Raise your hand if you’ve played Nintendo’s racing game F-Zero in any of its incarnations. Those of you familiar with this video games series will have some idea of what awaits you in Redline.
When my brother first showed me some clips from this film insisting that I watch it, I have to admit I was somewhat doubtful that it would be anything but a nonsensical display of fancy animation, because, hey, does a flashy racing anime really need anything beyond the simplest of plots? While I’m not going to tell you that Redline has a profoundly moving storyline that stirs the depths of the human soul, it’s not without some substance to go along with its overflowing abundance of style.
Like F-Zero, Redline takes place in a futuristic setting known as the M3 Nebula where a race that is broadcast galaxy-wide called “Redline” is about to take place. Also like F-Zero, this universe is populated by a veritable freakshow of aliens, cyborgs, and other assorted lifeforms. You’ve got dog-people, blue gorillas, multi-armed car mechanics, a bevy of people that dress like insane superheroes and villains, and people that are half-man, half-machine (one of which who has his own theme song). Our protagonist, “Sweet” JP, is a fresh-out-of prison racecar driver who’s been throwing races with the help of his partner, Frisbee, despite his apparent desire to simply win. After losing a qualifying race for Redline (known as Yellowline), he is suddenly allowed in due to several other racers dropping out. The reason? This year’s race is being held on the planet Roboworld, run by militaristic cyborgs who are rather upset that there’s a race being held on their planet without their permission, and have declared open war on any racers attempting to compete on Roboworld.
Of course, Sweet JP and the rest of the participating racers have no qualms about putting their lives at risk for the glory of winning the competition, and spend time prepping on the nearby world of Europass. It’s here that most of the character development occurs, as JP discusses the troubles resulting from Frisbee’s mafia dealings with an old friend, and also meets several of the racers, including the qualifying race’s winner Sonoshee. She appears to have a shared past with JP, further revealed as they discuss what drives them to compete. It’s not an in-depth character study, but it definitely gives them real motivations and explanations for their actions. It’s easy to forget all this though, in the final act of the film that takes place on Roboworld and is a high-energy, action-heavy blur of speed and explosions, taken to bizarre extremes as is only fitting for such an over-the-top sci-fi setting.
I would be remiss to neglect the film’s visuals, and if the characters are too weird and the storyline too weak for you, you can at least be in awe of the masterful animation at work here. The entirety of the animation is done in a hard light and shadow style, and though it’s been said many times before about many different films, Redline really does look like a graphic novel that’s in motion in front of you. Do yourself a favor and be sure to see this thing in HD, because it would be a crime to lessen the look of the film in any way, and the sharp, crisp style really pops in hi-def.
If nothing else, Redline should be seen for the sights and sounds, but hang around for a while and enjoy the colorful characters and rich setting, and please, don’t take it too seriously. This is a space-race on crack, and it’s a hell of a ride.
And now I’m going to go play some F-Zero GX.