First Look Fairs: “Sora wo Kakeru Shoujo” and “Rideback”

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I think there’s been a mis-titling here: the show that is called Rideback is the one that really deserves the title Sorakake (The Girl Who Leapt into the Sky). And Sorakake, if this episode is any indication, should have been called Leopardnaut.

Sora wo Kakeru Shoujo

I admit it: the only reason why I gave this show the time of day was because the title reminded me of a far superior anime film, and because it’s an original Sunrise production–which means that it could potentially be a worthwhile show like Mai Hime. I also remembered that Mai Hime also began in a ho-hum, mediocre way, barely showing its true colors until episode 7.

But lord, is this one a mess, a mess that reminded me most of that Gonzo fiasco from several seasons ago, Dragonaut. Too many characters flash before our eyes; too many interesting-but-disparate ideas are thrown in. At least, of course, we have a main character–and her magical-girl style cute talking R2D2-ish blob–but first we have her being forced into arranged marriage, then going to school, then bouncing around space junk and then a colony and…this show seems to have trouble deciding exactly what it wants to be.

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the setting, the AI colony controlled by a mercurial computer named “Leopard”–a jab at a certain Apple operating system?–seems best suited for a wacky comedy, which is mostly what this episode is. It’s the one spark of originality in this show, one that could potentially be entertaining if the humor is sharp. (At least it was somewhat more surprising than the mecha-only-she-can-pilot I expected to see as the main girl and her sidekick go up the elevator.) Leopard, though, seems whiny. And he goes off about “indirect kisses” like a girl. He could get old real fast. The rest of the setting seems like a cross between that of Planetes (space junk) and Cowboy Bebop (space gates, neon signs along the space lanes), but with less interesting characters populating it.

I’m consoling myself, again, with the thought that Mai Hime seemed kind of dumb at first too. But I hope this improves fast. I don’t think I’m patient enough to wait half a season.


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Rideback

I knew something was up the moment I heard classical music (Mussorgsky’s “The Great Gate of Kiev“) and ballet, well-animated ballet to boot. Not being much of a mecha fan, I hadn’t been prepared to think much or write about this show, but the first episode has given me pause. It’s thoughtful and exciting at turns, and the animation is beautiful to look at–even if the character designs could use some work.

The introductory prologue serves both as exposition about the near future, GGP-dominated world and as a key to Rin’s inner struggle–her disappointment over the injury that forced her to quit ballet. The mood is perfect: thoughtful, well-timed, and cathartic. By the end we see that the Rideback is a way for her to dance once more, to literally leap into the sky in a way far more fitting of the previous show’s title. The scenes where she learns to control the Rideback is certainly the best animated action sequences I’ve seen so far this season, and are filled with excitement and even, at the end, a little bit of wonder. (With a pinch of fan service as garnish.)

There were a few seams that showed, however. The episode began in a very slice-of-lifeish manner but with sci-fi elements; when the Rideback is introduced, it necessarily becomes a more mecha-oriented kind of show, complete with explanations. The “demonstration” that follows as she struggles to control it more than makes up for it, though. The overall setting’s premise, that a rebel group can suddenly take over the whole world, stretches plausibility. The ovalish faces, too, reminded me mainly of the character design in the Detroit Metal City anime, and when they’re viewed from the side they’re rather elongated and unattractive. Neither this show or Sorakake have terribly good character designs, in my view.

On the whole, however, Rideback is one of the most promising titles of the season. Could it be a “slice of life mecha” series? Is such a thing even possible without becoming a schizophrenic mess? We’ll see.

12 thoughts on “First Look Fairs: “Sora wo Kakeru Shoujo” and “Rideback””

  1. i am still holding back for rideback.  animation quality looks top notch but i will wait for a while before i decide if it is a “worthy’ anime. :D

  2. oOgA: true, first episodes can be deceptive. It’s Madhouse, so they could just as easily pull a Kurozuka by the end and confuse the heck out of me. But so far it’s making many of the right moves.

    Speaking of quality Madhouse productions, those subbers need to get cracking on finishing Mouryou no Hako.

  3. I was pleasantly surprised by the first episode of Rideback too–usually I avoid mecha like the plague and hate CG in anime, but somehow everything in the first episode just clicked for me.  It could go off the rails fast depending where they try to go with it, and I agree the premise of some revolutionary group somehow overturning the entire world order thanks to superior technology (that somehow only the rebels have) is a little far-fetched, but it’s definitely a unique premise and there’s a lot of potential there.

  4. suguru: Indeed. After the First Look Fairs are over, I’ll be doing weekly roundups of the new shows and I’m definitely keeping that on my watch list.

  5. I’m ashamed to say when I first saw this, I was thinking “Motorcycles and arms? Pfftt….” Dang, I was so wrong, everything you said was true, and the show has a lot of potential on effects and battle/race scenes.

  6. Sora wo Kakeru Shoujo: wut, Colony drop???

    I was like, bipedal mecha…bipedal mecha…YES! We have Gun…bipedal mecha!

    I was like newtype…newtype…YES! We have newt…coordinator!!! Coordinator??? WTF?

    I love the little mascot! SOOOOOOOOOOO KAWAII! Can I take her home pleeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaasssssssssse? XD

    I wanna hug her an kiss her an hold her and stroke her an fuzzywuzzy with her!!!

  7. The character design seems freer, looser for Rideback and more traditional for Sora wa Kakeru Shojo. While it’s an unfounded guess, that says to me that the designers may have been consciously trying to incorporate elements of previous successful anime, resulting in the garbled mess you witnessed.

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