The Other Side of Animation 31: Japanese Animation Month: REDLINE Review

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WARNING/PARENTAL HEADS UP: There is some female nudity and crude language. Viewer’s discretion is advised.

Here we go! It’s the beginning of Japanese Animation Month! Say what you will about the huge amount of schlocky anime that you see come out of the land of the rising sun, but when they put their creative foot down on the pedal, they will speed by you with some of the best animated experiences to come out from there. Seriously, think about it. How many iconic animated films have come out from Japan? You have films like Akira, Ninja Scroll, Robot Carnival, Memories, Castle in the Sky, Porco Rosso, Ghost in the Shell, Wolf Children, The Garden of Words, Tokyo Godfathers, Paprika, Short Peace, Whisper of the Heart, and you get the idea. When they are allowed to make something diverse, interesting, and not held down by anime tripe, they can make some pretty awe-inspiring work. For the first title in Japanese Animation Month, I wanted to go with a more recent film that shows us what the 2008 Speed Racer film could have been if the Wachowskis knew at all what they were doing. REDLINE is a 2D animated film released in 2009 by Takeshi Koike, who has also worked on projects like the World Record segment from The Animatrix, the original pilot for Afro Samurai, a pilot for the Iron Man anime, and the OVA of Trava: Fist Planet. Yeah, you have quite the individual on your hands. REDLINE was originally supposed to appear alongside Summer Wars and Mai Mai Miracle at the 2009 Annecy International Animated Film Festival, but was pushed back, and missed the festival altogether. So, how good is REDLINE? Is it one of the best racing films of all time? Or should you slow down so the tripe police don’t give you a ticket for speeding? Let’s find out.

REDLINE stars our male lead, JP, voiced by Patrick Seitz. JP is a well-known human racer that for most of his career goes through races with a rigged machine to fail, and make loads of money for the mafia to work off loans and such. Luckily for him, after a few racers drop out of a special event, JP joins the roster of racers in the REDLINE, a special race that only offers the best of the best in terms of challengers. Unfortunately for them, they will also have to deal with the planet the race takes place on’s military and government, as it’s up to JP and a colorful cast of characters to make it through the race and try to win first place!

Let’s get into the driver seat and I’ll tell you my favorite elements of this animated film. The animation and character designs are just fantastic. The whole movie looks like a bright colorful comic book put into motion, and not as one of those stupid motion comics. It’s smooth, the designs are whimsical, and the characters all look like something from the F-Zero. All the characters look great, and are all very expressive. I think my favorite design comes from the main character, JP. Sure, he kind of has similarities with the typical male characters of current anime, but there is just something about him that stands out to me, compared to what you usually get in a male anime lead. Heck, I love him as a main character. He is confident, energetic, prone to crashes, and loves the feeling of racing at top speed. He’s a likable main character. The cars that everyone race in are definitely another design element that I love about the film. I think the cyborg racer is one of my favorites, since he becomes a part of his racing vehicle and his head looks like someone read The Mask comics and shoved an engine into the guy’s head. It reminds me of stuff like the already mentioned F-Zero, Star War Episode 1: Racer, Wacky Racers, and Fast Racing Neo. I also get a feeling like George Miller would make this, since it’s so over-the-top and entertaining.

For the racing itself, it’s stylish, fast, well-animated, and satisfying. It’s like if Fury Road’s chase sequences were animated, and had a huge dose of anime shoved into its veins. I mean, on top of colorful racers, they also have to deal with an over-the-top Power Rangers-style villain world trying to take them down. Who wouldn’t love something like this? Luckily, when you aren’t watching the eccentric animation, bounty hunters, hot ladies, and big cars, there are some small calm moments. There aren’t many of them, and they are simple, but when they pop up, it’s a welcome change of pace. In the end though, this film knows what it wants to be, unlike some recent big budget flicks that have recently been released.

Despite having some amazing qualities, there are some downsides to REDLINE as well. First off, don’t expect a deep story. It’s simple, and while that is great since this film knows what it wants to do with itself, this might not be the movie for you if you want deep storytelling and philosophically intriguing characters. I also didn’t care for the female characters in this film. They aren’t truly interesting, and are just hype- sexualized. It fits with the mood, and to be fair, not a lot of the side characters get a huge amount of development, but it’s something to bring up. Another thing to bring up is this little area in the film that is basically exposition and information dumping.  It introduces the other racers who you won’t really care about, and are basically there to show off even more flash and personality. It drags the pace down a bit, but you probably won’t care too much about it, since you will be distracted by goofy characters and slick, stylized animation. I also hate how a lot of Japanese animated films do this, but the ending is very abrupt. What is it with Japanese animation and not having a good ending? Granted, I guess the ending we got was enough, but it’s distracting when I have seen so many films do this.

REDLINE might be stupid sci-fi cheese, but it’s that good kind of stupid sci-fi cheese. It’s enjoyable, likable, a spectacle to behold, and shows off what Japanese animation can be when it’s not held down by most of the bullocks that comes with anime these days. I’m not going to say REDLINE is one of my all-time favorite movies or one of the best animated films, but this is a film that you could watch many times just for the pure entertainment value of it. It’s a movie you pick up for simple enjoyment and visual flair. Luckily, the film is not hard to obtain, since the multi-format version is about $10 plus shipping on Amazon.com. If you wanted to watch it for free and not feel crummy about it, tubitv.com has it for free, which is how I watched it. I love films like this, since it shows off how creative you can be with animation. For example, you can be over-the-top fun like REDLINE, or funny and touching like next time’s film review of A Letter to Momo. Thanks for checking out this review, and see you all next time!

Rating: Go See It!

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