Anime Reviews

So I Just Watched Redline…

Redline

Sweet JP’s pompadour contains more testosterone than the testicles of a thousand lesser men.

I’m a kook for style and I’m pretty damn sure of it. Whether an anime series has actual depth beneath the grease or not, I always find myself drawn to the audacious and the boldly fabulous. If I happen to notice a heavily stylized flick, I’m always bound to watch it, no matter how completely absurd or ridiculously stupid it is.  It’s pretty safe to say that Japanese animation has many signature traits and features, whether it be the oversized eyes, exaggerated and colorful hair, or the constant bending of the laws of physics for action or comedy purposes. So while primarily a storytelling medium, you have to remember that anime is also already a heavily stylized visual canvas on its own. But what happens when a director pushes the latter to its absolute limits, while purposely simplifying the former to bring out the style? You get Redline.

Forget logic, forget the laws of physics, and forget everything you know about NASCAR, this is Redline, damnit, possibly the greatest style-fest ever created. Calling this show “just cool” would be a savage insult to the brilliant blast of vibrant energy this movie brings to the table. In all my years of anime watching, I can only name a few titles which could possibly match the spectacular visual appeal jam-packed into Redline’s two hours. Not only is the animation beyond fluid, it’s spectacularly bright, bold, and detailed. At no point are there any dips in the quality; just from pausing a scene you can see how lovingly crafted and meticulously made each frame of the movie is. The  sharp attention to detail never lets up at any moment, getting bigger, better, and crazier every minute while perfectly accentuating the entire experience. The amount to detail brings out the best in the Redline. Even just from looking at Sweet JP’s Transam, you get the feeling that there’s a story behind every minute scratch and dent.

Despite their lack of depth, the characters all leave an outstanding impact on the screen.

Coupled with the bold visuals and wicked character designs is a phenomenal soundtrack. The music is an absolutely hypnotic blend of various Western genres and styles.  Seriously, every single track is composed specifically to pronounce what’s going on inside the screen. Several times I found myself banging my head and thumping foot on the ground in unison with the beat. While you’ll probably forget a large majority of the dialogue, those funky beats will play in your head for damn long time. From the stellar opening scene to the wonderful “Redline Day” at the credits,  the music will keep  you hooked.

While many of the characters have a stark lack of depth and introspection, they all have add an outstanding punch to the experience. Calling the cast colorful would be putting it mildly. The racers are an eclectic mix of dreamers, crybabies, and champions, all just as likable and larger-than-life as the next. Not at any point does Redline leave the the characters hanging. During each and every scene, someone, somewhere, is doing something insanely, ridiculously cool. While at times the dialogue does fall through, their vibrant personalities, only further emboldened by their unique character designs, shine.

However, Redline does have its fair share of problems. The plot for one, while never at anytime pretentious, is overly simplistic. At the bone, Redline is just a story about two racers, trying to achieve their dream of finishing first in the universe’s greatest racing competition. On top of this, obstacles and solutions for the racers seemingly appear out of nowhere, most notably a giant biological weapon which has to get vaporized by the military and battled by another cop-turned-bioweapon.  While the plot and basic logic are obviously sidelined for magnificent style, this still remains a problem nevertheless. On the bright side, you may be able to completely overlook the lack of depth and see it as a huge bonus. Never does Redline think that its plot is better than it really is. It’s simple, even kind of stupid sometimes, but always audacious and thrilling, which makes the whole rush easier to take in.

For me, anime is ultimately storytelling medium. While style and glamour will always impress me to end, I’ll take characterization over visual and audio punch anytime. Style impresses me, but just like scale and ambition, it will never constitute the entirety of my impressions. Also, it’s not like both good storytelling and style haven’t been combined before, as can be seen with Gankutsuou, Cowboy Bebop, and The Tatami Galaxy. However, regardless of its flaws, Redline remains a must see, especially if you fancy yourself a style nut such as myself. After all, as a movie of only two hours, what do you have to lose?

Final Score: 7/10

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3 thoughts on “So I Just Watched Redline…

  1. I loved Redline precisely for how it did something film can never do. I think it stands as one of the pinnacles of anime – anime isn’t characterized by good storytelling or deep characterization, anime’s strengths lay in its bold visuals, fluid animation, and ability to transcend the real. You can imagine any school harem anime as a film, or an eroge, or even a light novel; but try to make Redline anything that isn’t anime, and you’ll fail.

    (That’s a response to your bit about Redline’s ‘problems’. Of course, being an archetype of anime doesn’t mean that Redline must be good, though.)

    1. While I certainly do not have a strict requirement for storytelling, since that would make shows as awesome as say, Nichijou, impossible to enjoy, when a story is clearly present within an anime I believe that it’s fair to criticize it. If a story is there, it’s on the table for me. I guess the best example would be Code Geass – the entertainment value and FABULOUS levels were off the charts, but a lot of people freely admit that the plot was by far the weakest component. While Redline’s main selling point is the obviously the style, I do believe that it tried to sell a story as well.

      But in the end, I’m one of those guys who prefers anime which uses those unique, stylistic touches that only anime can possess to bolster the show’s context or whatever point it seeks to make. However, this does vary heavily from person to person, as many of my friends acknowledged the silliness of the script, but totally dug the flick anyways.

      The most important factor for me though was that it just didn’t grab my attention as much as it did other people. It’s a bit odd, especially since I love anime as wonderfully stylish as this, but the whole product just didn’t click with me as much as I wanted to. That’s why I finally settled on ‘good’ instead of ‘great’. Regardless, it’s a very high 7; I only hope my review can express that.

      1. You raise interesting points there: when an anime tries to create any semblance of plot, we expect it to follow through, and if an anime wants to shove plot to the side, we expect it to throw plot away entirely. Kinda like how shows like (yes, I’ve been reading your posts :P) Strike Witches work, since they don’t even attempt to do anything other than pantsu – quite well, for that matter.

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