In 2025, a group of malcontents calling themselves the Global Government Plan (GGP) launch an insurrection against the established world order. Unexpectedly, the GGP emerge victorious from the ensuing conflict and replace the United Nations; but after nearly a decade in power, they are challenged by counter insurgents calling themselves the Borderless Military Alliance (BMA), setting the stage for a new global conflict. None of which means much to Rin Ogata: the daughter of a famous ballerina, Rin was a child prodigy destined to become a ballet star until an injury brought a premature end to her career. Years later, as a university student, she stumbles across an obscure motorcycle club and has her first encounter with a “Rideback” – a robot/motorcycle hybrid that can change configurations depending on the terrain and the skill of the rider. Unexpectedly, Rin finds a joy and freedom in piloting a “Rideback” which she only previously experienced while dancing. But her joy is short-lived as the escalating conflict between the GGP and the BMA draws Rin and her friends into the folds of a deadly battle for power and freedom.

Based on the long-running manga by Tetsurō Kasahara and produced by noted anime studio Madhouse, “Rideback” first aired on Japanese television in 2009.  Rendered in an animation style that combines hand-drawn visuals with CGI, “Rideback” covers territory that will be familiar to fans of series such as “Code Gaess: Lelouch of the Rebellion” and “Guilty Crown”. Yet despite this familiarity, it still manages to provide some fresh nuances: the “Rideback” is an effective variation to the usual mecha trope; Rin as the principal protagonist is a nice change of pace from the hapless teenage boys one frequently encounters in stories of this type; and a key relationship between Rin and one of her inner group of friends is a subtle nod in the direction of Homer’s “Iliad” (think Achilles and Patroclus). There are some holes in the narrative – the reasons for the GGP’s original rebellion, as well as the motives behind the counter-insurgent BMA (many of whose leaders are renegade ex-GGP), remain somewhat obscure – however, the denouement, while not containing any surprises, is convincingly executed through the morphing of Rin’s dance-oriented skills into a cohesive combat methodology.  Undemanding yet entertaining, “Rideback” manages to neatly explore themes like the limits of power and the resolution of past disappointments within the landscape of a familiar anime genre.

© Text Copyright Brendan E Byrne 2020. All rights reserved.