Aura Battler Dunbine Vol. #11 (of 12) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Sunday, January 02, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, January 04, 2005



What They Say
As it becomes increasingly obvious that the fate of the Earth hangs in the balance, battle lines are drawn in anticipation of what can only be described as "the war to end all wars." Emotions run high as Show and the others learn more about the mysterious force known as aura power.

The Review!
With the destruction of Paris, the people of Upper Earth start to become more involved in determining their fate and prepare to fight back.

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 one of the aura machines as well as a very slick looking illustration of Shot with a wine glass. Though he looks paler than he does in the series the image here is just perfect. 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 full length image of 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.

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 talked about in the last volume, one of the surprising yet appealing things to this series is that we really didn't expect to have the action move to Upper Earth as the series progressed more than the initial visit. This extended stay with the war taking on a new meaning as various nations fall under the control of Bishott or Luft or strike alliances with Ciela is definitely an interesting turn of events, but like the first half of the series it does suffer from much the same problem, the continual fighting, fighting and more fighting without any seeming progress.

With this being the penultimate volume in the series, the battles are getting more intense and the situation direr for those living on Upper Earth and those that are considered the good guys. The destruction of Paris in the sea of fire that Bishott caused has not enamored the world of them and it's causing a ripple effect among the populations. The biggest problem, though kept relatively off screen, is the way that Luft's forces have managed to keep the American forces so completely at bay by occupying the capital and making retribution a very clear item on their agenda. This leaves it to Norway to become a leading nation once more as Bishott finds himself and his forces there after the Paris encounter for repairs and re-supplies. The population initially accepts them and starts doing the work that's ordered, but there's a growing resentment, something that Ciela is starting to sense in the aura as Earth's aura comes alive more.

While the battles do get some higher stakes to them, there's also some interesting conversations and interpersonal moments going on throughout. Show and Marvel have some tense moments since Show finally starts to realize that practically all of his plans seem to continually go completely awry and end up causing more trouble than good. This puts him into a serious funk and causes problems with Marvel since he's got that whole like/love word problem to deal with. Elle and Ciela deal with the problems of being royalty and bringing so many forces to their deaths and the loss of Paris in particular since that strained their relationship with England. What amused me a lot was the way that Luft's wife started to panic about her position with Bishott once Elmelie managed to sneak off the ship there and she realized that without her daughter she has nothing to stand on.

One of the best things about this set of episodes is that Todd comes back to play and he gets some great scenes and his last one in the final episode of the volume is just perfect. If anyone deserved such a thing to happen to him, it's Todd. Go Todd!

In Summary:
Dunbine is a show that's very engaging to watch as it plays out, but when you look back on it afterwards there's only a few key things that really go on because so much of the time is spent with battle scenes. This is a drastic change from how series are today where there's seemingly less and less action scenes or big animated segments in each episode because of costs, time and other factors. With only a few episodes left after this and the conclusion so near, it's hard to imagine how it's all going to be wrapped up smoothly but I'm looking forward to seeing how it all comes together and whether it crashes and burns or manages to be completely surprising and does a great job.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Production portfolio, Clean opening animation, Clean 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: 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