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Redline Blu-ray Anime Review

8 min read

The race of all races is about to hit with that special breed of racers who love combustion engine ground cars.

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:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release is a big part of the feature and what they give us here is definitely solid. There’s four audio tracks here with the Japanese and Englis mixes getting the stereo in Dolby Surround and 5.1 presentations through Dolby TrueHD. The stereo tracks are certainly serviceable and better than the DVD tracks in some ways, but it’s the 5.1 mixes that you check out. The English 5.1 doesn’t sound bad but it feels weaker than the Japanese mix through the dub itself as it doesn’t have the same clarity. The Japanese 5.1 mix is very strong overall and definitely good even at normal levels, but when you crank it up and let it hit full it definitely works well. The surround channels get a good workout during a lot of the scenes and the forward soundstage in general is quite active, both when doing the races and the varied dialogue that’s used. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and if the audio was your guidepost to this release, you should come away quite pleased.

Video:
Originally airing in 2009, the transfer for this feature is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. After watching the DVD recently, which has some issues with its presentation, I was definitely concerned about the Blu-ray. This release is definitely in much better shape here and avoids the main problems that we had with the DVD, namely in the line noise and visible cross coloration that crept into several scenes. The colors here are strong, solid and vibrant and the quality of the animation really shines through beautifully. There’s a god sense of depth to it and the blues in particular are very rich. While the DVD had me seeing lots of flaws when I saw it, the Blu-ray edition is a clean, vibrant and thoroughly enjoyable presentation.

Packaging:
Packaged in a standard Blu-ray case, Redline uses the promotional artwork we’ve seen for awhile across a few different things, not that it sells it well. It’s a split approach going diagonal while the left side has the yellow background with the red logo running down it while the right side has an intense lengthy image of JP racing along in the car. The cover doesn’t grab you much though the colors get your attention at first and the whole thing just leaves me underwhelmed when you get down to it. The back cover adds a little color and personality with a look at JP’s car along the top and a couple of character shots through the middle. The summary covers the basics well and the split approach does a good job of laying everything out and making the extras clear. The technical details are basic but clear and all the things you need to know about the release are available here. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

Menu:
The menu design for this release is pretty straightforward as it uses some of the busier clips from the first main action sequence as its background with some good driving music to it, though it’s in basic Dolby Digital stereo encoded at 192kbps which doesn’t really make it intense. The bottom section has a good rough fender kind of look with the logo and the navigation strip that looks good and is easy to access and manipulate to get things going. It also doubles as the pop-up menu to some degree except that it avoids the background so during the feature we just get the text over the animation, which can be awkward in some scenes. Submenus load quickly and easily and we had no problems setting up the disc and moving about in it.

Extras:
There’s a couple of extras included in the release, the one that I liked the most was the 2006 trailer for the feature which runs for nearly five minutes. It’s an interesting look at the presentationf or it so many years prior to its release with how much of it really held together well all that time. After that, well, there’s some real meat to dig into if you’re a fan. The Perfect Guide to Redline is a seventy-minute long piece that goes into the production as a whole through various events with the creative staff, actors and so forth. It’s pretty rich for the fan of the feature who wants to see exactly what went into it and the thoughts of that team. Sadly, there are no chapter stops so it’s an all or nothing extra. We also get the Quick Guide to Redline which clocks in at 25 minutes and does a pretty good short form presentation of the production of the film with all sorts of similar material. Both of the Guides are done in full HD which is a nice plus.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Years in the making, Redline was the big anime film on the art film circuit throughout the world as it got its staggered release and a lot of attention. Seemingly anyone and everyone that got to see the feature on the big screen fell madly in love with it and that helped to give it a strong word of mouth set of legs to it as it hit various festivals and other showings. While we didn’t see it in the theater, we certainly heard all about it on a regular basis. And to make matters worse for wanting to see it, it got a home video release in late 2011 in the UK with the US release coming a few months later. But now it’s here and the Blu-ray edition is actually my second viewing as I watched the DVD before sending it off to another reviewer as I wanted a viewing where I didn’t feel like I had to be critical about it and just enjoy it.

The story of Redline is very simple at its heart as it’s all about racing. It’s set in some undetermined quasi-future where mankind has spread to the stars and, according to the prologue, is just now at the end phase of giving up on ground based transportation as we know it today in favor of air cars. It’s an amusing kind of approach that you see in a lot of older anime features and series that wanted to focus more on presentation than structure in a way. A small breed of people still exist that live for the classic types of cars, though there are some very elaborate types out there that are futuristic in their own way, and they race in various key races throughout the star systems. The film opens with the Yellow Line race in which the top teir are the ones that will go on to the Redline race elsewhere.

And that race is certainly the big one as the organization that’s running it has set it up on a world that wants nothing to do with it, making it a bit of a complicated race since the government and its soldiers will spend its time hunting them down both prior to and during the race. The Yellow Line race is a lot of fun at the start as it focuses a lot on JP, a racer whose being manipulated into losing the race for financial reasons except that he’s about to win it. We get a good look at a number of the racers through this and it sets the stage for when most of them move on to the next race and deal with the problems of getting things together in a hostile environment and the usual problems that crop up during racing events of this nature.

Redline is the kind of move where it is thin on plot overall and more focused on set pieces. Big, elaborate set pieces as the races are intense works that cover a good bit of time. There’s a lot to like with the time between these though as we get to know the characters a bit in what’s generally a laid back way as we see them interacting with each other, hanging out in restaurants and dealing with the larger problems coming down the road from the government. The main draw is the race itself though as that’s where they went all out, but because of that the characters never quite feel like they come together well. They’re not meant to be fleshed out heavily, but there isn’t a lot of meat on the movie when you get down to it. When you get to the racing though and some of the more fun quirkier elements of it, it’s firing on all cylinders and is a visual tour du force to engage in.

In Summary:
There’s a lot to like about Redline and it’s a hugely well done film on a technical level but it also feels like something that’s from a very different time. A lot of its visual cues and nods makes it feel like a very high end film out of the eighties and there’s a certain thrill to it all. I watched the movie originally with someone whose had limited anime exposure and they liked it a lot as it’s pretty accessible and easy to get into. But it left me wanting something more out of it. It was a fun experience and one that I can completely appreciate on the visual and aural level, but it left me feeling empty. I’ll be able to recommend it easily for how it looks and sounds, a worthwhile experience to be had, but it’s not one that will have me recommending it heavily for years to come as a must see film. It may be the type of film that actually plays better in theaters than on home video.

Features:
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Langauge, Japanese 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, 2006 Trailer, Perfect Guide, Quick Guide

Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: A

Readers Rating: [ratings]

Released By: Manga Entertainment
Release Date: January 17th, 2012
MSRP: $29.99
Running Time: 102 minues
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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