For all intents and purposes, this film should not exist. That’s not to say that I don’t love the fact that Redline does exist, but that it was somehow made in the cesspit that is the contemporary Japanese animation industry is a miracle unto itself. With an emphasis on catering to the subhuman otaku masses, dwindling budgets and a contracting industry, that Madhouse would spend seven years working on a meticulously animated, exceedingly creative and exciting original science-fiction film is almost incomprehensible.
In the back of our minds we all know Redline won’t be a hit, it probably won’t even make its money back. The producers must know this, too. But for whatever fantastic reason, Redline does exist, and everyone who reads this website needs to see it.
Redline is a bizarre amalgamation of Hanna-Barbera’s Wacky Racers crossed with a European comics sense of style and an attention to detail that we all assumed the Japanese animation industry forgot sometime in the early 2000s. The animation, the characters and the design work are all worthy of unrestrained praise, but perhaps the most important aspect of the film is the way it makes you feel.
The first 15 minutes of Akira, the first time you saw huge, glorious animated breasts, the first extra-gory decapitation you saw in a cartoon; Redline works on this level not because it’s overtly sexual or hyper-violent, but because it will excite you in the same way Japanese animation probably hasn’t excited you in the last 10 years. It triggers your reptilian response to awesome shit, and reminds you of the kind of cartoons you gave up on ever seeing made again.
That’s not to say that Redline is an inherently old-school production. It doesn’t grovel at the feet of older fans like Macross Frontier and it doesn’t act as an apology to a forgotten fan base like Gundam Unicorn. Instead, it will make you feel like you’re 15 again, you’ve just cracked open the door to this unfathomable world of Japanese cartoons and you’re pretty sure this is the coolest shit ever.
The age of the sweeping science-fiction animated film is over, buried in a pile of maids, adorable younger sisters and bullshit purple robots, and we all assumed there would never be another movie like Venus Wars, Patlabor, or Do You Remember Love?. But Redline in its own way is just like Ninja Scroll, which kicked you square in your pimply teenage face and showed you that beyond the boring, lame Saturday morning American cartoons you grew up with was this world of hyper-detailed robot battles, chicks with huge breasts and blood, blood in goddamn cartoons!
In this extended metaphor, the current Japtoon industry is the American cartoons of your youth, the Haruhis and the K-Ons are the 25-minute commercial shitshows you woke up every Saturday at 6 am to watch because you didn’t know any better. Then, suddenly, you see something that makes you aware that things could be so much better. Redline is the movie that will slap you back to your senses and remind you that cartoons about elementary school kids or pathetic shut-ins are garbage and you want to see cartoons about people kicking ass and looking cool in new and exciting ways.
The truth is that in Japan, movies like Redline will tank and people will spend their money on the Haruhi movies and the 48th One Piece film instead. And maybe that’s OK, because Redline isn’t made for otaku. The losers who line up every year for Comiket or religiously follow Naruto every week can’t handle something this different–it would kick them on their ass hard enough that they’d run back to their hugpillows and pastel color schemes. So fuck those guys, and fuck that Bleach fanboy you know who will refuse to see it because it doesn’t look “Japanese” enough.
Show it to your friends who gave up on anime when they realized everything after Cowboy Bebop was “gay.” Redline looks like the bastard spacechild of a ridiculous pop orgy involving No More Heroes, Heavy Metal, and the Tatooine cantina scene from Star Wars. It’s devoid of all the embarrassing anime-isms that keep you from showing these Japtoons to your friends who aren’t anime fans and it has enough appeal to entertain the snobs who refuse to watch that “Japanimation” stuff.
Contrary to what the trailers show, there’s more here than just racing. Epic space opera this is not, but a combination of creative world building, an endearing cast of characters and a frenetic pace insures you will never, ever, be bored during the 100-minute running time. There is no expository dialog and no talking heads to cover up shoddy plotting and uncreative scriptwriting. Instead, things just keep happening, and rarely do you know what the hell is going on, but you love it because it is gorgeous and wonderful and you’re enjoying the crap out of this movie.
Think about the first time you watched Star Wars; before you saw the sequels/prequels and before you realized that hundreds of nerds spent their professional and amateur lives devoted to fleshing out the franchise’s universe. Before all that bullshit, Star Wars succeeded in showing you a small sliver of a galaxy filled with bizarre aliens and places, without explicitly telling you everything about it. It played off your imagination, creating a fantastic piece of science-fiction with your help. Redline does the exact same thing, and it manages to please that obsessive science-fiction nerd part of you without becoming boring or dry.
It’s the cinematic equivalent of being way too drunk and riding in your friend’s car. You take off the seatbelt, you stick your head out the window and you feel like you’re going a billion miles an hour and you have no idea what the hell’s going on or where you are, but the lights look beautiful and regardless of how you might feel the next morning, you’re having fun.
If Manga Entertainment knows what the hell they’re doing, they’ll push Redline into every arthouse cinema that they can. It may be the last remaining example of the extinct breed of high-budget science-fiction cartoons, and it deserves being seen in theaters. If you’re in the Bay Area, go to the Viz Theater in San Francisco and see it this week. If it opens at a local theater near you or plays at a convention you’re attending, make it a priority. If nothing else, pre-order it the second it goes up for sale on your favorite online retailer, because if you read Colony Drop, and you like quality Japanese cartoons, you will like Redline.
I was a huge anime fan up until 4 years ago when my new, unconvertible non-fan girlfriend pretty much ended it.
In retrospect it wasn't hard to ditch spending 3 hours watching some TV show or other. I had simply watched everything that was (a) good and (b) interested me, and was making excuses for watching material that didn't really interest me (calling it fandom). Eventually you end up watching stuff that isn't even good.
Every deserved criticism you have mentioned here, hits home like a salvo. Especially the comment about 'embarassing anime-isms' - industry wake the **** up.
And yeah, I really want to watch Redline now. For every reason you just mentioned. I am also looking through the DVD releases over the last couple of years, to see if anything interesting has shown up.
Fancy that, you can now get whole (good) TV shows, cheaply, affordably and legally.
Perhaps its a better idea to be an anime fan on leap years only ...
Heck, I can already see the similarity in style in the older trailer:
I was hoping you'd mention The Venus Wars, because that's what I kept thinking of during the film. When I wasn't just thinking something along the lines of "whoo yeah yeah baby".
Probably the coolest thing about the animation itself was that it was not only fluid, but *visible*. This wasn't a blurry, thickly-lined mess like, say, Dead Leaves. Things happen all the time, and you can actually see them all without squinting or relying on freeze frames.
So yeah, even though the afformentioned screening was two months ago, just thinking about this film makes me energetic again. Go see it, gang! Bring along your friends who might not like it along anyway. Even if they don't like it, the looks of confusion and/or fear as they seem something so thoroughly alien will totally be worth it.
On the other hand, Haruhi movie always get packed seating during its run. I watched it twice for sole reason of animation quality. Experience-wise, I had to put up with fanboy body odors and fan girl bad breath.
As I thought about it, it's obvious that anime fandom in general have retarded taste. They don't want to broaden their horizon and they accept mediocrity as reward.
About the Redline itself, I love the hyper kinetic energy in every action frame of animation. Blend of music and action so awesome that I was thumping my foot during action scenes. I was really happy that they're not doing any of those anime tropes. Characters are genuinely likeable and far more interesting than cookie cutter TV anime characters.
It would be nice if Redline does well in theaters. Sadly, Animage magazine is not hyping it. How about Newtype or Otona Anime magazine? Anyone knows?
Besides, it's not a REAL japtoon movie if it's not over 2 hours long. :)
And if it tanks at the box office? Well...it doesn't mean it's crap. Hell, a lot of films we regard as classics bombed at the box office (Carpenter's remake of THE THING, 2001, BLADE RUNNER...). Personally, I'd rather not be that pessimistic about the reaction to the film, but as you said, it's proof that there's still life in the anime industry and that despite the growth of moe, maids, and other teeth-grinding stuff, there can still be a REDLINE.
I am one of those guys who saw Akira on VHS at age 14, in 91 or 92. This post, this movie, gives me hope!
Man, I hope there are enough others out there like me to make Rideline a success.
For all the acumen that Manga demonstrated regarding what to license and what not to--small as their library catalog may be, you can ask yourself "will people still give a crap about this in 5 years?" and have the answer be "yes" for most of their stuff--their actual releases were quite prone to mishap. Here's hoping the Blu-Ray of Redline avoids that fate when and if the US gets it. Until the time comes when I can see it, I'm avoiding all trailers, promotional materials, and the like.
Great review all the same. I've been looking forward to this movie for several years and now that it's finally finished it's reassuring to see positive feedback from people like Tim Maughan and a site like Colony Drop.
I obviously haven't seen the movie yet, but I think a comparison to Ninja Scroll is warranted. After all the director of the film, Takeshi Koike was mentored by Yoshiaki Kawajiri. Kawajiri is very much a visceral director and is at his best when he does action and horror. I get the feeling that Koike has similar strengths. Also the only other anime out there looks anything even remotely like Redline would be the stuff that Kawajiri is responsible for. Glad someone is carrying on the tradition of that character design aesthetic.
Seriously, don't get stuck on the negative aspects of his post, he makes a very important point about Redline here -- for the first time in all too long a time in anime, we're seeing something that ISN'T simply focus-grouped towards a hyper-specific otaku subset, but for the general consumption of people who enjoy kooky animated films.
It's the near-complete absence of such intrepid creative values in modern anime that drives 90% of CD's vitriol (of which Sean is the most visible provider...he's entitled to it, it's his site, after all). You'll forgive Sean for being rather incredulous that something like Redline can exist in this day and age, as well as being somewhat jaded about its prospects for success in the modern anime market.
So I say work harder, Madhouse. You're slacking.
The fact that we were almost alone in the theater on that day, along with the horrifying Miku Hatsune "concert" trailer that previewed before the movie, almost made us question our decision.
Ten minutes later, we were blasted back in our seats, yelling and hooting and screaming "FUCK YES! YOU ARE THE BEST MOVIE EVER!" all the way through. It's been a longass time since I've seen an innovative Oriental Animated movie that wasn't pimped out as "Academy Award-Winning and fun for the whole family" or aimed at a specific kind of mouthbreathing moe fan.
It was not only the most exhilerating anime I've seen in a long time, but one of the most experimentally, stylistically bold. It felt incredibly fresh, and it didn't feel as if it was trying to be wacky or over the top on purpose (like Gurren Lagann kind of did). This movie was the best example of "Show, don't tell" I've seen recently--I totally got each and every crazy-ass character, even many of them had a minimal amount of lines. The fact that the entire thing was hand-drawn made REDLINE that much more badass.
Sadly, REDLINE isn't going to get that much hype or attention--but for some reason, I think that's a good thing. It's like back in the day when only you and a couple of your buds knew what this Japanimation thing was and how cool it could be, back when neckbeardy moe fiends and weeaboo fangirls weren't spawned yet. Feels good.
This review didn't seem angry to me at all, but that's because I'm also getting crotchety and bemoaning the fact that animated movies and TV shows used to be capable of so much more.
Maybe it's the optimist in me, but I don't think this one's going to tank.
To be honest though...I'm not really sure if there can truly be any "endearing characters" given the admittedly frenetic pace and the resulting overdose of hysterical excitement, because those terms usually aren't the most compatible...but perhaps simplicity is supposed to be a virtue in this case and that question doesn't necessarily matter in the long run if the setting is immersing enough.
We'll see. It's not a make-or-break issue, just something that stood out as a bit odd.
Nevertheless, I sincerely hope that this movie will do alright. I don't think it's too much of a stretch for Redline to appeal to the mainstream masses as opposed to just the arthouse crowd, under the right circumstances.
No, seriously. This has the earmarks of being the kind of movie Streamline would have picked up circa 1998, if the Andy Frain run Manga Ent. didn't snatch it first.
Man, I must be going insane. It seems like all I'm seeing lately is example after of example of 'slow time' in action.
As an avid reader of your website, let me start by congratulating your entire staff for the excellent writing you provide to an eager Internet audience. Speaking for myself, it is perhaps the best anime writing I have seen in my short existence as a Japtoon fan (now entering my fifth year: yes, I missed Akira's emission on terrestrial TV during the 90s. Mea culpa for being naive, coward and racist back then).
In particular, I appreciate you people holding the extended mourning for the premature passing of the great Satoshi Kon,something that lesser weblogs *cough*sankakucomplex*cough* didn't feel the need to even briefly interrupt from their regular schedule of disgusting cutesy tripe.
And, between my accolades, I see myself compelled to say that I was quite disappointed with this so-called "review".
I agree wholeheartedly with you that anime today is ongoing a sad process of dumbening; and that Colony Drop is one of the few places soldiering on the avalanche of mediocrity and pornographic clichés. But that struggle is no excuse to failing to do your job. You left what supposedly is a "review" in merely a vitriolic rant.
I left the piece thinking, "well, so what the fuck is this movie about?". Who are the characters? Is there anything else to the plot than, say, racing? Only a single paragraph is dedicated to this, and is a convulted mess of ambiguity and (too) consciously wading the minefield of spoilers.
Living in this third-world hellhole without adequate mining regulations, it will probably be a while before I watch this movie. A theatrical release of a Japanese movie of any kind (even a small one, in one of those hipstery downtown cinemas) is close to Utopia down here, so we will have to wait.
In the kindest of faiths, I recommend to you: leave the sharpest parts of the spite for the Operation British pieces, and make actual reviews out of the reviews.
Other than that, I beg of you to continue your excellent job to present the other side of Japanimation to the polluted younger generation, to make this look like the goddamn fun it once was, and not the embarrassment we see today.
I think after seeing this movie, it would be a big disservice to talk about the plot or the characters at large. I think CD nailed the feel of Redline without getting too much into it and possibly killing it for someone.
Nevertheless, it's preaching to the converted: a lot of anime fans are waiting intently to see this movie, and I count myself among them. I'm pretty sure that there'll be some people who'll be begging to see this film.
And I thought everybody hated Venus Wars anyway.
I just wanted to thank you for writing this piece. After reading this, and seeing as though it is playing at my local cinema, I thought that, "well, if Colony Drop recommended it..."
How long has it been since I left a cinema with a stupidly huge grin on my face? My god, this film... I thought that such attention to detail, such massive creative design was dead in anime. No cliches, no mass pandering. I did not think Japan had any confident directors left, but there seems to be one left.
For making my entire week, sir, you have my deepest thanks, and your lack of spoilers is much appreciated.
I managed to catch Redline on opening day in Tokyo about 2 weeks back - and based on the experience I think its safe to say that a lot of CD's vitriol against modern anime fandom is correct and that the movie has essentially been sent to die.
First screening on the opening day (they were even giving out strips of film at the door) - and the theater was 1/3 full at best. I havent seen a single commercial on TV either - very weird considering that Takuya Kimura is in the lead role. His name helped to drive sales for Howls Moving Castle and is currently plastered all over the upcoming Yamato movie. But Redline? Not a peep. The movie has been sent to die. Heres hoping that it becomes a cult hit once it hits DVD/blu.
For all mu negativity though, like Sean I was impressed just by the fact that the film exists. With this, AND the SF movie trilogy Marduk Scramble coming (http://m-scramble.jp/special/) its looking like the best year for theatrical anime in quite a while.
This anime is great, but its no better then alot of anime out there. People are so starved for the real thing that they have raised this film a little too high. Compare the animation with 2001s Metropolis or I could list at least 50 films from the 80s that are just as good or better animation wise, and thats no lie. Its a fun film and its really nice to see the cel animation, but I dont think people should give this anime the crown just yet... Nobody ever raves about Ai City but animation wise is red line really any better? (I know what your thinking:did he just use Ai City as his example!?)
I think Mr.Steve Harrison said it best in his above post:I shall point out that between 1979 and 1982 Toei cranked out Galaxy Express 999, Adieu Galaxy Express, Cyborg 009, Queen Millennia and Arcadia of my Youth. While cranking out a number of anime series, live action shows and 'TV manga festival' featurettes.
So I say work harder, Madhouse. You're slacking.
Complaining that one finds enjoyment in something that's not that good just strikes me as being a prick.
And then what?
Do you REALLY want to wait around for the 'next Redline' and hope Bones doesn't do a crap revamp of Panty and Stocking, only non-ironic and boobadelic?
Sunrise is already gearing up for their version in case you hadn't heard.
It's not about events. It's about pipeline, as in content and flow, or at least it is to me.
People then complain my enjoyment of Redline is too complacent, and I should be expecting more out of the Japanese animation industry, as if things would actually change.
Fuck you. It's not the 1980s anymore, and anime isn't made for us anymore. Redline is a great movie, and our collective bitterness shouldn't obscure that fact.
Also, if you seriously think Ai City's animation is comparable to Redline's, kindly get the fuck off my web site.
So what I want to know is, why is it ever time we get these so-called 'groundbreaking' japtoons (Redline, Akira, 'Neo Tokyo', Robot Carnival), they all seem to have the Euro vibe, as if some Frenchie did the chara work?
Must all the 'good' anime look like Moebius crapped it out between sessions of doing stuff for Heavy Metal magazine? Are these movies deemed good just because they don't 'suffer' from looking that 'childish' anime stuff? I mean besides the violence and tits and all that.
Mind, given the Streamline years, Fist of the North Star (movie) doesn't fit that paradigm, so who knows.
I would like to quote Cartman now:
Cartman: [walks over to Scott's end of the table] Yes! Yesss! Oh, let me taste your tears, Scott!
[starts licking Scott's tears off his face]
Cartman: Mm, your tears are so yummy and sweet!
Kyle: Dude, I think it might be best for us to never piss Cartman off again.
Stan: Good call.
Cartman: Oh, the tears of unfathomable sadness! My-yummy!
[licks the tears off the table and off Scott's face]
Cartman: Mm-yummy, you guys!
[screen closes to Looney Tunes-style splash]
Cartman: Yuppitibut, that's all, folks!
Take it easy Sean, and feel free to call me out on all my biased reviews aswell!!
And quite honestly, that's true to a large degree. Quite a lot of these 80s films/OVAs are only excellent in a very narrowly defined niche. Nostalgia tends to cloud that fact, but anything current gets dissected under a microscope and if you're already less than amused with the state of the art, you easily might find it wanting in some regards. Now, I haven't seen Redline yet (I just know this feeling from other cases), but I wouldn't be surprised if it turns out to be "not all that good" - but if you're disappointed by that, I highly suspect you'll never like an anime again. And guess what? That's perfectly okay too.
I must have missed the subliminal message of Redline being as good or better than Ai City or Akira.
Its like you people just want to invent a goddamn debate. Keep it up!
Sean was ______.
[ ]not told
[x]uh, what the fuck are you talking about Regan?
You know, dudes, you can just let cartoons be awesome sometimes. It's okay. Your mother's not gonna confiscate your internet or anything.
Finally someone that thinks the same way I do, I love the real mature sci fi anime from backj in the day. You guys are so right saying how it is all going away because shit like Naruto and Bleach is all over and millions of freak line up and buy everything.
I love Venus Wars, I remember seeing it SOOOOO long ago and I did not even know the name of the movie but when you guys mention it I googled it and I could not believe it was the movie I saw so long ago
This site is amazing
Must all the 'good' anime look like Moebius crapped it out between sessions of doing stuff for Heavy Metal magazine? Are these movies deemed good just because they don't 'suffer' from looking that 'childish' anime stuff? I mean besides the violence and tits and all that."
All those have pretty unique art styles. YES they have a western influence, but so does the large eyed "kiddy" anime - it's just a matter of mixing your influences in a creative way and also adding your own touch. THIS is what creates memorable visuals for people.
Anyways looks like I'll be praying for more films like Redline, hahahahahaha.
All I can say is that it's definitely different from a lot of the stuff that comes out, I'd honestly rather something be good than different.
Holy fuck, that was great!!! I agree 100% with sean that it never leaves you bored or your train of thought moving toward better movies. I do think think it did have some talking heads; but just one; the leader of roboworld kept flapping his mouth doctor who/hitchikers style about his satellites/new weapons/funky-boy. But even that was entertaining! The love ending seemed abrupt and out of place because the film spent so much time developing the other Fellini characters, but those characters were fun as Hell to follow and the time it spent with them was much better spent than slowly convining the audience that JP and Sonoshee are in love. One more minor gripe, this flick has flashbacks that are supposed to explain everything, but I bitch about that in most movies anyway. Go buy it now! Buy five copies!
Redline doesn't really do anything that hasn't been done before, but the way it did it and the quality of how it was done is top notch. It makes a very watchable movie the way films like Die Hard and The Matrix are.
Speaking of The Matrix I think some of the same creative people on this film were also involved with the Animatrix. Check out the Animatrix short "World Record". Even if you don't like "The Matrix" films, the Animatrix is worth checking out.
Finally, Manga and Anchor Bay could have gotten off their asses and done a little more to promote this awesome film. If nothing else give a solid release date. They did do one thing right though, and that was the dubbing. It's excellent. Usually I watch the subbed version just to have a basis of comparison if nothing else. With Redline I didn't even bother. Even if the translation is possibly butchered, the dub is still one of the best I've ever seen.
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