Aura Battler Dunbine Vol. #10 (of 12) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Friday, December 17, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, November 23, 2004



What They Say
The capitals of Europe become bargaining chips as the civil war that rocked Byston Wells turns Upper Earth into a battle zone. The stakes have never been higher for Show and the crew of the Zelana as they desperately try to save Paris from total destruction. However, new revelations regarding the dark hidden nature of Aura Power could eventually spell their downfall.

The Review!
Numerous sides in this ever expanding war start playing with some more dangerous weapons and plans as the need to go to the extreme becomes more the norm.

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 Dunbine as well as Elle in her commanding/battle uniform. She looks great in this piece and the detail of the outfit is just sweet. The covers like these make me wish the series was being reanimated today with this kind of detail to it. 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 the various evil forces that are now on Earth. 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)
Aura Battler Dunbine continues to be a surprising series in how its going about its story. While it initially hooked us with various people being sucked into Byston Well and then given powerful machines to pilot in order to conquer or save the various lands, we didn't expect a real trip back to Earth until the end of the series or maybe a brief incursion during it, which we initially got earlier on and done in a way that makes sense. For it to change gears and send all the warring people to Earth about halfway through and the run with that for as long as it has been was something I didn't see coming at all and am glad I didn't.

The various forces spread around the world are operating in interesting ways. I like the forcefulness that Drake's side seems to be taking in making their demands of Washington to give them what they want or they'll destroy the capital. Drake doesn't play around and this pushes that idea forward pretty well. Zet Shot has his own ambitions and is getting ready to unleash them since he's got a real hatred for the Earth as well as America, so it's no skin off his nose if Drake puts them through the grinder for awhile. The real troublemaker throughout here is Bishott though, particularly with Drake's wife there adding her thoughts and influence to the events. The two are quite power hungry and enjoy the thrill of conquest so much so that they seem to feed on each others emotions over it. Each of them seems to push the other to doing more and it's turning into a vicious cycle – though they both still know the need to retreat when necessary to regroup.

A lot of the focus in this volume is bringing Show and the folks on board the Zelana into contact with Lady Ciela Lapana and her massive ship which is located not that far outside of Kiev. Her negotiations with those from that region have gone fairly poorly since she can't bring herself to trust them based on how they're acting and what they're doing but she continues to try to achieve some sense of communications with them that could lead to peace. Since her ship is a target she's not keen on staying there a really long time since that will only draw in Bishott to attack them and will harm the surrounding area. But the officials she meets with just can't bring themselves to give any amount of real trust to those from Byston Well and the only agreement they come up with is for her to leave once they pull back their troops.

Naturally, this being the eighties and the people dealing with Ciela are obviously Russians, there's the nuclear option that comes into play. Surprisingly, the show has them bringing in a small nuclear device in the bottom of a lavish hand made bureau that's been offered as a gift. The ticking is so minute that only the Mi Ferrario can hear it and they're pretty easily dismissed since Ciela and others from Byston Well seem to have never gotten the concept of a Trojan horse or something similar like this. So with a powerful nuclear device hidden aboard, a timer set for it to go off and the hopes of the Russians to gain whatever they can from the technology that survives, it shows just how far they're willing to go to do it. Some of the soldiers aren't sure about it since they're so close to Kiev, but them's the breaks.

With the show refocusing on the battles between Ciela and Bishott, it takes on a large scale series of battles and feints between the two as they try to gain the upper hand in the European theater. Seeing how far the Russians have gone, Bishott's threatening to do the same to Paris if he doesn't get what he wants. This brings in Show to feel that he can once again save the day with his plans. But with all of them that are using the aura battlers are finding out, they're at their wits end and overstretched in dealing with everything. Frayed around the edges, they're all starting to become more snappish with each other and the situation is feeling grimmer by the day, especially when they end up going against Bishott directly and his sizeable forces.

In Summary:
The battles across the planet are really fun to watch, especially since the people originally from there aren't getting actively engaged for the most part except for surprise guerilla actions like the Russian's try to pull on Ciela. There are some great dramatics done throughout here and it's fun watching the way Ciela and Elle are getting into the roles as Queen's and dealing with the royalty and governments of Earth. These episodes just go by so fast and flow so well that even when intending to just watch one or two I end up watching all four into the wee hours of the night. Dunbine's a fun and engaging classic show that's got me itching to see a lot more, especially as it starts to draw to a conclusion.

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: 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