Click here to return to the main site.

DVD Review

DVD cover

The Complete Season


Starring (voice): Nana Mizuki, Rikiya Koyama and Megumi Toyoguchi
Manga Entertainment
RRP: £24.99
Certificate: 12
Available 31 October 2011

In a future 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...

Based on the manga by Tetsuro Kasahara serialized in the inventive Monthly Ikki anthology, Rideback is a 12-episode series produced by Madhouse, creators of many of the most innovative and prestigious anime productions of recent years (Paprika, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Redline). It's an interesting collision of typical shoujo manga themes with mecha action and political intrigue that winds up as something rather odd and distinctive.

The series' biggest strength is its sense of reserve, in what the creators choose not to do. The scene in which Rin takes her first ride on the 'Fuego' Rideback machine that becomes her mount and companion throughout the series encapsulates this: as she breezes down a street at top speed a passer-by shouts: "Hey, I can see your panties!" The expected shot for the voyeuristic benefit of the viewer doesn't come, though, and it's with this that Rideback declares its separateness from the bulk of crude contemporary anime where titillatory presentation of female characters is the default.

The relationships between the characters are treated with restraint, too: Rin's relationships with her loyal best friend, cool rival and over-zealous admirer would probably be mined for overt homoerotic implications in other shows, but here are presented relatively straightforwardly, with melodrama only taking hold later as the plot progresses and tension mounts. Even the Byronic bishonen terrorist who appears as a potential love interest is unexpectedly sidelined in favour of Rin's platonic friendship with her mentor Tenshiro, whose curious design - his huge nose and tiny black eyes are very much not the norm for males in anime - as well as his conflicted personality make him one of the show's best characters.

With all these advantages, it's a pity that the twelve-episode run doesn't feel sufficient for the story: the GGP's control over the world - admittedly the least plausible aspect of the series - is limited to what we see of Japan, and I'd have liked to learn more about this organization that seems to have usurped the world's governments by technological might alone, something that simply doesn't feel possible in today's world. The subplot involving Rin's delinquent brother, which allows for some interesting exploration of the links between street culture, organized crime and respectable politics that are a very real feature of Japanese life, is also underdone and given enough time and space could have been truly gripping. At a time when many TV anime series struggle even to fill a run of this length with anything approaching a plot, however, Rideback's surplus of unrealized potential is be applauded.

Rideback is a polished affair typical of Madhouse, with superior music and animation only slightly marred by the CG used on the Rideback machines, which is never as smoothly integrated as it ought to be, a common problem in anime. The machines and action sequences themselves are superb, though, and make for some truly arresting images as Rin fearlessly rides into danger for the sake of her friends. It's a series that does something very different with an established genre and does it well, and that makes it worth your time. Recommended.


Richard Hunt

Buy this item online

We compare prices online so you get the cheapest deal
Click on the logo of the desired store below to purchase this item.

£14.99 (
£14.99 (
£14.99 (
£17.97 (

All prices correct at time of going to press.