Anime has always skewed towards the hyperkinetic imagery that most Western animation rarely, if ever, put on the screen. Where Western animation has a much more flowing style that tries to mimic realism in the artform with anime we get intense action in the animation no matter what genre.
One recent anime that pretty much takes this hyperkinetic style to a new level was 2009’s OVA (original video animation) title from renowned anime studio Madhouse simply called Redline. It’s a wall-to-wall scifi action film that combines futuristic setting and world-building with the speed freak action of the racing genre.
Redline was directed by Takeshi Koike and it took him and his crew of animators from Madhouse a total of seven years and millions of dollars to finish the project. This was a project that pushed the animation to it’s limits with the film using over 100,000 hand-drawn pages of animations that at times looked like it was something that looked more computer-generated. It’s a film that showed many of Koike-san’s artistic influences from his mentor Yoshiaki Kawajiri (well-known for classic anime titles as Vampire Hunter D and Ninja Scroll) right up to the thick lines and heavy blacks of Frank Miller.
The plot for Redline is really not that complex and for some it’s too simple that it became a flaw. It’s a story about the a futuristic race that uses the greatest groundcar racers in the galaxy (instead of the current hovercar this world has turned to using) to tell a story about the underdog fighting against adversity to win not just the ultimate prize but the love of a girl who also happens to be one of his main rivals in the film. The story revolves around the main characters of Sweet JP, with his ludicrous pompadour (the subject of many jokes in the film) and 50’s-style Greaser leather jacket, and his main rival and love interest in Sonoshee.
Redline barely brings the main leads past being cardboard cutouts as characters, but the story gives the two enough backstory to make them easy to relate to. Yet, it’s not the story that will hook and pull in anime fans both veterans and newbies. It’s all about the action and animation that makes this film one of those anime that people really should be watching. There’s so much action going on in the film that one could easily lose themselves in all that kinetic energy to forgive it’s story’s basic simplicity.
Some have called Redline as the anime version of the latest Fast and Furious films (mainly the last two), but I disagree with that assessment. The latest Fast and Furious films are attempts to make a live-action version of Redline. The two share similar traits and follow that racing creed that the Vin Diesel franchise has popularized: “Ride or Die”.
Redline might not the be the greatest story ever told in anime, but for pure-adrenaline action from beginning to end there’s none better. One can watch it on Youtube on their streaming service, yet I recommend that people who have a huge HDTV (especially the latest 4K screens) watch it on that to see hand-drawn animation at it’s best.