By Brandon Baylosis
Takeshi Koike’s directorial animated debut Redline‘s a 2009 action science fiction racing film produced by Studio Madhouse. It combines quality Japanese animation with an influence from Western media to produce a fun and stylish ride.
Taking place in a far future where hover cars and spaceships replace ground-based vehicles, there’s still a demand for intense high-octane ground-based races. The most popular of these races in the galaxy is known as Redline, but in order to compete racers would need to qualify by winning Yellowline. Sweet JP (Patrick Seitz) is one of these racers who aims to qualify in Redline, but due to connections with the mafia he gets involved in a race fixing scheme where he’s supposed to lose; even when he tries to win his best friend that got him into this, Frisbee (Liam O’Brien), resorts to blowing up his car. Despite this he is eligible to enter as two eligible racers withdrew. Now JP’ll have to maneuver through his competitors to win the race he has been dreaming of competing in.
From this synopsis, the story is rather simple but presented as larger than life, if anything the plot is more of an excuse or container for the climactic race to have even more wild spectacles to surpass the opening race, and because the film opens and bookends with an intense and superbly animated race the film’s middle is spent developing character motivations and relationships. The cast is rather archetypical, like JP being the laid back but hotheaded hero or how the heroine Sonoshee (Michelle Ruff) is the independent woman and love interest. With a few exceptions, the remaining racers get an interview scene sometime in the middle giving brief explanations on their motives and background while still showing their character. Even so these characters, along with the rest of the cast introduced, are colorful and full of life in their interactions with each other; one of the racers literally fuses himself with his car. The whole cast is much like the film, typical, even cliché, but larger than life in presentation so they can entertain the audience and build up the stakes of the film.
Redline was in production for seven years, and it shows with each stunning frame. Every shot in the film is meticulously drawn eye candy, not only because of the animation quality but because of the overall art style that differentiates itself from other animated works created in Japan. It uses vibrant colors that give the characters and vehicles a shine that contrast with the strikingly hard shadows that makes it look more of a graphic novel with an anime influence. Not to mention that nothing stays still in any scene; crowds move and express excitement, backgrounds are busy enough to notice but never gets in the way of the characters in the foreground, and even in general conversation there’s something going on with the characters when they’re interacting. Not even the setting itself is safe from the meticulous detail in alien anatomy, machine and vehicle design, and scenery. The races themselves are where the animation shines the most, the frames keep said detail of every vehicle and background, while still giving an intense look of speed when it’s all brought together.
Overall, Redline’s an animated feature full of stylistic racing mayhem with some substance to build up the stakes for the climactic race; it’s animation for the sake of animation. Viewers coming in expecting a fun and exciting experience will be in for an adrenaline-filled ride to the finish line.
Header photo from blu-raydefinition.com.