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Aura Battler Dunbine Complete Collection Blu-ray Anime Review

7 min read

Thrust into a strange world, Sho Zama embarks on a chaotic and engaging journey from the mind behind Gundam.

What They Say:
Aspiring racer Sho Zama finds himself pulled into a strange realm in the middle of a motocross accident and into the mystical land of Bryston Well, where lords in castles settle disputes with unicorn-mounted cavalry and giant mecha called Aura Battlers! Initially forced to pilot a Battler for the powerful Lord Drake, Sho soon discovers that he’s not the only person from the Earth drawn to Bryston Well, and worse, that he may be fighting for the wrong side. But once he’s joined forces with Dallas-born Aura Pilot Marvel Frozen, tiny fairy Cham Huau and other resistance fighters, Sho’s rapidly growing Aura powers may prove to be the deciding factor in a war unlike anything either world has ever experienced. From the acclaimed creator of Mobile Suit Gundam comes the wildest fantasy adventure ever in Aura Battler Dunbine!

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release is pretty good as we get the original Japanese language track in stereo and the dub previously produced by ADV Films. Both tacks are encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec and it’s pretty solid here though it’s definitely a product of its time with the original track and the limits of what could be done with the dub. There’s some decent directionality at times with the action and occasionally with the dialogue but it’s mostly just a full sounding mix. This is representative of its original design but it works well and the important part is that it comes across in a clean and engaging way. The dub has a bit more spark to it in some ways but that’s fairly limited as well. The lossless aspect just helps it to be a touch cleaner and clearer since it doesn’t have to deal with the kind of compression and stripping down that the original had to do on DVD. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 1983, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. Spread mostly evenly over six discs, the show has plenty of room on each disc to handle the episode count. Animated by Sunrise, the show is one that definitely is from the period with how it looks and that’s a lot of the appeal with the hand drawn animation. There’s a different kind of fluidity here in the high motion scenes while a lot of the more basic ones are just that, fairly basic. I had just rewatched the show on DVD last year and this release does exactly what I had hoped for; it’s got a much cleaner look while still having the natural grain of a film based animated series while giving greater color definition here that more accurately represents what the show looking like during the animating process. It’s got a very good look to it, is obviously the best it’s ever looked with a domestic release, and really was quite pleasing to see a show of this vintage treated so well and looking so good.

Packaging:
The packaging for this release comes in a slightly thicker than normal Blu-ray case that holds the six discs on hinges and against the interior walls. The front cover artwork goes with a great piece that features the main cast in a really nice form with all the framing to give it a rich and also old-school kind of look at the same time. It’s a bit darker than I’d care for but I’m glad they went with a stylized logo instead of just going with a new modern and simple/clean look. The back cover carries this same kind of framing over to it with a pair of strips of shots from the show that are a bit too small to be effective but it shows off the designs fairly well. The summary is very, very, simple compared to other releases and in contrast to the amount of content here but it gets the basics in. The rest has the standard in that we get the extras broken out clearly, the production credits, and a technical grid – which really needed a white background instead of white text on black in a thin font. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

Menu:
The menu design for this release goes with a static approach that works well where each disc changes out the character artwork. The bulk of the screen is given over to it and it’s made up of some very stylish and colorful pieces that really look great and are very non-standard when you get down to it. Which is why I love it because it doesn’t just use screencaps from the show or anything. The navigation along the left goes for an older look with the background as it draws on the framing from the cover while presented a good font for the episodes being listed by number and title. It’s pretty simple with the navigation as most discs just have the language selection option beyond the episodes so it’s quick and easy to navigate both as a top-level menu and as a pop-up menu during playback.

Extras:
The extras for this release are fairly basic but welcome as we get the clean opening and closing sequences along with a handful of the original Japanese promos.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Way back in 1983 we ended up with the Aura Battler Dunbine series that came from the prolific pairing of Yoshiyuki Tomino and Sunrise. The show was one that was big on the fan circuit thanks to Gundam and just the craziness of trying to figure out what was going on with a few paragraphs of a synopsis and little more to go on in those early days. The series saw a pickup in 2003 from ADV Films where they dubbed the entire thing. But it was a problematic release as it ended up out of print very, very, quickly and some volumes were almost impossible to find at the time for a lot of fans. A couple of box sets were put together but those weren’t widely produced either and were fairly rare for people to find.

I had actually gone through my singles back during 2017 to look at again and worked that over a few months since it wasn’t a show I wanted to binge. I have a real affection for this show because I love the look of it, the absurd approach it takes at time with weird decisions and unexpected twists, but I also have a lot of love for it simply because of the time period it’s from and its approach to animation itself. Because it runs for forty-nine episodes it’s also a show that with all those twists, turns, and characters, isn’t one that you can really give an overview look at with what it’s about. That’s what the release summary really would be because once you start talking about one tangent it’ll lead you down a host of others, which is par for the course with a Tomino series. So, let’s dig into the individual chunks as we did before.

Aura Battler Dunbine Episode #01 – 05 Anime Review

Aura Battler Dunbine Episode #06 10 Anime Review

Aura Battler Dunbine Episode #11 14 Anime Review

Aura Battler Dunbine Episode #15 18 Anime Review

Aura Battler Dunbine Episode #19 22 Anime Review

Aura Battler Dunbine Episode #23 26 Anime Review

Aura Battler Dunbine Episode #27 30 Anime Review

Aura Battler Dunbine Episode #31 34 Anime Review

Aura Battler Dunbine Episode #35 38 Anime Review

Aura Battler Dunbine Episode #39 42 Anime Review

Aura Battler Dunbine Episode #43 46 Anime Review

Aura Battler Dunbine Episode #47 50 Anime Review

In Summary:
Aura Battler Dunbine is the kind of show that I know will be a hard one for younger fans to connect with simply because if style and the structure of the story. There’s a certain tone and approach that shows from the 80’s took and Tomino himself works his own weirdness into it as well. But it also does a lot that more recent series don’t do as it raises the stakes and move everything forward with some real change along the way. With problems of availability for years, Sentai delivers in a big way here on multiple fronts. It’s a significant amount of content for a great price, it’s in high definition for the first time with a great encode, it includes the previously created dub, and it’s in a single tight package. While I’d love to see some crazy premium edition someday this is the definitive version for the fans who want this the best it can be and in the least space available. I can’t recommend it enough.

Features:
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Japanese Promos

Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: August 28th, 2018
MSRP: $99.98
Running Time: 1255 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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