Genres: Racing, Sci-fi
Creators: Takeshi Koike and Katsuhito Ishii
Length: 102 minutes
Highlights: White-knuckles racing action
The feature-film debut of director Takeshi Koike (he previously directed one segment of the anthology film The Animatrix), Redline is an absurd, over the top racing film produced by Madhouse. Similar to Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann and Kill la Kill, Redline has become known for its insanity. It has been called “Speed Racer on crack” and described as "as if the cast of Top Gear raced through minefields on the North Korean border”. However, despite the gratuitous use of car-mounted weapons, the races are not particularly gory or graphic; this is not the anime equivalent of Death Race. Rather, Redline is simply pure fun, full of unbelievable racing stunts and larger-than-life characters. The cars range from JP’s relatively ordinary TransAM 20000 through cars which float above the ground to cars which transform into small mechas. It does not take itself particularly seriously, but it is not mindless action either, possessing surprisingly well-developed characters and a (mostly) coherent plot. Interestingly though, there is a large section in the middle of the film with no racing, which serves to build up tension for the insanity of the Redline race at the end.
The animation is also highly noteworthy. Unlike virtually all anime made in the present day, Redline was drawn almost completely by hand, with minimal use of CGI technology. This is especially unusual as it has been standard practice among anime producers to animate most vehicles using CGI for about 15 years now. As such, the film took over seven years to complete. The film’s art is of a unique style which combines traditional anime visual conventions with a heavy influence from Western graphic novels, which harkens back to the glory days of science fiction comic books. The high-octane racing recalls live-action race films such as The Cannonball Run and The Fast and the Furious, and the science fiction elements often invoke the spirit of Star Wars and other classic sci-fi action flicks. This creates a visual and narrative style that is at once very familiar and highly original, mixing up its recognizable parts in new and unique ways.
Redline is not only the best anime racing film ever made, but one of the best of all racing films ever made. It’s fast, it’s crazy, and it’s larger than life. And above all, it’s fun. Its white knuckles racing at its fastest and most intense. Between that and its groundbreaking visual style, Redline is set to be a landmark film in the realm of anime for years to come.