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Matt Kamen grabs the handlebars for a revolutionary ride.

Ballet dancing, an omnipresent government and transforming motorcycles are an unlikely combination for an anime series – but confounding expectations is exactly what the new mecha series Rideback does best!

Living up to your parents’ expectations can be a real trial – just ask Rin Ogata. While her mother was a highly talented dancer, Rin’s own ambitions were cut short when a broken foot rendered her unable to perform the subtle movements required of a star ballerina. Years later, having shifted her focus to a University career, Rin regains her passion for life when she discovers the Rideback racing club. While a high-speed, futuristic motorbike would normally be cool enough (just look at Akira!), the Ridebacks that lend their name to the series can also transform into bipedal robotic frames, allowing pilots to engage in one-on-one fisticuffs on the racetrack! Rin’s dance training giving her a near-perfect sense of balance, she’s able to ride the machines like a seasoned pro.

The series isn’t merely a heart-warming story of a girl regaining her sense of self, though that’s certainly a key element of Rin’s journey. Instead, we find that by the near future of 2020, the world has fallen under control of the Global Government Plan, a crushingly totalitarian network of rulers who have a hand in every citizen’s daily life. Made more politically aware by some of her compatriots in the Rideback club, and disturbed by the GGP creeping ever more intrusively into her life – unfair curfews, social clampdowns and eventually even directly harming her friends – Rin chooses to make a stand. Taking her Rideback, nicknamed Fuego, into battle, Rin becomes part of a rebellion movement against the cruel world order.

Rideback’s strange mix of concepts raced out of the mind of manga creator Tetsuro Kasahara. First published in the pages of Ikki magazine in 2003, the series ran until 2009, racking up ten collected volumes along the way. As the printed version of the saga drew to a close, Madhouse – the studio behind such hits as Highschool of the Dead and Birdy the Mighty – debuted a 12-episode anime adaptation. Although the series is director Atsushi Takahashi’s first time helming a project, you couldn’t guess that from watching – Takahashi fills the screen with stunning visual poetry, presenting Rin’s life both on the stage and the race track as odes to grace and the simple joy of movement. In short, expect glorious action scenes, backed up with perfectly framed personal moments.

Rideback is a little darker than your typical mecha show, a touch more mature in its themes and tones. Tightly paced and gorgeously brought to the screen, it’s science fiction at its best, asking the audience to consider deeper questions than merely who’s getting punched next. Take this cherry ride for a test drive now!

Rideback is out now on UK DVD from Manga Entertainment.

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