As I get further along with these “cold introductions,” I realize that if something's ever going to trip me up in an anime, it’ll more likely relate to tone instead of subject matter. In the case of RIDEBACK, while it’s certainly weird to see people piggyback riding TRANSFORMERS in some sort of semi-dystopian future, what kicks it over "the cliff of the strange" is that the rest of this episode plays like a straight high school melodrama about ex-ballerina coping with her injuries and inescapable fame. It’d be like if, I don’t know, GOSSIP GIRL randomly had an episode where they started bumming rides from Bumblebee and Ironhide.
Again, the tone is what really makes this so vexing. If this was played like some slapstick skit in RANMA ½, it’d go down a lot easier than it does with the fairly morose tone it has throughout. After we got that got that sort-of “BLACK SWAN meets 1984” prologue, I honestly couldn’t help but chortle about that intro with the lead girl riding this cybernetic scooter. It felt like the punch line of a very involved and very deadpan joke; one made all the funnier considering how this episode seems like it’s setting us up for some INITIAL D drama that swaps drift racers for Autobots.
And I’d honestly have a hard time taking that seriously.
The animation’s exceptional, of course. I’ve noticed that Mad House vanity card enough times in front of these shows to know it means I’m in store for some top notch rendering. I’m just not that compelled to pick this show’s baton up and run with it for the whole 26 miles (or 26 episodes. What a coincidence!) I’ve been more intrigued by the other pilots I’ve watched - - those that went more confidently in one direction or the other.
Watch this episode "The Iron Horse" here and decide for yourself.