuego’s engines and speed directly into the heart of the fight for freedom.

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release is fairly standard fare for FUNimation at this stage, which means we get a good pair of lossless mixes here. The original Japanese language is in stereo and that’s conveyed well here with a solid forward soundstage design that has the action moving across it really well with a good amount of directionality and depth to it. The show has some standout moments in general with the mechanics of it all, but the dialogue is no slouch either and the quiet moments are just as ably handled as the bigger moments. The English mix is bumped up to a 5.1 and it does sound noticeably louder in general, but the racing scenes have a bit more of an enveloping feel overall that helps it a lot. I’m still somewhat cagey on the 5.1 remixes as they generally do just feel louder, but some of the action aspects works well for it. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout both mixes and we had no issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing in 2009, this twelve episode TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in native 1080p using the AVC codec. The show is spread across two discs in an eight/four format giving it all plenty of space to work with by having a dual layered disc for the first and a single layered for the second. The show has a really great, detailed look to it here by Madhouse with a real world feel that contains plenty of nuance and detail to the backgrounds but also to the characters and the CG mechanical aspects. Some shows draw you in by the vividness of the colors that really pop, but RideBack captures you because it feels like a world you could step into easily. The transfer here captures this look very well with the variety of colors it does work with, going from the dank, rainy days to the bright sunshine where it goes in slow motion to show the beauty of the moment. The colors are rich and solid and the CG parts come across in a very clean fashion, resulting in a very appealing experience.

The limited edition release of this set is what we’re tackling, as it includes a RideBack keychain that’s actually pretty snazzy and has me ready to replace my current one for the summer. The show is in a standard two disc sized heavy chipboard box that’s designed to hold two standard DVD keepcases. The front cover is a really good shot of Rin on the back of the RideBack in her usual dress as he has serious look to her face as it’s taken from a birds-eye view. The white background allows the colors and look of the machine to stand out well here as does the simple almost black and white look of Rin herself. The back cover features Keifer on his black RideBack with him all in black himself, which has a much darker look by obvious nature but it feels ominous overall with the different kind of serious look he has. It presents a good opposite side to Rin with how she looks and helps to tie it all together well. Inside the box we get the empty cardboard filler piece that contains the keychain, but it has a great piece of black and white artwork for Rin that will be used for framing.

The standard sized DVD keepcase is where we get all four discs, two DVDs and two Blu-rays held together with a hinge inside. The front artwork is pretty nice as it features Tamayo as she sort of bridges the cover artwork and we see her from an almost upskirt kind of view. The back cover goes for a bit more fun as it puts Shoko and Suzuri together atop the Fuego with some nice mild smiles to their faces. Everything has a great consistent look and it’s the kind of release that benefits from the soft white backgrounds rather than detailed or busy pieces. The reverse side does have artwork as well with a two panel spread where the left side has the episode breakdown with numbers and titles and a listing of the extras while the right side as Okakura and his RideBack, which definitely has a grim look about it.

The menus for this release are decent if unexceptional as it runs with the fairly standard design that ties into the theme of the show a little bit. The main menu screen is all about clips from the show itself which is good, since it shows off some great looking animation and it sets the mood right. The left side has the menu navigation itself, which is a red strip placed to the right a little bit that goes vertically. When you select over the white text, it shifts to the left slightly. It’s a little rough to read on smaller screens depending on the distance, but it gives that feeling of a racing stripe of sorts and plays into it well. The same strip is used as the pop-up menu, which is still fairly rare since most pop-up menus come from the bottom, but it fits the theme of the show well. The layout is simple and effective and loads quickly with just a touch of lag overall and is problem free.

The extras for this release are minimal depending on your interests. For English language fans, you get two good commentary tracks by the English production team on episodes four and ten where they talk about their work on it and the fun they had. Beyond that, the second disc has just the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences as its extras.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the seinen manga by Tetsuro Kasahara that ran in Gekkan IKKI from 2003 to 2009, covering ten volumes, RideBack is a twelve episode series by Madhouse that deals with an interesting near-future real world kind of change that on some level is plausible, if you don’t go into the details too much. Since it originally started in 2001, they had to adjust the storyline forward eight years with the anime since they’re working with certain time frames, but it doesn’t impact the storyline all that much. The only noticeable issue is one that plagues a lot of anime today in how little they relate how social media is impacting how people communicate and how that can radically change a story that deals with events some twenty years from now.

Taking place in the 2020’s, we’re introduced to Rin Ogata, a young college student in her first year who is looking for something that will move her in life when she least expects to find something. She’s the daughter of a very famous dancer who has died and she herself has lost her chance to follow in her footsteps after an injury during a performance ended up hurting her. She was in a position to continue on overall, but she knew that she’d never be the same, so she opted to give it up entirely and try to move on with her life. She’s a bit of a quiet girl overall, but not an introvert or anything. From what we see of her in the opening and as we get to know her, she comes across a decent young woman who is simply trying to figure out what’s next in her life.

What ends up setting her heart alight is a chance encounter with Haruki, an engineering student at the college who spends a lot of his time with the RideBacks, robotic style motorcycles that change form in small ways but are essentially devices that you can do as the name says, ride on the back on. They’re a little awkward looking to look at on first glance, but Rin ends up trying a model called a Fuego, an uncommon one that actually has something very different about it that she doesn’t know, and she takes to it incredibly easily. So much so that it’s like she’s dancing again with how she controls it, a natural instinct that’s not overplayed or abused, but rather has a great flow from her as she races about, twirls in the air and completely impresses the clubs leader, Tamayo. It lands Rin in some small challenges that gets her to be a part of the club and doing some racing, which would feel forced in another series, but moves smoothly here.

While this would be an interesting enough series in itself, it’s set against an interesting backdrop that unfolds over the course of it. The world has changed dramatically in the years prior to this as a once small insurgent group known as the GGP (Global Government Plan) went from being small to essentially taking over much of the world through fear and advanced mechanics, including the RideBack’s themselves. They’re currently making a stronger move within Japan in consolidating their power, which is seen as pushing against the police and others as they want to introduce RideBack patrol forces around the country. Where this segues in with Rin is that Tamayo’s brother is a higher up in the police and her father is in the government itself, so there are ties to it from there that are brought in. It also doesn’t help that midway through the series, an anti-GGP group gets involved with a bombing in a major city and Rin takes her RideBack into a cordoned off GGP zone in order to save a friend. She manages to hide her identity somewhat, but she’s such a striking figure that she’s thought to be a terrorist herself.

As a series, RideBack works an overall storyline for the twelve episodes with a pacing and progression that works really well, introducing new pieces to it as we see Rin discover something else she’s naturally gifted at and then having her become a catalyst to something much larger. The cast of characters that surrounds her is pretty good, with the simple friends of the club, some of which have important connections, to an exploration of how the GGP formed in a way that makes sense and how some of the groups opposing them came to be as well. It gives us a world stage but focuses on just a part of it while acknowledging the rest. It keeps the story very human while dealing with things of greater importance, showcasing how someone can set events into motion without realizing it. But it still knows Rin is the main character and she has a truly wonderful performance here.

And a lot of that comes through because of the great animation and design here. The animation by Madhouse here works a wonderful real world style that has a great amount of detail to it and it helps in that they’re working with college age kids and adults throughout that interact with each other. Rather than just kids running around that never see adults, the story blends people with complicated lives that are well shown here. But it’s the animation that makes it work, especially when it gets down to the RideBack’s themselves with how Rin makes it look like dancing as she moves about. The CG for it is solid, but the choreography takes it further for it. It allows it to look magical without being full of magic or unreality in how they operate. It’s all based in some fundamental basics. Even more appreciated is that it all avoids heavy fanservice when it comes to Rin and her girlfriends. Rin often spends most of her time riding her machines in her dress, but outside of maybe two to three seconds total in twelve episodes of a sliver of underwear showing, it’s not done to titillate. It’s a show that really captured my attention with its designs and execution of the animation.

In Summary:
I was less than interested in this show after seeing the trailer for it that FUNimation made, but the show really won me over, and quickly, with the first episode alone. Dealing with an interesting near future, using characters that are out of high school and having them interact naturally with older characters gives it a good sense of design. Rin really sells the show itself and does indeed manage to carry it throughout, even helping in dealing with the resistance forces that come into play which aren’t as fleshed out as much as they could be. There’s certainly plenty here to merit many more episodes, but what we get is a very solid show that in the end doesn’t overstay its welcome. Great animation, fun and interesting character and a world that makes you want to know more. It definitely makes you want to check out the source material to see where else they go with it, but it does leave you very satisfied with what you get here. Very recommended.

Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Commentary Tracks, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Keychain with Limited Edition Release

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: June 28th, 2011
MSRP: $64.98
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC HD Native
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Review Equipment:
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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