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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.


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.

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