Saturday, January 30, 2010

SPOTLIGHT: Linebarrels of Iron

Ahhh, Linebarrels of Iron!

Back in 2008, for Anime Insider mag, I interviewed series producer Hiroyuki Birukawa and director Masamitsu Hidaka about the title; since that mag's now defunct, I'm guessing there's no problem sharing it here since FUNimation over in the US this month released the DVD box-set of the first 12 episodes.

Ask veteran Pokémon director, Hidaka, about his involvement helming the Gonzo series, Linebarrels of Iron (鉄のラインバレル, Kurogane no Rainbareru) and his response comes across as excited as it is free-wheeling.

“The story within the original comic consisted of exciting battle scenes and the fascinating stories of each character,” he explains. “So, I’ve placed a special value on those points when creating the animation version. I’m always trying to work out how I can showcase the cool and coquettish mecha battle scenes - both by employing a sharp sense of speed and presence, and by including contemplative action scenes in the animation. And while I’m aiming high for the twin ideals of beautiful and cool, it’s still, beneath it all, cute mecha-anime! I just hope you enjoy it, and that it’s fun for fans to watch.”

In most celluloid productions it’s the director who dreams, creates the art, and has his head in the clouds. The producer is the grounded financier who stabilizes the ship, handles the organizational side of things, and sees the big picture a little clearer. They’re often also the people who see the production through - from a scrap of note-paper to the screen version.

So it seems with Linebarrels of Iron series producer, Hiroyuki Birukawa, who has been with this particular anime title since Day One.

“I know the chief editor of the monthly magazine, Champion Red, published by Akita Shoten here in Japan,” Birukawa informs me.

“He and I have known each other for quite a long time, and one day he showed me the latest manga they did - and it was Linebarrels of Iron. The moment I saw that sample comic, I knew that this was something I wanted to create as an animation, and asked them for the rights to create it.”

Birukawa previously dabbled with another famous Gonzo production, Last Exile, and is quite clearly the man to talk to when you want a concise explanation of the storyline behind the studio’s new series.

“The main character, Kouichi Hayase, was an ordinary kid in high school, who was constantly teased but had a dream of someday becoming a hero,” recounts Birukawa, with the heroic patience of a man perhaps used to dealing with less focused types.

“The first cool point of this anime may be how this character develops through many events, including a parting with good friends, to become a true hero. The second cool point is the mecha action. As you may have seen in the past, all 3D robot-action scenes always had a rectilinear movement, which was quite unreal. The director, Hidaka-san, and I have talked about this quite extensively - and we’ve gone back to how 2D robot-action scenes were shown, in order to include that point within our 3D robot-action scenes for Linebarrels of Iron.”

Birukawa’s fascinating lesson, which threatens to put this writer out of a job, is far from over. He has more about the new series that he’s keen to share - and enlighten us with along the way.

“If you’ve seen the series trailer, Linebarrel strikes a particular pose, before stabbing ARMA, the enemy robot. It’s like kabuki, wherein you adopt one pose before you give it movement.

"We actually call it tame in Japanese. We believe tame and kire - fast action moves after tame - are the most important points when showing cool mecha action. And Hidaka is a pro at robot action.

“Also luckily for the 3D action scenes, we have Itano-san [Ichiro Itano, the director of Blassreiter and veteran planner of The Super Dimension Fortress Macross], who is fantastic at checking these kind of scenes and translating them into action.”

Adding to the superlative mecha developments is the teamwork involved in the series structure, scripts, and ideas.

“The creative producer, Goro Taniguchi, has so many excellent ideas about the animation he wants to include, while Kiyoko Yoshimura is fantastic at including these, as well as expressing character descriptions in the story.”

Despite his professional nature and assured eye on the whole production, you can almost see Birukawa blush when it comes to talking up his favourite character in the series.

“It’s Emi Kizaki,” he admits. “She is cute, sexy, and also smart! There’s a Japanese slang word, tsundere [meaning a volatile personality that ends up being good-willed] and she has that perfect tsundere factor...”

© 2008 Eiichi Shimizu,Tomohiro Shimoguchi, Akita Publishing/GONZO/Linebarrel Partners

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