Konnichiwa, Mikuites! It is highly debatable as to what makes a good anime. Is it the absorbing story or the kick-ass animation? Can an anime stand on visuals alone? Is an anime that lacks all the flashy explosions and fast-paced fights that Japanimation has been come to known for, still be considered anime at all? Anime as a form of entertainment has grown diverse. Moe blob K-On! and psychoanalytic mecha Evangelion are almost incomparable, and yet each have masses upon masses of fans. Some otakus will tell you that story is all that matters. Others will say it’s all about the visuals presentation.
Koike Takeshi has made it his goal to excel in the animation depart. Anime as an art form is already detailed and stylish enough to make your eyes bleed, but Koike Takeshi pushes it even farther, to a level that’s almost surreal. In 2003, he directed the Animatrix short “World Record” about an American track runner trying to beat his own personal record while simultaneously freeing himself from the Matrix. If you haven’t seen it, it’s amazing and my favorite short on the disc.
Prior to that, he worked on a little unknown OVA called Trava, which I had no idea even existed until I heard that it’s a side story to his latest work, Redline.
Redline took 7 years to produce due to it being all hand-drawn (reaffirming my belief that 2D animation should NEVER die), which means production started even 1 year before the Animatrix was released, or to be more precise, soon after the Trava OVA.
It’s amazing what 7 years can do.
And here we are now with Redline––a synthesis of F-Zero, Speed Racer, and The Fast and the Furious (believe it or not)––claimed by many to be a visual masterpiece beyond anything that has ever been created. Koike Takeshi is best known for his fluid, high contrast animation. I simply adore his use of opaque shadows as opposed to traditional shading––even if it does strain your eyes after a while. It looks more like a motion comic book than a typical anime. There is no doubt in my mind that Redline is a visually jaw-dropping anime, but does that––by default––make it one of the greatest?
In the world of high-budget Hollywood movies, general audiences seem to react better to amazing CGI and huge explosions (always the explosions) over a touching, sensitive, dramatic narrative. Does the same apply to anime?
Is Redline the future of anime? I mean that in both a good and bad way. If Michael Bay were born Japanese, his name would’ve been Koike Takeshi. Redline is meant for pure entertainment only. With its abrupt ending (who needs an epilogue?) and lack of characterization (especially the severely underdeveloped minor racers who are hardly more than *spoiler* cannon fodder), it’s hard to recommend Redline to anyone looking for any more than eye candy. And perhaps that’s a good thing. I mean, how many anime can you name where you can turn your brain off and have fun by just sitting back and soaking in the super exaggerated illustrations alone (the roar of the engines and jubilation of the crowd, each of the hundreds intricately detailed)? Redline never touted itself to be anything thought-provoking in the first place (neither did Michael Bay when he made Transformers).
I’ve noticed that these high-budget popcorn flicks seems to follow a pattern. They don’t provide much exposition to the audience, practically leaving it wide-open to your own interpretation. Whether this was completely intentional or they were too focused on the visuals that they didn’t care/completely forgot, that’s left up to the viewer to decide, as well. If you so desire, Redline can be interpreted in many different ways. The most unorthodox I’ve read is Yi comparing it to oral sex. If I understood the analogy correctly, the Redline represents blood, therefore the Yellowline is piss?
Does an anime need a substantial story to be considered important or can the medium persevere through its outstanding visuals alone?