Redline: Savior of Anime!!!

I’m trying to figure out the proper amount of exclamation points to convey ambiguity on the sarcasm scale.

Without naming names and sites (if you know, you know, and if you don’t, you probably don’t care and it’s not that interesting), there is that contingent of anime fans out there who maintain that the 21st century is the worst thing that’s ever happened to the medium (never mind the wealth of wonderful things that old school fans should like, from Star Driver to Ergo Proxy to lol Mnemosyne). Among these types, Redline was touted as a return to the glory days: Days of VHS trailers you didn’t need to fast forward through because they were so god-damned exciting, of tits coming from every corner of the screen, of ultra-violence that tested the skills of the animators just to get that extra bit of bone perforating the skin with every punch. In other words, the late 80s and early 90s, the days when those fans first started watching anime.

As much as I was raised as a fan on Kawajiri and Vampire Hunter D, I don’t think we need to go back. That stuff was as ridiculous as today’s, it’s just teenage male wish fulfillment played out in a different way than it is now.

Thankfully, Redline is not trying to be a throwback. It does have the things that are necessary for an old-school anime to be successful: sex, violence, excitement, and sometimes-needless flexing of animation muscle. The sex element is supplied by the king of sexual subtext in both centuries, Yoji Enokido. Thanks to him, and the masterful direction of first-timer Takeshi Koike, it doesn’t need to be too visually overt (save for one topless scene — but no actual sex scenes). The sex and violence are rolled into the excitement, and by that I mean the car races. That’s what Redline is about, and that’s what it focuses on.  Fucking badass cars going really fucking fast, yeah, fuck (the dub will be full of fucks, mark my words).

The style department is all filled up here, too. Dead Leaves, Kaiji, Tsurumaki’s crazed angles, all these come to mind with the visual style of Redline, and it’s hot as hell too. Of course it’s executed by the studio with the most unique styles by the widest range of directors and animators under their belts, Madhouse.

So I’m going to say that Redline was the best fucking thing I’ve seen this century right? How could that recipe possibly fail? Well, ultimately it doesn’t fail; it does its job really well. The thing is, that job involves very little plotting, character (props to Enokido for cramming as much characterization as he did into the shoebox that is Redline‘s plot), or thematic depth. There’s a race, there’s a gangster element, there’s a slight moral dilemma, and there’s more racing.

I’m afraid that Redline relies far too much on the initial system shock, the adrenaline shot straight to the eyes, to be of enough value to “save anime” (if indeed it needs to be saved, whatever). For repeat visits, that visual gusto and balls-out energy has to be paired with a story that’s satisfying on a slightly deeper level than “cars go fast wow.” Knowing Enokido, I suppose I should be looking at the subtext and maybe I’m missing something, but for me Redline was a stylish and exciting diversion that won’t leave a really lasting impression.

Fuck these (5) Comments.

  1. 2DT says:

    Four. Definitely four exclamation points. I only knew this time that you were being sarcastic because I know you. :)

  2. Redline saved anime, cinema, Japan, and stopped the fucking Romans from nailing Jesus.

  3. Martin says:

    It was really fun to watch at the cinema – well animated, great attention to detail, lively characters – and something I’d watch again. It’s probably not something I’d buy on DVD/blu-ray though, nor something I’d rewatch endlessly. As you say, it does what it sets out to do and does it well. I guess I was just fed up with the over-hyping.

    I still recommend it to friends as tremendous fun and worth watching, but for some reason I just don’t have the same rabid enthusiasm that everyone else has.

  4. Edgewood says:

    I think that Redline serves to better the medium by demonstrating that some animators in Japan can still animate a moving mechanical object fluidly and with high fidelity and not immediately rely on CGI models to finish a scene.

    • otou-san says:

      This is an excellent point and I think it served that well. You’ll never hear me waffle on what a technical achievement Redline is, because it’s incredible in that respect.