Reviewby Carl Kimlinger, Nov 11th 2010
Linebarrels of Iron
DVD - OVA Collection
Before she can become JUDA's resident supergenius, Rachel Calvin has to first reach JUDA. In a lengthy flashback to her arrival in Japan, the American kid genius finds that harder than she thought. Armed with little more than an abysmal sense of direction and a transforming suitcase/robot, she embarks on an unintentional tour of Japan. Which wouldn't be so bad if she hadn't had her only credit card run over by a tractor. Later she tours the rooms of her JUDA co-workers, with predictably loony results. Still later JUDA is doing double duty as a cozy beachside resort for long-suffering Misaki Town-ites. JUDA's pilots sacrificed their special piloting powers to save the world and now occupy themselves by serving yakisoba and roast corn and mucking around with Kouichi's love life. When, for reasons too insensible to recount, an army of Linebarrel clones attacks, Kouichi must regain his hero powers or perish. If only the gods would be so kind.
The upside to the pedestrian turn Linebarrels of Iron took once it defanged Kouichi, aside from the cessation of Kouichi-inspired pain, is that it grew a sense of humor. It was a pretty sad sense of humor; the kind that thinks accidental nudity and dumb misunderstandings are hilarious. But it had its moments. There was the outré behavior of JUDA CEO Ishigami, and later the ridiculous "trails" he posthumously arranged for his underlings before they could access whatever supertechnology was needed to deus ex machina them out of their current predicament. Good chuckles all. So when I say that these two OVAs distill what is best about Linebarrels' later episodes, you can take it to mean this: they're a little funny.
That isn't to say they're a lot serious. With the exception of the business about Kouichi's love life and the cloned-Linebarrels fight, which isn't meant to be funny, these OVAs are 100% dumb humor. It isn't a shortage of jokes that makes these episodes only a smidge amusing; it's the shortage of jokes that work. Like Linebarrels' humor at large, these episodes are pretty sad as comedy goes. A few isolated smiles aside, the entire "Rachel Calvin goes to Japan" (half) episode is a comedic wash; nothing but antic irritation (ooh, she has crazy inventions in her suitcase; hilarious) and "warming" character shtick. The funniest thing in it is the opening sequence, which choreographs a greatest hits montage of Rachel's weirder moments to the usual opening theme. The JUDA Resort episode hasn't any better luck. It shoots for something approximating character humor, forgetting momentarily that character humor requires characters.
Amidst the smoking ruins of its humor and the mess left by its unfunny comic chaos there are a few intact nuggets of genuine amusement. It wouldn't be "the best" of late-run Linebarrels if there weren't at least some laughs. Predictably some of them owe their existence to Ishigami—the Ishigami version of Rio de Janeiro's Jesus statue for instance (it has a water slide in its mouth!). And predictably some of them are unintentional—for instance the cynical brays sure to be elicited by the "he's our hero" rhetoric of the clones fight. Less predictable are the bursts of comic imagination. When Rachel Calvin's fish-out-of-water routine grinds to a halt, she's told she has ten minutes of run-time left, whereupon she unilaterally decides that what the show really needs is a paparazzi-style attack on the domiciles of her co-workers. Carried out by perverted, cross-dressing skeleton robots. The scene where they burst in on Kouichi practicing his heroic poses is likely the funniest sequence, not only in the episode, but in the series as a whole. Which is to say it's medium funny.
The wholehearted frivolousness of these episodes leaves little time for them to do anything seriously sequel-like. The final episode is the only one that follows up on the series proper, and it's too busy devising a contrived method of retrieving Kouichi's super mecha powers to bother with furthering the narrative. Though it does allot a good chunk of time to various battling bots. Fans of the series' nigh-on incomprehensible 3D violence will be suitably pleased. Don't look to these OVAs to supply an OVA boost in animation quality, though. While impressive, the 3D animation has its own brand of shortcuts—the Linebarrel clones explode into cheesy clouds of triangular CG confetti—and Hisashi Hirai's character designs continue to suffer from a litany of animation indignities, ranging from cheap movement to fan-service exploitation and non-existent quality control. Oh yeah, and there's the loli fun with nekkid Rachel. Whee.
When a Funimation dub can't even muster the will to monkey around with a show's silly stretches, you know it's in trouble. Usually at a time like this the dub would be tossing out inventive turns of phrase and clever ad-libs—and indeed Linebarrels' dub did just that when it braced similar subject matter back in part one. But not this time. Instead, even the most outrageous sequences are delivered with a straight-laced, stolid professionalism that speaks of a deep and abiding apathy. No one, no matter how comfortable they've gotten with their roles, rises above the workmanlike, and a few drop a degree or two below that, sounding genuinely bored. There is exactly one moment of inspiration—an audio clip from a Kikaider rip-off, hilariously smothered in 50s superhero cheese. That's it. Combine that with the messy and ineffectual score (the humorous bent moves the focus away from its strengths; namely mecha-mashing audio thunder) and you have an aural experience to forget.
There are those who will be displeased to hear that these video episodes don't really continue or even properly conclude the series. Don't be. Given the series' history such a continuation would only mean disaster. Maybe they're dumb and pointless, but two episodes of harmless, if unfunny, goofing off is infinitely preferable to a return to the dead-serious Japanese Cliché Torture of Linebarrels' main body.
Overall (dub) : C-
Overall (sub) : C
Story : C-
Animation : B-
Art : B-
Music : C
+ Focuses on the show's strengths: namely silly hijinks and mechanized action.
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