Rin Ogata was a prodigy of ballet, but her aspirations lay crushed with an inury sustained during a performance. This didn't exclude her from ever dancing again, but the long road to recovery would have taken years. Instead Rin decides to leave the world of ballet. Three years later: the year is now 2020 with Rin beginning her first year of college.
At school She encounters an unusual club oriented around machines called "ridebacks"; A mix between a motorcycle and robot. With superior agility, and balance; Rin proves to be a natural at riding them. In fact her skills are at a level no one has seen before. This gains her unwanted attention from the world government known as the Global Government Plan (GGP). As Japan becomes more and more like a police state, ridebacks and Rin in particular become a focal point.
What I had heard of Rideback, and what it's actually about are two different things. I expected a story about a girl struggling to recover as a fallen prodigy, then finding a new passion in ridebacks. While happens in the background, much of Rideback is concerned with a plot about a world government organization becoming more and more strict; particularly in Japan. These are two different (but related) stories, that intersect at points, but are otherwise separate. I enjoyed Rin's character driven story, but wasn't taken with the GGP revolution aspect.
The GGP is an organization which took over the world. Apparently Ridebacks were instrumental to this happening, although it makes absolutely no sense why. They offer better firepower and mobility compared to regular infantry, but against tanks, cruse missiles, fighter jets and other modern weaponry? I don't see how every military on earth could be toppled by robot motorcycles. Events surrounding the GGP world takeover are not detailed and never fully explained. That would be fine except characters reference these key events which we're in the dark about. This makes the basis of the plot more vague than it ought to be, and I didn't find it very compelling.
By contrast, I liked Rin's story much better. Her story is the focus at the beginning and end, with the GGP plot filling the middle; although circumstances are contrived to keep Rin involved with them.
Aside from the brief introduction, Rin has already moved on from her fall as a ballet prodigy. It's hard to get a grasp on her personality, if she's always been withdrawn but her excitement over ridebacks suggests she was probably more lively in the past. Only towards the end does Rin come to grips with the loss of ballet, what it meant to her, and what ridebacks gave back to her. Rin's heart is surprisingly complex, and she's a great character. While she seems quiet and unassuming, her determination and passion reflect a mentality consistent with a person who's been at the top tier of competition. Unfortunately none of the other characters even approach how good Rin's character is, so she carries the show.
Rideback shows an interesting take on the future of technology, although cell phones are the only technology shown to have changed much. I've tired of giant robots, so the concept of ridebacks worried me, but I was impressed with their treatment consistent with high tech motorcycles. For a series featuring a girl often wearing a dress riding motorcycle like machines, I give this one credit for not lowering itself to panty shots. (sad state of anime when this is a "feature").
While I didn't like the world government thing, I adored Rin and she kept me glued to the show (although some have the opposite view). Rideback is put together very well, and has an interesting mix of attributes. While it's reserved in approach, it has enough flavor and is constructed well enough to make it worth the watch.
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