While life seemingly was going forward okay, a coup that intends to upset the entire world order gets in the way. But not in the way of karaoke and goofy security measures.
What They Say Kouichi Hayase is everything you never wanted in a hero. He's a cocky flyboy whose bad attitude and reckless antics endanger everyone around him. Sound like a nightmare? Well, it's even worse. Thanks to Kouichi's partnership with the revolutionary Linebarrel mecha, he's the only one who can save humanity from a deadly race of alien invaders.
With his dream girl missing and his best friend back from the dead, Kouichi must join forces with an unlikely ally to prevent the pulverization of his precious planet. The time is now for Kouichi to prove he has what it takes to become a true "Hero of Justice."
Contains episodes 13-24.
Audio: FUNimation has a good bilingual presentation for this series though the English language makes out better as is the norm. Gonzo didn't create an original 5.1 mix for it so the Japanese language track is in stereo encoded at 192kbps while the English language mix is in 5.1 encoded at 448kbps. The Japanese track is solid, though you can see it having more impact with a 5.1 mix and additional bass, and the English language mix does provide some of this but still has to work with the source materials. Both languages are very sharp and clear though the English language feels a bit louder and more defined. The stereo track works well and has plenty of placement and directionality across it which makes out better in the English language as well. We didn't have any issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback of either language track.
Video: Originally airing throughout 2009, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. This release has twelve episodes spread across two volumes in a six/six format, with just under two and a half hours per disc. The series looks quite good here with vibrant animation that has a lot of movement to it. The action scenes are where the show shines a lot as the battles are very fast paced at times and the flow of the animation is strong with no breakup or blocking to it. There are a few scenes that don’t fare as well, where the deep blues of the underwater have more noise than anywhere else, but they’re few and far between to begin with. Cross coloration is non-existent and there’s very little to notice when it comes to line noise during panning sequences. Colors are generally very strong and solid with only some noisy sections in backgrounds here and there scattered across the twelve episodes.
Packaging: Linebarrels of Iron has the same approach as most other collections from FUNimation with a slipcover that holds two clear thinpak cases inside, essentially taking up the space of one regular keepcase but providing for a lot of artwork and a better feel for the price. The front cover looks good as it features Kouichi with a wounded and angry look to him while Emi has a look of concern and almost surprise along the right. The background isn't quite as defined as the first one but it also features a darkened image of the Linebarrel itself. The back cover continues this slightly angled look with the black and white while introducing several shots from the show along the top at a different angle. These look quite good, showing off both action and character shots, as well as the episode and disc count along with all the extras. The text below it is kept horizontal which is a plus and it’s intriguing that they start off by noting the other works of the creative staff, such as Pokemon and Gundam Seed. The summary covers everything well and I like the tagline of “Everything you never wanted in a hero.” The technical information is kept along the bottom of the back cover which is welcome and the information is clean and clear – if small – and is accurate.
Inside the slipcover we get a pair of good looking thinpaks with solid artwork to each of them. The first volume features Kouichi and Emi together in their uniforms set against the red, black and white background design that’s really quite appealing. The second volume pulls out a side by side shot of Kouchi and Satoru together with serious looks which contrasts the action expressions we see on the other cover. The back covers are laid out the same with the black, red and white layouts that uses different mecha done in black and white against the red backdrop. Episode numbers and titles are presented here along with an accurate listing of which extras are on that particular disc. Each disc has a reverse side piece of cover artwork, where the left background has a shadowed mecha in black and gray while the right side features different character artwork. No show related inserts are included in this release.
The menus are appealing, though I’m not sure the artwork choices are the best for it. The layout does a sideways piece with the background design that uses the black, red and gray layout to give off a mechanical/industrial feeling with the cold colors. The volume number is given a large bit of space in the middle next to the four navigation selections which is just to the left of the character artwork, with the second volume using the reverse side artwork from the first thinpak and the second volume doing the reverse. The logo looks good, though a bit soft on some displays, and there’s a good action piece of instrumental music that plays for about a minute before looping again. The layout and navigation works well but the character art just doesn’t click or set the mood right. Submenus load quickly and navigation is smooth and easy.
While the first set had a fair number of releases, this one has just the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers) Linebarrels of Iron proved to be an interesting show in its first half as it went with what was a fairly familiar storyline with fun characters and some very solid production values. Unfortunately, the second half ended up getting delayed by about ten months and that's made getting back into the show a bit hard unless you have the chance to re-watch the first half again. Once it gets rolling though, Linebarrels of Iron all comes blazing back for the most part and the elements of the first half that made it so much fun are definitely fully on display. Though it's not without a few missteps as well.
The final half of the series, clocking in at twelve episodes, covers a fair bit of ground as the Juda organization folks find their battle becoming even more intense. The fight against the Katou organization takes a surprising turn when the Chief ends up killed in cold blood by Reiji. There's plenty of angst about what's happened and Kouchi naturally flies off the handle, but the event is definitely a turning point for the group. The loss of the chief causes quite the vacuum in the power structure and while there isn't a listlessness about it, the focus isn't quite as strong as it was. In a way, the group tends to strikes out at things since the Katou organization has their plans and are doing their level best to keep Juda off balance in a few different ways.
Relationships are a big part of this half, not unexpected in the slightest, as Kouichi and Emi start getting closer and closer together. The two have had their struggles with each other from the start but as the events play out, they're forced closer and closer together and the feelings below the surface start to rise. More of it comes from Emi as she's realizing her feelings. Not content to keep it just to those two, something I wish more series would actually do, there are issues involving Risako as well and even Miu gets in on the game. There's also a rather fun little monkeywrench thrown in when Yajima returns to the world of the living and is intent on trying to get into Risako's good graces as he's obviously always had an interest in her. There aren't any real surprises with how the relationships play out, but as Emi and Kouichi's story becomes clearer, it's not as unrealistic as it could have been. Even with Kouichi being as oblivious as he is when it comes to women.
Where the show really shines for me though is that as it gets into the late teens and into the final arc, the invasion from the other dimension becomes key. They actually manage to slowly seed the ideas that play out fairly big here at the end in a way that works as we see more of what's been going on with the Katou organization and even the chief's own involvement in it back before he left. When we do get the history of the other dimension and what kind of evolution has occurred there, it's actually pretty interesting and one you'd want to see explored more. The kind of world where if they had made it clearer from the beginning and went into it, you could see a lot more of the possibilities.
What I did appreciate from this show, especially in this half, is that after Juda is thrown for a loop, the Katou organization goes forward with their plan in a big way and changes the world fundamentally, at least for awhile. Taking over Japan is one thing, something we've seen in many shows, but having events take place worldwide and pushing that angle for change with the reasons they're using for it, which is made even clearer later on, gives it a much larger scale than it could have had otherwise. Seeing the bad guys go big and make radical changes, and then to see the people go along with it all because they don't know how to cope otherwise, gives it all a very welcome feeling and sets the tone for the final arc with its ability to try and go big.
Linebarrels of Iron has a lot going for it and doesn't cower from certain aspects of a series you'd normally get with this kind of age range of characters. There's a lot of emotion behind the cast, especially Kouichi as his life has so radically changed since becoming a Factor, and he's not missing any chances to be out there unlike how he was in the past. The show goes big in the second half for the most part, but it also plays to some bad angles. When the world falls apart and the main city is emptied of people, they still have time to go and karaoke. The silly side of the doesn't hold up well, especially with the way the show gets so serious and driven. The delay between releases did not help this show but it's one that definitely tries to do some different things and runs with an interesting premise overall.
Features Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
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