The “Curse” of Redline’s Aesthetic

Ever since before its actual release, Redline has been getting a lot of buzz among anime reviewers who have noted the look of the film, incredibly unique especially in today’s anime environment with a good deal of exquisite animation and attention to detail. The crowds are full of life and interesting alien designs. The vehicles used for racing are all incredibly stylish and showcase the wide array of personalities in the film. Redline oozes style and panache. However, for as refreshing as Redline‘s art is, it appears to be a double-edged sword through no fault of its own.

The “problem” with Redline‘s art is that it apparently makes people think the movie has no story, that it’s nothing but a pretty face, and has little to offer people who are interested in characterization and narrative. This is a mistake.

I’ll explain what I mean by just using the introduction to the film.

The movie begins with the Yellow Line race, a preliminary to the main “Redline” race which everyone in the galaxy looks forward to. The main character is Sweet JP, and based on the fact that it’s the start of the film, it’s easy to assume that we’ll know what will happen. If it’s a race designed to make JP look impressive, he’ll win. If he’s supposed to look like an underdog, he’ll lose. But then Redline throws us two seemingly contradictory bits of information. First, JP is a notorious for purposely throw races for profit. Second, JP really loves to race and has a passion for high-speed shenanigans. Just from that bit of information, the outcome of the race becomes ambiguous, as does JP’s character. How can a guy who fixes races enjoy himself behind the wheel that much? It gives Sweet JP a sense of mystery, and as the Yellow Line race builds up towards its climax, the question isn’t simply “will JP win or lose?” but rather “what kind of person is JP?” Would he give up money for the opportunity to enter Redline? It makes for a compelling protagonist, and it’s done with a good degree of subtlety.

I think part of the issue might be that Redline‘s frenetic, intense, and to some extent macho style makes people think that a show like that can’t have some heart, and even if the reviewers think otherwise, it doesn’t come across in the way they talk about it. While I do think that the aesthetic of Redline is such a prominent part of the film that if you dislike the way it looks you probably won’t enjoy it, I strongly believe that someone who is merely neutral towards the look of Redline can still get a ton of enjoyment out of it. Let’s not forget those potential viewers.

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4 thoughts on “The “Curse” of Redline’s Aesthetic

  1. I think you’re giving way too much credit to the narrative of Redline. Certainly, the visual aesthetic is the most prominent thing about the film, but the reason reviewers and fans don’t talk about the story all that much isn’t because it’s being drowned out by the visuals, but rather because it just isn’t very good. It’s merely acceptable, perhaps a notch or 2 above being an “excuse plot.” Certainly, Redline wouldn’t be getting the praise it got if it was just all visuals with a bad story, but at the same time, it shouldn’t get lauded for the passable story it has.

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    • I’m not sure what you’re calling the “plot” exactly but I have to disagree quite a bit. If we’re talking about the basic “there’s a race and here are some racers and robo planet wants to kill them all,” then yes, the plot is basic. What I’m referring to though is the solid characterization in the film which gives you a strong sense of the characters’ personalities and histories with each other, which is mostly shown rather than being told. Whether it’s JP, Sonoshee, or even the mechanic whose name I forgot, I find their interactions to drive the story forward in a way that feels natural and refreshing.

      They’re well-written characters who create a good story.

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