Review: Redline (15) / Directed by: Takeshi Koike / Written by: Katsuhito Ishii, Yoji Enokido, Yoshiki Sakurai / Starring: Takuya Kimura, Yu Aoi, Tadanobu Asano / Release Date: Out Now
It’s been a long time since the anime boom in the west that took place in the early 90s. Back then it seemed to be a lot of anime films were released on video and part of the fun was catching up with all of them if you were lucky enough to find a video store that could rent them to you. Of course you could always blind buy them, but VHS always seemed so expensive compared to DVD which wasn’t on the market back then. Nowadays the market has shrunk considerably and seems limited to mostly banal anime TV series’ that seem more aimed at teenage boys with their exaggerated female forms. Of course we still get the occasional Studio Ghibli release and every now and then a quality release like Summer Wars which was released earlier this year. Redline is almost great, a good deal of your appreciation for it will depend on how much tolerance you have for the more exaggerated and flashy style of anime that has become prevalent. If they ever do a remake/reboot of Wacky Races (and they will) this is how they should do it.
Taking place in the distant future, Redline introduces a galaxy where the air car has taken over from the traditional kind of car with wheels. However some foolhardy individuals take part in an intergalactic racing tournament with a traditional four wheels that culminates in the Redline finale. At the beginning we see the ‘Yellow Line’ race which sets the tone for the rest of the film, at this point you’ll either go with it or turn it off completely depending on how much sugar or LSD you have ingested. The racers are made up of aliens, cyborgs, witches, mutants and humans and our human character JP comes second, crashing violently. JP has been plagued by charges of corruption his whole career and this haunts him. The rest of the film calms down a bit as JP strikes up a relationship with a female champion and it is determined that Redline will take place on the planet Roboworld, dominated by a cyborg dictatorship. Then we get to the race and for forty five minutes it feels like your eyeballs could melt at any time. Not only do you get the cyborgs taking pot-shots at our heroes but you get racing vehicles with weapons, drivers with magic powers and angry robots. Add this to vehicles that have nitrous oxide speed injections and you get an idea of the amount of colour and speed lines that will fill your screen. I honestly think if this was in 3D it could be classified as a weapon of mass destruction, brains would explode Scanners style across the country.
If you're not sensitive to flashing lights and can keep up with the pace then Redline is kind of fun. The character designs are certainly unusual, like George Lucas on some kind of acid bender and the animation is pretty and unusual. There is a level of excitement within the races as they convey a sense of travelling really fast very well whilst accompanied by a thumping soundtrack. Unusually in this day and age, Redline is completely traditionally animated in hand-drawn style with no CG used and it took them seven years to make. If nothing else the ambition is to be admired and how it flows so well considering the speed with which everything happens is mind boggling.
The main problem with Redline, apart from the fact that it will never translate to a wider audience of non anime fans the way Akira did, is that the characters are just not that interesting. The main character of JP is the typical sports movie character, haunted by corruption charges and yearning to be a champion. His main rival is a typical huge guy that wouldn’t be out of place in the ring in a Rocky film. Personally I found myself caring more about the furry blue policeman racer and the valley girl witch sisters than I did our main character. What I did enjoy was the true sense of anarchic fun that recalls earlier anime releases like Dominion: Tank Police and Project A-Ko. The film is mostly a camp riot outside of our be-quiffed protagonist's brooding. You have wonderfully over the top commentators, some brilliant profiles of the other racers and their lives outside of racing and the militant cyborgs are a bunch of buffoons. This sense of fun was the only reason I didn’t bow out early on as the person I was watching with had to turn away after ten minutes due to feeling physically ill. After the film ended things didn’t seem quite right back in the real world, everything moved slower and was flatter, felt very much like a come down the morning after.
I don’t think I can recommend Redline to non-anime fans at all; it’s an experience you will either love or hate and is probably best enjoyed with a whole bag of skittles and some red bull. If you’re looking for something calm and measured this film is not for you. It makes Pokemon look like a Sofia Coppola film.
Extras: Trailer, Making Of, The Characters of Redline.