Why You Can’t Miss Redline: An Interview with Director Takeshi Koike

Yeah, I know. You don’t like anime. It’s all big eyes and tentacle rape. You’ve seen enough to know you don’t need to see anymore, thank you very much.

The problem with all that is you’ve not seen Redline.

At least not yet. But you will see it. You’re the type of person that reads Tor.com. It will be impossible for you to avoid it. If you’re sensible you’ll try and catch a cinema screening of it somewhere, at a festival or a con. Or you’ll pick it up when it comes out on DVD or Blu-ray (next month in the UK, January in the US). Or perhaps you’re more stubborn than that. Perhaps you’ll refuse to watch it at all, especially after this slightly irritating blog post intro. But you won’t escape it. You can’t. Someone on your Twitter or Facebook stream will be raving about it. You’ll be at a party and someone will be chatting about it. And then one day — maybe even years from now — you’ll be at a friend’s place and they’ll say to you “what do you mean you’ve not seen Redline?” And despite your protests about not liking anime because it’s all big eyes and tentacle rape, they’ll force you to sit down and watch it.

And then you’ll wonder why you resisted for so long, while the movie melts your retinas and makes your heart want to explode out of your chest and you realise that the person that made you watch it is your best friend forever.

What the hell is Redline? Well, according to my review of it for Anime News Network last year it is “the most insanely exciting, visually exhilarating anime film you’ve seen in decades.” Seven years in the making, it’s the story of JP and his dream to win the Redline — the galaxy’s deadliest illegal road race. Taking queues from influences as diverse as Star Wars, Akira, and Heavy Metal, it’s a beautifully animated non-stop rollercoaster trip of fast cars, spaceships, loud music, crazy aliens and city-sized bio-weapons. It’s… aw hell. It’s easier just to watch this clip:

One of the most remarkable things about Redline is the fact it’s the directorial debut of Takeshi Koike. Not that the man didn’t have an already fierce resume — having been key animator on The Animatrix, Dead Leaves, and Samurai Champloo — but it’s remarkable that anime studio Madhouse trusted him with a sizeable budget and an insane seven years to make his feature length debut such a unique vision. Earlier in the year, thanks to the magic of email, I was able to ask him a few questions.

One of the things that struck me about Redline was how much it reminded me of the European scifi art and comics I was a huge fan of when growing up — in particular 2000AD comics, Heavy Metal and the work of Jean ‘Moebius‘ Giraud. Was this a conscious decision, and were these people an influence on the art style of the film?

I like “Sin City”by American Comics creator Frank Miller. I took influence from things like how he unifies the shadows through the use of blacks.

On a similar note — who would you say was the single biggest influence on your work on Redline and your career in general?

The animator Yoshinori Kanada (who worked on Galaxy Express 999 as well as many Hayao Miyazaki movies such as My Neighbor Totoro and Princess Mononoke, and who sadly passed away in 2009).

Redline’s techno influenced soundtrack made a huge impact on the crowd at the preview screening I saw — how much did music pay in the creative process? Did you have this kind of soundtrack in mind at the early planning stages?

I think music determines half of the movie’s image. Along with Ishii, the original creator, from an early stage we thought about how we wanted genius musician James Shimoji for it.

We have heard reports that the version of Redline shown at festivals here in Europe was an early edit — has much changed since? In particular we heard that the music had changed — in what ways? Is the feel of the soundtrack much different now?

Especially for the second half, we’ve increased the amount of sound effects and redoing the music to be 5.1ch. As we added the new music and sound effects, we’ve also fine-tuned the sound mix even further.

It was great to see Trava and Shinkai in Redline — and the universe they inhabit in so much more detail. Will we perhaps see more of them and it in future projects? Perhaps a new Fist Planet OAV or series?

There are no concrete plans, but personally speaking, I think it’s a title that I’m incredibly fond of, and one I would like to see materialize someday.

Redline seems like a film that could have large appeal outside traditional anime audiences. Was this always you intent — to try and break free of where anime is at the moment?

Of course there are the anime fans, but I think Redline is a work that will also be seen and enjoyed by fans of director Katsuhito Ishii’s live action films, as well as by movie fans in general. There are plenty of animated films based on TV series, but I’m feeling the true potential of an animation studio that has stepped up to the challenge of making an original title.

When he’s not writing about anime Tim Maughan writes science fiction – his critically acclaimed book Paintwork is out now.


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