In a far off distant future, in a far off distant galaxy, a motley collection of humans and aliens gather to take part in one of the craziest, most dangerous events ever imagined. It is the Redline, a fantastic competition held every five years that tests the limits of speed and endurance of the galaxy’s most skilled auto racers. It is a time when space and air travel have taken over, but a small yet devoted group of auto enthusiasts pour all of their skill and energy into creating the most outrageous, dangerously fast vehicles they can, and then pit them against each other in a no-holds barred race that could bring the winner fame and fortune.
This movie follows the adventures of “Sweet JP” a racer who has, along with his childhood friend and business partner Frisbee, a lucrative, if somewhat illicit, career in winning or throwing races on the orders of various crime syndicates who use him as a tool to manipulate the betting. When JP unexpectedly qualifies for Redline, it’s the perfect chance for the partners to make some good money, if JP will throw the race. In spite of his rather shady business practices, JP is a nice guy at heart. His nickname is derived from the fact that he, unlike all the other racers, does not equip his vehicle with weapons to use against the other driver. JP relies on the craftsmanship of his vehicle, engine, and boosters along with his natural driving skill to win.
As JP prepares for Redline, we are introduced to many of the other racers he will compete against. They are all larger-than-life colorful personalities, and will be tough opponents. In particular, JP will have to defeat Crab Sonoshee, a beautiful woman who is a top contender for winning the race. Sonoshee is completely obsessed with racing and winning, and is not interested in romantic entanglements. Yet she and JP have an unexpected connection and a relationship forms that will either complicate things or make things much more simple.
Another challenge for JP is the Redline location. Redline draws countless spectators from around the universe who avidly tune in to speculate and place bets on the action. The venue for Redline is a secret until just before the race, such that even the planet hosting it doesn’t know until just before the action starts. Not only do the racers have to contend with each other, the militaristic alien planet that ends up hosting the race does not want it there, and uses all of its firepower to try and put an end to the competition. So the racers are not just trying to reach the finish line first, they are trying to reach it alive.
When the time comes, will JP throw the race? Could he possibly win it? Or will that honor go to Sonoshee or one of the other racers? Will true love conquer all? Who has the greatest vehicle, the greatest skill to survive Redline?
Yes, the plot of “Redline” is simple. We are dropped right into the middle of the action and are forced to keep up with the exhilarating pace right from the start. The story is told through actions and flashbacks, with little outright exposition to slow things down. The movie can be summed up as: Yellowline Qualifying Race, Race Preparation, Redline. Much of the movie is the actual Redline race, an insanely fast display of horsepower and guts. Once the race starts, the action does not let up until the very end. In fact, the pace escalates as the race goes on, building at a breakneck speed to a dazzling climax. Don’t even bother to consider the laws of physics here; they simply don’t apply. Just sit back and let the insanity wash over you. Redline is a breathless speed rush and a lot of fun.
I absolutely loved this film. I first saw it in a theater, and it was an amazing experience. It left my head spinning. The pace just doesn’t let up. This is the type of film that should be watched as loud as possible, and on as large of a screen as possible. It should also be watched many times, because with each viewing, you can spot more and more tiny details that might at first be lost in the rush of the main plot.
Using over 100,000 hand-drawn illustrations, “Redline” is a spectacular achievement in animation and design. During a time when most vehicle animation is produced using CG, “Redline” takes things back to the old-school methods, painstakingly hand-crafting every scene. Computers are used for composition and lighting effects, but the actions are based on the drawings. This includes the animation for the characters, backgrounds too. All-in-all, “Redline” took 7 years to complete. The result is an astoundingly detailed futuristic world brimming with unique alien species, wildly imaginative vehicle designs, and breathtaking locations.
The main point of this film is the speed, the thrill, the visuals, the whole spectacle of it all. Anything goes here, and part of the excitement is just drinking in all the thousands of details as they zoom by at lightning speed. Yet even with all the flash and dazzle of the race, there is also just the right amount of emotional back story laid down to make the lead characters compelling and fun to watch.
There are so many things I like about the movie- the colorful character designs that are so unlike most other modern anime, the fluid animation, the obvious amount of love and skill that was poured into the production, the pounding soundtrack that adds a frantic pulse to support the action, and the idea that even when surrounded by all the speed, spectacle and flash, the key emotion that binds it all together is love.
This is a movie meant for Blu-Ray. This disc looks fantastic. The colors are vivid and just pop. A lot of the shadows are made using solid black, which looks great here. The clarity of the picture really allows for a complete viewing experience. I have not seen a regular DVD release of this, but if any movie cries out for the Blu-ray treatment, it’s “Redline.”
“Redline” contains four audio tracks: English and Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 tracks, and English and Japanese Dolby Surround 2.0 tracks. I enjoyed the Japanese track and much prefer the Japanese voices. It can be difficult at times to keep up with all of the visuals when the subtitles flash by at such fast speeds, but the original voices make it worthwhile. For the most part, the English cast isn’t bad, but the English dub version of JP plays him in a more “dumb lunkhead” sort of way which bothers me. I much prefer Kimura Takuya’s ultra-cool, laid-back voice for JP. JP may be reckless, but he isn’t stupid.
While I was slightly disappointed that the US release of this film did not contain quite the same number of extras that the Japanese release did, I still must say that the 2 features and the trailer they did include are excellent. The 5-minute 2006 trailer is an amazing piece of work in its own right. It is a sort of prototype, an exploration of how awesome the “Redline” movie could be. Made years before the rest of the film was finished, it features a race that was not included in the film. It has the same frenetic fast pace as the movie and is a great peek at what the filmmakers were going for earlier in their creative process. Next is a “Quick Guide to Redline,” a 30 minute behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film. It outlines the plot, introduces the characters, and includes interviews of the director and staff. Finally, we have an even more expansive behind-the-scenes feature, “Perfect Guide to Redline.” It has in-depth interviews with all the staff and cast, including footage of them in the recording booth, an excellent look at the animation process, the composition of the music, artwork used in the production, and much more. This clocks in at over an hour.
Redline is one of the most electrifying animated films I have seen in a decade — a real masterpiece. I cannot recommend this film enough. Everyone, not just anime fans, should experience it at least once, if only to appreciate the amazing levels of detail and skill that went into animating it. While I am annoyed at the lack of 5.1 Japanese audio, the picture quality and extras help make up for it. This is a film that should be in every animation fan’s collection as a reference piece.