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RideBack Complete Series UK Anime DVD Review

10 min read

In a span of 12 episodes, we get what looked like Initial D meets Blade Runner…and then we get the holy hell raised up…

What They Say :
Like Black Swan, But With More Giant Robots!
In a future world where an organization called the GGP has taken control of the world, Rin Ogata was a promising up-and-coming ballet dancer, but suffered a serious injury and decided to quit. Years later in college she comes across a club building and soon finds herself intrigued by a transforming motorcycle like vehicle called a Rideback. She discovers that her unique ballet skills with balance and finesse make her a born natural on a Rideback. However, those same skills also get her into serious trouble with the government.

The Review :
Audio:
I watched disc 1 in English and disc 2 in Japanese, with the English having a Dolby Surround 5.1 audio release with the Japanese a standard 2.0 Stereo Release. Overall it’s a very good release – no problems regarding transition between audio and subtitles as far as I saw in the Japanese track and the English audio is excellent as always. There was one thing I noticed however – in the commentaries, this was the first time I noticed that the 2.0 track is used where the commentary is really affected – this was only on the second disc but I really had to turn up the volume to hear the commentary. Other than that, it was a standard Manga release, overall quite good. (Though anytime Nana Mizuki is in a lead role, I desperately want a 5.1 Japanese release…)

Video:
The video was done in widescreen format for this review, but was able to change to full screen. It had a few issues with anytime you had to pause (sometimes in some releases, the video freezes and causes two scenes intermixed together quite badly and did notice this quite often in Rideback) but in terms of the general quality, it was good – the show incorporates animation and CGI well in terms of the movements of the characters with the Ridebacks (most attention focusing in particular on Rin and the Fuego) and the colours, whilst dull and at times grainy, are clear mostly and flow well considering the Rideback riding.

Packaging:
There was no packaging for this release.

Menu:
The menu is set up as a scrolling format vertically – a picture of a Rideback in the top left on both discs, on a grey/black background. The selection is easy enough scrolling down with no confusion in all selections, the choices being play all, episodes, set up and extras on both discs, with the episode selects being with six episodes each with no scene selection. Also nice to have the commentaries on the extras rather than confusing me at times when they are in the set up menu. Very standard, and the actual menus are quite dull in terms of material they use (the ridebacks aren’t really that good to look at on their own, plus it’s only part of the rideback, not the full mecha form) but no problems with accessing things.

Extras:
The extras we get here are on both discs, with the second disc having both the clean opening and ending for the show which is standard but nice to have.

Both discs however contain a commentary from the dub cast. Disc 1 has one on episode 4 involving the director Terri Doty, Tia Ballard (Rin) and Kristi Bingham (Shoko) – episode 4 is the episode where things change from what appeared to be a slightly generic coming of age story of a girl learning to be a racer…and into something much more sinister. The commentary reflects on how the change of pace surprises everyone, Terri commenting on the change of direction and how the military angle caused the most drama, and also how Tia and Kristi, both newcomers in terms of both voice acting and in commentaries (I’ve heard both before but this is the first commentary I’ve heard and Tia comments Rin was her first lead role) grew to know each other outside of the booth because of Rideback. It’s a nice commentary which focuses on how the show changes as well as getting the crew to mingle, with the usual voice direction and jokes on set put in as well.

Disc 2 has a commentary with episode 10…yet another episode where something definitely hits the fan. We have Terri again on commentary, but now she is with Micah Solusod (Haruki) and Trina Nishimura (Suzuri). Without giving anything away, something happens to one of the characters in this episode which, despite only 2 episodes away, changes the main character’s line of thinking once again. Terri comments on how she had to direct this, because of just how it catches everyone off guard again, and not to reveal the twist to the voice actor/actress in question until the morning of the recording, even making the other VA’s watch the scene beforehand to make sure they knew what they were in store for the next couple of episodes. This is a very unique commentary, and how the message was sent during the protests almost like in real life, and just how tragic things can become. It’s a surprisingly powerful commentary, and whilst Trina does add some goofiness, it’s very different because they talk mostly about that one scene, which makes it infinitely more powerful once you rewatch it. Both commentaries are very good, but for different reasons because of that.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Rideback is another series that I went into cold, knowing very little about it and hoping to get engrossed – and for the most job it did that really well, with just one or two niggles.

The show focuses on Rin Ogata, a daughter of a ballet dancer who was a legend and Rin was following in her mother’s footsteps. However, on the stage she suffers an injury to her leg and despite not officially retiring, she knows her days are gone. She is studying and despite having good friends and also fans like her best friend Shoko and her number one fan girl Suzuri, she seems unsatisfied with her life now that her dream has ended. Whilst looking round school, she spots an unusual sight – a motorcycle which has a design like a robot, and almost seems mesmerized by it. A boy, Haruki, a member of the Rideback club – sees her looking and asks her if she would like to join. She seems hesitant, but he lets her have a try at riding one called Fuego. One ballet leap later on, Haruki is now the one mesmerized…because Rin takes to the machine like a swan to a lake, so to speak. Even to the point when the levers are stuck, using her ballet skills and the help of the Rideback club’s advisor Okakura, she is able to avoid disaster and impress the hell out of the club.

The first three episodes are basically a combination of character introductions, and what appears to be a standard series of the lead learning something, and training to be the best of the world. The clichés appear to hit – we get the friendly rival, Tamayo – the current Rideback champion who sees Rin as both a rival and someone she wants to teach. There’s a bit of fun between the two as despite Rin not being in Tamayo’s league, has a real knack for it which surprises Tamayo because the Fuego Rin uses she wasn’t able to sync in well with it. At that point, would never have expected that would be part of a major plot point…combined with Shoko and Suzuri (being Rin’s own cheerleader), Rin surprised everyone thanks to some tech ingenuity and some risky moves from Rin in a race where she sadly had to withdraw due to damage to the machine, but raising Okakura’s interest in her skill.

Then comes episode 4. And cue a COMPLETE 180 in terms of how the show is focused on.

From what appears to be a training tournament series similar to Angelic Layer (but with mecha-motorcycles than dolls) turns into Shoko nearly getting killed during a GGP raid on the mall. The villains are interesting as the GGP are basically the military, but are set as a dictatorship, led by Romanov, a typical general who is simply focused on power, and pays little attention to his underlings (one being Tamayo’s younger brother which becomes a focal point later on) – Shoko is caught in a terrorist attack with the GGP not exactly being welcome in their defending and causing just as much damage with their attempts at debuting their own military Ridebacks, the White Riders. Rin goes over and actually saves her, with some aid for a mysterious silver haired man, and from then on, is suspected of being a terrorist…and then simply known as ‘The Rideback Girl….’

From rivalry and learning new things to terrorist organization, Rideback throws you off guard. The pleasant overtones from the start change completely after that episode, with Okakura in particular getting fleshed out, as you realize his past, his relationship with the Ridebacks and indeed with Romanov. Tamayo acts more of a big sister to Rin as she has to help her out using her connections as her friends simply hope for the best. We also get the meddling reporter Yoda who at first seems to want to bother the Rideback club, figuring out that Rin is the Rideback Girl. But once she gives her a lift for a scoop, and that the White Riders actually kill some of Rin’s brother’s gang without any remorse, the series takes a serious dark turn…

And even late in the series (episode 10) Rin’s world comes majorly crashing down…as she wonders what she has to even live for, feeling guilty over everything. Adding to the counter organization of the GGP, the BMA which includes the silver haired man Kiefer who gives us exposition about the Fuego and how Rin is connected, we’ve got all out war in a series that just seemed to promise an attractive ballet dancer on motorcycles.

This series is full of twists and turns, starting quite comic and very battle like, and quickly turns into surprise after surprise after surprise. The fact that the Ridebacks themselves are talked in details (particular with Okakura and Kiefer) gives us great insight on the past, that the main characters all have developing personalities with each other and in 13 episodes really grips the viewer in wondering how everything is going to be resolved. Rin herself is an incredibly complex girl, who at the age of just 17 has lost her role in life she was expected to perform, finds something new which she enjoys and excels at, only for it to be the cause of ruin for her and her friends…yet is something she also uses and later even combines with her previous expertise, to create something new.

If I had to fault it though, it is the ending. It is sadly, rather weak. The finale between the GGP is sold in anti-climatic fashion (and not even by Romanov or Kiefer, by a side character who gave hints she was up to something but barely had any lines or role in anything else in the story) – and whilst Kiefer’s faction were a good counter for Romanov, and we do get a little history between him, Okakura and Romanov, it does feel incredibly tacked on – almost like Kiefer is being a terrorist for the sake of being one, just wanting revenge. It really does end very weak even if it is a happy ending, we never get to see Rin’s thoughts on the climax (and whilst where she had her final battle was very poetic, the aftermath just seemed to literally fade to black). Most of the cast are literally downgrade to just those 4, where even characters like Tamayo are wrote out of the picture despite Tamayo being Rin’s anchor for her most turbulent times, especially as she is the Rideback Champion, yet bar racing against Rin, she never got a chance to help or showcase those skills. Little things like those do sadly lower an otherwise impressive series. I still think it’s a great show to watch because in 12 episodes, they catch the viewer off guard and then tell the story they really wanted, the animation is fine with a nice mix of it with CGI especially with the Ridebacks themselves, and with action, comedy, characterization, drama and tearjerkers, it does its best to compress everything in 12 episodes…and very nearly pull it off.

In Summary:
Rideback features a very unique viewing experience. From what appears to be almost a racing anime with a coming age of story, it changes very quickly and showcases an actually story and plot which is both engaging and interesting. Rin is a great lead but sadly takes a lot of most of the other characters in a real weak ending, which hampers an otherwise great anime. The way it tells the story is hooking, and you really wish it could have been extended a bit more especially after the shocks it gives you. Overall, very recommended.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Textless Opening/Ending, Episode 4 Commentary, Episode 10 Commentary

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B

Readers Rating: [ratings]

Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: October 31st, 2011
Running Time: 300 minutes
Price: £24.99

Review Equipment: Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.

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