Redline – Review

Redline is a science fiction racing anime originally released in Japan in 2009. It was the directorial debut of Takeshi Koike and produced by Madhouse, a studio with so many works to its name that it is impossible to try and list them all in a single review. The name Redline quite probably refers to the maximum engine speed at which an internal combustion engine and its various components are designed to operate without being destroyed. Effectively it is about taking things to the limit, which this film does very well.

This film has a very minimalistic plot, in fact it is so minimalistic that it might as well not be there for all the film cares. Redline is a story about an infamous race in the future where everyone uses hover vehicles apart from a few mad individuals who still choose to use internal combustion engines in various illegal races across the galaxy. Every five years a big race called the ‘Redline’ is held, it is the biggest race in the galaxy and whoever wins will become famous beyond their wildest dreams. The story follows “Sweet” JP as he attempts to qualify for Redline and win the race.

The start of the film introduces “Sweet” JP who nearly wins a race on the “Yellowline”, a qualifier race for the Redline. He is racing against various aliens and humans all of whom are using massive vehicles with jet engines, rocket launchers and more gadgets than even Speedracer had. JP on the other hand is driving a classic Transam, albeit on that is souped up to the max with nitrous and other boosters.

He of course looses, but manages to qualify anyway due to some competitors dropping out after hearing that the Redline will be held on Roboworld, a militaristic planet where many of the people are cyborgs. And thus the preparation for the big race starts. JP and the other racers are transported to a backwater planet near Roboworld to prepare. There he meets Sonoshee the winner of the race he lost, and unknown to her, a women he met before either of them started racing professionally. After meeting several oddball racers, and almost seducing “Cherry Boy Hunter” Sonoshee McClaren, he has to repair and refit his car. With Frisbee acting as the designer and a friend of theirs, a 4 armed old man procuring parts, they aim to make a high power racecar. Various colorful characters are in the Redline, “Machinehead” a machine man and the reigning champion, “Super Boins” a pair of pop idols from a magical planet, a blue gorilla-like alien Cop, a pair of bounty hunters, an AWOL Roboworld officer who joins mid race, and others.

But honestly this film isn’t really about the plot, it is about the racing, and my god are these races action packed. The film has everything cranked up to 11 from start to finish, we have vehicles that are more like tanks than actual cars, equipped with everything from rocket boosters, to grappling hooks, hover craft and rockets.

The first race shows all the participants dueling it out for the lead, going as far as trying tio blow up the competition to win. The Redline race which takes up at least 45 minutes of a 142 minutes film is even crazier, not only because they are racing on Roboworld; a planet that will use all its military technology to crush the race, but also because anything goes. Through all this JP is driving his trusty gold Transam that has no weapons or any other attachments.

The races of very dynamic with loads of different ‘camera’ angles and constantly switching between not only the different contestants, but also to the various people on Roboworld and the spectators. The voice actors really help as well with lots of yelling and general madness. There isn’t much of a script, but the ‘cool’ factor of JP and of course Sonoshee push through so you shouldn’t really notice.

The animation is, well, ‘unique’, with big hair and general craziness in the character design department. The entire aesthetic of Redline is highly stylized with lots of interesting camera angles and of course fashion. JP has what is possibly the largest quiff ever to feature in an anime ever, along with a classic look of studded leather bike jacket, black jeans and big boots, a nice futuristic ‘retro’ look. And all the other races have their own rather unique styles, which include big hair, crazy clothes and generally outfits that appear to match the looks of their vehicles. Sonoshee has a brilliant look; boots, hot pants, tank top, green and pink hair and top it all off Green racing shades, it’s a good look that works well with JP’s retro style.

I do love the animation style, and while it is nowhere near studios like Ghibli in terms of overall detail and quality I don’t think that matters. I love the stylistic nature of the fashion, the vehicles and of course the action sequences, of which there are a lot. Nitro boosts and sudden changes in speed are shown with elongating vehicles and bodies, mad starring eyes, sweat dripping off of faces and a sense of dynamic movement. The vehicles themselves are all fairly unique with amazing designs and generally a fascinating look to each and every one of them. The soundtrack is an interesting one, it is mostly techno, although there are a few ‘lighter’ acoustic tracks mixed in, and while I am not a massive fan of techno music it really fit the feel of Redline and worked very well.

There is something very special about this film, it does things a little differently from other anime around at the moment, both visually and also in terms of the action. The whole feel of it is very stylized from the animation style through to the voice acting and soundtrack. It is a film that doesn’t seem to care about the lack of a viable plot and simply throws at the viewer a series of quite frankly insane action sequences with an insane, suicidal race as the backdrop. And quite frankly any film that features the hero driving a souped up Transam will always be something that I watch.

Madhouse have done an excellent job on this film, which, considering it took seven years to make they should have done. As a studio, Madhouse have produced some excellent anime including Toki o Kakeru Shojo (The Girl who leapt through time), Summer Wars, Devil May Cry and Perfect Blue (their list of projects is massive, these are simply a few that I enjoyed), and have also produced some pretty dull and terrible anime. Redline, however, is definitely up there with the best of their work, and much like studio Bones with Sword of the Stranger really shows what they can do when they try. I also have to say that for a directorial debut Takeshi Koike has done an excellent job, creating a visually stunning piece of work.

This is a pure adrenaline fuelled racing film that has so much going on you will barely be able to keep up let alone know what’s going on in places and I love it. I do find the animation to be a bit peculiar in places, but that doesn’t matter all that much to me, I simply went along with the pace of the film and largely ignored any flaws that I may have found. The plot is so thin I could poke holes in it as well, but again that doesn’t matter because Redline is not about the plot, although the ending is rather cute, it is about the racing and the action. Overall I have thoroughly enjoyed this film and would recommend anyone to give it a go. Its aesthetics are soundtrack may not appeal to everyone though, but give it a try and see for yourself.

About illogicalzen
An Illogical anime fan in a very Zen-like way.

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