Aura Battler Dunbine Vol. #09 (of 12) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Thursday, November 04, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, October 12, 2004



What They Say
The specter of all out war casts it shadow on much of Europe and Central Asia as Show and the crew of the Zelaana work against overwhelming odds to insure that the civil war that has cut Byston Well in half does not end tragically for the unsuspecting citizens of our world. Many lives are lost as the stakes grow higher...

The battle lines are drawn as the war for control of Byston Well hits home!

The Review!
The battles on Upper Earth only get more intense as the groups begin to push for more control and realize new strengths.

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 a gorgeous piece of artwork of the battler and Jeril with her sword out. The detail and colors continue to look amazing here, especially the sharpness of the reds in Jeril's outfit. 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 a close-up of Jeril in a foul mood. 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 the series gets closer and closer to the end, the battles are getting wider and the environments continue to change. With the last couple of episodes we've seen the shift from out of Byston Well and moving to Upper Earth itself. With a mixture of fear and anxiety as well as desire for these powerful weapons, the nations of Upper Earth begin working their own methods for ensuring that they get access to these weapons while keeping close tabs on those who come with them.

There's a lot going on once again in these four episodes but it's done in the way that the previous volumes did, which is to spread it out and make it almost hard to see that there's anything going on beyond more and more fighting. The various groups that are up on Upper Earth now are starting to get their feel for things but those who have intimate knowledge of the world seem better off in getting things accomplished. Well, most of the time since Show continues to seem like a dunce in a lot of ways. One of the areas that goes over very well in their dealings in the world now is that they've gone off to India to acquire a military grade radar system that they can install in the larger ships like the Zelana so they can track whose coming to them before it happens.

One area that I liked a lot as well is the continual growth for the Lady Elle character, or Queen Elle as she's now being called after the way her father and grandfather have died before her. With command of the Goraon now, she experiences even more personal loss which sets her down a troubling path that some young leaders have a hard time surmounting. The difficulties in actually leading and being responsible for people who can and will end up dead is never easy for even a seasoned person never mind a young woman still coming to grips with not only her parents being killed but being thrust into another world. Add in that people she cares about are in the line of fire now and it becomes worse. Her growth across these episodes is a bit muted in places as is normal for shows of this age but it plays out well as she comes to grips with things.

There's a lot of smaller material running around here that's fun as well. The time spent with Keen trying to prove herself as well as deal with the fact that she believes nobody likes her sends her off into some bad situations that she has a hard time getting herself out of, but such is the folly of youth in general. Show and Marvel's time spent at IBN in India to acquire the radar is a lot fun since you get to see the people at IBN be ruthless about what they want and that they're willing to do anything for it. Bern and Jeril's individual adventures are amusing since each continues to reach for more power and comes across it in different ways.

The one thing I didn't much care for is some of the bad science or faux science included here. The barriers that all the Byston Well ships seem to have now are pretty corny and give them an edge that they didn't really need. The way it gets applied to things is even worse. While I can give you that the Zelana may be able to reach the upper atmosphere, the ship isn't built to be spaceworthy nor could it handle the lack of oxygen. It's not just shutting the door and being done with it, particularly as they have that big open bay there. It's just bad. And we won't even get into some of the fun with the radar or the nuclear attack at Kiev. They're just playing a different kind of science when it comes to that.

In Summary:
Dunbine continues to be a fun show for a variety of reasons and the adventures here on Upper Earth are quite fun and a nice change of pace, but it's already reaching the point where I want them to get back down to Byston Well and get things settled out there as it needs to be. The continued fighting here doesn't seem to serve any real purpose other than to whittle down the other side as much as possible and to keep out of the hands of the various nations of the world. The characters continue to make this enjoyable however and the show goes by plenty fast as it's got a good pace to it and plenty of action to carry it through.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Opening,Clean Closing,Production Sketches

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: 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: 19.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Aura Battler Dunbine