RideBack: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Ballet

I cannot stop watching the OP; MELL is amazing.

I’m not even kidding with the subtitle to this post: this is exactly what I’m thinking RideBack is (or is going to be). I only have vague memories of the actual Robert Pirsig book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintainance from reading it at age 14 (most of them being “I thought this book was going to be funny and it wasn’t, it was boring”; obviously I was not exactly the mental peer of my parents when they were that age), and reading over the linked Wiki entry I should probably revisit it, despite it having nothing whatsoever to actually do with RideBack other than providing a humorous subtitle to a blog post about it and this dull anecdote which I’m going to stop writing before you fall asleep.

It’s kind of hard to judge where RideBack is headed at this early stage; when I started it up I was kind of expecting Students for a Democratic Society-style protests, I thought the RideBack club was going to be some kind of Weather Underground outpost, and I still half-expect, at some point in time, a giant rock concert where everyone is a) naked b) drunk c) stoned d) all of the above. I can’t exactly say where the series is going (possibly due to Expectation Shattering), or how well it will do it, but I have had a small and minor epiphany, which follows.

It’s rather clear at this point that for Rin, after her fateful on-stage ankle-twisting that forces her to leave a life as a ballerina, that the RideBack (specifically KITT Fuego) is symbolic of her means to express herself, her freedom she had on stage regained. Some watching the series seem to dislike the quieter moments, the moments where there are cherry blossom petals blowing everywhere and vague yet pensive uncertainty (I posit that you have not properly been a twentysomething if you have never felt an extended period of vague yet pensive uncertainty; those older who have not yet experienced it will simply be repaid, with interest,  later), but it’s those moments that make the RideBack races (set to awesome electro-whatever) more than an Initial D race on a pseudo-sentient motorcycle with a “spread legs form.” For Rin and the rest of the RideBack enthusiast club, the RideBacks are a nifty, exciting, and thrilling new technology through which they will forge an identity for themselves.

Freedom is wearing a lot of protective gear on your fancypants motorbike so you don't die when it spirals out of control.

Of course, it’s been quite heavily insinuated that the RideBacks were developed not to give college students a thrilling chance to find themselves, as so many through the years have, through chrome, four-cylinder engines, and mufflers (this is the extent of my mechanical knowledge, by the way, and I had to look one of them up), but, rather, as a new weapon of war, to be used by the (presumably) heartless dictator of Greater East Asia (I think?). The same utility that gives Rin and her fellow classmates a liberating thrill is the same machine that’s being used to further a campaign to quench freedom, wherever it might lay in wait in hastily dug foxholes, armed with hand grenades and a machete.

This much is clear, but I don’t know how far they can take it in twelve episodes at this pace. Student protests are inevitable, I believe, and, perhaps, a rousing message that the very machine that crushes freedom gives rise to a movement that fights for it. Perhaps that is why I am a tad cautious at this point–not knowing where the series is going to go makes for difficult snap judgments of measured quality for me–but I certainly am developing a certain fondness for Rin, Fuego, and the rest of the gang. It’s too early too tell how far it’s going (or if they’re angling for a second season later, as many series these days are tending to), but I’ve a feeling I’ll like it, however inconclusive the ending might be. The only question is how much I like it–and that I cannot tell at the moment.

And I also quite like the art style; perhaps not the best art ever, but it’s quirky and enjoyable, and a not unwelcome change of visual pace. And Rin’s friend in a cheerleader outfit was great, but, then, I always have a weakness for cheerleader outfits and pom-poms. When the girl wearing them is, you know, actually cute.

5 Responses to “RideBack: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Ballet”


  1. 1 issa-sa 23 January 2009 at 6:44 am

    Public consent with this series seems to be that it’s good, but telling what direction it’s going, hence a certain reservation in saying “(ONE OF THE)BEST SHOW(S) THIS SEASON (probably)”. (But really, we’re all rooting for this show to be a triumph in the end, right?)

    I just know if it wasn’t for Mizuki Nana voicing Rin I probably might’ve given this a miss, but I’m glad to see that even if it wasn’t one of my favourite seiyuus doing the job, the story (so far/whatever it’s going to be) itself seems capable enough to support the show.

  2. 2 omisyth 24 January 2009 at 4:40 pm

    “Some watching the series seem to dislike the quieter moments, the moments where there are cherry blossom petals blowing everywhere.”

    <__>

    Well, the second episode was much better than the first, in my opinion, though it could’ve used a lot more GODDAM CHERRY BLOSSOMS.
    That moment when Rin incorporated the ballet move into the race was one of the best parts. All in all, I just think that the second episode came of less heavy handed than parts of the first. It’s the same with that point in the first epsiode when she made the leap. When she made the movement, they just let the animation and Rin’s expression do the talking, rather than have her monologuing about how the world’s changing.

    • 3 OGT 24 January 2009 at 11:08 pm

      @omisyth: Personally, I like <__> better than <_<, if for no other reason than it amuses me.

      I still think it’s a bit of a mistake to focus on the races–this clearly isn’t going to be futuristic Initial D, it doesn’t have enough m.o.v.e–but I forgive the monologues in the first episode. Possibly because I think monologues are awesome and we need more of them, though. The races are important, but, again, not because they make the series less boring, but because they’re more symbolic in nature. I honestly find them kind of distracting–nice, and I like them, but I’d not complain were they not there. But, that said, then this series wouldn’t be RideBack, so there you go.

      I think of them like the battle scenes in Figure 17: they’re neat, cool, fun to watch, and integral to my enjoyment of the series, but they are not the whole of the series, they are a part of the series.

  3. 4 omisyth 24 January 2009 at 4:41 pm

    ^ That’s meant to be <_< lol.

  4. 5 Jasonp 27 January 2009 at 4:39 pm

    I only hope they can maintain the focus on Rin’s story without effort, in the wuwei kind of fashion they are using within the storytelling I’ve seen. Really, I think this could be a smashing series and I’m enjoying it so far, and I only hope it doesn’t go the way of Ga-rei Zero. :D


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