“I don’t know where you magic pixies came from, but I like your pixie drink!” – Barney Gumble.
What does the above throwaway line from The Simpsons have to do with the full-on eyeball orgasm that is the seven-years-in-the-making anime opus, Redline? Perhaps nothing.
But, then again, maybe everything.
You see, a film like Redline, well, it’s like a sugar high - the same sort of which Barney witnessed while said “magic pixies” – nee’ Bart and Milhouse – overdosed on pure, uncut Slushie syrup. Watching it, you can almost feel your eyes widen and your pulse quicken as you become hypnotized by the kaleidoscopic colors and blaring soundtrack. You’re pulverized by this all-out sensory assault, and, before you can even utter the words “But I don’t even LIKE anime”, you’re completely won over by it. By film’s end, you stumble away entertained and thoroughly drained, but you’re ready to go again. And again. You want that rush. You need that rush. And that’s when you know you are good and truly hooked.
As someone who rarely watches anime apart from the occasional Studio Ghibli film, Redline wasn’t even a blip on my movie radar. Yes, I’d read plenty about it over the seven-plus years it had been in development, but, even with Madhouse, Inc. studios (the folks who brought us the best bits of both Animatrix and Batman: Gotham Knight) behind it, I just really didn’t care. Fifteen to twenty years ago, at the height of my card-carrying Otaku days, sure; I’d have been counting the days until its release, but, during the late-90’s proliferation of J-Everything, the market was flooded by substandard fare (mostly confusing and sprawling multi-part OVA titles) killing whatever interest I still had in the genre.
While Redline doesn’t exactly rekindle my love for anime, it does remind me of its potential. This somewhat flimsy premise about an intergalactic take-no-prisoners road race is lifted from at least a half-dozen other movies, most notably Death Race 2000, but the story, while entertaining (and, at times, howlingly funny) is merely the skeleton upon which to hang myriad eye-popping animated set pieces, each hand-drawn in an exquisitely detailed and wonderfully organic style not seen since the genre’s heyday. The visual smorgasbord makes digesting the otherwise paper-thin plot, in which Sweet JP, a rogue racer with an anti-grav pompadour, and his rival/love interest, “Cherry Boy Hunter” Sonoshee court one another whilst taking part in the annual Redline tournament hosted on the hostile planet, RoboWorld, easy peasy. The sublpots about crooked managers, eccentric fellow competitors, and a military faction bent on destroying the race and all of its participants is just gravy - a gearhead’s wet dream as motion art piece, and one that will win over all but the most ardent of animation detractors.
Manga Entertainment releases Redline on Blu-ray via parent company, Anchor Bay, in a jaw-droppingly crisp and gorgeous 1.78:1 1080p transfer. There are those who suggest that HD doesn’t really make that much of a difference over standard definition when it comes to animated material, suggesting that the Blu-ray upgrade isn’t really noticeable enough to merit the premium one would pay of its DVD counterpart. This may be true of some of the more traditional animated properties out there (Family Guy, The Simpsons, etc), but Redline is a different beast altogether. This is exceptionally detailed stuff we’re talking about, with loads of texture and fine lines that really pop in HD. The depth of the image is almost tangible, and the colors – oh my…the colors. While I’ve not seen the DVD and can’t compare the two, I can say with no hesitation that to truly appreciate the beauty of this film one need see it in the highest resolution on the best format possible, and that, my friends, is Blu-ray. When paired up with a brutal 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack, Redline becomes an audio/visual tour de force that screams reference quality. This is one immersive track, with a surround mix that rivals some of the best I’ve heard.
Extras include a very in-depth, near-feature-length look at the making of the film entitled Perfect Guide to Redline. It’s a fascinating exploration of the sheer amount of work that went into this ambitious project, and covers every base from inception to fan reaction to the final product. Also included is a somewhat condensed version entitled, appropriately enough, Quick Guide to Redline. Rounding out the extras are trailers for this and other Manga releases. All extras are presented in 1080p.
Whether you’re currently an anime fanatic or a jaded old bastard like me who thought the genre peaked back in 1988 with Akira, Redline will astound you with its amazing visuals, old-school production style, and visceral thrills. The Blu-ray from Manga offers excellent PQ and audio, as well as a very impressive collection of quality (not quantity) extras. I’ve watched and re-watched this film several times since receiving it for review and, not only does it still entertain the hell out of me; I see something new in every viewing. Will this reawaken the anime enthusiast in me? That’s doubtful as there’s simply nothing like Redline out there right now, and, by all accounts, nothing similar on the horizon. What we do have, however, is a once-in-a-lifetime treat that’s destined for classic status, and earns my highest possible recommendation.