By Nick Willoughby

Redline is a feast for the eyes, and its neon-drenched universe a marvel.

Takeshi Koike’s film of 2009 is one of those rare anime beasts from Japan that deserves mainstream recognition in the West.

The movie is an exhilarating romp all the way through. Koike eschews the cut-and-paste art style of some animes, and has created a film so visceral, its animation is unrivalled.

Set in a cyberpunk future in space, the film follows ‘Sweet JP’ (Patrick Seitz) – a renegade car racer who wants to compete in the notorious ‘Redline’ race. JP’s crooked manager, who is embroiled in a match-fixing scam with the mafia, sabotages JP’s car during a qualifying race. By some stroke of luck, JP qualifies for Redline via a technicality.

The pair jet off to the fearsome ‘Roboworld’, where JP tests his mettle against pitiless racers from all over the galaxy.

The stunningly realised aliens, Roboworld, and the white-knuckle races, elevate this film beyond almost every other animated sci-fi. The seven-year production process and hand-drawn frames pay out dividends.

Koike’s fingerprint is distinctive: reality is grossly exaggerated which lends the film flair. To give an example of this, JP can speed his car up a limited number of times during races. When he presses the magic button, everything in the picture stretches like elastic which gives a real sense of the sudden burst of speed.

Most of the characters that JP meets on his journey are inspired: the robots of Roboworld are fascist dictators hell-bent on war, and a refugee camp is filled with cigar-chomping slugs and gangs of cute fluffy aliens with a cruel streak.

Refreshingly, the film circumvents most anime clichés, but one disappointment is the romantic interest. Sonoshee (Michelle Ruff) is a female racer from the same planet as JP. She’s a curious mix of tomboy and pinup girl – a half-arsed attempt at providing an interesting female role. Yes, Sonoshee loves to tinker with car engines – but this quirk doesn’t quite convince that she hasn’t been planted in the story as anything more than one dimensional eye candy.

The plot is convoluted and fairly confusing. At points, there are about six concurrent story threads to keep track of. Even if you had the brain of Einstein, and managed to work out what was happening, I’m still not certain it would all make sense.

The art direction of Redline deserves the highest praise. Koike manages to instil what it means to have fun, and then send it blazing out of our screens. As long as you take the wild ride for what it is, and ignore some of the slightly ropey character and plot elements, you’ll be in for a blast.

Oh, and did I mention that the entire film is free to watch on youtube? Get cracking!

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