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Posts Tagged ‘Rideback’

Final Thoughts: Rideback

Posted by Doug on April 4, 2009

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An anime that started off promising, but ended most unsatisfactorily…I was afraid Rideback would turn out like this.

I liked this series, I really did.  It had all the trappings of a fine anime series,  and, uncommon for the medium, it was an utterly serious work.  Not since Witch Hunter Robin have I seen an anime series as serious as this one (Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is close, but there was all that comic relief the Tachikoma provided).  So I was expecting (or maybe hoping for) something epic, and unfortunately, I was disappointed.

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The eleventh episode, ‘Sometimes It’s Cloudy After the Rain,’ seemed ploddingly slow; the final episode ‘Turn Towards the Stage Spotlight,’ seemed horribly rushed.  The big showdown between the GGP and the BMA…wasn’t.  Journalists (Yoda) and politicians (what was that guy’s name again?) won the battle and defeated Romanov, not Rin & Company.  Romanov’s aide steps onto the stage just to kill Romanov, with no prelude or explanation. And did I just somehow miss the part where they explain what Kiefer’s beef with Romanov was about?  I remember something about Kiefer paying Romanov back for what happened in Arizona, but other than that, I don’t remember them detailing what went on back whenever.

A short montage at the end quickly shows that everything is now Good: Rin’s brother is out of jail and back at home; the Bad GGP is out and the Good GGP is in, and reconciled with the Japanese government; and Rin goes back to college.  It was wrapped up too quickly and not at all neatly.

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So basically, my final appraisal of Rideback is as follows: Rideback had appealing character and mecha design, nice animation, decent music, good voice acting, interesting premise, intriguing political slant, and lousy execution.  Rideback could have been great, but it simply wasn’t, and it’s a pity.

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Rideback, “Master of War”

Posted by Doug on March 19, 2009

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I knew that the anti-GGP rally was going to end badly, but I did not expect it to turn out like this… While Rin and Tamayo are sneaking around, trying not to get arrested, Suzuri, Hishida and Kawai join the protest, with Suzuri showing off both her budding interest in ridebacks and her Rin Ogata fangirlishness by dressing up in Rin’s riding suit (or one just like it) and riding Balon (one of the rideback club’s other models)…which leads her to be mistaken for the “Mysterious Rideback Girl”…by the GGP…who chase Suzuri down…

And kill her.

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This was not the fate I was expecting at all for Suzuri.  I was rather ambivalent about her character up until now, because with the buildup of her learning to ride and her desire to be just like Rin, I was expecting Suzuri’s talent to come into play during the Final Showdown at a critical moment during the final episode, where she show us she’s been practicing by doing something like taking out a White Ride when Rin was caught in a jam…but it seems Rin will have to save herself now.

I say Rin has been passive for far too long.  It’s time for the return of the Mysterious Rideback Girl, time for the Chosen One to start believing in herself…or at the very least, start believing in her friends, who believed in her…

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Rideback, “Sunny Spot in the Garden”

Posted by Doug on March 13, 2009

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After the GGP got their asses handed to them by the BMA last episode, Romanov gets his knickers in a twist and decides to quell the rebellion by being a complete jerk to everybody: he declares martial law and outlaws ridebacks.  Naturally this prompts some civil-rights protests—another problem Romanov now will have to  resolve.  Pro tip: if you’re trying to solve a problem, make sure your solution won’t cause more problems.  Now, seeing how assuming he’s the big bad, he might want the public to protest; maybe the riots will play into his hands somehow.

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After Rin has spent some time trapped in the middle of all this plotting and scheming between the GGP and the BMA, she makes a reasonable decision and swears to never ride ridebacks again…but come on, we know she’s going to dramatically swing her cute little bod in slow-motion right back into the saddle the moment her friends are in danger…which will be next episode (the Rideback Club members who aren’t on the lam decide to join an anti-GGP rally, and we know that’s going to turn out well).

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Rideback, “Get Ride! The Chosen One”

Posted by Doug on March 10, 2009

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Why does every anime end up reminding me of Neon Genesis Evangelion?  In this episode of Rideback, we learn that Kiefer believes that Fuego (a motorcycle/mecha) chose Rin to drive/ride it because she could synchronize with it on a quite-obviously-extraordinary level.  The moment Kiefer said that, I instantly thought, “Oh, crap—Rin’s mother Yuki’s soul is in Fuego!  This is going to end with a hug from a creepy albino girl and pop! Everybody turns into Tang!”

But setting that aside, it comes as no surprise that Morpheus Kiefer, Gendo Romanov, and Cyrano Okakura were all in the same unit back during The War.  Naturally, Kiefer’s BMA and Romanov’s GGP are at odds, and both seem bent on dragging Okakura and Rin into the middle of everything: Okakura because apparently he’s a badass, and Rin because apparently she is the One.  I was halfway expecting Kiefer to be portrayed a little more sympathetically (the enemy of the GGP which is my enemy is my ally), but instead he just came across as really creepy.

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There really isn’t much to say that I haven’t already said about Rideback… It’s probably too much to ask for Rin to start taking more of an active role in the events that are taking place around her, so I’m just hoping that next episode, Okakura sits Rin down and starts explaining to her the history between him and Kiefer and Romanov and what exactly Fuego is. Either that or a beach episode.  Show off some swimsuits, break a watermelon with a baseball bat, splash water at each other like kindergardeners…nah, I don’t see that happening.  The vibe of this series just isn’t right for that sort of truly gratuitous fanservice; indeed, if they were to have such an episode, it would seriously lower my opinion of Rideback.

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Rideback, “Crime and Punishment”

Posted by Doug on March 7, 2009

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Rin’s little brother Kenji has gotten himself into a world of trouble this time, and he’s even managed to drag his well-intentioned big sis further into the mess, not by heroically fighting for his friends, but by his hooliganery. I fear for the kid—not because I feel he should go unpunished (quite the opposite. He’s a delinquent and needs some time in juvy), but because there is a bad tendency for redemption to come at a steep price in fiction, and really, vandalizing a few cars and violating most of the traffic code shouldn’t result in some sort of karmic death penalty. My guess is that Kenji is going to be taken away by the GGP and brainwashed into being one of their stormtroopers driving one of the GGP’s new WhiteRides…which will put him into direct opposition with his sister, who looks like she’s about to start settling into her new job as the BMA’s messiah.

Or not.  I really don’t see Rin just going along with whatever this Kiefer guy says.

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And in other news, it appears that Okakura is starting to show his badass nature with the classic punch-out-the-two-guys-in-the-car-that-are-following-him routine. Well, technically he shot one of them, but some variant of that scene has been done over nine thousand times before.

All told, I am really liking this series: Ogata Rin is an interesting character, not butch, but not a hopeless moe-moe blob, either. The ridebacks, while ridiculous (come on, that’s right up there with sky-skateboarding mecha, mecha with extensionn cords for power, and steam-powered mecha. In order to get sillier, you’d need a coal-powered mecha with an android elementary school catgirl stoker dual-wielding shovels made of titanium and love*), are pretty cool (I prefer lithe, agile mecha over big, monstrous ones). There are villainous villains (at about 16:25, Romanov does the Gendo Ikari pose), and heroic heroes and heroines (Rin for the latter, more likely than not Okakura for the former). It has all the elements of a great anime…

…Now here’s to hoping they don’t fsck it up like some other series that are best left unnamed.

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*And you know, I’m surprised nobody has done this yet. Have I just discovered my next big project after the Mecha Monogatari?

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Rideback, “Lightning Speed Ride”

Posted by Doug on March 3, 2009

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After spending the last episode thinking that the true identity of the long-black-haired “Mysterious Rideback Girl” was the short-blonde-haired Kataoka Tamayo, our intrepid reporter Yoda finally gets a clue…which is subsequently confirmed beyond a shadow of a doubt for her when Rin goes toe-to-toe with the GGP’s new White Rides, a rideback anti-terrorist military police unit, and kicks their asses.

You see, Rin’s younger brother Keiji has gotten himself in with the wrong crowd, a group of hoodlums with an as-of-yet unnamed financial backer, and while they were cruising around town in stolen ridebacks, minding their own business of wrecking other people’s cars, the GGP decided to step in and deal with them.  Keiji was about to get turned into a greasy spot when Rin jumped in to save the day…again…but there’s no way she’s escaping this time.  It looks like Rin and Keiji are going to get to spend some time in the Iron Bars Hotel.

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Romanov clearly recognized the white-haired rideback guy that helped Rin in episode 4, and they aren’t friends.  “When I find him, I’ll need to kill him again,” Romanov says; not only is Romanov a Bad Guy, but he is a terribly inefficient one (killing somebody once is usually enough).

So the question becomes: is White-Haired Dude a Good Guy?  Usually, in anime, white-haired characters are tricksters, traitors, or villains (or a combination thereof.  There are, of course, exceptions, which I will not detail here).  But Romanov seems to be the Main Villain, and in these sorts of situations in anime, the enemy of my enemy is my friend (and White-Haired Dude did help Rin out…).  For some reason, I doubt that both groups will be equally villainous, so my slightly educated guess is that White-Haired Dude is going to be Rin’s ally.

I was originally attracted to Rideback based on a single promotional image, that of Rin seated atop Fuego that I came across on one of the official websites.  I doubt it will earn a place in my book as one of the greatest anime ever (there is some stiff competition there), but so far it is a solid title with an intriguing political angle that is usually glossed over in anime…and I’m hoping they will keep it up for the rest of the series (six more episodes, or so I’ve heard).

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Rideback, “The Mysterious Rideback Girl”

Posted by Doug on February 26, 2009

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Well, Rin did not manage her heroics without attracting more than a little attention—it seems some video of her got filmed (or CCDed.  This is near-future Japan, after all).  In any case, freelance journalist Yoda Megumi has come to the conclusion, based on the pictures of a girl with long black hair on a rideback from the terrorist incident, that the “mysterious rideback girl” is Kataoka Tamayo…who has short blonde hair.  Of course, the fact that Tamayo is related to a politician and a cop makes for such a wonderful story, so one could easily forgive her for flat-out ignoring that glaringly obvious point.  I mean, really: the disparity of the hair color is never even brought up, nor does she think any different when she goes to the Rideback Club and meets a girl in the Rideback Club with long black hair who is wearing the exact same dress as the mysterious rideback girl.


[Edit: see note below]

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That aside, it was pretty obvious from the beginning that Cyrano de Bergerac Okakura was more than some random club advisor.  I knew he was something extraordinary back in the first episode where he was trying to fix Fuego during Rin’s near-disasterous first ride, and he was not at all distracted by his clear view of Rin’s pantsu.  In anime, this by itself it enough to mark a man as one of a rare breed.

But now Rin’s actions have earned the attention of the various political factions, not only for herself, but for Tamayo and Okakura, too.

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Note: In the next episode Yoda finally gets a clue (thanks to her lackey, Sato), and begins associating Rin with the Mysterious Rideback Girl, even remembering that she met her at the University when she visited the Rideback Club. Still, it is ridiculous that Yoda never mentioned the difference in hair color/style in this episode.

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Rideback, “Shōko’s Critical Moment”

Posted by Doug on February 23, 2009

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Now the BMA has entered, stage left, with a move that is certain to win the hearts and minds of the general populace: they bomb a shopping center and take everyone inside hostage…while promising they’re not murderers. Yeah. Sure. Explode a bomb, shoot off some submachine guns, take civilians hostage…

<sarcasm>Wonderful PR campaign there, guys.</sarcasm>

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Of course, Shōko gets caught up in the middle of all this mess, and since nobody remembered to tell Rin that she’s not a superheroine, the former ballet star college student rideback aficionado charges into the fray to rescue her friend with the handlebar hairdo (as an aside, Shōko’s hair always reminds me of the pyromaniac leading lady of Witch Hunter Robin. I’m always half-expecting Shōko to do the human flamethrower routine). Rin, riding Fuego, busts in, rescues Shōko, and makes her escape, only to be mistaken for one of the BMA terrorists by the very trigger-happy GGP Public Security Force. She manages to escape this little pickle she found herself in with some help from a creepy white-haired probable terrorist rideback rider who tells her that Fuego “chose” her. It looks like somebody just got promoted to the Chosen One…

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Rideback, Episode 3

Posted by Doug on February 20, 2009

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Well, I was actually a little surprised by what happened: During the Big Race, Tamayo (who is, of course, in the lead, as befits the top rideback racer in Japan) manages to annoy a couple of other racers, the Unpleasant Goon Brothers. Rin is slowly catching up, thanks to some last-minute tweaking of her rideback. Unpleasant Goon #1 decides to kamikaze Tamayo to take her out of the race, slamming into her and sending them both off the track…

I was thinking, “Yeah, Rin’s going to catch up and duel Unpleasant Goon #2 for a photo finish, taking home the cup and earning some respect among her peers.” It made sense: isn’t that what always happens in these sorts of things? But…nope. It didn’t happen that way. Tamayo jumps back on the track; Rin’s engine blows, causing her to be unable to finish the race; and Tamayo wins the race like the pro she is. It looks like Tamayo will have to wait until next year to “settle things” with Rin.

Didn’t see that one coming, nosiree.

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An okay episode, this one was; there was some more developments in the political power-struggles story arc, unbeknownst to Rin & Company, but still it seemed a little ho-hum. I suppose they’re just setting up the rest of the major story arcs, so this doesn’t hurt my opinion of the series, really. Karenbach, the Commander of the GGP’s Public Security Force, is a standard-issue villain: he hasn’t done much yet, but it’s clear from the way he talks he’s manipulative, ambitious, and amoral. Of course, a guileless, laid-back, moral individual makes a poor villain (imagine Star Wars with Mr. Rogers instead of the Emperor. Not quite the same, is it?).

From the end-of-episode preview, It seems next episode is going to introduce the terrorists that oppose and are opposed by the GGP. The Good Guys are Rin and the Mushashino University Rideback Team; Karenbach and his GGP are set to be the Bad Guys. It is yet to be seen how far along the Good Guys/Bad Guys spectrum the BMA falls.

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Rideback, “Tamayo is the Best?”

Posted by Doug on January 26, 2009

Well, it seems Rin’s little joyride on Fuego caught the attention of the Rideback Club’s leader, Kataoka Tamayo, who wastes little time challenging the newb to a race. This is something of a rule for the leader/president/captain of a club in any level of the Animeland Japanese education system: challenge all newcomers to some form of a duel that they have virtually zero chance of doing well in, much less actually winning. If they lose, no big loss. If they actually do well or, Haruhi forbid, win, then lavish all your club’s resources on helping them rise to the top, because that’s your clue that the newcomer is the main character of the show. Regardless of what you might do, when the dust settles, they will be number one, and you might as well get on the winning team early and not look like more of a prick than you already do.

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Needless to say, Rin ends up in the drink early in the race, but the race continues, and Tamayo’s wipeout (caused by one of those evil, evil Animeland cats) puts her in the hospital, where she declares that new or not, Rin is going to the next competition.

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While Rin is enjoying her idyllic first few days of college, there also seems to be something brewing between the political powers of the world. The BMA and the GGP and “the subcomittee” the old guy mentions at the start of the episode are moving in mysterious ways, ways that will no doubt result in Rin ending up in the middle of whatever they are planning. I have a sneaking suspicion that Rin’s younger brother Kenji is going to end up a part of the “criminal” BMA group, whatever they may be, and of course Rin will be diametrically opposed. Nothing like a little extreme sibling rivalry to spice up an anime.

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