Back on a new computer with a new review. This time we have Gonzo popping up with the story of a boy and a mech (a story no anime fan has ever heard before…)
So does Linebarrels of Iron and the story of a boy and a mech show us anything we haven’t seen in the genre before? Let’s take a look.
The packaging for Linebarrels is both amusing and a little sad. It comes in the now standard Funimation ‘soft case with two thinpaks.’ There is some nice character art on the case and the inserts. The cases themselves hold the DVDs very firmly, but let go with a simple push. So far you’d think very nice, but there are a few odd things to point out. Before we get to the negative things, I need to point out one thing I just find amusing. Anime fans remember when every case would have ‘from the company that brought you’ or ‘from the director of’, and more recently, the sticker on volume one of Dragonaut that proclaimed ‘from the character designer of Witchblade.’ For Linebarrels we get two of these. The more obvious one is the character designer is the designer from Gundam Seed. It makes perfect sense to put that on the back cover of a mech show, because any attachment to Gundam for a mech show might bring in sales. The other one however just makes me laugh, not because it’s bad, but just because it seems odd to put on a case for a mech show with lots of fanservice… “From Pokemon director Masamitsu Hidaka.” I just felt the need to point out that they put that on the case.
The case also unfortunately has a few negative aspects. The first is actually quite odd for a Funimation release. There is nothing on the case telling you if this is part of a series, or the full series. Funimation is normally quite consistent on either mentioning it’s the full series, or a part of a longer series. The case also has a description of the series that is inaccurate (at least as far as this volume goes, it’s possible things change later in the series.) It refers to aliens that want to kill the main character (there aren’t aliens in the series) and it also refers to some of the mechs as aliens (which they aren’t.) The things they do get right in the description are often ‘enhanced’ past what happens in the show, the main example being “His friends can’t stand him” (they get worried about him, and maybe a little upset… but one of them goes to make him cupcakes right after… so she wasn’t really that upset.) If not for these problems, Linebarrels would have a rather nice case, but the mistakes just seem odd, and perhaps should have been spot checked a bit better.
Linebarrels has a nice clean menu. Everything is very central in a square formation on the main menu, and all the other menus use a list that goes straight down in an even line. The only complaint is the music on the main menu is a bit loud and screechy, but that is a fault of the song itself (although it isn’t helped that the clip of the song is only seven seconds long.)
Linebarrels is actually a decent show, better than I was expecting to be honest. The thing I found most interesting was the main character, Kouichi. It’s relatively standard in mech shows for the main character to have problems, get his mech, then he is fine, and saving the world. I appreciated that with Kouichi, he got the mech, then saw himself as the hero, but being your average shonen anime youth (emotionally damaged teenager) he sorta went nuts when he got that power and it was interesting to see him mistreat friends, while they try and help him. I had hoped this would be a plot thread that would help Linebarrels stand out, but it was dropped after the first few episodes. The show is still fun to watch after that, but it does drop one of the few elements I felt made it stand above similar shows. Throughout the first half of the series we see anime cliche after cliche, but there is still one thing that gives Linebarrels a leg up: it has a great sense of humor. The show is absolutely packed with humor, much of it coming from how characters act around each other, with much manipulation from the guy in charge, Ishigami. Kouichi moves into the dorm and Ishigami purposely gives him the wrong key card and room number, walks in while a girl is changing, or a very odd scene of him dressing like a tree which I won’t spoil. I think if you are looking for the next great mech show, you should probably look elsewhere, but if you want to sit back and have some fun, see some fanservice, and see a few giant robots fight, check out Linebarrels. And oh yes, the last episode on the set? At the beach with a giant octopus. I’m sure you can figure out what happens, and despite being used in show after show, I still laughed.
The video quality for Linebarrels is relatively good. Colors are generally bright and vivid, although lines don’t appear quite as clean and crisp as you might expect from such a recent show. The disk is encoded at 480p. It’s a relatively nice video presentation, but not great.
Audio is about what you’d expect from a modern Funimation DVD. Everything sounds relatively good. English audio has a 5.1 track at 448k, while the Japanese audio gets a 2.0 track at 198k. The only specific thing I want to mention, turn down the audio for the opening theme, or skip it, it’s loud and I honestly just found it annoying.
The dub is good enough, nothing specifically good or bad for me to say. If you don’t listen to dubs, this won’t be the dub to pull you in, and if you will watch any dub that doesn’t grate on your ears, you’ll listen to this one with no real problems.
There are a few extras on the first set. The final episode has a commentary track. There is also a music video and some Japanese commercials and a promotional video. As always we also get the textless Opening and Ending. It isn’t a large collection of extras, but I’m sure fans will enjoy the commentary and probably watch the music video a few times.
Linebarrels is an interesting show. It starts off with some great potential, but dumps that a few episodes to go more ‘by the book’. I think the comedy still holds it a bit higher up, but I can see it very likely many people will go “generic mech show, pass.” Try and give it a chance though, you may be surprised.
Show: B (Great potential at the beginning. Still fun later on, but nothing amazing.)
Packaging: B- (A few odd text based mistakes on the packaging, but the packaging itself is perfectly fine as far as storage goes.)
Video Quality: B- (Colors generally look good, but lines can look a little dull.)
Audio Quality: B (Decent 5.1 track for English, standard 2.0 track for Japanese.)
English Dub: B (A good dub, but nothing special.)
Extras: B- (A few decent extras, but nothing to large.)
Overall (not an average): B (Worth a look for mech fans. Everyone else may want to look at the video streams first.)
Gallery and copyright information under ad. All caps are lossless PNGs taken in MPC-HC, feel free to request more. (Caps are sized 853×480 so as to display properly on computer monitors, they were modified to this resolution via Photoshop CS4 as MPC-HC takes screen captures at 720×480 on the disc. Having the caps be 853×480 makes them appear at the properly intended aspect ratio.)
This show was reviewed using a screener in retail packaging.