First Squad (2009) / Redline (2009) Movie Review

First Squad: The Moment of Truth (2009) Movie Image

I love me some anime. I have since I was a teen. My love and appreciation for the genre has only grown and as much as I love it, I’m often disappointed by the lack of feature films that come out. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good series, but sometimes I don’t want to commit months to watching something. Sometimes I just want a quick fix. Anchor Bay and Manga Entertainment have provided me a much need anime injection of goodness with “Redline” and “First Squad.”

Starting with “First Squad: The Moment of Truth” is an interesting project to say the least. Director Yoshiharu Ashino follows in the line of East/West collaborations like “Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust,” “Highlander: The Search For Vengeance,” and even “Afro Samurai,” but where as those were U.S./Japanese collaborations, this is a Japanese/Russian one. Yeah I said Russian. But because of the material it fits.

Set during the opening days of World War II on the Eastern Front. Its main cast is a group of Soviet teenagers with extraordinary abilities; the teenagers have been drafted to form a special unit to fight the invading German army. They are opposed by a Schutzstaffel (SS) officer who is attempting to raise from the dead a supernatural army of crusaders from the 12th-century Order of the Sacred Cross and enlist them in the Nazi cause.

The story is somewhat slow, but it has some good action and some interesting ideas. What makes this different than any anime I’ve seen is that it’s interspersed with faux-documentary interviews with Russian and German “historians” and “veterans.” These pieces are used to add a sense of realism to the story that is unfolding and on some levels it really works well. However all the build up to the epic battle sort of fizzles when the film ends with a very open ending. I’m all for leaving room for a sequel but this isn’t even a proper ending. It’s more like the first half of a larger story, and this was the opening chapter. I really do hope there is more because they introduce characters but barely give them any development before it’s time for the grand finale.

Buy First Squad: The Moment of Truth on DVD

Redline (2009) Movie Image

“Redline” on the other hand is an amazing film and a testament to dedication. Taking seven years to complete and 100, 000 hand made drawings, in the age of computer animation, director Takeshi Koike brings us the insane, over the top, and completely awesome “Redline”

“Redline” is about the biggest and most deadly racing tournament in the universe. Only held once every five years, everyone wants to stake their claim to fame, including JP, a reckless dare-devil driver oblivious to speed limits with his ultra-customized car – all the while, organized crime and militaristic governments want to leverage the race to their own ends. Amongst the other elite rival drivers in the tournament, JP falls for the alluring Sonoshee – but will she prove his undoing, or can a high speed romance survive a mass destruction race?

With fun characters, breakneck speed, and music that will get your head nodding, this film is just plain awesome. I mean it’s rare that I’m completely blown away by something but this did it. When you see it the fact that it was hand drawn will not be wasted. It looks beautiful. I really don’t have anything bad to say except I wish there were more races within the film. It’s a crazy fun ride I intend to take again an again.

Buy Redline on DVD