Before we get into this, I want to say that I’m starting to venture into opening credit sequences that I enjoy more for personal reasons than for any kind of grand artistic merit. Those kinds of OP’s are actually pretty rare, and more and more I feel I covered most of the really great ones. So, for a while anyway, I’m going to be touching on ones that may not be as perfect, but are still pretty darn awesome, at least from my perspective.
I’ve been wanting to touch on Elfen Lied, but that’s… well… Elfen Lied, and I think we all know where the trouble with that one lies. So, instead, I decided to bring up a show that rarely ever seems to get talked about, the 2009 Madhouse series, Rideback.
Damn it, Madhouse, why do you creep into every freaking thing?
For those who haven’t seen it, Rideback is a sorta mecha series that focuses on a young woman fighting global oppression with the power of ballet.
What? That’s what the show is about. Stop giving me that look. Not like I wrote it.
Okay, okay, context. Damn, ya’ll are pushy.
Rideback follows Rin Ogata, a young ballet dancer who was on the fast track to being a prima ballerina, when she suffered a severe injury that ended her dreams. While it was likely she could recover enough to continue as a dancer, her abilities would always be limited, and as such, her career. Because of this, she chose to end her career, and a few years later, returned to collage as an average student.
There, she meets and gets involved with a club that rides a new type of motorcycle called a rideback, known as such for the vehicles ability to slightly transform, leaving the rider in a sort of piggy back situation on the not quite a mecha. Rin takes to the new vehicle quickly, her ballet skills making her not just a natural, but a prodigy.
Little does she know at the time, but many in the club are involved in a resistance movement against the new global government, which rose to power by using the new rideback vehicles for military purposes. Driven by her love of riding, and the ability to perform ballet on the machine, Rin is drawn into the resistance as she tries to protect her friends, and finds herself becoming the public face of the movement.
All she wants is to ride, but as things spin out of control, she and her flame decal rideback, Fuego, will soon dance for the world, and freedom.
Straight up, this show has problems. It’s not as good as it could be, but where it is good, it’s absolutely excellent. The use of CG never fully melds with the traditional animation, but you forget that the moment Rin takes to the streets on Fuego, because damn, that shit is fucking beautiful. In part because they use actual ballet moves, making one of the most graceful looking mechas ever.
It avoids being similar to Hunger Games in pretty much every way but the most cursory, so don’t be expecting it to be another teen dystiopian story. It’s not, and the global government avoids heavy handed tactics whenever possible, so they aren’t a cardboard monolithic villain, either. They do still do a lot of stupid things, however, but so does Rin, so at least the shows weak points get spread around fairly evenly.
Focusing on just the OP, though, for the most part it doesn’t look like much. Just long shots of Rin riding Fuego. As the show goes on, the meaning becomes clearer. The desolate highway, on which she rides alone, speaks to her state of mind. Separated from her dreams and goals, she feels isolated, leaving her nothing in the world but the ride.
It’s towards the end that I think the OP does it’s best work. Images of pistons firing in perfect synchronization underlie images of Rin dancing, bringing to mind that similarities of the two. A moment later, Rin is replaced by images of war machines, again with the pistons laying under them.
Two things always strike me in those brief moments. How technology can give us our dreams back, and how it can take everything from us, all in how it is used. The other thing that always strikes me is how art is the ultimate form of resistance against an oppressive government. There’s a reason art gets banned by totalitarians. Art dares us dream, to reach higher, and expect better. Contrasting those two images tells us what the story of Rideback is about.
Rin doesn’t fight back against the global government with weapons. She fights back with ballet. She resists by inspiring others. She wages war using art.
As a series, Rideback has its flaws. The central message of it is not one of them.