Review: Redline (2010)

Looking to start your engines? Kick it into gear with Redline, the deranged turbocharged anime from Madhouse Studio. If Jack Kirby had been the artistic director for F-Zero GX, you’d get this a nitro-boosted sci-fi speedster that proves that hand-drawn animation can still burn off CGI.

The cursory plot sets a weird cadre of drivers and their souped-up machines against each other in the ultimate intergalactic road race. The only thing cooler than rockabilly antihero JP (voiced by Tadanobu Asano) is his gravity-defying hairdo. But he’s caught between on-track rival/unrequited love Sonoshee (Yū Aoi), killer robot warlords, and gangster race fixers: Can even his turbo-charged hotrod save him now?

Producers Madhouse Studios have been getting additional buzz stateside since the announcement of their upcoming collaboration with Marvel Comics on some of their big franchises (including Iron Man andX-Men), and director Takeshi Koike dabbled in speed with his slice of their The Animatrix anthology,World Record. Yet there’s none of that show’s ho-hum glumness. In Redline, everything is burnished chrome and afterburn flames, and physics is for other people.

Juiced up with a jazz-funk soundtrack from James Shimoji, the helter-skelter lunacy kicks into high gear for the final lap of the REDLINE race (yes, everyone shouts the word.) Seriously, rules? We don’t need no stinking rules.

It’s that rarest of anime – one that would benefit from being dubbed. I know, controversial, but keeping track of the dialogue is a challenge against such a super-gonzoid background. Not that the narrative is the biggest selling point, since Koike doesn’t feel obliged to explain, well, pretty much anything. If suddenly a giant, energy-beam-blasting bioweapon erupts from the ground midrace, so be it. Just strap in. It’s worth the ride.

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