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Redline Anime DVD Review

12 min read

An adrenaline fueled thrill ride for the senses.

What They Say:
Redline: the biggest and most deadly racing tournament in the universe. Only held once every five years, everyone wants to stake their claim to fame – including JP, a reckless dare-devil driver oblivious to speed limits with his ultra-customized car. Meanwhile, organized crime and militaristic governments want to leverage the race to their own ends. Amongst the other elite rival drivers in the tournament, JP falls for the alluring Sonoshee – but will she prove his undoing, or can a high speed romance survive a mass destruction race?

The Review:
Redline is a title that has a good deal of built up anticipation around it and Manga has made sure to strive to produce an audio selection that matches expectations. For this release there are two language selections available –Japanese and English- and both also have a pair of options so that those with 5.1 setups get the most from the presentation but it also includes 2.0 tracks so those with that set up don’t miss out. For the purpose of the review the Japanese 5.1 track was used (and later the English 5.1 as well, detailed below this). It is a gorgeous track that clearly brings across various effects from large explosions to the crackling of JP’s leather jacket. The audio is largely center speaker driven with the other speakers used for directionality when appropriate with no dropouts or distortions noted. Also of note, the subtitles do drop a line at one point which is a touch annoying.

On the English side Bang Zoom! replicates the care that the Japanese side took with creating effects and bringing them to the viewer’s ears and also delivers with the same strength and lack of dropouts or distortions. But hey, that is to be expected from a veteran production company and the real question people will want to know is- how is the English dub? The answer to that is a bit on the complex side and some of it depends on how well one accepts the voices and part of it is in the issue of how the material is adapted, and that one is the part that comes off less well.

For the most part the choice of voice actors fit well for their characters with Sonoshee’s actress Michelle Ruff being a particular treat as she brings both the youth and exuberance to her character that helps her be center stage when present and occasionally she even steals the entire spotlight for herself through the strength of her performance. Patrick Seitz’s JP is also strong as he carries the role well though at times it felt like he was lost a bit in the “greaser” stereotype more than the sort of naivety that the character has in the Japanese version. Fans of Liam O’Brian will find that his performance of Frisbee brings a slightly different take than the Japanese performance but is no less dynamic and fitting. Beyond that director Alex Von David has really brought quite a bit out of his cast, though there are a few places where a character might seem to be just a bit flatter than the action might suggest.

On the other hand, the dub does make changes that feel a bit cynical in nature. While the Japanese track includes some obscenities it feels like this dub shares the spirit of some of the English dubs of the late 80’s and 90’s. Perhaps thinking there was a need to spice up events for a different audience the English dub makes far more use of obscenities, though it does fall short of some of the more spectacular incidents of spicing things up. While the appearance of the obscenities in the Japanese track seem to fit for the most part, the proliferation in the English track just comes off as a callous take on what dub fans look for. Additionally, some minor dialogue changes also change a few characterizations at the expense of some of the humor that the film revels in. If not for these changes the dub would be much stronger but the decision to try to spice things up at the expense of the films more wide-eyed and sweet approach doesn’t work very well for me, but that may not be the case for others as the more cynical approach may be one that resonated better with their outlook and desire for entertainment choices.

Originally released to Japanese theaters 2009 the feature is presented here in its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio with an anamorphic widescreen encode. When creating the film some very vivid colors were used and they are reflected rather well on this DVD as they come across as solid and rich much of the time. About the only exception to that is when the colors run up against one of the flaws found in the encode. The film has a good deal of noise which can be disruptive in particularly detailed scenes and when combined with some dot crawl it can be close to overpowering the image itself. Also present are some issues when strong reds bleed a little and when colors seem to shift or artifact at times. There is also some very minor ghosting at times as well. Frankly as visual as the film is I am going to be watching for reviews of the Blu Ray and if solid I’d recommend that anyone with a system that can support the format and its plusses simply go that route for the feature.

The DVD comes packaged in an eco DVD case which has large portions of the plastic removed around the DVD hub which gives the release a bit of a flimsy feel. Luckily the feature also comes with a slipcover that replicates the cover which adds some stability to the release that the eco case badly lacks. The DVD cover is split, not quite in half, diagonally and the top portion has a yellow background with a varying degree of hues mixed in as well as a stylized title in red. The bottom part has an image of JP as seen in the feature with his arms and ducktail hairstyle extended from the use of a speed enhancing item. The back of the cover is divided into thirds with the top using an image of JP’s Trans-Am during a race. The middle image has JP as his body is contorted with extreme speed on the right and Sonoshee on the left with her necklace against a red back ground with the copy between them. The bottom third uses a yellow background and lists the production credits and technical specs in red. The DVD itself uses a minimalist approach as the disc is imageless with only the title written in black on top and copyright notice plus the right holders listed at the bottom.

The main menu uses some footage from the Yellowline race early in the film along with a high paced piece of music from the feature on the upper part. The bottom of the screen has a bar that runs across the screen which is colored in yellow, white and blue similar to the hood of JP’s Trans-Am. The title is present in red about 2/3 of the way at the top of the menu bar and the options selectable are present in red inside the bar. The additional menus use some images from the feature as well as the red, yellow and blue color scheme. Menus are quick to load and respond to changes in highlighted options.

The extras are a little thin in number but they make up for it in heft. The first extra is a nearly 5 minute long promo video from 2006 that features some different animation than seen in the main feature but it is still as high quality as the film. Also present is a 24 minute “Quick Guide to Redline” featurette that shows off the film that is part promotional video and behind the scenes program.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Welcome to the far distant future. Mankind has made its way out into the stars and found a number of neighbors in the cosmos that have varying degrees of willingness to cooperate with those around them. In this environment one might be shocked to find out that many of those creatures all share a similar passion- they love to race and watch races. In order to meet this demand and the cry from their own spirits a number of beings put their lives on the line in hopes of winning the prestigious Redline race. But are these thrill seekers brave or fools? And how does one tell the difference at such incredible speeds?

In order to qualify for championship race known as Redline prospective entrants must first win one of several qualifying races or have a qualifier drop out and be voted in by popular demand. The feature opens up as participants are fighting their way through the last of these qualifiers, a race known as Yellowline which is being held on Planet Dorothy. As the race is coming down to its final leg there are a number of famous and decorated race veterans left along with a few favorites and promising newcomers including “Cherry boy Hunter” Sonoshee McLaren in her Crab Sonoshee and local favorite “Sweet” JP in his supped up yellow Trans-am. The race format is as far from easy as one can get as the only rule is one has to use a non flying engine- but anything and everything else goes.

Of course any given racer may have their own unique circumstances behind racing and in JP’s case he has quite a bit of baggage traveling with him. JP is a parolee as he was found guilty of fixing races in the past with his best friend and mechanic Frisbee and things seem not to have changed much as Frisbee watches the race from a mob boss’s den. It seems that the fix is in and JP is to make it look really good just before the window for final bets closes and then fail to win. How in on this plan JP is can be debated as Frisbee has fixed things so that JP can’t win-and even walking away may not be possible for him. Victory slips from his grasp just as he is about to close his hand and seize it as his vehicle takes to the air and the Crab Sonoshee passes him to take the checkered flag.

Shortly after the end of the race JP and Frisbee meet again as Frisbee brings JP’s share of the mob payoff to JP’s hospital room. While there seems to be some tension between them after the race it appears the damage to the car is more on both friend’s minds then JP wounds. What might have transpired next is lost as a swarm of reporters storm the room asking JP what his thoughts on participating in Redline are. Totally lost he turns on his TV to find out he has managed to get in as a replacement for one of two other drivers who bailed out when they heard where Redline would be taking place.

As it so happens every five years Redline is held in a different place and this year it is taking place on Roboworld, an area ruled by a cyborg race who declare they are dedicated to peace- and they are willing to use their vast military to enforce their version of it. Just to place the cherry on the top, Roboworld’s leaders are rather xenophobic and have no intention of letting the race take place in their space. While this adds a whole new level of danger to events JP makes the decision that he is going to take this golden opportunity to seize his dreams.

With the countdown to the start of the race fast approaching, the racers initially hide and tune their machines on a refugee planet known as Europass. The world is one that Roboworld seceded to some refugees and because of that the military of Roboworld can’t operate openly and freely there. While waiting for his ride to be rebuilt and the procurement of a new, more powerful-but unstable- engine to arrive JP spends time meeting some of the other drivers. He particularly seeks out Sonoshee as he has a reason for admiring her which goes beyond just her stunning looks.

As the days count down the tensions are ratcheted up as various players work hard to sabotage Roboworld’s defenses so the race can take place which creates a new level of panic for its leadership. Meanwhile things aren’t going so good for JP as Sonoshee learns a bit about his past that has her at odds with him and just for additional salt in the wounds the new engine that was acquired cost a lot of money and now JP finds himself in a position where Frisbee has again had to make a deal with the mob. With pressures from without as well as some from within his circle JP is going to have to decide what it is he needs to do to live his life as he chooses as he places everything on the line in a bet to become the best and take home the title of Redline champion.

Redline is a film that had been in production for around seven years. Unlike some other films where a delay occurred because the technology just wasn’t there yet in Redline’s case it is practically the opposite as the feature uses around 100,000 animations drawn by hand. I absolutely love how this effort shows up in the film with the frenetic action but also on the quieter scenes as they just have a quality to them that brings me back to an earlier time in my anime watching experience.

In many ways this pseudo throwback nature of the look is also part of the theme of the film as the creators have espoused the spirit of many of the more experimental anime films from years gone by. While it might seem a tad offensive to say the film seems to come from a “simpler time” it really has that sort of feel when compared to many modern productions. This feature isn’t about saving the universe or exploring deep philosophical mysteries-it is about some lively characters and some adrenaline pumping feats as the film surges ahead to cram as much action onto the screen as it can and push the limits of what seems possible with traditional animation.

How well these efforts pay off will be a matter of individual taste however as I have seen a number of people just head-over-heels in love with the final product. I wish I felt the same as I find myself in a position where I really, really like the film and love some of its points but it never reached the completely infatuated point for me. I don’t know if it is because I watch enough material from the period of time the film seems to come from or what but that special part of it just didn’t carry as much weight for me. It is still a title I really enjoyed, but somehow not all of the pieces connected as fluidly into a whole when I was watching. That aside the film never forgets that its purpose is to entertain and it works to keep the audience engaged with moments of humor as well as character pieces tightly spun into the film even in unanticipated places.

In Summary:
Redline is a film that is extremely ambitious given the time and effort put into creating it and that perseverance shows. With some top notch animation the story delivers scenes that will get your heart racing as its characters live at incredible speeds behind the wheel and some of that energy rubs off a bit as they live life at a faster than what most non-racers do. With some interesting characters, a good dose of humor and top flight animation Redline is a feature that will have a good deal of broad appeal and may well become this generation of fans Akira- that is the title when someone asks where to watch it is often in the first sentence. It isn’t perfect, but sometimes it is in a features shortcomings or flaws that the audience really connects with the endeavor and it certainly has a number of strengths to go along with them.

Japanese 5.1 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Guide to Redline, 2006 Trailer

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: C+
Packaging Grade: C+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B+

Readers Rating: [ratings]

Released By: Manga Entertainment
Release Date: January 17th, 2011
MSRP: $24.98
Running Time: 102 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Samsung 50″ Plasma HDTV, Denon AVR-790 Receiver with 5.1 Sony Surround Sound Speakers, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080.

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