a.k.a. Seisenshi Dunbine
Company: Sunrise/Sotsu Agency
Format: 49 episodes
Dates: 2/5/1983 to 1/21/1984
Shou Zama was a motocross racer, until one day he was swept away from his ordinary life and ended up in the mythical world of Byston Well. There, he was forced into piloting the Dunbine aura battler for Drake Luft’s military. Soon, Shou learns the true intentions of Drake Luft and must make a choice: either fight Luft’s army or let the denizens of this fantastical world suffer under his reign.
summary by Ender
Highs: Unique world and mecha designs; Tomino’s direction
Lows: Rather dated; starts off slow
Between Gundam and Zeta Gundam, Tomino Yoshiyuki found time to direct a series based on his novel, The Wings of Lin. Of course, it wasn’t well received when audiences discovered it wasn’t a Gundam series. Quite a shame, too, because this is one of the better series to have come out of the ’80s.
The show contains everything Tomino is known for: great characters, a unique universe, an edge-of-your seat story and mecha… lots and lots of mecha. The designs for the aura battlers spark something in the imagination; they’re bug-like curiosities (designed by Macross‘ Miyatake Kazutaka) that soar through the air with a sense of grace and power. However, at the time this anime was made, most of this was overlooked. At its core, Dunbine is a fantasy epic, but the crust surrounding it still resembles the average ’80s mecha series.
The plus Tomino gains in directing this anime is that it is his world. Much like famous fantasy and science fiction novels (Dune and Lord of the Rings come to mind), Tomino spent as much time as possible in crafting this world, creating a history and filling it with characters that can present his imagination clearly and keep the story flowing. And like most great books, this series takes its sweet time in telling the story. It does allow for the viewer to understand the world and characters better, but it tends to slow everything else down. Thankfully, the story picks up and doesn’t break its progression, leading up to the patented “Tomino Ending”.
In retrospect, the problem with Dunbine is, unfortunately, its age. At a time when mecha series were a Yen-a-dozen, this series has been ignored, even by mecha enthusiasts. If you enjoy mecha shows, love stories that pull you in or just have a fascination for worlds only glimpsed at in dreams, then take the journey to Byston Well. It will be a flight worth taking.
Aura Battler Dunbine can be downloaded legally in the United States HERE.