Sometimes, hate is all you need… to an extent. In the case of Kurogane no Linebarrels, it looks like one of the main reasons for people to watch the show. Three episodes in, the story hasn’t been compelling enough for me, with the brief information that we’ve gotten about the grand scheme of things. The character designs coupled with the animation, both hand-drawn (AFAIK :V) and CG, are among some of the more QUALITY offerings that we’ve had this season, especially when comparing it to some of the more well done works like Kannagi and Mouryou no Hako in that regard (which isn’t fair, when you think about it). And while the music of the series is something that I enjoy (a fun job by Corniche), it’s subdued by everything else. So while all of this turned off a lot of people, even excluding the GONZO factor and all, some people including myself are watching to see Kouichi, the show’s protagonist, get Bright-slapped a couple of times (well for me, that and Kana Ueda :3). Pride goeth before a fall on our side, or something like that.
I don’t know whether or not we’re supposed to intentionally not like how Kouichi has been acting throughout these opening episodes, but he definitely has been helping himself along in this regard. We begin with him as the oft-seen bullied kid who sits there and takes it, despite offers from his two childhood friends Hideaki and Risako to help him. Granted, this is probably a way for him to settle things on his own terms without their input, as we find that he’s always been protected instead of the protector since childhood. But it’s not flattering especially when comparing him to someone like Hana from Michiko to Hatchin who by herself decided to at least attempt to fight back against the unfair treatment. And as it seems as if he blows off his “friends”, ungrateful of the offer, it doesn’t endear me to him.
And it gets even worse after he obtains the Machina mecha, LINEBARREL. Because with that, coupled with superhuman power he gains in the process of obtaining the Machina, Kouichi becomes a whiny, cocky douchebag on a power trip. He tries to symbolically kill his “old self”, casting himself as a “Hero of Justice” because he feels like now he has the power to switch roles and become the protector that he always wanted to be. Wanting to be the center of attention, he flaunts his new toy to people that he knows, and he jumps into the fray to “save the day” unnecessarily by fighting the “enemy” mecha, whether if it’s on his side (as the ones from the organization JUDA claim that they are) with his limited knowledge of what the Machina is capable of.
These sort of mannerisms aren’t something new when looking at many characters of Kouichi’s archetype, but characters like him don’t usually obtain the power that he has as quickly, no have they had a spotlight on them like he does. This is especially when you can actually see the toll that his recklessness has on the city that he lives in, where people still have to live daily lives among the wreckage. It strains his relations with Hideaki and Risako, which now doesn’t look like a strong friendship to begin with. And even with Emi, the mysterious woman who’s supposed to be his piloting partner, regardless of her feelings, he wants to be her protector. It’s only been three episodes, but Kouichi has come off to me as a shortsighted, ignorant idiot who needs to be shaken around a few times. Given what happens at the end of the third episode, it seems like this is starting to occur, and see him as a whiny brat that was there all along.
It’s not fair to pin that label on him, nor pin all the fault on Kouichi, and I don’t because of the brief flashbacks that we’ve seen of his past, what his current goals seem to be, and the crapload of information about everything that we’ve yet to obtain. Yet the way he goes through things the way that he does reminds me of another character who it seemed like everyone really did love to hate: Makoto from School Days. Both are seen as hapless losers who stumble upon opportunity instead of working for it, and both take that chance past their logical extremes, though we still have plenty of episodes to see how far Kouichi would be willing to take his. And I could see both as some sort of social commentary, with the whole “despising with envy what we can’t become” business, though I don’t think that many will get into disliking Kouichi as much as they did for Makoto.
Part of that has to do with the settings of the story and all that comes with that, as well as how much of a douchebag he is turning out to be, but more of it is on how quickly he tries to change his persona after obtaining LINEBARREL seems too unreal, whereas we got a more visceral reaction with Makoto. What Kouichi does with his newfound power makes some sense (pimping it and himself out), but how far he goes into it too fantastical, and I feel that that’s exactly the sort of route that Kurogane no Linebarrels is going for, which is good. The reaction is so over the top that we can already see that Kouichi is overcompensating for something. That deal is sealed when he tries lashing out after being pwned in battle for the first time. Makoto did not have to change as a person to get what he wanted, so it can definitely be seen as unfair for him to forsake what he claimed that he desired for what he really looked for. I think it also explains why people rejoiced in his demise, just to prove that there’s no such thing as a completely free ride. In Kouichi’s case, we can see that he always had a desire to change what he probably felt he would be permanently stuck in: always the protected, never the protector. At least this is the goal that we see for the time being.
Although randomly getting an all-powerful mech is still a “no fair!” situation, we at least know that in Kouichi’s case, he’s probably going to have to work to achieve his goal, whether he actually legitimately obtains that role or not at the end. We can have him understanding the responsibility that comes with the overwhelming power he now has in his grasp. We could have him screw all of that and just continue being the overconfident jerk that he is now, and hate him for that. We could have him stuck in neutral, annoyingly caught between the two. Or we could have him dead for a variety of reasons. But regardless of where Kouichi decides to go, or how he deals with people and so on, we at least know that whatever happens is not going to come too easily for him. There will be definite struggles, and I guess that keeps the dislike for him reasonable, since real life is one big effort. I myself still at least hope that the shocks the he got at the end of episode three are a good start for him getting his just desserts myself. 😛