Linebarrels of Iron
2010 TV Series (episodes 1-12). Director: Masamitsu Hidaka. 300 minutes. DVD, bilingual, $49.98. Distributor: FUNimation.
Kouichi may aspire to heroic greatness, but the daily beating at the hands of local bullies predicts something else. Be that as it may, when Emi literally crashes into his life, he get’s his shot. This otherworldly female not only causes his death, but a symbiotic rebirth with a mecha called Linebarrel. Suddenly Kouichi is thrust into an interstellar conflict between humans and alien Machinas. Only his newfound power and control over Linebarrel can underwrite human security. But at what cost? His new power and ability to kick ass goes straight to his head!
Being a hero requires more than just power, and Kouichi is now on the bumpy road to enlightenment.
Overtly, such a synopsis should seem pretty straight forward, right? Wannabe hero finds mecha, gains near herculean strength and becomes an arrogant a-hole drunk on power. In predictable fashion, numerous lessons in humility are undoubtedly behind every corner.
Unfortunately, it’s not so easy. That may be the fuel of the overall story arc, but Linebarrels of Iron is like a kid off his ADD meds: a bit all over the place. The initial episodes invest greatly in Kouichi’s bully problem, his discovery of Emi and his new link with Linebarrel and the resulting mecha battles. But then an abrupt shift takes place. Kouichi, almost incoherently, transforms from teenage student to member of the JUDA Corporation, which covertly operates machina against the hostile mech forces of the Katou organization. Moreover, instead of developing this rivalry with drama and action, we get comic relief and subtle fan service amongst Kouichi and his new, predominately female JUDA team members.
Okay, I get that the future of this series rests in the conflict between these two groups. Yet, Kouichi’s life before JUDA is just too fragmentary and rushed, and the initial JUDA plot is quite underdeveloped and even seems like the stuff of filler. The result: where is this going? Why should I care?
In fact, while watching Linebarrels, I found it very easy to get distracted by impromptu conversations and phone calls. Worse still, after such diversions, I just jumped back in with no sense of discomfort!
That begin said, the mecha designs are by the character designer of Mobile Suit Gundam SEED. So, everything looks fantastic. And the action is spot on. Hopefully the first twelve episodes of Linebarrels is just suffering from a learning disability, and that the next installment will follow a more focused and well developed path – I’ve seen this happen before. After all, for mecha lovers, this show has a lot of potential. But, as of now, I would place it somewhere between a so-so derivation of Full Metal Panic and Evangelion “light.”