Anything goes in Takeshi Koike’s wackiest of races.
“Fuck this, they’re too fast!”
Now this is what anime is all about: Fast cars, explosions, fan service, pompadour haircuts, robots and cars that turn into giant mechas. The only thing this is missing is an extended transformation sequence, but I suppose they must have cut it for time. Redline is Takeshi Koike’s directorial debut – he would later go on to make a few Lupin III titles – and it plays out like a movie made by a man who’s finally been given creative freedom to do whatever he wants. So what’s going on here?
In the … future (?), or maybe just another galaxy, racing is all the rage. Contestants compete in extreme competitions with that test the very limits of sanity and physics, and human “Sweet” JP is one of these racers, who has agreed to run a fixed race but ultimately decides to go for victory which would qualify him in the prestigious Redline race. After barely surviving the qualifying Yellowline competition – thanks to some tampering to his car from his mobster mechanic friend Frisbee – JP is nevertheless allowed to race in Redline when several qualifiers drop out. This due to the interplanetary war between the one they’re on, and Roboworld – a fascist robot planet – which the Redline authority has inexplicably decided the race will be held on.
As … things are happening on Roboworld, the racers are all preparing for the Redline on the demilitarized zone: a moon in between both planets. JP starts to get to know the winner of the Yellowline, Sonoshee McLaren, better as well as a number of other crazy competitors. Meanwhile, on Roboworld, the Secretary of Defense and Colonel Voltron prepare an Orbital Disintegration Cannon, to destroy the Redline racers when they arrive, once again raising the question of why any of this is taking place there. Also, there’s some ancient monstrosity they’ve dug up called Funky Boy, which kind of plays into the plot. Anyway, a big race happens. Stuff gets weird.
Christ, what a difficult movie to sum up. Redline has a story, for sure, but everything is so jumbled and confused it’s damn near impossible to figure out why anyone is doing anything. There’s a subplot about Sonoshee and JP having met before, that’s mentioned once. There’s a scene which involves a cyborg fusing with some Roboworld monstrosity that’s never explained. There’s a guy who gets physically stronger every time he cries, because why the fuck not. Redline is more concerned with the variety of the world and the animation, and treats its story as if it were a car: plowing forward at breakneck speed without any concern for the madness happening around it.
Redline’s priorities are in its character designs and animation. Personally, I’m not crazy about the shading and the drawing style in this (I think Space Dandy did it a bit nicer, but that’s just me): it’s all a bit … much. But I can appreciate how much creativity went into every single alien concept. Looking at a single frame of crowds and you see a dozen different, entirely new designs that you’ve not seen before. That level of creativity is to be commended, and it really helps in the world-building. The story seems to have been created around all of these designs. It almost feels like Tekken, where everyone enters this big competition to settle some score, and like that game, you barely get to understand what any of those scores are.
But hey, the animation is also a hell of a lot of fun. The scenes when the racers get the turbo boost from nitrous are the most famous – and feature in all the marketing – but everything here is animated in a great way. Nothing is ever still; there’s always an alien doing something somewhere. The universe is a lively, active place and director Koike manages to draw us into the world of this movie almost immediately and a part of me wishes there were more stories set in these bizarre locations. So, yeah, sure, the story doesn’t make a heap of sense and everything just sort of ends once the Redline is over, but really, is that really why you came to this film?
Verdict: Redline falters in the story department, but its animation and character designs help make this a smooth, if brain-bending ride.
Overall entertainment: 7/10
On-track shenanigans: Plenty
Stories: Like, a thousand
Anime checklist: Basically everything
Logic: Ha. Get out.
Also known as レッドライン
Director: Takeshi Koike
Writers: Katsuhito Ishii, Yoji Enokido, Yoshiki Sakurai
JP – Takuya Kimura
Sonoshee McLaren – Yu Aoi
Frisbee – Tadanobu Asano
Boiboi – Akane Sakai
Bosbos – AKEMI
Inuki Boss – Cho
Gori-Rider – Daisuke Gouri
Todoroki – Ikki Todoroki
Miki – Shunichiro Miki
Trava – Kanji Tsuda
Shinkai – Yoshiyuki Morishita
Secretary of Defense Titan – Kenyu Horiuchi
Colonel Volton – Unsho Ishizuka
Roboworld President – Kosei Hirota
Machine Head – Koji Ishii
Old Man Mole – Takeshi Aono
Lynchman – Tatsuya Gashuin
Johnny Boy – Yoshinori Okada
Little Deyzuna – Kenta Miyake