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Anime / Real Drive

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The central characters from left to right: Holon, Minamo, Haru, Sota and Kushima

Real Drive is produced by Production I.G and Masamune Shirow, and aired twenty-six episodes during its run in 2008. Masamichi Haru was involved in a diving accident when he was thirty, causing him to slip into a coma for fifty years. Upon awakening, he found himself confined in the body of an eighty-year-old, unable to travel without a wheelchair. Haru later receives assistance from the fifteen-year-old Minamo, who is assigned to take care of him as part of her school's extracurricular activities. Despite their age gap, Haru and Minamo form a close friendship; fuelled by their mutual interest in the sea and nature's splendour, Minamo becomes Haru's "diver buddy" despite lacking cyber-enhancements.

It turns out that the experiment Haru was involved in led to the construction of the Artificial Island and the Network society, where people hook up to a global network using so-called cyber-brains. Since entering the inner workings of the network is very much like diving in the open sea, Haru finds he still has some purpose in life by becoming a virtual "diver". With Minamo, they undertake various missions into the Metal, where people's desires gradually lead to information leaks and instabilities. Together with Kushima, Haru's long-time friend, they also search for the answer in the sea, which shares an intimate link to the earth's biorhythm.

Real Drive provides examples of:

  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: While it is not malevolent, its actions have far reaching consequences.
  • Aloof Big Brother: Souta is initially quite cold and distant towards Minamo, but as Minamo becomes more involved in helping Haru with his investigations into Metal, he gradually grows more supportive of her.
  • Artificial Human: Holon is an android tasked with assisting Haru in his everyday life.
  • Brand X: The "Sous-Marin" sunglasses bear a striking resemblance to Rudy Project glasses
  • Closer to Earth: Minamo's lack of a cyber-brain sets her apart from the other characters: in fact, characters of any importance to the plot without a cyber-brain just happens to be female, too.
  • Contemplate Our Navels: Thematic elements in Real Drive serve as a subtle reminder about the impacts of technology and humanity's increasing reliance on the internet to function.
  • Convenient Coma: After an accident leaves him comatose for fifty years, he reawakens to find the world has changed considerably, but his diving skills remain relevant in helping identify and diagnose issues in the Metal system.
  • Cool Old Guy: Despite his age, Haru is a highly skilled diver and plays an instrumental role in investigating Metal.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: After weather-altering nanomachines are successfully tested, the Secretary General approves of their deployment to manage the climate.
  • Cyborg: Kushima's youthful appearance is a consequence of his having a prosthetic body..
  • Determinator: His old age notwithstanding, Haru does not allow his body to impede him, and makes an effort to learn how to walk again in order to improve his ability as a diver. By the end of the series, he is successful.
  • Does Not Like Spam: Minamo expresses a profound dislike of green peppers, and sets about eliminating them by eating them out of existence.
  • Everything Is Online: On Artificial Island, everything is connected to a ubiquitous network known as Metal.
  • Eyes Always Shut: Yukino, one of Minamo's friends, is rarely seen with her eyes open.
  • Fish out of Temporal Water: Haru finds himself in a radically changed world after he awakens from a coma.
  • Flashback: Developments pertaining to Metal and Haru's past are explored by means of interjected scenes set prior to the main narrative.
  • Food Porn: Food in the series is rendered with the same quality as the background, and this is noticeable in the parfaits that Minamo and her friends frequently partake in.
  • Friendly, Playful Dolphin: Haru loved to swim with a dolphin as a boy, although it is implied that have become extinct along with many other aquatic animals by the time the series takes place.
  • Gainax Ending: At the series' end, Haru is returned to a younger body, and the ocean itself takes on the function that Metal originally fulfilled.
  • Genki Girl: Minamo is optimistic, cheerful and generally tries her best to make the most of a situation.
  • Gratuitous English: The electronic blackboard in Minamo's classroom can be seen with the text "All today's classes ended" after classes have concluded for the day.
  • Green Aesop: Real Drive deals with the implications surrounding the application of technology towards controlling a system as complex as climate.
  • Handshake Substitute: Haru and Kushima are fond of using the fist bump gesture to greet one another.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Haru and Kushima's friendship remains strong despite the Haru's fifty year-long coma.
  • Hollywood Pudgy: This is averted in-universe; while the girls have fuller figures, the characters themselves do not mention this. The creator once explained that he wished to design women who resemble actual Japanese women.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Minamo and Haru share a close friendship despite their age differences.
  • The Internet Is an Ocean: The Metal is depicted as something of an open sea, and it's the job of Virtual Divers like Haru to search for secrets the deeper they go.
  • It's Always Summer: The climate control on Artificial Island translates to a warm, subtropical climate year-round for the island's residents.
  • Joshikousei: On Artificial Island, high school girls wear a Sailor Fuku style uniform that appears tailored for the island's warm climate.
  • The Metaverse: The Metal is the ubiquitous network that users can physically explore when connected to a full-dive system, featuring a unique visualisation and representation of data within the system.
  • Mood Whiplash: The tone in Real Drive frequently transitions between a cyberpunk, dealing with the more serious aspects of the Metal system, and calmer Slice of Life moments with Minamo and her friends.
  • Odd Couple: Haru and Minamo get along surprisingly well with one another despite their generational differences.
  • Post Cyber Punk: Lacking the dystopian interpretation of the pure cyberpunk genre, Real Drive explores the impact of high technology on society within a world that is similar to our own.
  • Robot Girl: Being set in the near future, robots made in the likeness of human females are plentiful, including Holon, the Metal operators and a female battle android.
  • Recap Episode: While Minamo goes for a dive in the fourteenth episode, the remainder of the time is spent summarising the events that had occurred up until that point.
  • Ridiculously Human Robots: Their sophisticated construction means Holon and other androids of her model are indistinguishable from humans.
  • Rollerblade Good: Minamo's shoes conceal retractable rollerblades that allow her to quickly skate to a location when the need arises.
  • Rousseau Was Right: Real Drive lacks villains with malevolent intentions, and the conflicts in the series arise from environmental challenges forcing organisations to adopt extreme measures with the goal of saving humanity, even if there is a great risk for causing a global catastrophe.
  • The Rule of First Adopters: In the fourth episode, it is mentioned that Metal became popular because virtual sex was surpassed the equivalent experience in reality
  • Scenery Porn: The landscapes are vividly rendered, conveying to viewers the details present in the island's tropical landscape.
  • Slice of Life: When Real Drive is not discussing the mechanics behind Metal or political aspects associated with the system, it follows the everyday events in Minamo and her friends' lives.
  • Spiritual Successor: While Real Drive draws inspiration from Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, dealing with similar themes of society and technology and even featuring similar technologies (e.g. electronic brains and diving into the web), an interview reveals that Real Drive is not set in the same universe. An interview with writer Junichi Fujisaku reads as follows:
    Production I.G: Talking about taking over Shirow's world, I heard Fujisaku-san initially created a new "post-Ghost in the Shell" World.
    Fujisaku: Yes, we started with the idea, but a request from Director Kazuhiro Furuhashi changed that totally.
  • Sweet Tooth: Minamo, Sayaka and Yukino are very fond of sweets, especially the parfaits served at one of the island cafés.
  • Techno Babble: Computing and network jargon is commonplace. This extends beyond computing; techniques for playing the violin are also discussed at length.
  • Theme Song Powerup: The fight between Sota and a fighter, Iron Schwartz, in the fifth episode is set to the Real Drive's theme song.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Androids and non-human AI constructs are given the same treatment as humans within Real Drive, suggesting a society that has accepted and integrated artificial intelligence into everyday life.
  • Wind Turbine Power: Minamo activates an old wind turbine to provide emergency power for Artificial Island following a power outage that disables the main and backup power supplies.