Redline (2009)

“Hey Mouse have you seen the new Pino..

Nope. Not gonna do it. Not gonna watch it. Not gonna blog about it. Not gonna contribute to THE DISCOURSE. Not, in short, gonna give the bastards the satisfaction.

Here is what I am going to do. I am going to talk about my new boo.

Redline, a 2009 animé movie released by Madhouse, instantly became one of my all time favourite animations and it didn’t even break a sweat doing it. Which is not to say that it’s one of my favourite movies, necessarily, but as a perfect sugar rush high of the purest joy animation can deliver I struggle to think of its equal. This thing took 7 years to make, comprising 100,000 cels of some of the most gorgeously detailed hand-drawn animation I’ve ever seen.

The movie is the debut feature of animator Takeshi Koike, whose Animatrix short World Record I reviewed a few weeks ago (all part of my cunning plan). But what is this “Red Line”, you ask. What’s it all about, eh?

Okay, so take 2000 AD comics, the works of Jack Kirby and Moebius, Mad Max and pretty much every Franco-Japanese Saturday Morning cartoon from the eighties and put them in a blender. Take enough LSD to turn into a pineapple and serve. That’s Redline. It is AWESOME. If I had seen this when I was ten years old I might have actually died from excitement.

We get an opening text crawl that informs us:

In the far distant future, when cars are giving up their wheels in the changeover to air-cars there still exist fools who carry on a vanishing spirit of racing…

The movie opens with a subtle flex. It’s simply a shot of a pile of empty pistachio shells. Literally trash. Do these shells have any deeper meaning? No. Are they important to the story? No. Are they still going to be rendered and animated in painstaking, jaw-dropping detail?

Yes. Yes they are.

With this one shot, Koike signals that there will be no corner cutting, no half-assing, nothing less than 110% given to any single frame of this film. There is no point to the detail. The detail is the point.

We begin our story on the planet…Dorothy…which is inhabited by a race of sentient anthropomorphised terriers (ahhhhh Toto. Dorothy. I get it). Dorothy is hosting the Yellowline, which is the qualifier for the Redline, an illegal but hugely popular interstellar drag race where all manner of alien freaks compete in souped-up science fiction roadsters. One of these racers is our hero, Sweet JP. he’s called “Sweet” because, unlike every other racer, he doesn’t resort to using weapons and competes through pure driving skill in a heavily modified Trans Am. Also, by being a complete snack.

So, perhaps appropriately for a movie that is transparently about visual flair and detail for its own sake, Redline’s plot is incredibly simple. In fact, I could ask you to guess how this story is going to go and I guarantee you would probably get most of the details right.

Okay, you MIGHT not have have predicted the part where the baby nuclear explosion fights the possessed whale, granted.

We have a racer who’s noble and good. He wants to race and win. There’s a female racer who falls in love with him. There’s a hard-nosed authority figure who wants to stop the race from happening. There’s some stuff with mobsters trying to rig the race. Our hero races, he wins, he gets the girl. That’s it. Strip out all the sci-fi stuff and this movie could very, very easily have been a 50s B-Movie about drag-racers. You wouldn’t even need to change the main character’s hairstyle. But I think you absolutely need that simplicity. If you were trying to keep track of a tricksy, twisty plot on top of parsing all the visual candyfloss it would be too much. It’s almost too much as it is, to be honest.

So the race is being watched by Frisbee, JP’s mechanic, and a sinister Mafia Boss. The mob have placed a huge amount of money on JP to lose and expect him to throw the race. But suddenly, JP makes a break for the finish line and tries to win. So Frisbee detonates a bomb that he planted under JP’s TransAm. The smouldering husk that was JP’s car manages to make it across the finish line but finishes fifth. We then get the opening title.

You know something? If The Shining had opened with a title card and a woman’s voice declaring “DIRECTED BY STANLEY KUBRICK” I’d be like “Jesus Christ, who the fuck does Kubrick think he is?”

Takeshi Koike does it for his first film and my reaction is “Yeah. He earned that. That is only fair.”

Frisbee drops by the hospital to see JP and give his cut of their kick back from the mob which he’ll be able to use to pay his bondsman. JP feels like a failure and is prepared to go back to jail but suddenly the hotel room is thronged with reporters. Y’see, it’s just been announced that the Redline race is going to take place on Roboworld, a fascist dictatorship ruled by mad cyborgs who hate the Redline race and the magical space princesses who run it. Oh, and the magical space princesses come from a planet called Supergrass.


Anyway, this news prompts the President of Roboworld to announce that any Redline racers will be destroyed on sight which leads to several racers noping out of the competition which means JP qualifies by default!

JP heads to EUЯPSS, which is the moon over Roboworld which has been turned into a demilitarised zone as part of Roboworld’s treaty with the M3 Nebula Federation. This movie actually reminds me quite a bit of Buckaroo Banzai in that it keeps referencing deep lore that…doesn’t actually exist. There’s obviously a ton of history and galactic geo-politics that have been worked out for this world but if you want to learn about it, you get to pound sand, my friend. There is no expanded Redline universe. There is no manga, no TV animé, no computer games (FOR SOME FUCKING REASON WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH YOU GAMES INDUSTRY?!). This movie is literally the only piece of media set in this universe. Well no, I tell a lie. There is also a series of shorts called Trava: Fist Planet that features two characters who also appear in Redline which I found out about literally hours before this post was due to go up.

Yeah, I don’t have time to go down this rabbit hole.

Anyway, the scenes of JP wandering around EUЯPSS are great because of just how weird and alien these weird aliens are, flying off the handle at the slightest provocation and using living molluscs as money. JP’s total culture shock is absolutely justified.

JP meets up with Old Man Mole, a friend of his who he uses as his source for car parts. Frisbee shows up and Mole refuses to work with him because he knows Frisbee is mobbed up and untrustworthy. But JP trusts Frisbee (what’s a little bombing between friends) and insists that Mole work with him. JP leaves the two of them to work on the car and goes to a local night spot where he meets Sonoshee “Cherry Boy Hunter” McLaren, the racer who won the Yellowline in the opening scene.

She shows him a “steam light”, a jewel that she was given by her father that supposedly can unleash incredible power when dropped into an engine but which no engine could ever withstand (surely this will not be relevant later on). They’re interrupted by a fight between Trava (of Trava: Fist Planet fame) and Little Deyzuna, a soldier from Roboworld who’s gone AWOL to race in Redline. The fight is broken up by Machinehead, the fastest racer in the galaxy, who arrives in the movie birthed from the very mind of Jack Kirby himself.

Suddenly, the club is attacked by Colonel Volton who’s come to arrest Little Deyzuna. Machinehead challenges him, saying that Roboworld’s forces aren’t allowed in the de-militarized zone and Volton’s all “look at all the fucks I do not give”. He warns the other racers that when the race starts it’s open season. JP mouths off and gets beaten unconscious by Volton’s goons.

Later, JP drives Sonoshee back to her digs. She asks him why he races but he refuses to answer so she wishes him goodnight. In flashback, we see a young JP watch a young Sonoshee race and learn that she is what inspired him to become a racer. Back at the garage, Mole and Frisbee are arguing because Frisbee wants to install a DRZ Airmaster in the TransAm and Mole thinks that’s a great idea if the goal is to send JP into orbit. Mole doesn’t trust Frisbee but JP tells him to source the engine and let Frisbee install it.

The day of the Redline dawns and…guys, I don’t even know if I can even recap this crazy shit. This movie just turns into Wacky Races on mescaline.


Okay so…

I..can do this.

Okay. So.

So the magical Princess from the planet Supergrass hires two of the racers named Lynchman and Johnny Boya to sabotage Roboworld’s space death ray. When the President of Roboworld tries to use the cannon against the racers it fails so he sends his soldiers in to stop the race but to no avail.

HOWEVER, the Redline route takes the racers through “Zone 7X” which is where the Roboworlders house a secret living doomsday weapon called…Funky Boy. Funky Boy is freed when one of the racers (who is a werewolf cop) crashes into his containment chamber, freeing him.

“Mr President, we can’t let Funky Boy run loose like that, he’ll destroy Roboworld” is a line that a voice actor got to say in this movie and I am sick with jealousy. With the death ray back online, the President orders them to fire on Funky Boy.

The subsequent explosion kills most of the Roboworld troops and many of the Redline racers but not Funky Boy so that’s not great heading into the midterms. Sonoshee’s car is destroyed but JP rescues her and they drive towards the finish line together because clearly that’s the important thing. Meanwhile, Colonel Volton merges with another superweapon and battles Funky Boy.

And now it all makes sense, right?

JP and Machinehead race for the finish line. Meanwhile, Frisbee is watching the race with the mob who order him to blow up JPs car so Machinehead can win. But Frisbee has grown a conscience and can’t stab his friend in the back when he’s so close to winning the greatest race in the galaxy. The mobsters attack him but he’s rescued by Old Man Mole.

JP and Sonoshee use Sonoshee’s steam light to boost the Trans Am to pant-wetting levels of speed.

Just as they’re coming down to the wire, Mole accidentally presses Frisbee’s remote control which blows the bomb under JP’s car. However, the explosion throws JP and Sonoshee into the air and past the finish line, with JP winning by the point of his hair. They float in the air, declare their love for each other and kiss, with the final shot of the movie literally being the word “LOVE” in the cheesiest font you can imagine.

Every Romantic movie has to end like this now. No wait, that’s crazy. Every MOVIE has to end like this now.


Animation 20/20

So good I seriously considered breaking the scale and giving it a 21.

Lead 18/20

JP is less a character and more a peg upon which this entire psychedelic garment is hung. He is exactly what the movie needs him to be, no more, no less.

Villains 18/20

Of COURSE this movie has as its antagonists an entire planet of insane cybernetically-enhanced techno-fascists. What ELSE would it have?

Supporting Characters: 19/20

I absolute love how this movie crams entire novels of worth of world building into little background characters. And it’s a rare sci-fi movie where the aliens are truly alien.

Music: 19/20

James Shimoji’s propulsive techno score is not exactly something I’d sit down and listen to to unwind but but combined with the visuals it is a helluva high.


NEXT UPDATE: 13th October 2022

NEXT TIME: Sigh. Please don’t be fucked up etc.


      1. Well now I’m curious when you review the Sailor Moon R movie are you reviewing the Japanese version, the old Canadian dub from 2000 or the more recent ish redub?

  1. I was positive (POSITIVE) that you would love the animation in this movie, Mr. Mouse. But it seems like you liked the whole movie as much as I did. Excellent review, hope the next one isn’t TOO fucked up.

  2. Welp, this is going on the watchlist. It’s clogged with horror movies right now (’tis the season), but you can bet I’ll be catching this one soon.

    Sailor Moon, huh? I used to watch some of that when babysitting my sister. Never saw that movie, but I’d say you’re in for a trip.

  3. Never heard of this movie.
    Actually, looking through the screencaps there’s something vaguely familiar about it. Maybe it’s the fact that the character have somewhat JoJo-styled facial features. Maybe it’s the coloration reminding me of The World Ends With You.
    Don’t you just hate it when you’re in constant state of, “I’ve seen something about this before but I don’t know where”?

  4. Sailor Moon R? Eh. At that point the franchise isn’t that fucked up.

    It isn’t yet at the part where the protagonists’ little girl from the future falls in love with an adult winged unicorn that can turn into a boy.

  5. Redline is about as pure an adrenaline rush as a movie can possibly be. Unbelievable FUCK YEAH movie. I’m not sure there’s anything else like it, Mad Max Fury Road gets close at times but even as great as MMFR is I don’t think it quite matches the FUCK YEAH levels of Redline.

  6. The staff behind this went on to do with Lupin The Third movies. Also the woman who directed The Woman Called Fujiko Mine was involved in this movie. Anyone who loved this movie should check out those.

      1. Yeah I saw it, it was fun, but the story was the same as most of the annual TV specials, the stuff these Redline vets worked on are more unique.

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