That Other Thing That Impressed Me About Redline

Redline Sonoshee McLaren naked cigarette

I won’t mess around here. The Redline anime film is badass. It was everything what I wanted the Speed Racer live action adaptation to be like, only better. It didn’t waste time building characters, instead reveled in the caricatures it was celebrating. After all, it wasn’t about one speedy racer, it was about a race, and most of the film was devoted to the most exciting race I’ve ever seen in a feature film.

It (Veteran animator Koike Takeshi, and writer Enokido Yoji yeah that guy) took elements from the original (and the Wachowski Brothers’) Speed Racer, and then the pod race from George Lucas’ Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, which both really remember love for Cecile B. Demille’s Ben Hur with its battling chariot scene in the Roman Hippodrome and put out a truly amazing spectacle1.

This movie is about incredible scenes that drip with exciting coolness. There is nothing lame about this film, everything screams awesomeness: from reclining to watch the race on TV, to each racer boarding their respective cockpits. But having said that, I want to get into a particular nuance the film plays around with: the concept of the underdog.


JP was NOT an underdog in the traditional David vs. Goliath sense of the word. From the first race he was the obvious monster in the pack, and he only lost because the matter was fixed. His conflict was “when will he be free to just claim the prize that is rightfully his” and that the external barrier was how the gangs have his friend Frisbee by the balls.

This in itself was neatly resolved when another friend (the old 4-armed mechanic) came to the rescue and simply blew the gangsters to pieces with a very big weapon.


Thus, the core constraint was “the freedom to race to one’s content” vs. the unjust and impure  (to the race) obligations in order to live and to stay in the race. It was never about winning the race. Once this constraint was taken care of, the victory was just there to be snatched. The former champion Machinehead Tetsuzin was there to provide token dramatic resistance (but of course in an AWESOME spectacular way) but the victory was there. It was ALWAYS there.

Maybe it’s the hair, but JP reminds me of the mighty Thrudgelmir, piloted by the even more awesome Sanger Zonvolt. Here is a mighty machine with a mighty pilot, no underdog nonsense involved. The general Volton is the same, with that kind of hair. There’s nothing exaggerated about his prowess, he’s just someone who oozes confidence. The show does well to give him the space to be awesome when he took on the Funky Boy monster by transforming into a monster himself.



So what I’m saying here is that Redline was very successful in putting into play a set of awesome caricatures and let them be awesome and almost never at the expense of each other. This is not so easily done. The narrative does this by making the race ultra-chaotic. The soldiers joining the fray allowed each racer to demonstrate her ability without necessarily trumping another racer.

Redline racers machinehead sonoshee lynchman johnnyboya trava shinkai superboins gori-rider miki todoroki jp

Thus, there were no stupid underdogs (unless you force rank). This makes Redline special. You already knew that, but this reason should be news to you, not that you needed to feel Redline was even more awesome than it already is!

1Of course there’s Revolutionary Girl Utena Adolescence Apocalypse but I don’t want to spoil that one, it’s too good.

About ghostlightning

I entered the anime blogging sphere as a lurker around Spring 2008. We Remember Love is my first anime blog. Click here if this is your first time to visit WRL.
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45 Responses to That Other Thing That Impressed Me About Redline

  1. Fuck I didn’t even know Enokido was involved in this, now doesn’t that make it all the more obvious! Also explains JP’s hair.

  2. Kraker2k says:

    Enokido was just hired by Ishii Katsuhito to help clean up the script(Yoshiki Sakurai was also hired too). The story & setting of Redline is just an extension of world originally seen in Trava(an OVA from about 2003), which was also the work of Ishii and Koike.

  3. schneider says:

    I might be the weird one, but I really liked the middle of the film. Some people call it boring, but I thought it was very effective in getting to know the other racers. While they aren’t anything more than caricatures, they had their own lives and stories that which we are allowed a glimpse into, and it makes them memorable despite the film’s relatively short time allocated to characterization. They could be the stars of their own individual shows (though I know that Trava had an OVA, but I haven’t watched that)!

    It also had a nice “calm before the storm” mood, which provided better context to the real meat of the film.

    • I don’t dislike it at all, it’s because it’s impossible to be bored just looking at every key frame made entirely of jizz. How can you be bored by such amazing drawing frame by frame?

      Otherwise I agree with everything you said.

  4. Justin says:

    Oh no–it’s another one for Redline! (Yep. I have not watched it. YET. I will. Soon!)

  5. Reid says:

    Things I like about “Redline”
    1. Awesome awesome awesome races that remind me of the chaos of the chase scene in “Dead Leaves”
    2. Lynchman crimefighting highlight reel
    3. Lynchman’s Lynchcar
    4. Lynchman’s warmup sequence before sneaking into the interior of the satellite
    5. Lynchman running as fast as the Lynchcar
    6. The possibility of a Lynchman show unto itself
    7. Sonoshee’s LAYGS THAT GO FOREVER
    8. How JP’s car is a Camaro with a 35,000 hp engine
    9. Lynchman’s hat/helmet/mask
    10. Dr. Zoidberg cameo

    This is, by far, some of the best fun I’ve had in a while. I love me some racing anime (yes, even the obvious ones…) and this is totally crazy. It’s like the “Wacky Racers” but amped up on methamphetamine. “Redline” is the very textbook definition of crazy awesome. Also, did I mention that Lynchman should definitely get his own show?

    Sonoshee is hawt. Time for a cold shower.

    • Reid says:

      Also, how could I forget the zipper cockpit of the Roboworld soldiers’ power armors and the boobcockpits of the Boin chicks’ transforming racer?! Silly me.

    • If I had to make a list, I’m gonna be stuck here on this computer a loooong time. Let me comment on yours instead:

      1. I didn’t see Dead Leaves, but I did see Revolutionary Girl Utena: Adolescence Apocalypse and the final moments of the film remember so much love for this. I WIN.
      2. That was some fuckmazing animation there, the fight scene by that old devil of an admiral (LOL) was incredible.
      3. Not a favorite but still cool. I prefer GODWING, oh good lord.
      4. Yes.
      5. HAHAHAHA yes.
      6. Oh lol yes, DON’T FORGET JOHNNYBOYA.
      7. And her tits.
      8. Don’t really feel the yellow, but it works with the overall palette of the film.
      9. You’re a Lynchmanfag.
      10. I don’t know this.

      It’s weird, but I am over the moon about how much this film is connected with Revolutionary Girl Utena which is just about the greatest anime ever made.

      Sonoshee is mine.

      • Reid says:

        Lynchman is tooooo awesome. In a show filled with ridiculous caricatures, he and and Johnny Boy must be the most glorious of all. Whatcould be cooler than a Lynch-mob Batman? He’s like freakin’ Capt. Falcon from F-Zero but even more sinister with his skull and crossbones and KKK/Knight Templar hood (not that I’m for the Klan, but that’s clearly what the character design was meant to evoke). Anyway, sorry for getting carried away there.

        Sonoshee is one of my favorite anime ladies of 2011 (yeah, I know the movie is older than that but it’s only coming out in the States in November). Not only was she hawt beyond reason, she also had a lot of cool stuff going for her. She preferred the use of anti-grav engines on her racer, something that set her apart from the other drivers who all used wheels and allowed her to take shortcuts most of the others could not take advantage of, which shows she’s a resourceful driver. The first car we see her in is basically a Morgan Three-Wheeler, which is an incredible little car powered by a motorcycle V-twin, and that to me shows she has some taste in classic automobiles. She can cook, which shows she’s very homey and, despite her turning down JP’s advances at the restaurant, citing “only caring about racing.” Finally, I was absolutely floored how she wouldn’t help JP turn his car over – but then in the final stretch when they both grip the wheel it was like some kind of great revelation! Ah, now THAT is romance. A real woman and a real man responding to each other’s honesty by letting the other partner be as “real” as they possibly can. She wanted to win, JP wanted to win and they both wanted to prove it to the other one. Great stuff. I’ve never seen anything “Utena” but if it can make me feel as pumped and excited as this scene in “Redline” as far as an instinctive and instantaneous sense of the deep feelings between two characters, then I’ll have to add it to my list of stuff to watch.

        Oh, and this is Dr. Zoidberg. The one crustacean alien dude made me think of “Futurama”.

        • Lynchman is cool I suppose, and I’d be interested to watch more of him.

          LOL you have interesting strong opinions on what is romance. It must be really fun to be 12 (not disparaging you here!).

          Utena isn’t a pumped-up action show like Redline and there are no Getter Rays. It’s a shoujo anime. But fucking hell, it’s just about the greatest thing I’ve ever seen.

          • Reid says:

            I just typed an incredible reply, but for whatever reason it got deleted before I could hit the enter button, so here’s the shorter version:

            I fully deserve whatever disparagement you level at me, but, in my defense, when I watch these hot-blooded anime shows I don’t want to see all the “real-life” stuff that goes into a “real-life” romance. I just want to see a man and a woman in complete harmony, even if it only lasts a moment. For me that moment was when they both gripped the steerting wheel of JP’s car. In that one instant I got the suddent impression (yes, even as their faces did the vertigo-effect and melted into the speed) that, for them, right then, they were the other’s world entire. And that was brilliant to me.

          • I get you. The context is decisive. They love each other to bits, and at that moment, it was perfect and awesome racing happened.

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  7. megaroad1 says:

    Had the chance to see Redline on the big screen at a film festival a couple of months ago. A staggering visual experience with a killer soundtrack. And a perfect example that one doesn’t need a convoluted storyline to make a great film. In fact the story couldn’t be any more straightforward.

  8. steelbound says:

    There was so much that impressed me about Redline and tons of moments that I totally love but I thought the ending didn’t quite live up to the rest of the movie. It’s hard to articulate; I wouldn’t say I thought it was a disappointing ending or even a slightly underwhelming ending. It’s like the movie had one more over-the-top, outrageous trick – the Mother-Of-All-Scenes – and the animators decided not to use it. Granted I didn’t get the chance to see this on a big screen but I can quickly think of several tv anime series (Gurren Lagann, Panty and Stocking, Puella Magi Madoka Magica) that pulled out that final MOAS – maybe the better term is Crowing Moment of Awesome – to give the show a very memorable ending.

    • I liked this about the movie. I felt like its real purpose was to go over the top without going BEYOND THE IMPOSSIBLE, because the story didn’t warrant it. It’s just a movie about a race. It turns out to be a really chaotic race, but it’s still just a race. (spoilers) All the racers lived, all of them admired the finale, it’s really just… a race.

    • I dunno, I loved how the final scenes remembered so much love for Revolutionary Girl Utena: Adolescence of Utena. It feels soooo good.

  9. SquareSphere says:

    I liked 99.9% of the whole thing. The .1% I didn’t like was the final “speed boost”, I face palmed pretty hard at that as it felt out of place since we had no getter beams/spiral power/fold waves etc to explain where the boost came from.

    Everything else, as exaggerated as they were, seemed pretty grounded in the “science” of their universe.

  10. Such an amazing movie! Really was a lot of fun watching with so many people over Skype! I think we had roughly twenty something people? Well I was in for the second watch. I think I was blown away by the animation so amazing seeing all the alien designs and all those special cars! I can really see more of the pod racing scene in Star wars as well that and aliens! Can’t forget them.

    Besides JP I liked Machine head! Really awesome near the end watching him go all out.

    Yep! The power of love wins the race or JP’s amazing hair? xD

    • That’s crazy over 20 people!

      I also got to watch it with a bunch of fools over Skype but we didn’t reach half your number. Yes, Machine Head Tetsuzin is badass in his Godwing. I do need to tell you that this is a direct reference to Tetsujin-28, the very first ever giant robot anime.

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  12. Yi says:

    Totally agreed. The race itself wasn’t the main conflict. It wasn’t about JP versus the other racers, or even the racers versus those military guys. It was JP versus freedom. But I think herein lies a problem: those other conflicts start feeling kind of like distractions. I felt like a lot of the politics and bioweapon stuff distracted from this core conflict. The race itself is less so since it’s more directly related to racing to JP’s heart’s content. And the various racers packed so much personality that I could forgive it. But the faceless solider just felt lame, especially considering how much exposition went into setting this up.

    That said, this movie is so super awesome! Very impressive and special indeed~

    • All the things you mention as distractions are but window dressings that set up dramatic tension for the eventual presentation of these elements. It’s just hype for these “performances.” if I think we’re talking about the same things.

      The faceless soldiers are part of every show with battles ever made. They are necessary and welcome, because you can’t give every guy that dies a name. A lot of the time they’re there to “thicken” the violence onscreen, and yes they serve as to exemplify the violent capabilities of the minor characters. Major characters get to destroy named, more significant opponents.

      To go into the further specifics…

      Redline is an affront to the sovereign power of any planetary state. It just so happens (and of course it’s necessary for a violent spectacle) that Roboworld is a prickly, easy to slight, military state. The political conflict is actually very, very simple: “FUCK YOU IF YOU THINK I’LL LET YOU HAVE YOUR RACE ON MY PLANET, AND EXPOSE OUR MILITARY INSTALLATIONS THAT YOU’RE ROUTE IS RUNNING THROUGH.”

      There really isn’t anything more to that, so I don’t think anyone should be truly distracted by this from the race itself (or the lips, the tits, the array of phallic imagery, etc. etc.).

  13. kiwami says:

    in Tailenders i felt the speed
    Redline was too slow.

    by the way, have you seen that one guy from Birdman contest?
    it was anime IRL
    pilot is flying by the sheer effort and guts

    this one is a long version with subs.
    there’s another without subs, featuring only pilot.

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  17. mosstanaka says:

    This is one of the weirdest films I ever seen, yet the racing scenes are pretty good.

  18. I personally think this amazing posting , “That Other Thing That Impressed Me About Redline
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  19. David says:

    Redline is fantastic. The animation and soundtrack are superb! If you haven’t seen it, you should also check out The Woman Called Fujiko Mine – it’s another anime that showcases Takeshi Koike’s amazing talent!

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