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Let’s change gears, drive away from the character driven Anime we have been discussing, and careen into this week’s Anime Monday flick: Redline.
Set in an weird universe populated by humans, aliens, robots, talking dogs, and all sorts of odd creatures, our hero Sweet JP is immersed in the world of racing. Unlike our Nascar, their sport of racing takes place on more natural terrain and involves Mario Kart-esque shenanigans. Redline is an action sci-fi first and foremost and it wants you to know it. The movie begins at full speed with an fast-paced, quickly edited racing sequence. JP with a ridiculously large pompadour is racing from behind in a yellow Trans am. Meanwhile, a young child jumps around with glee at the sidelines. And in some distant office, two mobsters discuss the outcome of the race. Despite possessing amazing racing talent, JP is not as well endowed money wise. He funds his racing by borrowing money from mobsters who then recoup their loans through good old betting rings and race fixing. While JP’s bank account comes out on top, his racing suffers. He ends up in the hospital and out of qualification for the most prestigious (and coincidentally most dangerous) racing event, the Redline.
Luckily for JP, he’s the protagonist. By means of a little deux ex machina, two racers drop out amidst concerns over the safety of the host planet Roboworld. JP heads over to Roboworld to prep for the Redline. The hostile government of Roboworld are miffed to say the least that they have to hold the event. The cyborg regime which sports badges that are swastika-inspired barely show any restraint in expressing their displeasure. Despite it all, JP and fellow racer/love-interest Sonoshee are undeterred, setting them up to compete in more than just a race.
Redline really works best as an action film. There’s barely any breathing room between action set pieces. If you are not the biggest fan of steel boxes on four wheels careening in circles, never fear. These are souped up racing cars with tricks, weapons, and throttles up the wazoo. The races are shot so well they will definitely have you on the edge of your seat. Gratuitous sex is liberally thrown in to mix things up. And that’s where things start to go off track for Redline. Sticking to the clichéd formula that requires a love interest subplot – Redline tries to sell you on half-baked love story between JP and Sonoshee.
Like a lot of anime that demeans its audience by assuming horny boys make up their entire market audience, Sonoshee is hyper-sexualized with obnoxiously large breasts, small, tight garments, and topless scenes in which she complains about being sexualized in a commercial. It’s downright insulting! When the film is not relegating Sonoshee into a sex object, it’s making fun of femininity by way of the only other women racers who are portrayed as vapid sluts who sell the image of sex more than their racing abilities. And unfortunately, Redline is not really worse than a lot of other films (outside of Anime included) which feel the need to depict women in such a way. Women can be dumb, women can be sexy, and they can be naked on film. It only becomes a problem when that’s the predominant depiction, which it is.
Alas, Redline suffers as well from a poor English dub with unoriginal dialogue. If you can find a version with the original audio track, I would encourage you to watch that. Redline comes in an attractive animation style that uses thick black outlines that conveys a more mature look. The palette sticks to more somber browns and blacks, with neon greens, blues, and pinks that look sickly. It works great for the adult nature of the film which still knows how to appeal to your inner kid with Hot Wheels cars of your dreams. So all in all, Redline is not without any redeeming qualities. Just come for the animation and the action, not the boobs.