Aura Battler Dunbine Vol. #02 -

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
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Aura Battler Dunbine

Aura Battler Dunbine Vol. #02

By Chris Beveridge     August 20, 2003
Release Date: August 26, 2003

Aura Battler Dunbine Vol. #02
© ADV Films

What They Say
Casting his lot with a band of courageous rebels, Show Zama quickly learns that Byston Well is a complex world where magic and mayhem have formed an uneasy alliance. As Show's journey continues, the brutality of Drake Luft's war stands in stark contrast to the wonders and beauty of fairyland.

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!
With the basic introductions out of the way, it’s time to start killing them.

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 and the style used for this series release continues to just look gorgeous. 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 Battler’s and as well as the very clean and vibrant image of Bern with his sword looking on. 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 Neal and his friends. The insert opens up to three panels that provide a look at the Battlers, both in conceptual artwork and in text summaries and technical specs. On the reverse side, one of the panels is given over to a mecha design overview while the final panel has a summary of each episode with an animation shot next to it.

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.

The extras on this volume are likely representative of what we’ll see on remaining releases. That means we get a new production portfolio, this time running about 90 seconds, showcasing various conceptual designs from characters to buildings. There’s also the continual inclusion of the textless opening and ending sequences, a feature I continue to like a lot.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After a very engaging and challenging first volume where an entire new world and all its mysteries were presented, the second volume slows down things slightly and starts bringing the focus to fewer characters as well as tightening up the plot a bit. This definitely works in its favor since the large scope of things is a great hook but can be quite hard to pull off while still retaining an audience with an investment in the characters.

With the plots becoming focused, we spend a good deal of time with Show and Neal, dealing with the crew there and their attempts to fight back against Drake Luft and his plans to try and conquer as much of Byston Well as possible. This is normally a good thing, but Neal’s the type of person who continually becomes focused on one thing and can’t move past it until it’s fully resolved. What’s worse is that his focus is on Elmelie, who is something of a prisoner in her own home. Her mother has given strict orders about what she can and can’t do after the previous escapades she’s done, which means it’s very difficult for Neal to get in and rescue her.

That certainly doesn’t stop him from trying though; twice even! His initial attempt is almost comical really and naturally ends in failure. It sets a wedge into things between him and Show though, since the two are more alike than they want to admit. Show’s main focus, having signed up to some degree with this resistance group after not liking what Luft was up to with Lord Shot, continues to be on getting to the silkie named Mau and finding his way home. Sometimes his goals align with Neals and vice versa, which is the only reason the two continue to work together. Well, that and Show’s apparent strong aura powers that make him quite the powerful Battler, impressing even Marvel more and more.

Outside of their own jockeying for power/position between each other, the show moves along the larger plotline of getting Drake Luft the ability to move armies across Byston Well. With his initial attempts at taking down Roman Given a success, he uses that to plant disinformation that allows him to become the official imperial army of the land, though small in number. That part is fairly well ignored and Luft’s plans for expansion begin with the eyeing of other neighbors. Having opened up his land to those who want to join his military, the ranks are bustling and growing daily.

There’s also an entire episode given over to Neal and the crew heading to Cham’s home and trying to break through both the Tempest and Heaven barriers to try and gain the help of the people there, a group of people who have been continually disinterested in the goings on of the world. This process sets Cham into panic and fear mode, but the need to gain help and try to build up some allies are first and foremost on both Show and Neal’s minds. Their adventure into this realm brings about an intriguing and not altogether common looking area where this particular race resides. It’s this diversity in look and design that continues to be a big draw for me with this series.

There’s a lot going on throughout the four episodes. Between rescue attempts and political movement, there’s some solid Battler battles going on, characters dying and less central characters making their own power plays, moves that will likely resonate later in the series as they progress from minor to major characters. With the number of episodes for this series and its large plot, it’s impossible to discount any minor character now as remaining that way for the long term.

Dunbine continues to be an engaging show and a challenging one due to the size of the cast and the continuing shifts in focus to minor cast members. It’s the way this plays out that appeals strongly to me, giving me a show I have to work a bit to enjoy as opposed to being spoonfed things. There’s so much more to go and I can’t wait to get more of it.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Production portfolio,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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