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January 17, 2012

Blu-ray Review: Redline

— Posted by Elliot Hopper


“In the far distant future, when cars are giving up their wheels in the changeover to air-cars, there still exist fools… who carry on a vanishing spirit of racing…”

Redline is a science fiction racing anime film produced by Madhouse. It premiered back in August 2009 at the Locarno International Film Festival in Switzerland. It would later see its Japanese theatrical release in October 2010. The film is the directorial debut of Takeshi Koike and has an original story written by Katsuhito Ishii. It also features the voices of Takuya Kimura, Yu Aoi and Tadanobu Asano.

Review: The film was said to be impossible to make, as it saw various delays throughout its production. It shouldn’t be surprising though, as the movie took a total of seven years to be completed. Redline makes its official North American domestic release on Blu-ray and DVD today, January 17, 2012. It has a total runtime of 102 minutes.

Redline is hand-drawn.

In a day in age where computers have taken over once traditional animation methods, Redline takes that once tradition and quite possibly reinvents it. It’s highly kinetic, frenetic, unbelievably absurd, specifically stylized and just plain crazy. Takeshi Koike, the director of Redline probably said it best,

“It’s a living animation.”

Some 100,000 cels were created for this film, to be more specific, that is 100,000 hand-made drawings. Each cel was individually drawn, animated in sequence, digitized, colored, shaded and textured. After that was done, additional visuals effects were overlaid to add even more detail. Redline really gives a sense of ‘overload.’ It doesn’t mean to be complicated visually, it simply intentionally tries to overwhelm your eyes with more than you can handle. Yet in the same sense, as you adjust to its purposeful presentation, it does become visually clear (or you couldn’t take it and your eyes have experienced a visual seizure).

Because of the nature of the animation, the slight varied inconsistencies with the line work, Redline comes off as carrying a distortion in its imagery. It’s not by accident, it’s very much so controlled and gives the animation an over the top energy, or as the staff of the film would say, “Over the limit!” Again it’s all with purpose and intent, much like the vibrant color palette and how it’s contrasted heavily by dark black tones instead of tonal gradients to provide shadows. The transfer on Blu-ray is quite amazing to see and beyond worthwhile. With the visual complexities in place, the storyline was fine-tuned and simplified to fit within the appropriate runtime. Because of this, it gives the film an overall balance that works extremely well.

The film follows a race of the same name, the Redline, and the racers that participate. The race takes place every five years and involves the eight best racers in the known universe. Set in the future, Earth isn’t the only planet and various species make up the galactic populace. The character designs are just as interesting and crazy as you would expect given the film’s presentation. A series of other races leading up to the Redline take place, the Yellowline, the Blueline, etc. Each race providing a winner a slot in the final Redline race to determine whom is the best. The location of the Redline is always unknown, up until the final slot has been filled. With the entire universe as a playground, the Redline can take place wherever despite whether a planet approves or not. (Therein also lies some of the subtext to the storyline present in the film that I won’t spoil. The storyline is simple after all and it’s best to discover yourself!)

As the movie gears up towards the Redline race, it naturally wouldn’t be complete without a focus on its racers. The participants are just as important as their vehicles (crazy designs included) and the movie gives an interesting featurette within the film to the back-story of each racer. It’s cleverly done, never boring and is just enough. Avoiding any sense of heavy flashback, unless you’re one of the main characters, that of JP and Sonoshee McLaren. Their points of view become the focal point. Who they are in respective to their pasts, how their current lives intertwine and ultimately as they follow their shared dream of winning it all.

Redline is a Japanese anime film that has more of an international lore to it. While it maintains heritage it also breaks certain conventions along the way – it is both non-traditional and traditional at the same time. If racing has any romantic sensibilities, maybe it’s just the notion and sensation of exhilaration. Redline has that and at its core, doesn’t take itself too seriously. After you’re done with the film, check out the extras on the disc for a behind-the-scenes one-hour interview with Takeshi Koike and Katsuhito Ishii. Together they answer a Q&A about the production overall, the concept of the film, its difficulties and essentially if it was all worth it. It also documents the basic insanity and sheer dedication of everyone involved and it’s sadly funny watching interviews from staff that look sleep deprived. Yet it’s that same sense of character and soul, which is definitely present throughout the film.

If I have a minor complaint it’s that I would’ve liked more of an epilogue, a visual background to the rolling credits perhaps. Maybe it’s my own ‘completeness’ criticism, wanting something more on the traditional side ‘series’ wise, just being greedy and wanting more, or what would’ve been perfect in my own eyes. Or maybe, I’m wrong and that’s fine too. It doesn’t dissuade the film’s enjoyment, because Redline is at the very least a must-see and for some, a must-own.

I give Redline 9 out of 10.

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  • Bigsampson

    I really do not like Japanese film styles but this looks pretty good. Japanese usually add to much feminine crap even when its with males. This looks pretty bad ass.

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