An outstanding film made with so much passion behind it.
Once in a while there comes a production in the anime genre made to stand out from so many other titles, one that spends so much of its time and money as well as the work of the staff involved to aim for high quality and give something special to the audience. But there is also a production that harkens back to what Anime used to be from an early period when the animation was done by hand and when the expressions, movements of the character and the emotions were clear and present. Seeing how much passion can be displayed in certain works gives you a strong idea of how much went into it, regardless of how it might do financially there is something worth investing in that will no doubt give you entertainment but also heart-pounding excitement, that’s what Redline is.
Set in the near future, the story of Redline focuses on a galactic illegal racing grand prix known as “The Redline” that occurs every 5 years. This time the race is set on the planet of Roboworld where a tyrannical government staged in military events are unaware of the participation of race, however this is a race whereupon there are no rules whatsoever. Entering the race is human "Sweet" JP, a racer with a distinctive pompadour hairstyle and a preference for retro style racing rather than the quick use of gadgets and weaponry. With a troubled background involving the mob this race will ultimately give JP the winning success he and his team have been wanting. However another racer Sonoshee "Cherry Boy Hunter" McLaren with a competitive streak for racing is also taking part in the race of Redline and will stop at nothing until she wins, added up with a huge array of characters also competing this is a race that aims to be the most dangerous and most exciting race in the galaxy.
What keeps this movie going are the characters and what role they play in the story, this isn’t a story that is heavily centred around character development but it manages to make a small use of its characters in very subtle ways. The two main characters JP & Sonoshee are interesting protagonists whilst also displaying a strong feeling of competitive friendship during the race, JP comes across as a very laidback and composed character who displays a strong feeling of excitement behind the wheel. Tying into the character’s behaviour his refusal to use highly sophisticated weaponry in a fatal and very dangerous race clearly demonstrates that to JP, racing is just racing nothing more and nothing less and refuses to use any alternative means of winning, a likeable character that displays a rather interesting friendship with his mafia friend “Frisbee” he makes for a good protagonist.
Sonoshee is shown to be both competitive but also very likeable whilst building a playfully romantic interest in JP, she never once decides to trick him or even so much come close to winning the race and taking the glory herself it’s clearly shown in subtly ways that racing means the world to her and will do whatever it takes to win regardless of her own safety.
Despite the story drawing the attention to the two leads, Redline manages to keep the movie pumping and alive with a huge ensemble cast of whacky and distinctive looking characters both taking part in and having some involvement in the race. Stonking huge mechanical characters Machine Head Tetsujin to inhumanly strong characters that break out into crying fits like Little Deyzuna are an example of how a film with this kind of story can’t do anything that will seem boring or distracting to the viewer.
The term “Greatest Movie Ever Made” is often thrown around to describe a certain film that earns that distinction, without being hyperbolic Redline has earned that statement purely because as a movie it manages to build up the excitement and keep it going until the end of the running time and it falls purely into the film’s production. Redline has an interesting history, a directorial debut by Takeshi Koike, a key animator of Studio Madhouse who got started on productions such as Ninja Scroll, X/1999, Goku Midnight Eye, Demon City Shinjuku etc. This is a movie that was 7 years in the making all animated traditionally, with a total of over 100,000 hand-made drawings on a budget of over ¥30 million all carried out by Studio Madhouse. Despite the longest production time what works about this film and what I think falls on Takeshi Koike is how his directing skills are used in this. Koike knows how to use speed, motion and velocity in his work and it’s demonstrated amazingly through the course of the film. Cars go past their usual speed and kick into high gear and blast through the race accompanied by some very stunning FX animation, watching buildings explode, smoke exhume as well as engines explode and roar on screen is nothing but eye candy which manages to keep the interest going at all times.
The animation is easily the most key defining thing about this movie, the fluidity and the expressiveness of the animation has the old school feel of anime from the 80’s & 90’s, mostly in how the characters act and how each one of them move and behave in a unique and different way, most notably in how the movie has a clever use of quick editing where there are constant scenes where you see character flicking switches, punching on the breaks and slamming buttons to give you a real sense of rush and intense adrenaline through this movie. But what also makes this film exciting to get through not just in watching the race and seeing the cars crash and explode but how this movie manages to have both ways of being both exciting and tense to relaxing and well-paced in the downtime scenes to make you appreciate the scenery as well as the interaction with the characters and it’s worth seeing how all that pays off in what is some gorgeously shot and well directed animation.
The design work by Katsuhito Ishii is easily another bold and very vibrant thing in this movie, characters are designed to appear both whacky and crazy in three dimensions and they do so not just by giving characters weird facial features but by giving them immense levels of detail in the clothes, the weapons and how each character is designed so as not to appear bland or dull. Compared that to the amazing vehicle designs you can see how much has gone into the depth and scale of how each vehicle looks, from the fastest slickest car to the monolithic and powerful looking space crafts used in the film, this film is crammed frame by frame with detail that it’s incredible to not praise this film in how much time went into making this.
From an audio perspective this movie has much to offer. The soundtrack by James Shimoji ranges from different types used in different scenes spread across the movie, From a very upbeat disco beat to a kicking hard rock music really give you something to appreciate in the film’s change in atmosphere when it comes to the music and how it’s used in the best parts of the story and knows when to have dead silence only just to kick in at the right moment and deliver the payoff of the scene. The English dub by Bang Zoom! Entertainment is unfortunately the film’s only real problem, it’s a passable dub but there are however some problems with it. The performances at times seem very out of place and don’t quite fit the characters, while current actors like Kyle Hebert, Liam O'Brien, Sam Regal, Laura Post etc. are able to bring life to the characters nicely the voices for some of the characters as well as translation changes to the script make the dub jarring to listen to at times, including anime dubbing veterans such as Michael Forest, Michael McConnohie, Steve Kramer & Barbara Goodson do the best with what they can with this script. For JP you have Patrick Seitz doing the voice and it seems just a tiny bit out of place, for a character that is designed to look like a 50’s greaser Seitz is trying just a little too hard to make the character sound like a “badass” and isn’t really the right choice. Michelle Ruff as Sonoshee is a decent enough fit for the character however, she plays the character with the likeability and charm needed to make this character believable. So while the dub isn’t awful, it doesn’t quite reach the full potential it needs for it to work in this movie despite it having some good performances.
Other than being an adrenaline rush of excitement and action I feel as though Redline is an important film, in many ways it’s a nostalgic throwback. With how much time and energy has been soaked into the production it reaches a godlike apex in animation, the likes of which stands next to classics such as Akira or Wings of Honneamise by how so much faith is put into the making of the movie by shattering the limits it reaches and then shattering them again by proving this movie is uncontrollable in what it sets out to do.
Overall I think what is really clear about Redline is that it’s a masterpiece, one of the most ambitious productions in Anime to come along in recent years and one that has an original and exciting story to tell in a fast paced and very explosive way. Amazingly animated and very well edited, Redline is an important movie in the area of Japanese Anime. As a product that has managed to preserve the art of traditional animation, but just far someone can go in spending years making an ambitious project that may or may not do well financially.
An outstanding film made with so much passion behind it.
Sami Sadek is a lifelong Transformers and Anime fan, and can often be found propping up bars or appearing in the background of Auto Assembly vids. He has also talks on Youtube, Tweets on Twitter, doodles on Deviantart and is a regular co-host on this very site's Cyberritz. He has never had a swordfight atop a church whilst a crow watches. Honest.