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Entry updated 15 November 2021. Tagged: Film.

Japanese animated film (2009). Madhouse. Directed by Takeshi Koike. Written by Katsuhito Ishii, Yōji Enokido and Yoshiki Sakurai. Voice cast includes Yū Aoi, Tadanobu Asano and Takuya Kimura. 102 minutes. Colour.

In the "far distant future" two interplanetary Wars have not dented the popularity of the road-race Redline. This year it is due to take place on Europass, a moon of Roboworld: the latter is home to a civilization of militaristic Cyborgs who had to give up Europass as part of a peace treaty. They consider running the race on it a provocative act – and liable to expose the bio-Weapon they are secretly developing there: so the President declares that all participants will be killed. Only a couple of racers are sane enough to drop out, but this is enough to allow our hero, the generously quiffed JP (Kimura), to compete as a substitute despite being only a runner-up in one of the qualifying races. JP had become obligated to the mafia but believes his debt is now paid off; however his mechanic and friend, Frisbee (Asano) is still working with them.

The race takes up the latter half of the Anime, with the competitors facing attacks from both the Roboworld army and each other: inevitably the bioweapon, called Funky Boy, is activated – though this proves only a temporary impediment. After much frenetic action JP and another racer, Sonoshee (Aoi) – between whom love has blossomed – work together and win by the narrowest of margins – the tip of JP's quiff. Despite the violence, all the drivers survive the race.

Some viewers might be reminded of the old Hanna-Barbera animated television series Wacky Races (1968), which seems to get a couple of nods (one of the competitors in the qualifying race bears some resemblance to Muttley). Characterization is not deep, though (in the Japanese dub at least) JP is a likable hero; the story itself is fairly simple and the plot does not bear too much examination. However, the film's virtues are in the worldbuilding and execution: drivers and crowds are a varied mix of eccentric Aliens, Uploaded animals and humans; the backgrounds, vehicles and other Technology form a densely packed display of over-the-top designs. Watching the film, which took seven years to make, is an exhilarating experience. [SP]


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