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Linebarrels of Iron: Volume 1 (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

January 24, 2010 by  



“Linebarrels of Iron” is enjoyable, action-packed, sexy and mecha driven anime series with a twist.  Just awesome!

Image courtesy of © 2008 Eichi Shimiazu, Tomohiro Shimoguchi, Akita Publishing/GONZO/Linebarrel Partners. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Linebarrels of Iron: Volume 1

DURATION: 12 episodes (300 Minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: Language: English 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound, Japanese Stereo, English Subtitles

COMPANY: Gonzo/FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: TV MA

Release Date: January 19, 2010

Based on the manga series “Kurogane no Linebarrel” by Eiichi Shimizu, Tomohiro Shimoguchi

Directed by Masayuki Kojima

Series Composition by Kiyoko Yoshimura

Screenplay by Kiyoko Yoshimura, Shigeru Morita

Music by Conisch

Character Design by Hisashi Hirai

Chief Animation Director: Hisashi Hirai

Mecha Design by Tsutomo Suzuki

Sound Director by Masafumi Mitsuma

Featuring the following voice talent:

Mamiko Noto/Alexis Tipton as Emi Kizaki

Tetsuya Kakihara/Josh Grelle as Kōichi Hayase

Aya Hirano/Monica Rial as Miu Kujou

Chiwa Saito/Tia Ballard as Rachel Calvin

Emi Shinohara/Michele Specht as Yurianne Faithful

Gô Shinomiya/Joel McDonald as Hideaki Yajima

Hirofumi Nojima/Ian Sinclair as Sobi Nakajima

Jun Fukuyama/Todd Haberkorn as Hisataka Katō

Jun Konno/Jerry Jewell as Makoto Doumyouji

Kana Ueda/Cherami Leigh as Shizuna Endō

Masako Joh/Cynthia Cranz as Chisato Hayase

Miyuki Sawashiro/Mary Morgan as Satoru Yamashita

Noriko Shitaya/Carrie Savage as Risako Niiyama

Rie Kugimiya/Aaron Dismuke as Izuna Endō

Yoshikazu Sato/Bob Carter as Jack Smith

Yuuichi Nakamura/J. Michael Tatum as Reiji Moritsugu

Kouichi dreams of being a hero, but in reality he’s a punching bag for every bully on the block. His life flatlines when the mysteriously naked Emi crash lands on his pitiful existence, thrusting Kouichi into the middle of an intergalactic showdown between rival races of self-regenerating Machinas.

Through his death-bed partnership with the Linebarrel mecha, Kouichi gains the strength to stand up to his tormentors and crush the alien invasion force that’s determined to conquer Earth. There’s just one problem: all this newfound power and special attention from nearly naked babes is turning Kouichi into a jerk. His friends can’t stand him, he makes his dream girl sick, and those aliens want to kill him extra dead!

Kouichi may have the mechanized muscle to save the world, but he has much to learn about being a true “Hero of Justice.”

In 2004, the manga series “Kurogane no Linebarrel” (Linebarrels of Iron) was created by Eiichi Shimizu and Tomohiro Shimoguchi.  The manga was first serialized in Akita Shoten’s monthly shonen manga magazine “Champion Red” and in 2008, received its anime adaptation featuring a total of 24-episodes which ended in March 2009.

The anime series is directed by Masamitsu Hidaka (known for his directorial work on various “Pokemon” series and films), series composition by Kiyoko Yoshimura (“Chocolate Underground”, “Dogs: Bullets & Carnage”) and Shigeru Morita (“Mobile Suit Gundam Seed”, “Seikon no Qwaser”).   Character design for the series is by Hisashi Hirai (“Mobile Suit Gundam Seed”, “Sokyu no Fafner”, “Infinite Ryvius”, “Heroic Age”), mecha design by Tsutomu Suzuki (“Zone of Enders”, Kurokami the Animation”, “Bokurano”) and music by Conisch (“Hitohira”, “Hipira: The Little Vampire”).  “Linebarrles of Iron” is animated by Gonzo.

“Linebarrels of Iron” is a story about Kouichi Hayashi, a teenager who is often bullied.  He always dreams that his purpose in life is to be an ally of justice but he is often picked on and bullied in front of his childhood friend and the girl he cares about Risako Niyama.  Things get so bad that often she tries to defend him and when things get tough, his friend Hideaki Yajima is always there to protect them.

One day, Kouichi is bullied by three people who force him to get their lunch, which Kouichi agrees to and infuriates Risako.   He tells her that he believes he has a hidden, latent power to become an ally of justice but of course, his two friends don’t believe it and try to tell him to fight back. Meanwhile, an object called “Linebarrel” is heading towards the planet Earth.

When Kouchi is arriving back to school after getting the bullies their food, he sees the object going straight down on him.   When Kouchi awakens, he sees a big giant mecha robot in front of him and right next to him, a naked girl.  He brings the girl, who doesn’t remember who she is to his home to get some clothes.  But while they are talking, three mecha show up in the area.  They belong to the Katou Organization and start destroying parts of the city.

The girl, Emi Kizaki immediately remembers that those mecha are the enemy and the military with their mecha start to protect the city and fight against the enemy.   Both Kouichi and Emi are stuck in the neighborhood with no chance to escape but his friend Yajima finds them and tries to save them.  Kouichi who has had enough of people trying to protect him, gets upset and punches the wall and ends up breaking the wall.  Emi then remembers and tells him that he has power and must call the power of Linebarrel.  Immediately a light surrounds both Koichi and Emi and he awakens and calls a huge machina named Linebarrel to appear.

We then see a more confident Kouichi with special abilities and Kouichi believes that this latent power to become the ally of justice has finally awakened, when the truth is that on the day the object fell on him, he died but Emi saved his life by having Linebarrel choose him for a factor.  He now has special abilities and has been given a second life which is tied to the life of the mecha.  But the problem with Kouichi is that the power has gotten to his head, his idea that he’s the ally of justice makes him feel that he is the most powerful being and doesn’t understand humility.  All he cares is people recognizing his power and wanting to exact revenge on those who hurt him.

But eventually, he’ll learn a big lesson when someone close to him dies and knows he has a major responsibility by having this newfound power.

“Linebarrels of Iron” is a series that pits two organizations against each other.  The good guys are known as JUDA while the bad guys are known as the Katou Organization.

JUDA consists of:

  • Kouichi Hayase – The main character who goes from the weak teenager constantly being bullied to a boy who controls the powerful machina known as Linebarrel.   He was killed on the day Linebarrel crashed into him and shares his life with Linebarrel.  Linebarrel has now given him power and also power to automatically restore his body.  But because Kouichi is somewhat unstable with his emotions and his belief that he is the ally of justice, his ego tends to get into his head at times.  But throughout the series, we see him grow as an individual and becomes protective over the people he cares about, including the girls of JUDA who suddenly start taking a liking towards him.
  • Emi Kizaki – Emi was supposed to be the initial factor (pilot) of Linebarrel.  She is a mysterious member of JUDA because she came from another dimension.  She tends to be hard on Kouichi but at the same time cares for him.  But she gets very angry when she thinks Kouichi is always trying to see her nude.
  • Reiji Moritsugu – The Chief of the Special Task Force at JUDA.  He is a calm but cold person who seems to be impervious of pain.  He and Kouchi often get into squabbles because of their sense of dealing with justice.
  • Satoru Yamashita – (the blonde factor at JUDA)  A subordinate of Reiji and also obsessed with him.  Also serious but can be cheerful.  She pilots the machina known as Hind-Kind.
  • Shizuna Endo – One of the twins of JUDA, She is very loud and always screaming and hurting Koichi but you can tell she has feelings towards him, especially when Kouichi treats her as a girl and compliments her.  She and her brother pilot the machina known as Deceive.
  • Izuna Endo – One of the twins of JUDA, he is very shy and introverted.  His sister Shizuna is more domineering.  He pilots the machina Deceive along with his sister.
  • Miu Kujo – The kindhearted (and well-endowed) member of JUDA.  She has a crush on Kouichi after he saved her life.  She pilots the machina Painkiller.
  • Kunio Ishigami – The Chief of JUDA Corporation.  A former high-ranking officer of the Katou Organization with many secrets.  Also, loves to prank his pilots and have fun.
  • Yui Ogawa – Ishigami’s secretary and is the more maternal member of JUDA, giving the pilots advice and admonishing her boss for his pranks.
  • Rachel Calvin – A genius from the US who is the chief of research and development for JUDA.  Often gets angry with Kouichi.

The Katou Organization:

  • Hisataka Katou – The head of the Katou Organization.  Cold and calm, his goal is world conquest with bloodshed.  He is the pilot of the massive mecha known as Shangri-La.
  • Masaki Sugwara – The right hand man of Katou.  The First Division Captain who is mysterious and sports a cowboy outfit and long hair with no emotions.  Pilots the second largest Machina known as Glein-Neidr.
  • Takuro Sawatari – The Fourth Division Captain of the Katou Organization.  Violent and brutal and wants to destroy Linebarrel.  He pilots the Arma Idaten.
  • Dimitri Magarov – Third Division Captain and a creepy looking man who pilots the Arma, Kagutsuchi.
  • Yurianne Faithful – The Seventh Division Captain.  An attractive redhead who pilots the Arma Tsubaki-Hime.
  • Riku Ousei – The Eighth Division Captain who is very obese and a psychopath.  Pilots the Arma Yaoyorozu.
  • Jack Smith – The Sixth Division Captain – A human with a power of the Arma, doesn’t pilot any mecha and follows the code of honor in combat.

“Linebarrels of Iron” Volume 1″ comes with a total of 12 episodes, with six episodes on two DVD’s. Here is a basic, spoilerless summary of each episode:

DISC 1:

  • EPISODE 1 – The Iron and the Boy – Kouichi discovers his newfound power and is reborn.
  • EPISODE 2 – Justice Barreling Along – The JUDA corporation tries to recruit Kouichi.
  • EPISODE 3 – Azure Terror – JUDA sends Reiji Moritsugu to deal with Kouichi’s stubbornness.  Yajima starts to worry about his friend.
  • EPISODE 4 – The Price of Justice – Emi loses her trust in Kouichi and Linebarrel is confiscated.  A tragedy hits Kouichi hard.
  • EPISODE 5 – Guidepost to Tomorrow – Kouichi joins the JUDA Corporation.
  • EPISODE 6 – A Radiant Night – Kouchi is introduced to the other pilots of the JUDA Corporation.

DISC 2:

  • EPISODE 7 – The Worst After School Hours Ever – Hisataka Kato of the Katou Organization tries to get Kouichi to join their organization.
  • EPISODE 8 – Playful Devils – JUDA sends Kouichi, Reiji and Miu on a mission to aid U.S. forces against the Katou Organization.
  • EPISODE 9 – The Black Chamber – JUDA sends the pilots on a mission to investigate mysterious spheres that the Katou Organization has launched all over the world.
  • EPISODE 10 – Over Drive – The Katou Organization has hijacked a U.S. satellite weapon.
  • EPISODE 11 – Super Nova – Kouichi must destroy the satellite from impending worldwide disaster.
  • EPISODE 12 – From the Tropics with Love – Ishigami brings the pilots to a deserted island for rest and relaxation.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Linebarrels of Iron: Volume 1” features pretty solid animation.  The artistic backgrounds are nicely lighted and shaded.  Character designs are also well done and feature the character designs with a lot of shading and featuring the character in a variety of emotions.  Also, the series features a lot of mecha.  Each pilot on both sides with their own machina and abilities definitely brings in this other element to the series.  There is a lot of action featured in “Linebarrels of Iron” and a lot of destruction.   GONZO did a spectacular job with the animation and a series that I hope receives the Blu-ray treatment.

Audio is in English 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound and Japanese Stereo.  Both voice acting for the English and Japanese are well done.  The English dub is very well done and was quite pleased with the amount of action and sound effects.  Good use of surround channels and good punchy bass for booms from the subwoofer.  I definitely would love to hear this soundtrack ala lossless audio if brought to Blu-ray.  But for the most part, English dub soundtrack is well done and more immersive.  Japanese soundtrack is very good but only in stereo but if you have a home theater receiver capable of setting audio on all channels, it definitely makes the soundtrack much more immersive.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

Linebarrels of Iron: Volume 1” comes with the following special features:

DISC 1:

  • EPISODE 6 – A Radiant Night Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Caitlin Gass (ADR Director), Alexis Tipton (Emi) and Josh Greeley (Kouichi)
  • Music Video: Proud – (3:42) The full animated music video for “Proud”.

DISC 2:

  • Promotional Video – (1:22) The original Japanese promotion for “Linebarrels of Iron”.  Subtitled in English.
  • Original Japanese TV Spots – (1:19) The original Japanese TV commercials.
  • Textless Opening Song – (1:47) Opening theme song by JAM Project.
  • Textless Closing Song – (1:35) The ending theme by Maaya Sakamoto.
  • Trailers – FUNimation Entertainment trailers

“Linebarrels of Iron” is enjoyable, action-packed, sexy and mecha driven anime series with a twist.

I really enjoyed this series.  For one, it was interesting to have the protagonist that was mentally unstable.  No, nothing like Shinji of “Neon Genesis Evangelion”, the character of Kouichi had this unstable mentality because of his ego and willingness to become this “ally of justice”.  In some sort of twisted way, he sort of reminded me of Kira of “Death Note” and Kouichi trying to exact his way of justice and having so much power getting caught up in his head.

Also, this mecha anime series contains a little bit of that “harem” style in which there are many female characters who start to show interest towards Kouichi, something you really don’t see from a mecha anime series and also because it’s harem, it has its share of a little fan service.  Especially as the female pilots thinks that to show their appreciation to an Earthling, they must take off all their clothes.  Granted, there is no nudity in “Linebarrels of Iron” but it added that sexual element to the series which mecha otaku’s who enjoyed series like “Gravion” or “Gurren Lagann” will enjoy.

So, far the first half of the anime series has featured quite a bit of action and it’s going to be interesting to see what happens when both organizations go all out.  I can imagine that this series is going to switch to serious mode during its second half as JUDA and the Katou Organization pilots battle each other and I can imagine that characters are probably going to get killed in battle.

But what I found important with this series is that each episode is connected and they are fun.  No filler episodes.  With so many characters featured in this series, there is a good amount of character development and a very good balance of humor and action.  And that is what makes “Linebarrels of Iron” so addicting and enjoyable.

As for the DVD, this is a pretty solid release that actually has a good number of special features than just the opening and ending theme songs.  Character and mecha design especially the artistic backgrounds are well done.  The series is also well-acted both in Japanese and English. Personally, this is one series that I hope FUNimation Entertainment considers for a Blu-ray release.  It’s a really fun, action-packed series that I can imagine, will look and sound great via HD.

Overall, the first volume of “Linebarrels of Iron” was exciting and a good amount of mecha action, humor, fan service and more.    Definitely recommended!

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