I recently watched (and reviewed) the 2009 anime film, REDLINE. Pockets of the Anti-Moé Brigade have showered it with massive amounts of praise, so much that I decided to check it out and see what the hype was all about.
This film deserves none of the praise that was given to it.
REDLINE is a one-hour, forty-two-minute “pure animation” feature, meaning that the only reason anyone should ever watch it is to shut their brain off for 1.75 hours and just watch pretty pictures, and believe me, the pictures are pretty. Seven years of development and 100,000-someodd hand-produced drawings created a movie that looks quite nice.
The problem is: That’s all they created.
All of the characters but two are given the bare minimum of characterization, the plot is incredibly simplistic, and even though the animation looks great, the action doesn’t live up to the quality of the visuals. Put simply, the only exceptional part of REDLINE is its animation. People are saying it harkens back to the 1980s, when animation was all that mattered, and having a crap story or bland characters didn’t count against an anime.
However, it’s 2011.
If REDLINE is the best that Madhouse can come out with after seven years of production, then they should be ashamed of themselves. I know that not the case, because I’ve watched Paprika and Summer Wars, neither of which I’d describe as a “pure animation” feature like REDLINE, even though they both have fantastic animation. We are no longer in the age of “pure animation.” We are in the age of Evangelion, Cowboy Bebop, Haruhi, and Clannad. We are in the age where something else needs to be there, be it a gripping story, memorable characters, or compelling action.
All REDLINE has going for it is its animation, and, unfortunately for it, standards have changed.
So, why are parts of the Anti-Moé Brigade so hyped over REDLINE? Wasn’t their endgame to get more anime like Cowboy Bebop and Evangelion? What about REDLINE makes it such a paragon, even if its story is simple and its characters bland?
The difference is in the difference.
Which is to say, people are praising REDLINE because it’s different. It’s not like the stuff that’s coming out nowadays (Read: Moé). It’s not contemporary, which means it’s better than whatever is contemporary.
The notion that contemporary works are inherently not as good as works that “break the mold” is in no way exclusively held by the Anti-Moé Brigade, or even the anime fandom (There’s a lot of this kind of groupthink among gamers). It’s easy to say “Look at this thing, it’s so different, it’s like a brand-new toy!” However, once the nuance has worn off, the toy has to live up to every other toy that came before it. Nothing can live on nuance alone. Everything has to, eventually, face the jury and be judged on its merits.
The most dangerous thing to an entertainment medium is the idea that nuance somehow holds greater value than technical quality. It doesn’t matter what the status quo is, simply being different does not equate to greatness, and those who hold that belief are dangerous.
As anime fans, we should be expecting more than REDLINE. We should be demanding more than REDLINE. After seven years, Madhouse should have given us more than REDLINE.
As a “pure animation” feature, REDLINE was okay.
But, as a 2009 anime, seven years in the making, REDLINE was a disgrace.
‘Till next time!