Previous Lists... Top 2D Fighting Games *** Top Soundtracks *** Top Miyazaki Movies *** Top Forgotten Fighting Games***Top Manliest Men *** Top Ninjas *** Top Mecha *** Most Awful Anime *** Most Awful Dubs *** Wimpiest Guys *** Top Intros *** Top Anti-Heroes *** Best Ultraviolent Anime *** Top Sci-fi Anime *** Top Overlooked Sci-Fi *** Top Intros (Part 2) *** Top Detectives
Buckle up, Vice-pals, we’re accelerating into the curve and drifting right through the best in animated, automotive excellence! From racing to chasing, these are the finest, most full-throttle, heart-pounding, tire-squealing, white knuckle anime ever.
So sit back and buckle up...!
NUMBER FIVE == SPEED RACER
The list just wouldn’t be complete without this classic. Ask your parents, they’ll remember it - - and probably offer to sing the entire theme song to you. This was one of the shows that introduced a generation to these cartoons we like so much, and it’s actually not hard to see why it was such a hit.
SPEED RACER is undeniably dated, in animation and style, but the designs hold up surprisingly well! The over-the-top cartoony TWISTED METAL-style cars-with-weapons angle is still fun, and the bright colors and zany cast still endured in their appeal. Watch it again on Hulu - - you'll be surprised by how much kick is still left in this dinosaur.
NUMBER FOUR == YOU’RE UNDER ARREST
This one may have gone by unnoticed by most/all of you, but YUA is an appealing little police drama from the 90's, brought to us by the man responsible for AH MY GODDESS. It’s not high art, oh no, but this slickly animated OVA has all the car porn that auto-nerds demand, as well as some really great chase scenes for the rest of us (not to mention likable characters and a great, reserved palette).
This succeeds by not aiming to unseat the kings of the genre. It's content to tell a nice approachable story about two new pals/room mates who also happen to bust some badguys. It might not be as loud or explosive as other entries in the genre - - or this list - - but you’ll find YUA sneaks into your heart fairly quickly. Instead of the usual shonen posturing and engine-flexing, the show focuses on creating a world you like to spend time in - - and, of course, make the necessary tire squeals and hairpin turns in.
If you’re a fan of Kōsuke Fujishima’s work or animated driving sequences, then you’ll easily find a lot to like in this overlooked gem. Maybe play it safe and stick to the original OVA for starters, though.
NUMBER THREE == RIDING BEAN
We’ve talked about Bean Bandit and his exploits on the TOP 5 before, so it should be no surprise that he’s barreled his way to the number 3 spot on this week’s list. RIDING BEAN is one of the best examples of the “wild-man days of the OVA,” and the kind of antics that came with those times. It’s absurd and silly, and crass, but also totally endearing and undeniably entertaining.
There's a specificity to the car-fetishism in this OVA is typical of Kenichi Sonoda, and that should be appreciated by the serious auto enthusiasts out there. His favorite, the Shelby Cobra, makes a lovingly- animated appearance, though this masterpiece of manliness actually gives a lot of cars (and, of course, guns) the love and attention we’ve all come to expect from Sonoda-san.
The show provides pretty much non-stop action of some kind or other, and while much of it is utterly ridiculous (examples include Kevlar headbands, magic sideways driving, hilarious soundtrack, bulletproof cars/men) the whole thing feels studied, and believable, even at its most far-fetched.
RIDING BEAN is a work of pure enthusiasm and love. If you can’t appreciate that, you’re grizzled black heart probably can’t love anything.
NUMBER TWO == INITIAL D
I’m sure you all saw this coming, but there was no way the mighty D wasn’t going to make this list...
Remember how we said YOU’RE UNDER ARREST is mostly without the usual shonen posturing and engine-reving? Well, INITIAL D is the exact opposite. This is pure shonen fantasy at its best/most silly. There are 'power levels' of sorts, lots of close-ups of gasping faces whenever Takumi takes a corner faster than anyone ever thought possible(!!), ridiculous training scenarios, last minute level-ups, and mid-race epiphanies.
Yup, this adheres to the Shonen fighting template pretty closely - - just replace karate or kamehamehas with drifting, cornering, and riding that slipstream! If that doesn’t appeal to you, then you’re better off just giving INITIAL D a skip because there are no surprises here.
Actually, let's be honest. We’re anime fans/nerds/otaku/weirdos and that means that the tropes of these kind of genres often appeal to us. If you like the usual Shonen bullshit (as we do) then you’ll likely love INITIAL D, even if you don’t care at all about cars. If you’re a big nerd for the specifics of illegal mountain racing, well... then you’re gonna go bananas for this shit, man.
It’s certainly worth mentioning that INITIAL D is often brutally ugly. For whatever reason (probably budget), the animators chose to computer render all of the cars, and clearly not with a ton of money. The result is a lot of the races look like PS1 cutscenes. The character designs are also quite odd, with a lot of wide-set eyes and weird fish-lips. Yes, there are some barriers to entry, but these shortcomings are surprisingly easy to come to terms with, and actually sort of add to the charm of this stupid, lovable show.
(Bonus points for the hilarious, happy-hardcore soundtrack and Japanese rap-pop intro and outro music. Wonderfully cringe-worthy).
NUMBER ONE == REDLINE
We can’t believe something could ever unseat the D, but REDLINE is a modern classic of testosterone-fueled anime madness. It's got non-stop thrills, explosions, animation sharp enough to slice your corneas, and all the fast-racing madness you could ever hope for.
REDLINE is not subtle. This is about fueling the base instinct for speed, fun and frenzy. This shit was born over-the-top, and it keeps climbing from there.
We love the attitude of REDLINE, completely without pretension and absolutely self-aware. The setting of much of the film is on or around the planet “Roboworld” and the main antagonist is named “Funky Boy” to give you some idea of what level of craziness is at play here. There’s some amount of winking and self-reference, but the creators seem totally invested and in love with what they’re doing.
The film is directed by Takeshi Koike, a name you may not recognize, but whose work will probably be familiar to you. He’s directed a bunch of great shorts for THE ANIMATRIX, and AFRO SAMURAI. He also worked on a ton of TOP 5 favorites like NINJA SCROLL, WICKED CITY, MEMORIES, and SAMURAI CHAMPLOO (the opening, anyway). Basically, any time a show needs some beautiful, high-contrast animation or bangin’ silhouettes, they call up this guy to get the job done.
If you’re at all interested in cars, racing, action, ridiculous gonzo sci-fi, or animation at all, REDLINE is for you. If you don’t like any of those things, then why are you still reading this list?
So there they are, five of the very best in racing, driving, drifting, and chasing!
As always, I’m sure many of you have some choice opinions about what has been omitted or the legitimacy of what we’ve chosen to include. Well, let us know about it in the comments section below. I’m sure that will make you feel better.
Alex Eckman-Lawn is an illustrator and comic artists from Philadelphia. Check out his site - - alexeckmanlawn.com - - rumble with his Tumblr - -dudenukem.tumblr.com - - and hit up his Twitter: @alexeckmanlawn