I really wasn’t sure what to expect when I saw director Takeshi Koike’s “Redline”. I mean it is the type of anime that has a simple plot, outrageous characters, vehicles with bombastic technology all executed with a style that ranges from mecha-cyberpunk, 70’s references, and even 80’s atmosphere of rich vibrant colors that I had a hard time really trying to put together what I was seeing. The creativity of “Redline” isn’t the way the story goes, but rather how the film manages to fit so many different things in a 112 minute animated movie. It does this very well.
In a universe where cars have shed their wheels and everyone seems to travel by air, a select few still succumb to the need for speed. This results with interplanetary races with participants that come from different planets. The film begins with a race dubbed the Yellow Line, as a racer called JP (Takuya Kimura) crashes at the last minute and is barely edged out by a fellow racer, beautiful Sonoshee (Yu Aoi). Soneshee’s win propels her to compete in the Red Line, a race to end all races as it is about to be held in Roboworld, a militarized planet ruled by cyborgs that refuses to host the race. When two racers drop out for fear of the ruling body of Roboworld, JP is propelled to compete in the deadly race. Together with JP’s head mechanic Frisbee (Tadanobu Asano, Party 7) and 4-armed scrounger (Takeshi Aono), JP may just have a chance to win…or does he? Roboworld also has a huge military secret that will prove a danger to everyone participating in the race…
Ok, let’s get this straight. This anime film is outrageous, bombastic and yet it is indeed very bit as exhilarating as one can imagine. The theme, devices and script of the film takes inspiration from “Death Race”, “Speed Racer”, “Cannonball Run” and even “Star Wars: Episode One”. It super-flamboyant, exaggerated, testosterone-riddled and bombastic that the direction never loses a beat. As such, it is hard to keep up, so the script by Katsuhito Ishii keeps things simple and allows the characters develop the story under a fast-moving beat. Accompanied by a techno soundtrack, the film has loads of style and pizzazz that plays in the racing sequences. There really is nothing special with its plot as it truly is an exercise of style over substance.
Style over substance isn’t exactly a bad thing as long as the film is able to go over the top and stays true to its intentions. The racing cars in the film are a wild mix of “what the fuck” elements mixing cyber-punk qualities, mecha, and even old school racing cars (JP’s Trans Am) with several added additions. The racing cars have the capability to go on land, air and water, and they have defensive and offensive weapons that fit in its premise of racing in a planet that means to do them harm. I mean, some cars are dirt ugly while some are ‘cute’, one is just do damned intimidating while one seems like it doesn‘t belong…the racing cars reflect the driver’s personality, both in look and weapons. As with any competition, some politics and real world elements are introduced to form an attachment to its viewers, such as gambling.
The characters in “Redline” are truly wild, weird and outrageous. Sure, most of the film’s focus lies on Frisbee, JP and Soneshee, but what made this anime film really stand out is the way the characters have a certain personality. The development of the characters are almost none-existent, but I suppose the looks speak for themselves (they actually left me snickering). “Gori-rider” used to be a cop and is romatically linked to a human female, “Super Boins” are a pair of sexy pop stars, “Lynchman and Johnny Boya” are bounty hunters and “God Wing” is a robot whose entire body races. They are all different movie genres crammed into one movie; aliens, humanoids, “Mad Max” rejects, and even lame pop stars play a part in the film. I also felt that the timeline of the film is crammed into one. JP’s hairstyle is an outdated one from the 80’s and his switchblade comb takes from the 70’s. The outfits of the Roboworld rulers are a weird mix of medieval and futuristic influences. The animation work seemed to have been inspired by the 80’s. It had the look of traditional animation with loud colors. Oh, this is not your kid’s anime, since it has some nudity and sexual references.
Stylistic positives aside, the film is just an adrenaline rush. The film is pretty shallow in plot development, and it merely allows itself to wallow in the fast-paced, arresting visuals and sound. “Redline” begins as a ride and it ends as a ride. There is no added meat, but rather it is an anime film meant to entertain through its bombastic qualities. This isn’t a bad thing if this is what you are looking for, but to be fair, one cannot expect multi-dimensional elements when the film never intended to have any. “Redline” is not going to be an anime classic, but it sure is a fun ride as soon as you turn off your brain and allow your sight and sound senses to take over. “Redline” is a rush.
Recommended! [3 ½ Out of 5 Stars]
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"Sweet JP" - rightfully named for his personality, retro style, and refusal to mount weapons on his racecar - nearly wins the "Yellowline" race against a host of semi-pro alien drivers, most of whom use oversized vehicles with jet engines ...