Aura Battler Dunbine Vol. #05 (of 12) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Sunday, May 23, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, April 20, 2004



What They Say
The flames of war burn ever brighter! While Show Zama and Garalia attempt to make their way back to Byston Well, the crew of the Zelerna are pursued by Bern Bunnings and Drake Luft's latest recruits from Upper Earth. Meanwhile, Elmelie escapes from Laas Wau in an ill-conceived plot to join up with Neal and the others.

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!
After a five month delay between volumes where I found I had a hard time trying to get back into the series, Dunbine is rolling along again and it ends up smacking me upside the head and dragging me back into its greatness.

Audio:
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.

Video:
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.

Packaging:
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 Garalia striking a pose in front of her craft, which is really very bug oriented in its detailed design here, much more so than the show itself. 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 a couple of the Mu. 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.

Menu:
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.

Extras:
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)
Getting close to the halfway mark, both Byston Well and Earth itself are feeling the results of Drake's war across the land. The war continues to rage throughout Byston Well as he conquers more castles and territories under the auspices of doing it for the king while on Earth, the two that ended up riding the aura road are dealing with the distrust of a very xenophobic public.

Of course, they have plenty of reason to be distrusted after all that's happened since Show and Garalia arrived on Upper Earth and started causing trouble. Show and Chum have managed to form some sort of balance with the military forces that are after them by promising not to attack and to meet with them. Garalia on the other hand has continued to move her battler across the landscape trying to hide and raiding where she can for sustenance. She's had some nasty little encounters along the way including one that's so comical as it played like a bad Yogi Bear moment as she literally steals a picnic basket.

For Show, the issues tend to be more emotional as he deals with the military that doesn't believe he's human as well as parents who flip flop between believing he's who he actually says he is. His mother continues to be so incredibly distrustful and disbelieving of his claims to be Show that she actually threatens him with a gun at one point insisting that he reveal who he really is. This really pushes him over the edge so he's decided that he's going to prove that he's on the side of right and helps bring Garalia down by sending her back to Byston Well and letting that problem ease up on his side. But as it goes on and the military starts making all sorts of wild threats about his own family, he's forced to flee back to Byston Well himself under some sad false pretenses.

Show's state of mind gets shot pretty well here by having to do what he does, though I think he knows his father will understand the reasoning behind it. His mother continues to be a real basket case about the entire thing and continues to go on about the alien that took over her sons guise through his hatred of her and so on. With a mother like that?

Back in Byston Well, things are going poorly on the war front as Drake's forces make their way through more and more territory. The last round of Upper Earth beings that got brought down to help have managed to master their battlers very well and are seemingly more powerful than anything that's come before. Bern Bunnings continues to be very much on the out and out within the Drakes good graces and it's only through the intervention of Shot that he's even able to fly any kind of craft again. The experimental battler which hasn't had any real testing done on it yet is Shot's greatest creation yet and it's a virtual powerhouse of a battler that far exceeds anything out there and has Bern convinced that even Show's heightened abilities won't be a match for it. So he sets off with it to take him down once and for all.

That confrontation itself can only go badly since Show's return to the Zalana hasn't managed to help that beleaguered ship much as it's suffering heavily from all the conflicts its been in. The crew is running ragged and Neal's leadership skills really don't seem all that swift, especially when he starts ragging on his own crew for not being up to snuff. The escape sequence across the crystal forest is pretty well done and shows that the Zalana can certainly take a beating but it also brings Show firmly back into the combat seat in defending their escape route while dealing with the new enemy fighters. These episodes are literally all over the map as it tries to finish out the adventure into the Upper Earth area, which feels very incomplete at the end of it, while also setting things up for an encounter between Show and Bern as well as dealing with the larger war that's going on. It feels very scattershot at times but there's simply so much to cover and going on that it's hard not to feel that way half the time.

In Summary:
After that awful break where I had no new Dunbine, it took some effort to get myself back in the right mindset for the show and its groove. Much like a lot of older shows, the way it plays out is different from newer shows so it took a bit of adjustment to get back into that style since it had been some time. But once there, it really started to feel right again and I'm eager to get more of this in my hands. Dunbine's style of storytelling isn't the easiest thing to get into, but for those that do, this volume takes the stage and turns it a few different ways and sets up some new arcs to explore. I'm looking forward to seeing more of what's in store for Show and Byston Well in general.

Features
Japanese Language,English 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.



Mania Grade: B+
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: 19.95
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Aura Battler Dunbine