It’s Like….He’s Both Shinji Ikari And Gai Daigouji At The Same Time….Yet He Makes Both Look Like The Greatest Characters In The World
Calling it right now, Kurogane No Linebarrels is a conspiracy to try and forever destroy the image I get whenever I picture gar pilots and real robot mecha anime. Normally everytime a character starts making speeches about justice I immediately go into a muscle flexing tic and fall into a trance. With Kouichi my only response was, “……Is this guy for real or is this some sort of joke”. No, unfortunately this guy is for real…..I think, and I get the sense that whoever was in charge of coming up with the concept for this character decided to mash the two most overused tropes in mecha anime leads into one dude and see how it worked. Unfortunately unlike Simon the Driller it doesn’t. At least not yet, that’s for for damn sure.
You see, Simon worked as a character because he was allowed to grow from a squirrely and timid nobody kid digging below the surface of the Earth into the manliest man the galaxy had ever seen over the course of 26 episodes. He also had a role model in Kamina to whose manliness he could aspire and took from that man his greatest aspects (courage, strength, charisma), while he worked to eliminate his worst aspects (recklessness, stupidity, arrogance) on his way to becoming a hero.
Kouichi goes from getting harassed by bullies at school, to claiming justice is on his side afterward in what seems like it really just had to be a joke, to having a giant robot fall almost on top of him and deciding he’s the guy because he get’s to pilot it……all within the span of one episode. But what there’s more. After somehow punching through a wall with his bare fists, which causes the girl he’s been hanging out with for the past few minutes to remember her name (no idea how these two plot points are actually supposed to be related), she invites him to touch her breast in order to summon Linebarrel which promptly appears through a portal in the sky. Kouichi who is now suddenly “the guy” then manages to leap into it’s open cockpit by jumping what must be at least 20 feet off the ground WHILE carrying Emi in his arms like some sort of wannabe hero and then proceeds to beat up some other robots in the area.
Speaking of making no sense…….okay well…..that is unless we learn that Kouichi has an 8th dan black belt in Karate, is a cyborg or has “the potential”, Emi has a communicator implanted in her breasts, and Linebarrel has portal techology all within the span of the next episode. Whatever the case, times definitely ticking on the explanation for Kouichi’s sudden Clark Kent to Superman transformation. Now speaking of sudden feats of strength, did anybody imagine that they were hearing the 6 million dollar man bionic sound effect when Kouichi suddenly grabbed Emi and leapt into the cockpit? And now I’m drawing a blank….
Okay, wow….I sort of understand where Omni was coming from when he couldn’t really think of anything to say. Truthfully speaking, this opening episode really didn’t do anything for me, and it certainly didn’t do much for the mecha genre. Watching something like Kurogane No Linebarrel episode 1 for a first mecha series would almost certainly put anybody off the genre, and I wouldn’t really blame them. It makes use of almost all of the horrid real robot cliches out there in just the first episode. Let’s do this checklist style:
– Whiny and pathetic student for a lead who suddenly ends up becoming the pilot of a giant robot that he immediately knows how to pilot like a natural (check)
– Arrogant teenager for a lead who thinks he’s the greatest pilot ever and on the side of justice (somehow check)
– Mysterious girl who becomes an acquaintance of the male lead and grants him “the power” (check)
– Shadowy organization with an ominous agenda that is wreaking havoc around the world (check)
– Opposing good organization that appears poised to stop shadowy organization (check)
I’m really not at all inspired by this show, and it doesn’t help that the opening episode literally gives me nothing to look forward to for the next one (nothing I would call a hook at least), nor does it really give me anything relevant to whatever the eventual plot could be in the episode itself. Names, faces and mecha action is pretty much the sole offering of Kurogane No Linebarrels first outing. A lot of shows do this for the first episode, but not many make it seem like it wouldn’t be a potential loss if I didn’t bother to watch the next episode. There is the possibility like with any series that has just begun that it will somehow improve slightly and work out it’s own little semi-unique story in the much saturated sub-genre of Real Robot anime, but for some reason I doubt it.
Perhaps it’s because it has just about everything I can think of that people love to loathe in terms of uninspired mecha anime series. Contributors include Hisashi Hirai with his usual stable of copy/pasted character designs (which look especially unwelcoming here because of the artist’s habit of drawing them with really small eyes and this scribble/blush effect under everyone’s eyes that just looks all kinds of awful), and Ali Project with the opening (seriously, does anyone outside of Japan even like this duo?). The series also makes use of Gonzo’s preferred style of CG mecha (which look no better or worse then the CG used in Burst Angel 4 years ago). Not a good combination and I’d swear it’s almost deliberate or something and they are trying to turn people off in anyway they can. Is Gonzo trying to pull a The Producers or an Uwe Boll with their latest projects or is this stuff (Hirai, CG Mecha and Ali ProjecT) really just that popular in Japan? You be the judge.
Anyway, I feel compelled to say something positive about this show before I sign off for the night so here goes. Well…….I guess I could offer that Jun Fukuyama and Jouji Nakata’s always welcome voices were fairly solid. The music which gave me the sudden urge to flip the light switch in my room off and on while it was playing could also be described as decent…..that is if I felt it were in any way matched deliberately to or fit any of the scenes in which there was music. GAaaaaaaaaaaaah, I’m supposed to be positive here, but really what can I offer? I joked earlier tonight on Animesuki that Kurogane No Linebarrels might be the candidate to replace Soko No Strain as the worst modern real robot anime I could think of in recent memory, but truthfully, if it keeps up the presentation it gave me with episode 01 then it just might achieve that distinction by default by the time we hit episode 5.
Let me just say one more thing. I know I normally object to bringing the issue of studio into discussions about the anime they produce, but Gonzo is really starting to feel like the anime equivalent of a pulp novel publisher. Every season they come out with at least 2-3 new series which I would describe as awful (Dragonaut) to mediocore (Strike Witches) and based purely in the realm of light distractions of possible intrigue. The whole Crunchyroll distribution method also reminds me of the kind of thing a pulp novel publisher would use. Most of them were so cheap, sleazy (for lack of a better word) and shoddy (both in a physical and artistic sense) that they just couldn’t get on the shelves of your regular retail medium. Most outlets just wouldn’t have them so the publisher would have to find unground methods for distribution. Crunchyroll and the internet seems like the same thing, and gives the impression that TV stations just won’t have a lot of Gonzo’s series because they don’t think they are worth the timeslot and draw. Even though Linebarrels does indeed have three broadcasters, I still get that vibe.
I really think Gonzo could use an image overhaul, something like one big series in the same vain as Last Exile to help clear their name of that B-Anime/Pulp Fiction label that I tend to attribute to them as of late. Gonzo is a big studio, they can deliver some hits, it’s just a matter of consolidating their efforts into making something remarkable. Anyway, I’m going to be keeping my eyes on Kurogane No Linebarrels as I’m really to see if it’s going to turn out to be decent or if it really will continue down the path to becoming one of the worst mecha series ever made.
Rating: Two And A Half Out Of Ten