Aura Battler Dunbine Vol. #12 (of 12) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, January 31, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, February 15, 2005
What They Say
The civil war in Byston Well comes to a cataclysmic end in this powerful heart-wrenching finale. No one is immune to the winds of war. Long time friends are forced to make life-and-death decisions to insure the fate of their respective worlds. For Show and the others, it comes down to raw courage and selfless sacrifice.
With the final four episodes, Aura Battler Dunbine seeks to bring everything to conclusion and answer all questions left hanging and does so beautifully.
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 piece of artwork of one of the aura machines in the background while Ciela gets a full body shot in a very elegant dress and such a highly detailed and beautiful image. I really wish that these covers were made into posters or something else so that I could have larger versions of them because they've been beautiful. 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 the three Ferrario that have been in the 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.
Bringing things to a conclusion as expected, the last set of extras are much like the rest with a production sketch gallery and the clean versions of the opening and ending sequence.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
On and on the battles have gone since all the forces arrived from Byston Well and became spread all over the Upper Earth. Alliances formed, sides were taken and massive battles fought that have resulted in the deaths of many and destruction of entire cities. Drake Luft mastered things so well that he put down the biggest military in the world without a shot, though he lost its navy to rogue captains who refused their commanders orders to stand down. The world is in much chaos but the various forces are starting to realize that they're eventually going to have to settle things themselves since the involvement of others is leading to far too many distractions.
The last volume saw a lot of epic scale battles falling into place as the various forces began to move against each other, mostly through Bishott feeling that he was getting his chance to take down Ciela and others and manage to elevate his own status while Luft remained behind the lines for the most part. But the rising aura problems across the ocean have made things difficult and the strangeness of certain ships going hyper haven't helped at all. What's made it worse is that the various Earth forces are taking a very active part in helping what they consider the good guys of Byston Well and helping to take down the massive battle cruisers. There's an amusing moment where they talk about the suicide runs that their aircraft are going to take and Show is surprised that they're going to do kamikaze runs. He's quickly corrected though since the pilots intend to eject just before they get to the battle cruiser and they'll then use them remote to crash into key places.
This is actually an amusing plan in general since it'd be hell trying to control remotely an aircraft while parachuting down over the ocean, but even more so in the midst of battle. The tactic actually works though but not as effective as hoped, particularly since Bishott's forces prove how bloodthirsty they are by actually slicing and killing the pilots as they float down after ejecting. It wasn't something I expected nor did the pilots either but it's an unpleasant and violent set of circumstances. The battles continue to rage even with their help though and as the forces all slowly converge more and more against each other, each of them start to realize that things must be settled with finality soon as there's a sense of something going wrong with the aura power in the area.
It's in this way that Tomino both surprises me and earns his reputation. Bringing all these forces against each other in an attempt to secure a victory, everyone dies. I loved being able to exclaim that out loud afterwards because it reminded me of many shows from this time where they weren't afraid to screw over their characters. Things just go so wildly badly that with the exception of Chum, everyone from Byston Well and those heavily involved in the battles like Show and Marvel end up dead. Oh the beauty of it! As a resolution, it's not terribly effective since it doesn't really answer much, but the ideas offered work well enough. Byston Well rejected the growth that infected it known as Aura Battlers and sent all of it to its other connected self, Upper Earth. That region is more than capable of dealing with the infection and over the course of time, ends up taking all that aura energy and brings everything to a conclusion by eliminating all of it, allowing both lands to recover with no interference now.
With the way it ended, it has solidified a few thoughts about the show itself however. I think it became evident not too long after the Byston Well folks came to Earth and it was sinking in that the show would take place there for the remainder of the series, but around then I get the feeling that Tomino was seemingly winging it episode by episode, just stretching out the battles with so many stalemates and false victories since he just didn't know where to go with it. The battles are fun and the way they all interacted with Upper Earth governments was certainly interesting, but all of it ended up serving little purpose in the end, particularly since there were no real characters from Upper Earth to connect with in this regard so that we could view the tale after the end of the Byston Well characters. Making things up as he goes along and then deciding to just bring it all to one big cluster at the end and destroy everything is the kind of thing that pre-teen kids mentally write into stories while playing with their action figures as a good way to resolve things just before dinner is called.
Even with my feelings on how unfocused the writing became in the second half, I have to admit that I love the audacity of the ending of the series to still be thrilled with it. Most everyone gets their own quick moment of fame and glory before burning out and these last episodes simply don't take any time to rest before going back into the grim and grit of what's going on. With a show like Dunbine and his previous mass killings in the Gundam franchise, it's easy to see where Tomino gets his "kill 'em all" attribution. Even with the shows faults and age, it's a terribly enjoyable piece of fiction that doesn't play easy with perceptions or filling in the blanks and demands that the viewer put in some effort. While I hope for more shows like this from this period, if Dunbine can't move titles then I doubt few others can either and have huge doubts we'll see anything else like this for a long time to come.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Production portfolio,Clean opening animation,Clean closing animation
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
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Aura Battler Dunbine