Aura Battler Dunbine Vol. #08 (of 12) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Monday, October 04, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, August 31, 2004



What They Say
Realizing that the escalating conflict above threatens Byston Well, the Feeorine use their magic to catapult deadly machines onto the Aura Road causing them to surface on Upper Earth. Now the stage has been set for war to determine the future of Byston Well, a war where the fate of two worlds now hangs in the balance.

The Review!
The battles start to pick up at Show masters his Billbine but then it all goes to hell.

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 gorgeous piece of artwork of the "mysterious" Black Knight and his Zwarth behind him. The way the blacks and grays look here with the reds is just very striking, especially with the detail used. 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 the Black Knight and I'm not positive who the other is. 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)
As this series continues it only continues to be really engaging and highly frustrating in some ways. The way the plot runs at times it seems like it's starting to get repetitive then they throw you for a loop with new information or a new direction. The other part that's frustrating is that for a series done by someone with a reputation for killing characters, some characters just don't seem to die when they should. And yes Todd, I am talking to you.

This volume has some really great material on it, beyond the above mentioned frustrations of course. Before the show takes a complete left turn, Show and the others have decided that they have found themselves an opportunity to do some damage against Drake after the last battle as his cruiser and a number of other pieces of gear are taking some downtime in their most recently conquered lands. Show decides that in addition to trying to get an idea of the oppositions status that he's going to go and do something he's wanted to do for a long time, and that's to rescue the Silkie that brought him to this land. It's an interesting escape with little planning and little in the way of guards, something they even comment on during the search for her.

It's not her rescue that's the really interesting part but rather during the escape in how they're taken to the realm above where the E Ferario live. Bringing Jacoba back into play, Show and Marvel along with Chum arrive with the Silkie in hand, much to Jacoba's gratitude. Jacoba's actions here provide some really interesting bits of information as she metes out a punishment to the Silkie for being captured and then using her abilities to draw in more people from Upper Earth. We also see someone else's punishment lightened and the way the forms are changed and memories wiped among the various Ferario races, something that for a few moments really scares Chum since it potentially explains some of her existence. So much is crammed into such a little place here that explains some of the more interesting aspects of this imagined world that it's frustrating that it's so short and the show goes back into heavy action mode for the rest of the disc.

Granted, that action mode is actually one of the better shifts in gear the series has taken. Just when it all seems like it's starting to go back into the cycle of one side attacking the other and vice versa, the series really throws you something fun. With the idea of hitting Drake and his Will of the Wisp while it's down and being repaired after the last engagement, a newly energized resistance with beefed up cruisers and battlers heads off to take them down. Naturally, Drake's not as bad off as it seems and is able to raise into the battle, the same time as many of his allies are ready with their own cruisers and the stage is set for a huge new battle and lots of near-deaths and background character deaths.

But the interference by Jacoba, with her reasoning of the machines that are invading this land being the root of all the new evil, puts both friend and foe alike into the same basket and wraps them in her life energies and ships them elsewhere. Elsewhere of course can only be Upper Earth, where the people from there suddenly find themselves back home and those from Byston Well find themselves scattered to the four corners of the globe. Now this is fun material, even if it's a slight repeat of earlier events when Show and Garalia arrived here. Their original arrival, which was apparently two weeks prior, has the world abuzz due to the death and destruction caused in Japan. The sudden arrival of dozens of these craft all across the world brings all up again, though people do seem remarkably calm about it all.

This new arc brings a lot of interesting elements into play. The size of the world is definitely larger than that of Byston Well, but all the craft seem to have gained new speed and maneuverability here so it's not as hard to get around. Seeing the Upper Earth players going back home once more brings out their origins a bit more and getting them to deal with the situation by trying to go under cover is amusing, particularly seeing Show and Marvel doing the whole Hawaiian scene in very revealing 80's style clothing. The shifting of alliances is starting to show through based on all the changes and the way each of the sides is reacting to being in this new world, as well as the inhabitants of this world being ready to take on the enemy after the damage done in Japan.

In Summary:
Dunbine avoids repetition in a way by repeating itself in a grander scale but also giving the show a chance to let the characters grow and develop a bit more by letting them come home once more in full scale and deal with some of what they've been running away from. There are a lot of revelations across all the episodes here, though the biggest secret of who the Black Knight is that's come to defeat Show is the weakest since we know it's not Todd. Damn you Todd, die already! Dunbine continues to be a series that's big and epic and has a hard time dealing with the smaller character interactions, something we've seen with a lot of shows from this particular time, but it makes up for it in other ways. While Dunbine isn't for everyone, it's a series that plays up to a lot of the things I like from shows of this vintage and avoids a lot of what I'm liking less and less about today's shows.

Features
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, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: A
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: A
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 19.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Aura Battler Dunbine