How to Make Redline Better

My reaction to Redline, in a word: overrated. I think the hype surrounding Redline is largely founded on good faith but it’s like a great down payment but defaulting on the rest of the loan, Redline doesn’t bring home all the goodness promised. And it’s sad because I don’t think the film and marketing material promised much–it’s what all the excessive word on the street is preaching.

However I am going to put that pedal to the metal is to cram as much car and racing puns into this delivery vehicle. You on board with me?

At the end of it all, in order to find something “overrated” it has to have some basis for me to have such a turbocharged expectation. I blame posts like this, selling it like a high school dropout turned used car salesman (because he was too busy watching Ninja Scroll than to study); the mentality drives such reviews, not the actual quality of the thing. It makes me wonder if it does more harm than good by kicking up dust like that. I appreciate the passion to go to town but like every other anime, it is but a small sample in a wide and broad swath of possibilities, among fans of all sizes, where the mileage invariably will vary. It’s like screeching of some dynoqueen Civic for being, well, dynoing like crazy. But when rubber meets the road, you’ve got to wonder.

Personally I find the biggest problem in Redline the lack of that rival component. It’s got nobody to race with. In fact the handling of all the racers besides JP and Sonoshee is pretty half-assed. There are about a dozen concurrent plot lines in the span of 90 minutes, give or take. And all but the main one is…just thrown in there, without a lot of passion. Certainly much less than the eye-dropping animation on display. I mean, the half-assed execution is probably a product of having just too much in too little, givng the audience very little reasons to put money on anything in the movie except the primary pairing. By the time when the film crosses the finish line, you’re left wondering what difficult challenge JP and Sonoshee have overcome. I guess it’s about themselves? Being determined and courageous enough to pick themselves up to cross the finish line, against tremendous odds? Odds expressed as bets? And such bets are actually being gamed, because everyone we care about (namely you, the viewer) knew JP is way better than the odds?

And wait, isn’t JP’s real struggle not even on the course? It all had to do with his friend/mechanic and the mob? Isn’t that exactly the UN-anime/manga thing in regards to what typically passes for a fight/sports setup? Oh wait, this is where people are suppose to say “no” to angsty teenage characters trying to improve their game over their bitter rivals. It’s closer to some HK Blood Opera, except JP is not full of bullet holes (tho not for lack of trying) and bleeding to death because he has terminal cancer, or something ridiculously Jun Maeda-like.

I mean, racing is a sport, right? Where you can “win” at something? Or is it an allegory in Redline? But without defining the challenges, it’s not clear if what JP and Sonoshee accomplished across the finish line is really the proverbial “all that.”

At least, instinctively, when JP and Sonoshee did their best Utena Movie impression at the end, it did not leave me impressed beyond the audio-visual treat that none can deny. What is there for JP to lose? Or Sonoshee? It feels like seeing a bunch of clowns racing down the track, with explosions going on, but you know they’ll be fine because they are, like all the other racers in Redline, clowns trained to survive these high-octane stunts. Plus they’ve got Plot Armor.

The lack of this realism definitely is something part of the visual presentation. Unreal, more like. Fantastic dialed up to eleven. Yeah, maybe in their various flashbacks and tearful rememberences, JP and Sonoshee appeared human. But that is not only just the backdrop to the film, it isn’t even the purpose–I’m here to see some badass racing. I mean, if you go into Redline with any other expectation (and besides to see some gorgeous animation), you will be disappointed. I find that fundamentally two contrasting flavors to this film. On one hand they could ditch all of that and just parade it down the raceway like a pro; but it probably won’t work in the feature-film format.

TL;DR–these are the things Redline can do better:

  • Ditch more of the side plots so it can spend time on the main characters.
  • Spend more time making Sonoshee and JP human by spending less on those in the show that aren’t.
  • Change or lessen the contrast between superhuman feats and motivation based on the lack of by defining the challenge as something JP could not overcome.
  • Have better marketing instead of having semi-fans parade nonsensical claims that distort the quality of the film. (Instead they can have contests in which they will try to cram as many racing and driving metaphors in their reviews.)

In other words, my biggest complaint of the film is the lull in the 30-35 minute gap between when we first see Sonoshee’s tits and when the proper Redline race begin. Most of those things will go to making that segment a lot more engaging. I mean, the whole introduce-to-rest-of-racer thing ought to be important but in the end that whole sideshow doesn’t add anything to the main story. It felt contrived in that they had to explain those elements as they play pivotal roles in the final race, but it was not possible to elevate those elements beyond one-dimensional props. I mean who cares about the motivation of the SuperBoins? Or the crybaby cop? And those two are way more outstanding than the other half-dozen miscreants that line up at the starting gate. I think this audience is better served if they spent more time studying the superlaser satellite thing or driving around in circles at the river bed.

Seriously, after such an high octane opening, it feels really tedious having to wait like, 40 minutes, just to get to the next race, with a plain-Jane Vanilla buildup. It’s like going from 0 to 60 in 4 seconds and it takes half an hour to do a quarter-mile. Give me a break.

I’ve said it before: Redline is more like the final crow call of an era bygone than something that saves something else. Get over it guys, the market has already long spoken as to what kind of businesses and what kind of franchises sell. I think I’m with you in that the world may be a better place if more productions like Redline existed, but it isn’t going to happen if they would have the flaws Redline has. The market just cannot sustain that volume of arthouse projects as a mainstream sort of thing, even if said arthouse project is Redline. You are better off standing in line with all the other otaku with their niche entertainment. I mean that’s where everybody is going to be soon enough.


10 responses to “How to Make Redline Better

  • jpmeyer

    Maaaaaaaaan, that review. All I could think is “What you mean ‘we’, white man?”

  • Martin

    What I find so hard to understand, even after watching the film twice (I liked it more the second time), is the negative reaction I got to merely saying “it’s a good film and I liked it.” You’ve managed to elaborate on what I *thought* but couldn’t put my finger one – yes, it’s fun. Yes, a lot of talent and hard work went into it. Beyond being a cool-looking and enjoyable piece of entertainment with a kicking soundtrack, I don’t see anything more to it. It doesn’t need to be any more than that, anyway, surely?

    And yet, pretty much everyone I talked to about it was aghast that I didn’t love it as much as they did. It’s as though I was doing something seriously wrong by even suggesting that it’s less than perfect. It’s still good, but it isn’t perfect. Heck, I wasn;t even disappointed by it.

    I don’t think the hype ruined it for me, either. It was just all the talk about how it was something that was above criticism – I felt like some nutter who was claiming Hitchcock or Hendrix weren’t ‘all that’. As far as I’m concerned, no film is above criticism and as unpopular as it seems to make me, I’d say the same thing goes for Redline. Until I read this post, I honestly thought I was the only one who felt this way about it.

  • omo

    @JP
    I think that review is pretty off the hook, in that it paints almost a perfect parody of the average Redline-ranting lunatic. I mean, LOL “Redline is why America got into anime. Bottom fucking line!” LOL

  • Fencedude

    The more I hear about Redline the less I care.

    Granted, I think that movies are largely irrelevant to anime culture as a whole right now, just like OVAs are essentially non-existent.

    We live in the age of the 1 cour TV Anime. That is where all the action is happening, and where you will find the most interesting stuff.

    And that review is everything that is wrong with “American Anime Fans” (as dumb a classification as that is, the review does show that the stereotype actually does exist!)

  • Joe

    Merely a superficial analysis of the film. There are lots of metaphoric elements you missed. For instance, JP’s dream is to be the guy in the convertible with the two girls sitting in the back. When he wins the race with Sonoshee, he realizes he’s reached that dream (hence the flashback).

  • omo

    Movies are still highly relevant to anime culture or Yaraon would not have been posting a billion posts on K-ON the past 3 months. By movies I think you mean arthouse movies, specifically. I think there is something interesting happening in the movie space…actually blogged about it years ago (hrm maybe I should repost them from the internet void).

    That’s what people need to realize what Redline is. It’s an art film from conception to finish and it does not have mainstream appeal or mainstream relevance (kind of like Akira and Ninja Scroll, for that matter), despite it may be a landmark film in terms of being a piece of pure animation.

  • Fencedude

    Yeah, by movies I meant other than stuff like K-On, Nanoha, Shoushitsu, Frontier, stuff that isn’t riding off of an already successful TV franchise.

    I mean, what is the last smash hit anime movie that isn’t one of the above, or Ghibli?

  • omo

    @Joe
    I think I get all those imagery. But that’s why I asked if the race was just an allegory, and if we really shouldn’t be looking at the race (but how can we not) as the primary emotional fulfillment vehicle from the movie. Actually if the film is too dense for me to get, it’s very likely to be too dense for the average person.

    This is not a critique on the message of the film, which I think weaves a coherent message about ass kicking and doing what you want and freedom and all that good stuff. Plus that is not the reason why people think Redline is a landmark film; at most it’s a bonus.

  • omo

    @Fencedude
    There’s two ways that movies are relevant.

    One way is that it forms sort of the unspoken foundation to pop culture (like the annual Lupin or Doreamon flicks, and the periodic Ghibli offering fits here). The other way is when it caters to a specific interest base. When a film does neither or both, that’s remarkable–Kara no Kyoukai for example, or K-ON. The latter goes beyond the niche model despite being a moe sort of fare, and the former is a sell-out roadshow of doing something that never really has been done before and caters to TM/ufotable people.

    The rest is typically limited release art films, or something more along the lines of a typical animated fair that gets a quick-to-video treatment. It would be premature to rule them out of being interesting or relevant without at least giving it a spin, though. I think Hosoda’s latest two movies are pretty good examples of being relevant but is not a niche fare or some annual tradition.

  • TsukuyomiMagi99

    THANK YOU!

    That’s all I can say finally someone out there gets it and isn’t blinded by all the pretty animation.

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