Linebarrels of Iron is certainly a strange series to be reviewing. It’s an old fashioned looking show, mixed with a main character that wouldn’t be wrongly placed working alongside Lelouch Lamperiouge in Code Geass. That said the art style and the personality of the protagonist are the first thing a viewer will notice about this series, and that can either be a very good thing, or a bad thing.
Our young protagonist is Kouichi Hayase, the kid who is always being picked on and hasn’t got the confidence to stand up for himself, and thus always ends up being protected by childhood friend, Hideaki Yajima. Despite this lack of confidence, Kouichi has his mind set on becoming a hero of justice and being able to protect all those he cares for, and his town (and later the world), in general. One day in a freak accident a strange machine falls from the sky and kills Kouichi, only the pilot of this machine, Emi Kizaki, quickly brings him back to life. Once brought back Kouichi quickly learns that he now too has the ability to control the powerful machine – the Linebarrel as he has become a Factor. However, being reborn and having this power thrust upon him doesn’t work out quite how you’d want it too, and Kouichi goes from being the bullied to the bully in a somewhat screwed up sense of justice. He’s a cocky fourteen year old, bluntly put, and like any fourteen year old when you have such power handed to you, you don’t always do what’s right and just end up big headed and pushing your, mostly wrong, sense of justice onto everyone else, which is what we see in Kouichi. As the story progresses we learn that Kouichi isn’t alone in being a Factor and having a machine like Linebarrel, there are others just like him who are both fighting for the good of the earth and protecting humans, and those who are trying to take it over. While fighting the bad guy group known as Katou who are trying to invade the town, Kouichi gets to meet the good guys known as JUDA. Kouichi is quickly put in his place by JUDA and after the death of a close friend who recklessly saves Kouichi from an attack from Katou; he realizes that if he wants to become a true hero of justice then he’ll have to work with JUDA in their fight against Katou. To say that Kouichi slips into JUDA well would be a complete lie – no one in the group truly accepts him until he earns his place, which in many respects is a good thing. The thing with Kouichi is that, while yes, he actually can be likeable as a character, he’s also a jumped up, arrogant kid who you don’t want to cheer on and you’ll likely spend a lot of your time enjoying the moments where he is put into his place by Emi or a member of the JUDA team (who, are for the most part all very interesting characters).
For the most part though the plot for Linebarrels of Iron is a strong one, and while certain elements can be quite predictable, it’s enjoyable nonetheless. The characters also prove to be strong throughout, and although it’s a large cast and we never get the chance to explore the backstories of everyone, they’re all quite deep and interesting in their own ways. The JUDA team are especially interesting and will have you cheering for their success one way or another. It’s also nice to see that Kouichi actually grows and becomes more mature as the series goes on, so he too becomes likeable by the end, ensuring the series finishes on a good note. That said, when it comes to actually controlling his power I don’t think Kouichi ever improved. Despite being a Mecha anime you often feel that battles are won more by luck or willpower more than the characters actually being good at fighting, with the exception of Reiji Moritsugu. The anime spends more time with the characters taunting one another in battle or just generally talking among themselves then it does actually having them cross swords. That isn’t too much of a bad thing though with a plot which can sometimes be quite confusing you’re often grateful that the series chooses to explain it over throwing us into battles and suchlike. It also offers some nice character devolvement.
Cast and plot aside, the animation choice for Linebarrels of Iron is certainly an interesting one, although with a studio like Gonzo behind it, I’m not quite why I expected much else. The designs of the machines aside, Gonzo have gone for a very old fashioned look for the series and its character designs, which for a series only from late 2008 is quite amusing. It isn’t a bad choice by any means, but for viewers who have only started anime recently and may not have yet seen any more classic shows they’d likely be quite taken aback. It takes a bit of getting used to, but once you do it can be quite charming, and it’s nice to see some more old fashioned character designs. The soundtrack for the series doesn’t seem to stand out, and a lot of it can feel like it has been reused a lot. Despite being a 24 episode series, Linebarrels of Iron keeps the same opening and ending theme throughout, which again is an interesting choice, but maybe not a bad one. A lot can be said for the voice acting throughout, as a number of big names step up to the plate, most notable being Tetsuya Kakihara who voices Kouichi, many will likely remember him for his role as Natsu in Fairy Tail, or Sam Coyne in Osuma.
Linebarrels of Iron is by no means the best series for its genre, and those looking for a lot of action will be disappointed a lot of the time, but that said it does have a strong story and cast of characters which makes up for it. That, mixed with the interesting animation choice insures that Linebarrels of Iron is an enjoyable enough series.