Cars are raced. Things blow up. Friendship and love.
Animation work by Takeshi Koike is a rare enough occurrence to make it a big deal. Well worth dropping the £30 to go to the Sci-Fi London “Manga All-Nighter” and setting aside two days to recover from sitting in a cinema all night. So it was good to learn that Redline lived up to the hype that my brain had been feeding to itself for the past three years or so.
I could have done without the sound problems we endured for the first ten minutes or so, where they somehow lost one channel on the left hand side. The channel with dialogue and small sound effects in. Nothing important, you know? It was incredibly distracting, making it hard to get into the movie and started the evening on a sour note. Not sure what was responsible for it, the cinema or the digital copy being shown as none of the other films had the same problem. In the end the sound got jiggled around, and while we still appeared to be missing one channel, we didn’t seem to be missing any actual sound.
Amazing how actually being able to hear what is being said and having all the sound effects really helps a film! Particularly one that is charging straight at you, screaming its head off like Redline.
The trailer released last year gives you a good taste of the film, though I don’t believe that, beyond the title animation, any of that footage is actually in the finished film. There are scenes that are similar, possibly even containing some identical key animation, but there’s significant differences in the setting and events portrayed in the trailer and the finished product.
The story that the film hangs its over the top cartoon racing action on is the tale of Sweet JP, a a talented racer fallen on hard times, forced to fix races due to the mafia debts of his best friend. Despite that, due to events in the pre-credits opening race, he accidentally finds himself placed in the top race in the universe, Redline.
Redline is to be run through Roboworld, a planet whose ruler is none too pleased to have the media circus show up on his planet as he doesn’t want his secret violations of peace treaties being shown across the universe. Which will be kind of hard to keep secret as the Redline course is due to go through his secret military compounds.
Finally, JP is falling for “Cherry Boy Hunter” Sonoshee, the racer who beat him in the opening race and who had inspired him to turn pro back when they were younger.
So you’ve got love, friendship, war and really loud cars going really fast – what more can you want from a film?
“We really want non-Japanese to see and appreciate this work”, Koike said in an interview. He doesn’t have too much to worry about there. The character design is varied, expressive and accessible. Just having your characters have lips is often enough to get people over their “I don’t like anime” position. The setting and action calls to mind obvious reference points like Speed Racer, Cannonball Run and obviously Wacky Races. The Wacky Races comparison is worth dwelling on. For starters, Wacky Races is very popular in Japan, so I don’t think appealing to non-Japanese is necessarily going to have negative effect on domestic performance. Secondly, it’s not afraid to go for blatantly Wacky Races style gags amidst all the sci-fi chaos. So fearless is it, that its conclusion is one such gloriously perfect gag.
But there’s other influences there too. You’ve got European sci-fi comics influencing some of the grander sci-fi designs, where Roboworld have apparently designed everything with inspiring awe in mind, rather than practicality. And there’s a Jamie Hewlett influence in there too, most obviously in the Booka-like Trava (returning from Koike and Redline collaborator Katsuhito Ishii’s Trava Fist Planet), but also there was a forgotten Hewlett strip called Fireball that also dealt with a sci-fi take on Cannonball Run / Wacky Races. There’s even some Mike Judge in there with Johnny Boy, the Beavis-looking sidekick to the Batman-styled bounty hunter Lynchman. The breaking down of Koike’s visual influences could easily be a post in itself, needless to say having a frame of reference beyond other anime is a great boon.
Most importantly, it’s a cartoon that’s not afraid to be a cartoon in the loudest, most over the top manner possible. It doesn’t have much more to say than that friendship and love are awesome things, but that’s perfectly OK as it’s saying it in a way that is just as awesome. It’s the first anime since FLCL that’s really clicked with me on a visceral level. If they’d offered me a VHS copy for £100 immediately after the film ended, I’d probably have bought it.
I hope this gets a UK DVD release sooner rather than later, but in the meantime I’d be happy just to see it in the cinema again. So don’t miss out if it you get the chance to see it.