Thick with Cyberpunk: Real Drive

I’m here today to review the show Real Drive, also known as RD Sennou Chousatshitsu. While I started on the show years ago, early on in the life of this blog, I never got around to finishing it until recently. Even now that I have, I’m not entirely sure what to make of it (other than that I think it’s a good show overall), but I still want to draw attention to it because it is quite an unusual work, and I think it’s worth a look, if only for that.

Probably the most peculiar thing about Real Drive is that it’s an eclectic mix of elements that you normally wouldn’t associate together. While you might find other anime which are designed to appeal to as wide a number of fanbases as possible, the focuses here are so specific that their combined coverage only makes things more confusing. I’m going to group these elements into five basic categories.

Cyberpunk

The centerpiece of Real Drive is an advanced form of internet-like shared space called “The Metal,” portrayed as a kind of “ocean” into which characters must “dive.” Most of the characters in the story have replaced their organic brains with cybernetic ones which allow easier access to The Metal, while some have prosthetic bodies to slow aging, and others have androids to help out with a variety of tasks. As might be expected, the system isn’t perfect, and all of the stories involve The Metal in one way or another, and by extension things like human perception in a possibly post-human world.

Chubby Girls

Quite different from just about most visual entertainment out there (let alone anime and manga), the female characters in Real Drive, particularly the ones seen most frequently, range from athletic to voluptuous to legitimately overweight. Definitely meant to be cute, sexy, or both depending on the character, the presence of such portrayals of the female body is a constant in this show. Perceptions of sexual attraction plays a role in the story as well, but there is also a kind of slice-of-life feel, particularly with the high school girls in the cast but also even with the male characters.

Environmentalism

The ocean-like design of The Metal ties into the actual oceans, and the cyberpunk world of Real Drive is in part due to an environmental disaster which occurred many years prior to the main story. The sunny skies and constant presence of water make for a far cry from the Blade Runner visuals which people associate with terms like “cyberpunk” and “post-apocalypse.” The politics between technology and environment also come into play.

A Geriatric Protagonist

Real Drive is one of the few anime where you will find an octogenarian main character, and his age does play a role in the show and the overall story. A man who loved to dive (in the real ocean), only to have an accident and wake up about 50 years later, the unusual world of real drive is experienced largely through the eyes Haru Masamichi.

Episodic Format

While the show has some on-going plot lines, most of the show involves incidents that resolve after one or two episodes. These can range from people losing their consciousness in The Metal to the dreams of a musician to a lost dog, but even the “everyday comedy” stories will involve some aspect of the science fictional world in which Real Drive takes place. Overall, the approach enriches the scenario portrayed by the show, making it possibly better than a more focused on-going narrative.

Once I develop my thoughts on the themes, messages, and ideas presented by Real Drive I might write something more substantial, but for now I just want to think about its potential as a “gateway” anime, not so much for anime in general but for the various genres/aspects that are in this show. Could someone who comes to this show for the science fiction start to understand the appeal of girls talking over lunch? Could the converse also happen? I’m not entirely sure myself, and I think the combination has just as much potential to drive people away as it does to draw them in, but that is precisely why I think Real Drive is worth a look.

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