Archive for April 18th, 2009

RideBack: Giving Revolution the Right of Way

So, you say you want a revolution?

Well, you know, it’s just not that easy.

Anyone who completed RideBack will, by now, understand that Rin hasn’t exactly had the best of lives. In fact, her life throughout the series would best be described in the Dickensian way: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Cast out from the world of ballet due to an ankle injury, she once again found the freedom to dance–the freedom to live life, and not some hollow shard of it left after the ballet career she’d been training for all her life vanished from her future–through the RideBacks (or, more specifically, Fuego).

And yet that same discovery which granted her freedom also wrecked her life, as her natural skill turned her, quite unwittingly and completely against her will, into the iconic RideBack Girl of the resistance, with devastating consequences: Her brother tortured to confess to a crime he did not commit, one of her friends decapitated as though she were her. If anyone in the resistance against the splinter GGP faction to retake Japan had a reason to go on a giant, killing rampage, it’s Rin.

Yet she doesn’t. In fact, she doesn’t even consider herself a part of the resistance. She shuns the title “RideBack Girl” even as Suzuri embraces it, and I think we all remember what happened there. She emphatically denies any kind of symbolic importance attached to herself; she’s not the daring student protester who blasts past GGP military to demonstrate their weakness, but rather the girl who would do anything to save her friend. She’s the iconic figure of resistance who neither wishes to be an icon nor to resist, or, at least, resist in the way people want her to, which generally involves quite a great deal of going against her inner, artist’s nature.

Oddly, her insistence that she isn’t an icon, that she’s not resisting, is what makes her both. Despite all the cruelties pressed upon her by the GGP’s actions in Japan, she will not–can not–pick up a gun and fight against them. Perhaps she intuitively understands that fighting generally gets people nowhere, perhaps fighting is simply just not in her nature, but she refuses to join Kiefer’s resistance despite his insistence that she has been “chosen” to be part of it. She doesn’t want to fight for her freedom, she simply wants to be free, and the only way she can be free is through Fuego, a dual-edged sword of freedom and destruction.

And, in the end, she manages to wield that dual-edged sword quite effectively, as she literally leads mindless RideBack-derived combat drones in a bizarre ballet that is equal parts self-expression and destruction. Whatever thematic symbolism one wants to ascribe to the drones (I, personally, prefer seeing them as violence incarnate, or at least that occurred to me first; but ambiguity is positively delicious), it’s clear that even they cannot catch up to Rin as she and Fuego combined lead them in a ballet, not of destruction, but of simple self-expression. One by one, the drones collapse, unable to keep up with Rin’s indefatigable pace and indomitable human spirit. Amidst all the destruction and explosions and death and slayings, it’s Rin’s naturally mechanical ballet that captures the attention of (some of) the public in the end. She becomes a resistance icon through simply being Rin. She’s not a belligerent, a terrorist, a freedom-fighter, a protester, an aggressor, or any of those things; in fact, I’d hesitate to even apply the term “pacifist” to her, because pacifists sometimes seem to me to be much more aggressively peaceful than Rin is.

She’s Rin. She can’t be the savior of the world, of Japan, of Tokyo, of her school, of the RideBack club, or anything. She can only be Rin. And, in the end, isn’t that the same thing? Isn’t it the same for us all?

Perhaps the answers can only be found on the Twisted Race Track of Enlightenment, where riding RideBacks slowly (or at least in transient beauty) is preferred.

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NOTICE SHAMELESSLY STOLEN FROM G.K. CHESTERTON

I cannot understand those that take anime seriously, but I can love them, and I do. Out of my love I warn them to keep clear of this blog.

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