[Redline] Style vs. Substance

Redline Movie Anime Style Racing Takeshi Koike Madhouse

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?

Redline Movie Explosion Takeshi Koike Madhouse“It needs more explosions!” — Michael Bay

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?

About MkMiku

Just a neko expressing what's on my mind. Nya~
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19 Responses to [Redline] Style vs. Substance

  1. I don’t think there’s necessarily a case of exclusivity. Style can be fun. But it certainly helps when you have substance, and it’s even better when the animation is great and so is the substance. Redline, to me, felt like not only was there little substance, but what little there was was really bad.

    • MkMiku says:

      If they would’ve made it a 30m racing montage, it would’ve been better. XD I dunno, it seems like Redline tried to be something more extensive, but ended up falling short. Most will say, story-wise, it didn’t do enough. And for an anime so stylized, why even try if the racing is supposed to be the main focus?

  2. Seinime says:

    Ahhhhh, I keep on hearing good stuff about it but no time to watch! Grah.

    “Does an anime need a substantial story to be considered important or can the medium persevere through its outstanding visuals alone?”
    Well, it seems to fail in movies in real life, so striking a balance is still crucial in some parts.

    • MkMiku says:

      Lol, it’s just a little under 2 hours, but I know what you mean. Once you see it for yourself, you can make your own opinion, but I know many others besides myself who were left feeling underwhelmed, which is strange since the animation is so damn awesome.

  3. Nopy says:

    To answer your question, it depends on the viewer. I know people who watch anime because it’s beautiful, I also know people who watch anime for the comedy or for the story. For me, if any one of those is sufficiently high enough, it doesn’t matter how good the other categories are.

    • MkMiku says:

      Strangely enough, I can wholly enjoy an anime just on good jokes alone (Zetsubou-Sensei, Pani Poni Dash!), but I don’t enjoy action anime as much as I enjoy action films. So, in that sense, I can be more lenient of any anime with lots of comedy or cute cat girls, but a bunch of mindless action doesn’t seem to hold my interest as much.

  4. kiddtic says:

    I just like how you pinted out that it is like Micheal Bays’ Transformers. Funny thing is Redline fans hate Transformers LoL. I prefer story to in my anime, nice animation is cool the first 10 minutes after that it just gets boring. A good story will keep you captivated for hours and stays with you for a lifetime?

    • MkMiku says:

      I just drew similarities between the tons of action and less emphasis on plot. Oh, and the cars, of course (how could I forget?). I agree that a story is more memorable. In the long-run, I mean. Cool action sequences will always amaze me, but only until the “next big thing” comes out.

  5. Aya says:

    everyone have different taste and point of view personally I like 2D much more…
    redline is awesome but yeah I am huge fans of real motorsport so I have different point of view for the racing fantasy theme but yeah the animation is beautiful overall it deserve praise that I always read :D

    • MkMiku says:

      I love racing as well, so I was extremely excited to see Redline as soon as I caught view of the pilot. Although, I suppose I was disappointed by the lack of racing. Whatever few parts there were was amazing. Having seen the Speed Racer movie multiple times and F-Zero GX being one of my top games, I was really on edge to see more. Oh well, for a brilliant 7-year effort, you must take what you get.

  6. Same as Seinime. I need to watch this soon.

    As for your question In general, I think the individual parts are all important to the whole, but sometimes you can have a excellent story to enjoy, even with mediocre animation and art. I usually try to look past the animation and art in some cases and more toward story, but other times I care about the animation and art about as much as the story. In some genres, taking my favorite, Slice-of-life for example, since I know that the story elements are probably on the lulling side I sometime look more toward the visual style than the written – although the characters and other productions like music matter too. So, to make a long answer short, it depends somewhat on what I am watching.

    Thanks for reminding to watch Redline ^^ and very nice article. (Had no idea it took 7 years to make it, but by all the screenshots, looks like it payed off).

    • MkMiku says:

      I actually tend to focus on the animation (partly why I prefer anime over manga), but good animation only goes so far. If I don’t like the characters or don’t enjoy the story, then it’s hard to keep my attention. I agree with you that it depends on the genre. Comedy is my favorite, for example, and in that case the animation never bothers me as long as the jokes are good.

      Sure thing. ^^ Yep, it really did, and no one better than Koike Takeshi to take on this ambitious task. XD

  7. One of these days, I will get around to finally watching Redline…

    I think that sometimes visuals can help an anime survive. For instance, I love Black Rock Shooter and it had amazing visuals, but the story was a bit lackluster. Despite this, Black Rock Shooter is still very popular and there’s even a series coming out soon. But really, it depends on how good the visuals and story are, and there’s a balance between them.

    • MkMiku says:

      Balance is definitely important, but I think story has a bit more priority. BRS had a unique animation style; that was the one thing that was quite memorable. Redline did the same, but to a much greater extent. Still, I feel that neither reached their full potential due to a lack of certain story elements. Anyway, sometimes you just have to enjoy the visual experience. And as far as visuals go, Redline was quite a ride.

      P.S. I hope BRS TV is much better. Another problem, of course, was the short runtime. :)

  8. Pingback: REDLINE ~ Heart-pounding Wild Action! Also, a Tale of One Man’s Romance… | Ephemeral Dreams

  9. Overlord-G says:

    Honest opinion, as my review of the movie stated, it is a visual masterpiece just like Summer Wars was. The plot was okay but the main attraction was the diverse cast. To answer your question, as long as I’m entertained, the anime doesn’t need a good plot to keep me coming for more. Take Penguindrum for example: Sure it has an interesting plot but I’m too busy laughing my butt off at the show’s humor to pay remember that this is actually a serious story…All you need is the classic Japanese niche of death to bring you back to your senses. (Seriously these guys rely on death a little too much)

    • MkMiku says:

      While the cast was interesting, it seemed like most of the movie was spent of JP and Sonoshee. Not necessarily a bad thing, but the other racers looked cool as well, so I was hoping we could’ve seen more of them. As I think most people have stated, Redline was supposed to be a visual euphoria, and in that sense it succeeded. A lot of the comedy series I watch, the story really doesn’t matter to me, as long as the jokes are good. So I know what you mean; I suppose it just depends on the anime whether the story plays an integral role to the amount of enjoyment or not. ^^ Ya, I do notice that the Japanese use death a lot in their jokes (just look at Zetsobou Sensei). XD

  10. Pingback: REDLINE ~ Heart-pounding Wild Action! Also, a Tale of One Man’s Romance… | Ephemeral Dreams

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