Going against modern conventions of animation, Redline was created using hand-drawn sketches - over 100,000 of them - rather than computer graphics. The result is a film of gorgeous style, setting, colour and visual complexity. The extraordinary level of detail isn't restricted to the visuals; every sound has been painstakingly mapped onto the film, while the backing soundtrack (which sounds like a Japanese version of Ministry's 'Psalm 69') was custom-created for the scenes, ensuring that the music always fits the action.
The story centres around Redline, a once-every-five-years racing event with only one rule: first across the finish line is the winner. Most vehicles are heavily armed (à la Mad Max or Death Race 2000), but the main protagonist - an adrenaline-junkie racer named JP - refuses to carry weapons, instead insisting that he has the talent to win on speed alone. JP's pacifist attitude has earned him the outstanding nickname of the Very Sweet Weaponless Prince. Visually, JP is a likeable anime hybrid of John Travolta in Grease crossed with James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause. His friendship with (wonderfully named) fellow racer Cherry Boy Hunter Sonoshee McLaren, develops into a love interest which runs parallel to the main story of the race. On the surface, Redline is a high-octane, heavily stylised mixture of the movies Death Race 2000 and Mad Max, the cartoon Wacky Races, and the computer games Total Wipeout and Unreal Tournament. Look deeper than the high-speed races across sweeping vistas and rocky mesas, however, and you'll find more going on. There's a backdrop of military tyranny that parallels our modern world, with corrupt forces masquerading as the 'good guys' while attempting to silence the voices of freedom. Additionally, a Cinderella story develops between Sonoshee and JP. When Sonoshee drops an earring, JP mounts his supersonic motorcycle and goes for a midnight ride, just to leave the earring and some flowers on Sonoshee's doorstep. The futuristic race is simply the context against which the plot is set. The real theme of the film is a timeless one: love and friendship can conquer all.
Redline is a meticulously crafted work of art. It has style and substance. Rich in allegorical elements and moral themes, the film is a masterwork of anime.
Viewers can have additional fun by comparing the English voice-over with the subtitles (which seem to be direct translations of the original Japanese). The differences are sometimes considerable and often amusing.