It was always obvious to me that Katsuhito Ishii’s style would fit greatly in anime and the fact that the director of “Redline” is Takeshi Koike, who was in charge of the excellent style of animation featured in Ishii’s films “Funky Forest” and “The Taste of Tea”, was another guarantee of excellence. Add to all that the fact that Madhouse was the production studio behind the anime and that the cast of voice actors included Tadanobu Asano, Yu Aoi and Takuya Kimura, and you could easily say that nothing could go wrong with this one. Well, apart from the fact that the production took seven years to finish, particularly due to the over 100,000 hand-drawn frames, nothing did, in one of the best anime movies of the 21st century.
The film revolves around “Sweet” JP, a frantic and reckless rockabilly car racer who also happens to fix races along with his mechanic, Frisbee, although not exactly of his own accord. After his car is completely crashed in the Yellowline, a second tier race that also functions as preliminary to the top one, Redline, JP finds himself in the hospital, beaten but rich. However, when the organizing committee announces that Redline will take place in Roboworld, a planet dominated by militant zealot cyborgs whose President has threatened on interstellar television to hang all involved with the Redline mothership if it appears out of hyperspace over their planet, JP finds himself in competition by public demand, after two of the racers drop out.
Despite threats made however, which the President of Roboworld intensifies with mentions of weapons of mass destruction and the presence of Col. Volton, a generalissimo who rules the army of the planet, the race actually proceeds in full glory, with the media focusing as much as possible on the drivers. JP manages to get a great machine with the help of Old Man Mole, a four-handed associate and also in a strange kind of relationship with Sonoshee, the woman who actually won the Yellowline race. As the race starts, Roboworld’s army attacks the drivers and all hells breaks loose.
Let me start with something personal. Most anime (both series and movies) seem to be addressed to young adults (or at least include this demographic to their target audience), which is the reason so many protagonists are high school students. So, it is a great pleasure to watch titles that are addressed to a more mature audience and “Redline” is definitely one of those cases, not just for the slight nude, the sensualism and the gore, but for its style of animation and the overall sociopolitical comments regarding the clash between western world commercialism and eastern world fundamentalism. In that fashion, the setting of the film in the Roboworld could as well be Iran, with Ishii and Koike also making use of the debate regarding whether the country has developed chemical weapons of mass destruction, in one of the most impressive scenes in the film. On the other hand, the people who organize Redline and the way media promotes and covers it (occasionally in tabloid fashion) could easily be perceived as a metaphor for the way Hollywood companies run show business (sports are actually part of it in my book).
The romantic aspect is somewhat cheesy, particularly in the way it concludes, but this is a very small part of the movie and can easily be forgiven (forgotten even).
The focus however, apart from the middle of the film that becomes much slower in order to present the aforementioned elements, is not on context but on action, with the combination of extreme car race and actual warfare being more than impressive. The colors, the drawing, in both conception and implementation, equally on characters and the background, and the amount of detail in both drawing and animation are truly exquisite, and in combination with the quite fitting, mostly rock music result in an audiovisual extravaganza of perpetual movement that carries the film from beginning to end. Special mention should also be given to Satoshi Terauchi and Naoki Kawanishi’s editing, who retain a truly frantic pace through the majority of the film.
“Redline” is a true anime gem, a film that every anime fan will enjoy, to say the least.