Review: Real Drive (RD senno Chosashitsu), by the first look, has nothing that draws my interest; the opening theme is noisy with generic atmosphere and rather silly sequences, the character design that, though realistic, isn’t standing out and the sci-fi theme that initially seems just like another cyberspace diving story. But when I actually took a step into its world, I realized how foolish I was and I was utterly horrified thinking about how my life might have been if I had decided to drop this wonderful anime.
RD sets in the near future Earth, on the artificial island equipped with the most advanced technology human has ever created. One of them is the Cyber Brain (according to various sources, these cyber brains is the same ones found in Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex series). The cyber brains enable human to surf in the cyberspace at will and as a result, an alternate surreal life becomes a common thing. In order to keep human’s consciousnesses in order; the Meta-Real Network (the Metal) is created as a consciousness aggregator or the pooled souls. Haru is the Metal diver who works under The Electronic Investigation Department on various missions involving inappropriate activities in the Metal. Other people in the team includes Minamo, an energetic high school girl working as a part time assistant for Haru, Sota, Minamo’s brother and Holon, a female android.
RD is initially episodic but every episode shares the same ‘what if’ theme surrounding the Metal. As a result, RD is a series with amazing diversity ranging from something as small as pets’ Metal to something as big as the world’s biorhythm yet it still steadily maintains its main idea as Metal experimental project with strong environmentalism. As the show explores different aspects of the Metal, the main characters slowly grow on the viewers little by little thanks to the clever connections made between the characters’ personalities and pasts to each episode’s story. Like all other good anime, RD’s characters evolve and change throughout the show; Haru finally overcomes his physical disability and learns to walk again, Minamo slowly matures and become surprisingly reliable, Sota untangles his confusion towards Holon and other minor characters also undergo their personal developments.
The animation is generally smooth and lively for the real life part. I was especially wowed by the well animated, brilliantly choreographed hand to hand fight sequences. CGI animation is extensively use for the scene happening inside the Metal. Though I don’t like the opening and ending theme, the original soundtracks are generally good with mixture of classical and electronic music.
Not only does RD excel in regular standard element of good anime, with certain qualities, it appeals to me in the way only few other shows have done before. I know this may sound silly but I think RD is made specifically for me. This anime manages to include almost every feature that matches my taste into one single show. The cyberpunk theme involving the meta-real and cyber brain technology is captivating and inspiring and it provides endless possibility of further imagination.
RD presents extremely strong environmentalism. The final message from the show is that everything is connected and the only way for human to survive is to live in harmony with nature. In RD, the ocean is the media that binds everything together; between men and the world, the Meta-real and reality, Haru’s past and present, Haru and Kushima through their common inspiration, even between Haru and Minamo (Minamo learns diving so she can see the world the way Haru sees). The middle story arc involving the rain forest growing bigger and creating Noises in the metal in order to restore the distorted balance of nature reminds me of Studio Ghibli’s Nausicaa. In Nausicaa, the trees try to restore the planet by absorbing poisons from the ground and release them into the air. During the end of the anime, the man made weather particle which is supposed to help the government be able to control weather at will causes catastrophic events. By implication, the weather particle represents the arrogance of men trying to interfere and overpower nature.
RD also contains other minor themes in several of its stand alone episodes. I was especially moved by the love story between Sota and Holon. It’s just tragic to see a man and an android struggle to keep their near impossible love. The individual episode about classical music, books and martial arts are also very appealing (to me, at least).
Despite the extreme cyberpunk genre, RD is very alive, emotional and sometimes very personal. I feel like watching another Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex but with more intimacy, love, warmth and playful atmosphere. I think you must be able to guess my rating and level of recommendation for RD by now.
Title: Real Drive (RD senno Chosashitsu)
Genre: sci-fi, cyberpunk, action, drama
Released date: April 8, 2008 – October 1, 2008
Director: Kazuhiro Furuhashi
Animated by: Production I.G