Aura Battler Dunbine Vol. #06 (of 12) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, June 14, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, June 08, 2004
What They Say
While the crew of the Zelerna repair then battle-damaged aura ships, they must contend with a new challenge ? what to do with Lady Elmelie ? who recently joined their ranks after escaping from Laas Wau. Elmelie's presence puts a serious kink in the delicate interpersonal balance between Neal Givens, Show Zama and Marvel Frozen. Meanwhile Todd Guinness re-enters the fight ? only this time as a hired mercenary for the treacherous King Bishott.
The war in Byston Well continues to rage on as Show and his allies deal with the continuing attacks and plenty of suspicions.
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 a gorgeous little image of Elmelie done in the mode modern style. This piece just looks really slick and even more attractive than some of the past ones. 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 Marvel and Show. 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)
As Dunbine reaches the middle of its tale, a tale that is essentially one long and costly war, there's a slight feeling of things beginning to drag a bit as we continue to follow Neal and the Zelana as they flee across various countries and try to gain support. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, but that creeping feeling of repetition is starting to show up. What manages to save it really is the continuing character interactions and the way some of them seem to show up when you least expect it.
And the interactions here really move things along. A lot of the conflict across the four episodes on this volume stem from the arrival of Elmelie Luft. As she's now on board the Zelana, there are certain members of the crew that don't exactly trust her, regardless of her relationship to Neal. Their banter about it often is done within her hearing, so she gets a taste of it and it really doesn't sit well with her. After all she had to go through to escape from her father, to make it there only to be labeled a spy and be distrusted is not something she'll stand for. Unfortunately, she decides to prove herself in a way that only causes more trouble as she tries to master Battler technology.
In a sense, it does work though since she's grown up with this kind of technology all around her, but as Keen points out, seeing the technical schematics doesn't equate being able to fly, never mind fly in combat. But a woman with something to prove and the background of being a member of a powerful family means never having to listen to others and she ends up hitting the skies with the Battler. Rather than put her in continual situations where she needs to be saved, she manages to eventually gain control of the craft and shows some basic talent at being a pilot, but she's still got plenty to learn. Her taking of a Battler however does not go over well and starts something of a rift between her and Neal, something that was already starting to become a problem after he agreed there was the possibility she was a spy.
The "Elmelie Problem" provided a good chunk of the tale told over these episodes and it's pretty well done. She comes across as a strong woman and one that can take her lumps without playing the gender card. She started in a hard position of having to prove herself to everyone including her lover, so she had little recourse but to really follow through on it. But still, her presence causes quite a bit of trouble. This initially comes in the form of Musiy trying to regain her stature again by trying to capture Elmelie and return her to Drake Luft. Musiy's attempts end up being hampered by the problematic Upper Earth pilots as they're not really working terribly well as a team, so she takes Fey to the side and forms an alliance with him with the objective of bringing Elmelie home. For him, it gives him some notice as well as a chance to check out one of the new Battlers.
One of the more interesting changes that occurs in this volume is the sudden return of Todd Guiness, long thought dead by Luft and those who worked under him, including Bern. Todd's return to the scene brings him to King Boshitt's kingdom, an ally of Luft's, but one who has much more advanced Battlers at his disposal. Taking some delight in having an Upper Earth man in his ranks now, Boshitt agrees to take in Todd and allow him to pilot one of his craft, sending him to take down the Zelana. But Todd has his own motives at hand, something we know right from when he returns to the scene and quickly abandons the woman who had cared for him all this time. With Elmelie still on board the Zelana and highly sought after by Luft's soldiers and officers, Todd tries to reclaim fame in a number of ways.
Between Todd's return, the new energy infused by Elmelie's arrival on the Zelana and the simple coolness of Musiy, these episodes managed to avoid much of the repetitive feel that would otherwise really hit here as the Zelana and main cast of characters are engaged in the same kind of actions they have been for a few episodes now. The large ensemble is all building nicely and each hitting their stride here, even the new characters. There's still plenty of different directions this show can go in, such was noted during the abstract and strange sequence that Show and Todd ended up in during their own fight, that trying to guess where things are going to end is fruitless.
If there's anything to complain about with this volume it's the inconsistent credit scrolls. While the show has had varying name changes throughout it (Fey in the subtitle script, Feui in the credits), I hate that so many Japanese characters go uncredited. During the second episode on this disc, Fey and Musiy take a strong center presence and I was really curious as to who played both roles. But in the credits, they're not listed at all. It's probably something related to there being no actual film credit for them or something else, but it's still disappointing.
Dunbine continues to be an entertaining show and one that continues to get attractive women into battle suits that look really good on them. The growing ranks of both genders fighting the battle is something that I don't think was too common at the time, at least from the shows that I've managed to see from that period, so it's interesting to see how they're working together and the kind of rifts that are created. The large battles and overall plot do take a back seat during these episodes, but we're given such enjoyable character tales that it's definitely worth taking the time out for them.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Production portfolio,Clean opening and closing animation
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
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Aura Battler Dunbine