Anime Review: Linebarrels of Iron (Part 1)

Middle schooler Kouichi Hayase has always wanted to be a hero, an “ally of justice” as he likes to go around saying. Well, his wish comes true when a naked girl,Emi Kizaki, suddenly comes crashing down on him, killing the boy instantly. Emi has no choice but to revive the boy by infusing him to Linebarrel, a big ass battle mech.

Now with the power to call on Linebarrel and pilot the machine, Kouichi becomes of interest to JUDA, a weapons manufacturer working with the United Nations to fight off a global mysterious alien threat. But after Kouichi joins JUDA, he quickly finds out the truth behind their enemy, and how closely these aliens are connected to Linebarrel and Emi.

When I announced that I would be reviewing Linebarrels of Iron over Twitter, I could hear the collective groans of everyone following me. Clearly this was not a very popular series. So while I did not particularly find it to be the worst thing I have ever seen, it sure did not win me over in these first 13 episode.

I think the biggest problem with Linebarrels is in its characters. The protagonist, our “hero” of the story Kouichi, is a despicable prick who will make your blood curdle with the first dumb thing that comes out of his mouth. His bold declaration of becoming an “ally of justice” feels like an annoying parody of caped superheroes. The rest of the other characters in this extensive cast don’t fair off so well either. None of them have memorable or likable personalities.

But even with the lack of personality in the characters, the one part that Linebarrels manages to get right is in making them look appealing. The predominately female ensemble are all very top heavy and are often seen in their underwear, bikinis, or just in the nude for many parts through out the series. It is quite a lot of fan service, but unlike the disgusting images we saw in Dragonaut, these figures are exaggerated just enough to remain very sexy and appealing.

Likewise, I also found the backstory of Linebarrels to be sort of interesting. The story behind the alien enemy, Emi, and Linebarrel actually set up a very interesting science fiction plot device that I would have liked to see explored further. And likewise, the last episode in this DVD set leaves off with a interesting bit of character development that left me wanting to see what happens next.

But the story also yields some problems as this is a typical big mech action anime that doesn’t have much big mech action. A majority of the episodes revolve around Kouichi and the kids of JUDA “at play” around the facility instead of out fighting the enemies. This means that the series becomes more of a crappy teen romance comedy than an action series, and like most fan service heavy comedies, all the humor and entertainment gets lost in translation.

The characters in the series use the excuse that “we need to have fun in the offseason because we need to be serious while fighting.” But there’s hardly enough serious actions to justify all the time devoted to putting on a talent show, preparing for a Christmas party, or spending a day at the beach. This “relaxed and fun” approach to giant robot fighting sort of reminded me of Martian Successor Nadesico, if Martian Successor Nadesico had only a quarter of its action sequences and was not funny at all.

You got to take the good with the bad in this exclusive partnership between FUNimation and Gonzo. On the one hand, it brought us Romeo x Juliet, which was my third favorite anime of last year. But on the other hand, it also brought us Dragonaut, which was probably the worst show I watched last year. While Linebarrels is not nearly as bad as Dragonaut was, it still earns its place on the crap list of anime releases.

* * * * *

The Good: Backstory is kind of interesting. Decent fan service.

The Bad: Horrible characters, lack of interesting action, and really bad humor.

Final Verdict: I’ve seen worst come out of the FUNimation-Gonzo partnership lately than Linebarrels of Iron, I really have. But there is just not enough here to make the series recommendable. Skip it!

Review copy provided by FUNimation Entertainment.

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