To say I am not a big fan of racing is something of an understatement. I never find myself watching the races, Nascar or Indy and could really care less about the sport where you turn left a whole lot. When it comes to cartoons or video games, it is a somewhat different tale since I have enjoyed the show Wacky Races as well as loved to play anything in the Burnout series of video games. So when it came to reviewing the anime film, Redline, I was not sure exactly what to think but looked forward to the review.
“In the far distance future when cars are giving up their wheels in the change over to air-cars, there still exist fools who carry on a vanishing spirit of racing.”
It is race day for the last Yellow Line race. The winner of this race will go to Redline, the richest and most dangerous race in the galaxy. The spectators from all over the galaxy lineup at the lap line to watch the cars cruise by. We have Sonoshee McLaren in the lead in her classic hoverjet. Then in second we have Captain 2-Blocks followed by Count Markave & Spark in third. Bringing up the rear of the first group is Psychoman & Lotten. Then we move on to the second group.
In the second group, we have other notables including JP in his custom Trans-Am who is playing it cool for the time being. However, it is time to make it interesting. He drops a nitro cap into his tank and burns some rubber. He cruises towards the first position still held by Sonoshee. Meanwhile, we witness a scene where Frisbee, the business partner of JP discusses with the mafia whether or not the fix is in. Frisbee assures the associates that JP will do what needs to be done.
JP is still going towards first and Sonoshee is forced to take to the water using her hover capability. They are going neck and neck now with Sonoshee on water and JP on land. They both toss in their final nitro cap and it is off to the finish line. JP has a slight lead but the fix is in as his car detonates and bounds towards the finish line. This unfortunate situation gives Sonoshee the last needed momentum to win the race by a nose thus ensuring her entry into Redline.
JP wakes up in a hospital bed watching the results of his disastrous race. He will not be going to Redline. Sonoshee will be in the Redline race along with many other competitors from all walks of life. Frisbee comes in with a giant briefcase of loot and hands it to JP. JP considers the dirty money but decides he does not want it. As Frisbee is about to exit the room with the briefcase, a mob of reporters bust in suddenly and tell JP that he is now in the Redline race.
It appears that two members of the upcoming race dropped out due to political pressures. The race is set to be held in Roboworld. However, the kicker is that Roboworld is not endorsing the event and the President has issued a military order to shoot first and ask questions later (in order to protect military secrets). As a result, JP and another driver have been nominated for the upcoming race. JP quickly takes the dirty money back and goes to work to win this one legitimately. But does Frisbee have other plans?
Redline is one of the most bizarre and wonderful animes I have ever seen. In the two races, we are introduced to a bevy of characters, all with unique personality traits and mannerisms. We also are introduced to a growing relationship between JP and Sonoshee as well as how they interact with the rest of the competitors. The story develops nicely and even though it is not the deepest story you will ever watch, it is one of the most compelling and a true spectacle.
Remember Speed Racer? Most people are aware of this little bizarre racing anime. Speed Racer wishes it could be as cool and dynamic as Redline. Redline takes concepts from cartoons like Wacky Races, Speed Racer and others and then punches it in the gut followed by two strong kicks to the head. At some point, one forgets that they are watching an anime and just throw this in the action-adventure film category. If I did not think it would be bastardized to death, I might even entertain a live-action adaptation of this soon to be classic anime. It is that good.
The video is in 1.78:1 widescreen presentation in 1080p resolution. This film took roughly seven years to make and consists of one hundred percent hand drawn animation. As such, it looks simply beautiful. The color is great and for the most part it keeps up with the maniacal racing that takes place before you. Sometimes one will probably feel like the animation is a blur. However, if one takes the time to slow it down, it is still very hard to find flaws in this otherwise fantastic presentation.
For the audio portion, we get a 5.1 TrueHD track for English and Japanese. (2.0 mixes included for English and Japanese as well). I went Japanese with English Subtitles for this review. We have found our first reference quality track of the new year. The sound is absolutely amazing. It is loud, louder than some concert blu-rays I have reviewed recently (which are known for pumping up the volume) but very clear. Dialog is clean and the surrounds are great too. One will feel like they are in the middle of a car race. I defy any film short of the Matrix or Lord of the Rings to sound any better than this. Subtitles are included for English SDH.
- Redline “2006 Trailer” 4:51: As mentioned, this film took seven years to make. So somewhere in the middle a trailer was made using early animation pieces. It is far longer than a normal trailer but shows how far along it already was and how far it had to go.
- Perfect Guide to Redline 1:07:28: Katsuhito Ishii and Koike Takeshi are your unofficial hosts for this very long featurette. Seven years was spent on this project using about 100,000 hand drawn pieces of animation. They go over the characters and mention that at some point they wanted to put a novel together that would go more in depth and really flesh out some of these secondary racers. I would love to see it but I doubt we would ever see an English localization. Early sketches are shown as well as footage from the film festival in Switzerland and a Redline road show. Tons of information here, I just wish it was separated out a bit for easier consumption.
- Quick Guide to Redline 24:08: Some rehash here from the previous bit as expected. This serves as a fast guide to the characters, motivations and what went into this film. Good featurettes, just in need of much better organization.
Redline probably will not see much press here in the United States. Like a lot of anime, the following here is limited to geeks (like myself) and some hardcore animation fans. Heck, a lot of people have never heard of the arguably the greatest anime film of all time, Akira. In the same vein, this is almost as good as Akira. It has great characters, a fantastic world and some of the best hand drawn animation one will ever encounter.
The disc package is also equally good, the video is superb and the audio is jaw-dropping and will probably incite a few nasty calls from your neighbors. The extras are the only confusing part of this journey. They include a lot of depth but are jumbled together hap-hazardly. I give this a giant recommendation and hope that some mainstream movie fans give this one a try. They will be deeply rewarded and I hope want to make this part of their permanent movie library. I know I will. Enjoy.