Aura Battler Dunbine Vol. #04 -

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. #04

By Chris Beveridge     November 23, 2003
Release Date: November 18, 2003

Aura Battler Dunbine Vol. #04
© ADV Films

What They Say
An unexpected turn of events completely changes everything! While defending Elf Castle against Drake Luft's invading army, Show Zama unleashes a powerful blast of "aura power," which propels him into the Aura Road where he transported back to Japan. Unfortunately he didn't count on another battler making the journey with him. Back in Byston Well, the crew of the Zelerna must face the new threat posed by Luft's new recruits from Upper Earth.

Aura Battler Dunbine-the stuff that legends are made of. An epic, one-of-a-kind adventure created by Yoshiyuki Tomino (Gundam), which dives headfirst into a rich, fully defined world to create one of the most unique anime experiences ever envisioned.

The Review!
As the battles get more intense and personal and as more lands become involved, Byston Well begins to show more of its true colors in its leaders.

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. Colors look good if somewhat flat at times, but the varying brighter shades work to bring more attention to what’s otherwise a very earthy show. 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 continue to 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 an action pose by Neal, where once again the cover design for the character is much more striking than the actual in show design. 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 illustration of Bern in leadership mode while what appears to be Todd is laying nearby looking on. The insert opens up to two panels that provide a summary of the show so far. On the reverse side, 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 all that we’ll see on these releases. That means we get a new production portfolio showcasing various conceptual designs from characters to buildings and to the mecha. 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)
Going into the fourth volume of the series, this show continues to just impress me as well as providing a great amount of entertainment. One of the best aspects of the show is that I have absolutely no idea where this ride is really going to go and I’m not trying to guess at it either, rather just letting it flow.

The battle in Byston Well continues strongly as we pick up with friends and foes alike this time. On Drake Luft’s side of the battle, he’s brought in more people from Upper Earth as we’d seen previously after the loss of Todd in battle. The three new people are all fairly eager to fight and to get into what they view as a game. They get tested on the new Doro’s a bit for familiarity, but mostly early on we get to see them watching from transports as Luft’s massive army continues to grow and move across the landscape.

On Neal’s side of the map, the group is figuring out some of their new equipment, such as Marvel handling the new Bozon while Show continues to master his aura powers with his Dunbine. Working with King Foizon, Neal and the others determine that Luft is likely set to go after Elf Castle, a very fortified castle and kingdom where the King there is one that may be difficult to deal with. As we see King Elf, he’s of the mind that Luft would never attack him due to the lovely gifts (including a popular gaming table) that Luft had given him previously.

King Elf is truly one of the most foolish people to rise to power in Byston Well so far, and is a shining example of everything that’s wrong with inherited titles and power. Disregarding all the advice of his ministers, he feels safe in his castle and with the array of Battler’s and other aura powered devices he’s purchased over the years. When Neal tries to work through couriers on the favor of King Foizon to try and foster a dialogue with King Elf, the situation turns dire as Luft uses that opportunity to attack.

The battles continue to be rather engaging here, with the mix of ranged combat and close hand to hand combat with the Battlers and the new craft that are brought into play. On Luft’s side, the battle is getting more heated and personal for Bern as he has suffered some embarrassing moments due to Show and Neal lately. He’s begun to lose control of his temper and made some reckless moves. But none of this compares to Garalia, who in her new battler, finds the increased rush in power to be intoxicating and causing her to become even more wild and dangerous.

With Show however, he seems to be reaching some almost transcendent mode with the Dunbine. Watching him in battle as he pushes himself now, the craft is moving so fast at times it appears to be disappearing and then shifting back into space in a different location. His growing skill and apparent aura manipulation only infuriates both Bern and Garalia more, though she takes it more personally and makes it her mission to eliminate him completely so she can regain some favor with both Bern and Luft.

One of the surprising aspects of these episodes is that through a series of events during a pitched battle between Show and Garalia, the two of them end up opening up the aura road and find themselves in Japan. I hadn’t expected a return to Japan until the end of the series, if even then. This story arc begins on this volume and looks to conclude in the next, but it’s a fascinating little side trip. Show ends up appearing outside his house only to find that his parents don’t believe that he’s really him (or seem to recognize him at all at first). Garalia’s arrival on Upper Earth leads her to recklessly open fire on almost everything, causing mass destruction and hysteria.

And like any real anime series, Shinjuku gets the crap blown out of it once again.

There’s some really interesting moments during this Earth stint, with Show and Chum ending up in the hands of the military and learning some of what makes them tick as well as how they react to being on Upper Earth. Garalia has some good moments as well once she gets down and out of her mecha for a bit and ends up interacting with the locals as only she can. If anything, it’s interesting to see how she deals with being on the other side of the aura road and how her feelings may change over it and the future use of the silkies.

About halfway through this volume, it looks as if some script changes have finally started to be implemented as well. Various battler names are taking on a more natural and Japanese feel to them and some of the character names are back to what’s long been considered the more authentic original romaji version, such as Cham returning to Chum. The end result is that the show is taking on a slightly less mainstream generic script feeling and turning into something more like what it should have been from the start.

In Summary:
There’s simply something about Tomino and Dunbine that have me fascinated here. I love the openly over the top performances that characters give at times when they’re excited. The varying designs for the battlers look like they’ve laid the groundwork for many series that follow. The plot itself continues to be fun and engaging with the continually growing cast list of rulers and their servants. And with the simple knowledge that anyone can die at any time, it makes the battles all the more exciting. Dunbine continues to be one of the best surprises of this year.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Production portfolio,Clean opening and closing animation

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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