RideBack, The Complete Series – Limited Edition Blu-ray + DVD Combo Review

Review by: Brenda Gregson

Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $69.98 US (Blu-ray + DVD)
Running Time: 300 minutes
Genre: Drama/Action
Rating: TV 14
Release Date: June 28, 2011

Dance, rider, for the revolution is here.

There are times when I think a short series could have been even better if it were a bit longer in length and, of course, time when I feel that its short length is a good thing. The Complete Series of RideBack is a series that I really wouldn’t have minded if it lasted longer than its 12-episode run mainly because it would have been fun to spend more time with the likeable cast of characters and, of course, the insanely cool limbed motorcycles. Funimation brings us a Limited Edition Blu-ray + DVD Combo pack for a series that’s actually a fun ride.

A young ballerina takes the stage with a graceful elegance that seems to captivate the audience who recognize her as Rin Ogata … daughter of the late great premiere ballerina, Yuki Ogata. Her movements are something to behold and there’s a look of complete serenity that makes it clear that she loves dancing. Then, in mid pirouette, Rin Ogata feels a sharp stinging pain in her tendon and takes a fall that she will end her ballerina career forever.

It’s a heartbreaking thing to see your passion taken away from you and somehow Rin tries to recover with the help of her best friend, Shoko, who becomes her roommate in their first day in college. It’s a good time to enter a new life as the cherry blossoms are in bloom and the campus is alive with activity. Rin takes a little walk to a corner of the campus where she catches a glimpse of a machine she’s not fully familiar with but has heard of thanks to a brother named Kenji who is obsessed with them. These limbed machines are known as RideBacks … an unusual fusion between motorcycle and a robot.

A young man from the RideBack club gives Rin the opportunity to try one out and she accepts as she tries a RideBack known as Fuego. Sure, Rin doesn’t quite get the hang of it at first but suddenly she and Fuego become in tune with each another and that passion she thought was long gone is back. Could it be that riding has rekindled the flame inside of her that was extinguished by not being able to dance again? In her first time riding she actually makes Fuego take to the skies as she clears a jump.

Not everyone welcomes Rin to the club as she meets Tamayo Kataoka – the RideBack Queen of the racing circuit. She challenges Rin to a race and it becomes clear to Tamayo that Rin has a natural talent for riding so she is accepted into the club that she runs along with the mysterious Okakura. She is also joined by one of Rin’s fans, a girl named Suzuri. Rin even joins Tamayo in participating in a qualifying RideBack race.

In the meantime, Japan is going through some interesting times as a militant faction known as the Global Government Plan (or GGP) controls the entire group by the year 2025. The military force in Japan is run by a strict commanding officer named Romanov Cullenberg who is about to put into action a plan involving a security force known as the White RideBacks. Naturally, not everyone welcomes the GGP as a group of rebels calling themselves the BMA fight back against the militant forces. Since the group uses RideBacks, Cullenberg targets all riders.

As fate would have it, the BMA attacks the shopping district in order to get the GGP’s attention and Rin’s friend Shoko happens to be in the area. Rin, using Fuego, stages a solo rescue and defying the GGP’s blockade to rescue her friend and ends up meeting the leader of the so-called terrorist group. This action, thanks to some footage taken by witnesses, is seen as an act of defiance and Rin quickly becomes a web and television sensation. Since body knows who she is the media dubs her simply as the Mysterious RideBack Girl.

Using this as an excuse to finally initiate his White RideBack program, Cullenberg authorizes their use just as Rin’s brother, Kenji, decides to join a few friends in a moment of vandalism. Meanwhile, a reporter named Kei Yoda tries to uncover the identity of the RideBack Girl only to come to the conclusion that it might be Rin. Kei confirmed this when Rin jumps into action to save her brother from White Riders that end up killing Kenji’s friends in horrible ways.

Rin not only comes to Kenji’s rescue but she smashes a few White Riders in the process, unfortunately, they end up being cornered and captured. It is the BMA leader, Kiefer, who breaks Rin out of a van as she was being transferred to another facility and it is in their company that she discovers Kiefer’s past and his link to the RideBack Club’s sponsor – Okakura. Little by little we come to discover that these “terrorists” have a good reason for defying the GGP.

Now a wanted criminal thanks to using a RideBack, Rin no longer wants to ride no matter how good it felt to ride one. However, when the GGP have all of Japan turn over their RideBacks, a protest leads one of Rin’s friends to defy the White Riders and the whole thing ends in tragedy. Now, Rin finds herself turning to Fuego once again as the BMA decides to strike against Cullenberg and the GGP forces. This is the real start of the revolution as Rin rides again.

As I mentioned in the start of this review, there are series that would have benefited – story-wise – from being a bit longer and RideBack is one of them. The characters are endearing enough that you wouldn’t mind getting to know them more and we would have loved to have seen more of Rin on the racing circuit. Still, the political aspect of the series is far from boring and the GGP/BMA battles are exciting and even more so when Rin joins the fight against them. Top that off with gorgeous visuals and a great voice cast for both the Japanese and English side and we have a series that doesn’t fail to entertain.

A meaningful, exhilarating and occasionally even inspiring series, The Complete Series of RideBack has a lot going for it than just super cool motorcycles with limbs. In fact, it’s a wonderfully written and beautifully animated series that doesn’t fail to impress or tell a good story. Sure, there are times when it feels like this could have been an even more amazing story but is just one of those anime series that shouldn’t be ignored either way and trust me when I say that you will definitely enjoy watching this one.

BLU-RAY REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: B+
Rin Ogata was once a talented ballerina who strived to be just as good as her famous mother but an injury shattered her dreams. In college, however, she discovers a RideBack machine called Fuego that suddenly rekindles the flame she lost when she couldn’t dance anymore. Unfortunately, the military targets all RideBack riders thanks to their war against a group of revolutionaries.

VIDEO QUALITY: A+
The is really one amazing-looking series with gorgeous backgrounds, characters and stunning action. It looks great on DVD but if you want the best visual experience you really should be watching it on Blu-ray since it really does bring out the colors in this series perfectly.

AUDIO QUALITY: A
The soundtrack for RideBack is – simply put – spectacular with a score that picks up at just the right moment and an awesome opening tune by MELL. The Japanese voice cast is stellar with Nana Mizuki and the always amazing Romi Park being absolutely brilliant. As for the English dub, the cast does a great job with Tia Ballard being at the very top of the list.

EXTRAS: B+
Aside from the Funimation trailers and the clean opening and closing theme songs, you’ll find two audio commentary tracks. The Episode 4 commentary has ADR Director Terri Doty with Tia Ballard (Rin) and Kristi Bingham (Shoko) that fun to listen to as is the commentary track for Episode 10 with Terri Doty, Micah Solusod (Haruki) and Trina Nishimura (Suzuri).

OVERALL: B+
The Complete Series of RideBack has the look and feel of a monumental series but it doesn’t quite reach the heights it could have considering the great characters and cool RideBack action. Then again, there’s much to like about the series anyway and it seldom disappoints in keeping you rooting for its main character who finally finds a way to dance again even if it’s for the last time. This is definitely what you call a guaranteed good time so you can’t go wrong with picking this one up.

Review copy provided by FUNimation Entertainment

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