Aura Battler Dunbine Vol. #01 (also w/box) -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: A

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: A
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 12 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 29.98/39.98
  • Running time: 125
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Aura Battler Dunbine

Aura Battler Dunbine Vol. #01 (also w/box)

By Chris Beveridge     July 11, 2003
Release Date: July 15, 2003

Aura Battler Dunbine Vol. #01 (also w/box)
© ADV Films

What They Say
Welcome to Byston Well, a world that exists in the spaces between sea and land. The only way to get there from here is through the Aura Road, which few can open. Young motocross racer Shou Zama is dragged through the Aura Road and into Byston Well, where he is to pilot a powerful robot weapon, an Aura Battler, in Drake Luft's conquest of the planet. But when Shou realizes the danger Drake poses, can he defect to the other side in time to prevent an invasion of Earth?

An epic, one-of-a-kind adventure, Aura Battler Dunbine is the stuff of which legends are made. Dive head-first into a rich, fully defined world where magic and mecha work hand-in-hand to create one of the most unique anime experiences ever envisioned.

The Review!
It’s a trip back to the early 80’s with long time creator Tomino, back to a time when the stories simply kicked ass left and right.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The mix here is about as basic as you can get but it sounds good. Nothing really feels out of place here, dialogue is nice and clear though there’s pretty much nothing in terms of actual directionality. During regular playback, we had no issues with dropouts or distortions.

Originally airing way back in 1983, the transfer for this show comes out quite good. There are the basic inherent problems with older shows like this, where there’s some jitter in the animation itself, some grain in the backgrounds such as the darker blues and a few minor nicks ands scratches here and there. The print is otherwise pretty clean looking, hardly any noticeable cross coloration and very little in terms of aliasing.

The artwork used for this series is simply gorgeous. It’s the kind that I rarely expect to see, either in Japanese or American releases. The front cover of the keepcase has the logo nicely set across the top while the center of the cover has a circle wherein we have an image of one of the Dunbines and Show in his motorcycle outfit with a sword over his shoulder. There’s just something very striking in the colors and the artwork that really sets it apart from most other releases. The back cover provides a nice layout with the continuing blue from the front cover offset by a slice of the dark yellow. There are a number of shots from the show and a good summary of the premise and the shows history. The episode numbers and titles are listed here as well (the only volume numbering is on the spine) while there is also a good clear listing of the discs extras and production information. The basic technical info is a bit set off to the bottom and not quickly visible, and the languages are a bit small to read. The insert uses the yellow coloring from the back cover to do a similar image to the front, with a painted image of Show set against a couple of the Battlers. The insert opens up to three panels that provides some character artwork and descriptions of various characters, eleven in total. On the reverse side, one of the panels talks about the shows history while the final panel has a summary of each episode with an animation shot next to it.

With the first volume, there is also a disc + box release. The box for this release is not as solid as I would have liked, but thankfully not as puffy as some of their earlier boxes. Each of the panels has a great piece of painted artwork of the characters with the sublogo of “Memorial Box 1” along the bottom, indicating that there will be two boxes for this long series. The spine panel is a bit more anime-like in its artwork with a great shot of the cast. I love the overall art style and layout of the box, but I wish it had been more solidly built.

The main menu is a nice simple static piece that has the map of Byston Wells laid out before you. With part of the opening song playing along, you’ve got individual episode selections along the left while the usual array of other selections are scattered about the map. Access times are nice and fast and moving about is easy and intuitive.

There’s a couple of extras here, but I’m not expecting a lot in general out of this series for extras. There’s a production art portfolio that runs about five minutes long and showcases a variety of conceptual artwork pieces. There’s also a clean opening and closing sequence to help round things out.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Aura Battler Dunbine is something that I’ve wanted to see for ages and ages. I remember fondly many, many years ago reading some of the early anime mags that were being put out how they talked of the various shows of this style. Dunbine, Xabungle and other Sunrise shows were grouped together and the few animation shots had me drooling. I had seen snippets of the classics through this method, reading summaries and articles.

Now, twenty years after its initial broadcast, I’m at long last able to watch one of Tomino’s other early masterpieces. After getting through the first five episodes here, one quickly realizes that they really don’t make anime like this anymore. Tomino was very much on top of his game with Dunbine, utilizing the tricks and methods he’s done with many series from Gundam up through and past Brain Powered. A large cast combined with thrusting the viewer right into the plot can be jarring for viewers who are used to being spoonfed the simple plots and generic action we’ve become accustomed to.

Aura Battler Dunbine starts off its tale in the normal world where we follow Show Zama, something of a motorcycle driver who is famous as he leaves the track with his friends. This doesn’t last long though as all of a sudden, he’s basically whisked up into the air and swept down a multicolored tunnel, simply disappearing in front of his friends and teammates. Before he knows it, Show has landed in a quite strange world alongside a couple of other people.

Through the use of a water humanoid creature called a “silkie”, Show and two others have been brought from the Upper Earth. The people of Byston Wells, this particular province, have been bringing in people from Upper Earth at times to pilot their Battlers, machines that use the auras of people to manipulate. Those from Upper Earth are more in tune with them and make better pilots, though it does appear that those from Byston Wells are able to pilot them after much training.

Show and the others aren’t exactly prisoners, but they’re not free to do as they want. As time progresses and they all play with the Battlers and get used to working for the Duke who seems to have plans for conquest of Byston Wells due to security concerns, they start having differing opinions about the world they’re now in. The American, Todd, decides that this world is for him after a couple of battles and wants the attention that it gets him. Show however, after encountering more varied people during his stay and learning that the Duke’s side may not be the right one. With the Duke’s own daughter being in love with the son of the next country to be invaded, she tries to convince Show that what he’s doing is wrong.

Show also starts getting more information when he ends up fighting against the enemy, only to realize that the female pilot is also from Earth and she tries to convince him that he’s on the wrong team as well. His internal conflicts start to grow, and this manifests in how he interacts with others on the side he’s serving with. Show tries to play the part of the good soldier so that he can eventually get home, but the more he learns the more it goes against him.

Dunbine is a richly filled show that has a hell of a lot of material covered in the first five episodes. A lot of competitive people are introduced right off the bat, from leaders of opposing countries to lovers, the small creatures that inhabit the world and the varied personalities of those from Upper Earth. Conflict is the name of the game right from the start, as initially we follow Show, Todd and another as they travel towards Duke Loft’s place and all Todd can do is hurl racial slurs at Show. This is also thankfully preserved in the dub of the show instead of being watered down.

In watching these five episodes, I found myself to really get immersed in it all. The conceptualization of Byston Wells is really well done. There’s enough unique and unusual to this world to set it apart from the usual kind of SF worlds we get where there’s precious little different. The design of the world is an important part of the feel of the show, and with the designs of the Battlers combined with the mixed world, particularly in the Duke’s realm where he has an Upper Earth scientist who is creating all sorts of technologies. There is a rich layering to things here that is only slowly being revealed, since these five episodes is only the opening salvo to this series.

Dunbine kept me enraptured for the five episodes here, watching the story change direction multiple times as the characters find their way. There’s lots to enjoy here, from the character designs to the mechanical designs. The only thing that may bother some people is the animation itself, but this is the kind of show I’ve wanted to see more of for so long that it doesn’t phase me at all. There’s something refreshing about the designs and animation here after watching so many slick shows lately.

Aura Battler Dunbine is a show that should not be passed up if you’re finding things to be a bit bland these days. This is the kind of show that reinvigorates me into watching more anime, reminding me just how great a lot of this medium can be.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Printed insert with production notes,Character bios,Production sketches,Clean opening and closing animation

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.


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