Okay, so after having just completed the whole anime series and seeing that, of the people who wrote reviews, nobody had seen the entire thing prior to writing them. I have decided to write this! Please be aware, this review details the nature of the various elements of the anime, it does not specifically reference any parts of the anime. I don't think describing an anime is called spoiling, or is it? If so, I apologize, please tell me how to better censor myself in the future.
Without further ado, the review:
This is really one of those Anime that goes into extensive detail to get the
audience to understand the world of Masamune Shirow. True to the other series that he has created, his limitless imagination and creation of technology surfaces once again; this time we are introduced to the concept of "The Metal". Throughout the Anime, the audience sees the roles which such futuristic pieces of technology play in the daily lives of the anime's characters. By being able to 'experience' the applications of Masamune Shirow's fictional technology through the characters, we gain better insight to the anime as a whole.
The story carefully unfolds as each of the episodes draws to conclusion, the accumulated knowledge which the audience receives is key in appreciating such a masterpiece. In other words, it is really a good idea to pay attention to what is going on in the anime so you don't get lost later! I'd like to emphasize that the story unfolds with time, unlike many action-based fast-paced anime of today. People should not be quick to judge the quality of the anime based on the first episode or even the first few episodes. At first it may not appear to be following any particular storyline but as I said, it all comes with time.
Unlike Ghost in the Shell, which can be called a predecessor of this anime, the environment is very vividly colored. However, all of the characters, objects, and buildings are uniquely designed. All of this gives the anime a sort-of exotic or 'new' feel. The art of the anime also presents the mood, and as such the audience is left with a less serious atmosphere than that of Ghost in the Shell. CG rendering is used sparingly and only as needed, akin to more 'traditional' animation. It feels as if more work is put into doing animation than CG nowadays. I guess, I'm a fan of crisper and detailed images, but the slight blurriness of the background allows the audience to not be overloaded with images. I am referencing Ghost in the Shell because it is the only other Masamune Shirow work that I have seen. There are also some almost psychedelic colors and patterns, in "the Metal" to contrast the bright, paradise-like environment of the Real Drive world.
Perhaps one unique quality, in this anime, which can be noticed immediately are the characters. The characters are generally a bit on the chubbier side, which is fine, considering, in reality, how many people are actually as thin as characters portrayed in many anime. This contributes to the believability of the anime as a whole. After all, not all anime have to conform to the typical, aesthetic pleasing, character design in order to be considered good. Perhaps it can be said that the characters behave true to their appearances, e.g. behavior. Each of the main characters undergo varying levels of development and thus each character is unique and brings forth their own contributions to the story.
At first glance, the music in this anime is quite different from the OP/ED themes. In fact, they appear contradictory of each other. The OP/ED are kind of like hard rock while the BGM fits smoothly and refreshingly into the art and with the characters of the anime. Much of the upbeat music in the anime had been synthesized with a computer, perhaps has to do with the fact of being futuristic. However, some less upbeat tracks are simple and use few instruments such as the piano, glockenspiel, violin. All of these tracks suit the changing moods in the anime. Getting back to the OP/ED themes, though they contrast the BGM, I don't believe they are bad decisions. They aren't bad to listen to either and hey, if you're bored they're a good wake-me-up, ha ha ha. One thing about the OP/ED of this anime is that they are shorter than the usual OP/ED, instead of being around 1:30, they're only around 1:15. This makes for less interruption I suppose, I definitely did not mind them being shorter. They also make each episode a smaller filesize and such benefits people with less storage.
The journey from the beginning to the end of the anime was well paced and advanced accordingly. There wasn't ever a feeling that there was no story left or too much story at the end. Perhaps though, being a more evenly-paced anime would cause some viewers to get bored really fast. Even more-so when not even all the subs were out. Having fine details yet needing to wait for weeks until the next episode, definitely does not help to tie the anime together as a whole. I suppose it is more suitable to watch it all the way through over a shorter period of time.
Though the first impression is often the lasting, the careful planning involved in introducing the anime's world in detail to the audience, makes me give a:
8/10 for Story.
Detailed and colorful are words that come to mind when recalling the world of Real Drive. Sharpness and blurriness are used appropriately to soften or heighten the anime's vivid colors. The uniqueness of the infrastructure, environment and characters design in the anime get it a:
9/10 for Art.
All of the music is crisp and cleanly composed and fits well the changing environment and moods of the anime. You can listen to the OST on its own and it would still sound good, preferably on 5.1 surround sound please!
9/10 for Sound.
The characters are uniquely designed and should be accepted for that fact; it should not deter the audience's perception of the character as an individual . As well, as individuals and groups, undergo substantial development and growth throughout the anime. This makes them seem more believable, real even.
9/10 for Character.
Each of the individual elements (such as the ones above) of this anime were tied together well, everything was place somewhere for a reason.
8/10 for Enjoyment!
As with many others, this anime started off a little on bland in my mind though, slowly but surely, I began to appreciate all of its fine details. True uniqueness is very difficult to accomplish when dozens of anime are broadcast throughout japan every season but, I will remember this as something truly different from the rest.
Edit: After reconsideration, I have lowered Character to 9 because not all of them really, noticeably, develop over time.
Real Drive is a sci-fi series that deals with the impacts of the dependence on the Internet(the Meta Real Network, in the setting) on society, other than focusing on the effects on single individuals.
Set in 2061, it seems to expect a slower evolution of human technology then we see on other similar works. The story mostly occurs on an artificial island that is itself built as the pinnacle of the present technology, but most of it's design and features are not something one would be surprised to find on an high-tech experimental facility today.
The plot starts very slowly, with single
episodes depicting the life of the protagonists on the island and interesting events that occur to them mostly on their jobs, as all are somehow connected to a role of maintaining and developing the island. As the series progresses, comparisons between the Metal and the ocean become more numerous and relevant, and the story starts revolving around the environmental impacts of the island as it reaches it's final stage of completion, and on the development of the main characters, as well as a small focus on the philosophy of human-like AIs.
The art is simply astounding, the feeling of connection with nature, specially the sea, is a primary concern, which translates into simple designs for buildings and virtual interfaces (as opposed to heavy designs cluttered with pseudo-scientific artifacts as is common in sci-fi), and an amazingly consistent color palette. For example, it's quite rare to find a frame without a single blue hued pixel in it. Another notable part of the art is the "chubby" character design, specially for females, very uncommon in anime, it is most likely linked to the author's view on the future of the ideal female body, as a consequence of the current fattening tendency of the human populace.
The background music is rare, and in most scenes it's present it's hardly noticeable, which, however, fits the mood of the show. The intro and outro songs, on the other hand, are very aggressive and enticing, specially when coupled with their respective video clips. The voice acting is very good, with special merit to the gynoid character Holon and lookalikes, which contributes the most to the believability of the technological setting, along with the audio filter used for voice communications done within the Metal, that at the same time does not hinder the comprehension of the voices and is very easily identifiable by the spectator.
Finally, the characters are very well designed, each has it's own clearly defined goals which they are constantly developing towards, through either physical or mental training, self-prompted personality changes or even built up life experiences that give birth to epiphanies.
Overall, Real Drive is a refreshing take on the genre, approaching even present day situations with characters' struggles and themes such as environment protection. The slow start, however, hinders some of it's true potential and blows away some viewers, myself included, but the show shines at full force towards it's climaxing end, and, while not really present plot-wise, all previews episodes are part of the build up that leads to it.
After watching episode eight, I said to myself:" Thank god it's over. Now I can finally drop it." And I'm not saying that just because of the female character design, even though I don't understand why the directors thought that the audiences would like to see a bunch of fat girls running around (there is a reason why getting fit has become a trend and not the other way around). IMO, either the writers are all amateurs or the show is aimed for little kids from the start. First of all, RD hasn't shown any signs that it's going to present a serious theme. Up
to episode eight, all I see is some random happenings caused by the metal. Some people might argue that RD doesn't need to deliver a theme because the whole metal concept is unique enough. I disagree. It might be super unique like twenty years ago for all I care but it's definitely not unique in 2008.
Since RD is mainly plot-driven, there is no need to delve into the characterization. I'll say this though, lack of deep characterization doens't mean that the protagonist has to be stupid. Did you hear what Minamo said in the end of ep8 (in a really loli voice):"But if other people could use your personal space, wouldn't that change your personality? YADA, KOWAI!." and some other noises she made. The idea of sharing personal spaces is a good idea and is worth some serious discussion but Minamo's personality completely ruined it.(What? Haru is the progatonist? You should really take a look at his screen-time).
The main problem with RD is that the plot is even worse. The first episode is ok mainly because it only serves to introduce all the characters. From that point on to episode eight, the show literally becomes "the moe-adventure of a loli and a grandpa", and it just gets more and more stupid. In the first few episodes the audiences at least got to see the grandpa do some diving. Then the adventures soon change to things like looking for a dog, fighting a masked guy, school ghost hunt, reading a book...I think you get my point. That's why I was shocked when I found out that RD is actually a late night anime when clearly this is aimed for little kids.
I know it's still quite early in the game to be writing a review for this series, but after having just finished episode 8, I'm feeling somewhat agitated, and this will help cool me down.
STORY: 3 (Poor)
Thus far, even though it's early, Real Drive seems to have no discernible plot what-so-ever. In fact, it's quite boring. The beginning of the series started out alright and showed a huge amount of promise, leaving me full of wonder and intrigue, but now... Meh, it's all I can do to keep watching (in agony).
ART: 6 (Fair)
Quite frankly, the art for the background scenery, most of the male characters,
and in general is pretty well done. However, and no I'm not saying that all the female characters have to be "pretty" or "ideal", but the portrayal of the female characters in Real Drive is probably one of the most annoying "features" of the show. Almost every girl in this show is either chubby or outright fat, and if that's not enough to just annoy you a bit, the artists seem to want to rub it in your face some more by (ever second episode or so) having these characters sit down to the fattiest, most sugar-filled calorie-rich feast they can possibly encounter--and glomp it all down. I can stand the fatty characters, but this last point just annoys me on a whole new level. Other than that however, the animation is very well done, and it's a shame the rest of it is the way it is.
SOUND: 9 (Great)
I like the soundtrack for the show so far, and the background music is nice to listen to. Not much more to say here, it's enjoyable.
ENJOYMENT: 3 (Poor)
While I enjoy aspects of this show, what I really want to see is more of the "main" character, Haru. I'm so much more interested in him than I am in Minamo (who can just take a hike for all I care). In fact, I've grown so far as to hate Minamo, and just seeing her on the screen temps me to just close down MPC, delete all my RD episodes and never ever, ever give them another chance. She and her friends are the most annoying characters in all of anime, and have ruined my prospective enjoyment of this show that had so much potential. When Minamo is off-screen, enjoyment goes up. When she appears, mouse goes to the top right corner and I have to fight myself from just dropping this show.
OVERALL: 4 (Decent)
Okay, so there are a lot of things about Real Drive that I do like:
1. Interesting (even though not completely original) concept of the Meta Real
2. Sense of curiosity that revolves around every character excluding Minamo and friends
3. Wondering what the plot is actually going to be (assuming there will be one)
4. All of the art besides that which has to do with Minamo and friends is nicely done and sometimes even breathtaking
5. Wondering what the deal with Kushima is.
What would make RD a great show and boost ratings in almost every category and blast this show up a few hundred spots on this website? Kill of Minamo and friends. Please, do the world a favor, end our suffering and kill her off. Then I would give this show 10's across the board.
Real Drive is tough to write a review for. As promising as this series is, it has a major downfall: it can't find its balance. The 1st and 2nd episodes are a great start, giving you all of this information and an interesting and slightly mysterious lead in Haru. I found myself immediately wanting to know more about the Artificial Island these characters inhabit, and, most of all, about what exactly happened 50 years ago to Haru. While the main character may be Haru, this series really switches the focus up after the 4th ep. After that, it becomes Minamo's show until a little
past the half way mark, becoming a really drab slice of life with the story left on the back burner. Once it hits that later part of the series, though, it ramps up and you start to get a story again. It's a real shame that the entire series isn't like that, because those last few episodes were really fantastic.
The first thing you notice about this series is how crisp the colors are. The animations for the ocean are particularly beautiful, as they should be when the sea is the focus of this series. The near future setting allows this series to retain a sort of familiarity while being entirely alien at the same time. Many people complain that most of the characters look fat, but by the time you finish this, not only will you not notice it, you probably won't care. The characters themselves are animated well, but its nothing really special. The underwater facility is absolutely gorgeous to look at, like the majority of the background, and you'll probably be paying more attention to them than the characters. The Metal, while an interesting concept, often looks light years behind the rest of the animation standard, with a lot of its CGI looking clunky in comparison.
The music is give or take. Some of the more orchestral stuff sounds like it could have come from a Hollywood movie, while other things sound about as boring as elevator music. The OP is decent, but the ED is annoying, and I ended up skipping it every time just to get it over with. The sound effects are spot on, and the V/Os are solid.
The other supporting characters often had good foils, even if you learn little to nothing about anyone's past except for Minamo and Haru. Since the show focuses more on Minamo than anyone else, when you do get an episode or two that stars someone else, it's a real relief. All of the characters do their jobs perfectly, but none of them are very memorable.
I went into this mainly because I love Shirow, and came out with mixed feelings. Its an interesting series, and some of the things it brings up deserve discussion, but there was just too much filler to make this great.
RD is a sci fi/cyberpunk anime that is highly reminiscent of Ghost in the shell. It also sends out the same message in regards to a person's humanity (what is it that makes us human?) and the overall effects of humanity on the world around us. Real Drive is probably one of the more "ethical" animes that I have seen recently.
The show comes with a variety of characters, including androids and "cyber-brained" people. So, unless it's watched from very early on, you can easily confuse between the two. I doubt that this is the sort of anime that you can start
watching in later episodes. It's set, for the most part, in the future - mankind has harnessed the power of robotics (hence the afore mentioned androids and cyber-brained individuals). Here, there exists "The Metal or Metal Real" - something that you could consider the future of the internet. Where, individuals can immerse themselves in a world of fantasy, but even that comes with it's own dangers.
Real Drive is set in 2061 AD, but the anime starts out 50 years before this during the construction of an artificial island that will eventually be where the anime is focused on (you spend very little time in the past, but it's pretty much central to the anime). It also focuses a lot on the work of Masamichi Haru and Kushima Eiichirou, who are the central characters in this series. I have to admit that the series ended a little too abruptly for me - almost like everything was mashed together into the last 3 - 4 episodes. That said, it all works together quite well. However, it still left me wanting more.
This is a classic case of marketing not selling a show based on what the show actually was, and I think that threw off a lot of people's expectations. Given Production I.G. and Masamune Shirow's involvement, people were likely expecting something along the lines of Stand Alone Complex.
The show is actually slice-of-life with sci-fi elements in the background. And I loved that. While there's an overarching plot lingering in the background, the majority of the runtime is enjoyable characters having low-stakes, personal adventures in a vivid, brightly colored and mostly optimistic future world.
The production values are high and I liked the more zaftig approach to
the character designs.
I keep hoping Sentai Filmworks or Discotek will nab this for a US Blu-ray release! Real Drive deserves to be reexamined.
My first review. Shirow Masamune's collaborative work with Production I.G. about a diver who awakens 50 years later from an accident that left him in a coma. Now, despite the assumptions of the staff involved, please do not come into this series with Ghost in the Shell in mind. I believe the reason why so many people who initially reviewed this anime did not like it was because they came in expecting Ghost in the Shell: Sea Adventures, or a more action-paced series. This is what turned off many from appreciating this show for what it was.
That said, this anime focuses mostly on the
character dynamics and philosophical questions about technology and its implications on human relationships and society. Minamo is an ordinary teenager, one of the few in the series NOT equipped with a cyberbrain on the island charged with the task of taking care of Haru Masamichi, an elderly man who woke up recently from a coma. Haru is in charge of doing diving experiments under the guidance of his former colleague and friend, Eiichiro Kushima.
Most of the complaints stem from the series not being very fast. Most of the series until the last few episodes are indeed slice of life. I will admit to potential viewers that the first few episodes can be "boring" but rest assured, it pays off if you stick with the series. They're not very fast-paced or exciting episodes but they have very poignant and moving messages within them.
Story: I gave this a 10/10. Tone-wise I felt like the stories about the character's pasts or memories were enjoyable. The only episode I could truly complain about was the filler episode, but considering this was a full fleshed-out 26 episode series this was to be expected. The real treat is the last few episodes. It explains and responds to many topics covered earlier in the series and brings to a closing what the actual experiments and incidents were for. Most of the themes of the show deal implications on a society dependent on technology, and the neglect of nature. They also deal with abandoned ambitions, goals, and identity. Many episodes left me with a tear in my eye. The interactions between Haru and Minamo are very enjoyable to watch, especially as she learns from them. Very moving and worth the wait.
Art- 9/10. One thing of note is the character designs. They're not your typical anime character designs (in terms of body). While they're not the most attractive, I like them for looking different and standing out when most character designs in anime are waif-like. The actual background art is very stunning. It feels like you're actually staring at the blue sky. You can see trees, the sea, the sand, and the night sky in very good detail. Even small things like the ice cream dessert the girls snack on often is very appealing. The action scenes, as sporadic as they are, are also very well done. A visual treat for viewers.
Sound: 9/10. The music is very wonderful, mostly based on classical music and electronic. The more story-based episodes lean on classical with electronic going for the action episodes. Although many also dismiss the OP/ED for being generic rock, it does have some meaning, especially to the overall mission of Kushima and Haru.
Character- The best part of the show, in my opinion. There's a variety of characters ranging from our resident school girl Minamo (and her friends) to the more serious cast (Holon and Kushima). All of them undergo character growth, even the older cast members (Kushima and Haru). The dynamic between the characters will have you routing for them. Even the antagonists undergo personal growth.
Enjoyment- 9/10. I fully enjoyed this series. Initially it seemed different from what I expected, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. The series had a wide range of episodes dealing from typical high school hijinks, to a revisiting of the past of various characters (and Minamo's attempt to get the character to deal with said pasts), to the serious setting of the finale.
A tip for some future viewers: Make sure to see whether the episode has additional time after the ED ends. There are a few episodes where some of this information matters, particularly near the last few episodes.
Overall I give this series a 10/10. It deserves a lot more credit than it gets. A very underrated series in my book. If you don't mind slice of life and a dose of sci-fi make sure to pick this series up.
Real Drive depicts a series of episodic and storyline-driven cases where a group of cyber divers are tasked with diving into the cybernetic network known as the Metal when delving into any cybernetic-related cases. Throughout the series, each case tends to vary from the mundane to the serious which can involve anything from Minamo's school life to more serious cases that require physical work from Souta and Holon. It also serves to explore various implementations of how the Metal can affect the lives of the island residents for legitimate and illegal activity, in the same vain the Ghost in the Shell franchise explores how the
lines between being human or machine are blurred with the cyborg members of Section 9. Essentially, Shirow Masamune is the creator of this series and his heavy dabbling into sci-fi and philosophical elements are all over this series.
Yet for as nicely told as Real Drive's story elements are, it still suffers similar weaknesses as Ghost in the Shell in that Masamune gets too immersed into dabbling into his story and themes at the expense of developing the characters of his work. This is especially apparent with the more mundane stories that Real Drive often explores compared to Ghost in the Shell, as Real Drive doesn't take the time to thoroughly explore and develop its characters. While getting some background exploration, the characters mostly exist in advancing the plots for each case explored and Minami makes for a rather weak protagonist as she mostly contributes little to the advancement of the anime's plot beyond the series showing off her naiveté.
On the visual end, Real Drive is above average for a 2008 anime sporting clean details, realistic character designs, and gorgeous scenic shots. Animation is quite fluid for the most part without loss of detail and offers some variety in what the series can show off that include fighting scenes, net-diving into the Metal, roller skating, and swimming.
Overall, I suppose you could think of Real Drive as a somewhat lighter and more mundane take on Ghost in the Shell as it dabbles into somewhat similar themes as Ghost in the Shell with man's relationship with technology and how it affects us in various aspects. The limited character exploration does hamper the series somewhat and is more apparent than Ghost in the Shell. Still if you crave another sci-fi title dabbling into philosophical themes like Shirow Masamune's classic cyberpunk series, Real Drive offers an engaging and more mundane focus on such storytelling.