Shou Zama is an ordinary 18-year-old from Tokyo who finds himself summoned to the medieval fantasy world of Byston Well. Upon arrival, he is put into service under the ambitious lord Drake Luft, who seeks to greatly expand his power. Those like Shou who come from "Upper Earth" possess strong aura power and are ordered to pilot "Aura Battlers," insectoid mecha designed by a man named Shot Weapon, who also came from Upper Earth.
However, Shou's alliances quickly change when he meets Marvel Frozen, a young woman who has decided to rebel against Drake's political agenda. As he realizes the lord's true intentions, the boy chooses to join the fight against Drake and team up with Neal Given, who leads the resistance movement. The resistance isn't alone—Riml, daughter of their enemy and Neal's secret love, aids their efforts, hoping to escape from her father's clutches. As Shou finds himself fighting alongside his new comrades, they put their lives on the line to prevent the villainous Drake from taking over Byston Well before it's too late.
This anime is based on a novel originally titled Wings of Rean by Gundam creator, Yoshiyuki Tomino who of course worked as the director of this series. If you’re familiar with his work or the Gundam franchise in general, then you can recognize the approach and formula of how he does things, but in a different context in comparison to Gundam. And the original novel did not contain any mechs which was added at the insistence of sponsors such as Bandai. The pacing is appropriate for its length of 49 episodes and you’re getting all kinds of characterizations of the cast, and each character acts
natural in their own way in relation to what’s going on to a point you can consider realistic. And eventually other elements of Gundam are loosely transitioned to this anime that fans of that series can appreciate.
The anime ends with some loose ends, not specifically the ending, but with some of the characters. And of course as you watch it, the characters have very unique names to the Japanese people in which American audiences would give a WTF reaction to. Such as the main antagonist and the rival is named Burn Burnings or whatever and the chief engineer of Drake’s army is named Shot Weapon. Yes those are their names and that’s the beginning of things to come.
Well this anime was broadcasted shortly before I was born and while I was in the womb which was nearly 25 years ago, so the old animation might translate as “bad animation” for the stupid and close minded as some have reacted to the first Gundam series and Lupin III during their broadcasting on cartoon network. To me, this was the best that early 1980s TV anime had to offer. In tradition to that of Gundam, the design of the antagonists have a traditional but yet old military approach appropriate to the setting with their costumes and ceremonies. The hairstyles and costumes of the rebels on the other hand look like they are going to enter the battle of the bands. Hey, it’s the 80s. So whether or not that is a good thing or bad thing is also up to you. I think in a rebel sense, that kind of design is appropriate.
The character designer is Kogawa Tomonori who has acclaimed international fame on his own end as the character designer of Southern Cross, which would serve as part of the Robotech franchise that was started by Macross. Speaking of Macross, mechanical designer Miyataka Kazutaka was also the mech designer for this series as well and is truly in some ways the aura battlers in the tradition of the valkyries in their own right though they kind of look like insects. I’m guessing they have a Kamen Rider influence. After all, Sho is a motorcycle driver and I’m going to continue making that assumption based on this detail as well. I estimate the aura battlers are the same size as the valkyries and also share some of its unique engineering by transforming into a fighter jet. The battle sequences are breath taking and combine the elements of both Gundam and Macross and saying that alone should be enough to convince you how great and spectacular they are. Considering this is a Tomino creation, the concepts will of course favor more to the tradition of Gundam. If I elaborate on that, it would be somewhat of a spoiler.
Well, I have yet to watch the dub. I have heard mixed things about it, and it is directed by Carl Macek, who is well known as the man who took some anime and meshed it together to make the Robotech franchise. But I just personally don’t feel any reason to watch the dub. Not really out of bad expectations of it, but simply I just don’t want to and I’m satisfied with the Japanese version. I’m not discouraging anybody from watching the dub, it’s just I don’t feel any reason to watch it. Nakahara Shigeru is the voice of Sho, he would later become famous amongst anime fans as the voice of Trowa from Gundam Wing and Android 17 in Dragon Ball Z. His role as Sho in comparison to his more famous ones, he’s of course on the lines of being like Camille from Zeta Gundam. He has issues and portrays being a teenager with them very well and sounding very childish. And my favorite seiyuu in this is Shimada Bin as the voice of the rival of Sho, Barn Barrings. His deep voice truly reflects the status and appearance of his character and it was truly tailor made for him. And of course, the presence of foreign characters, they do speak Japanese, but the anime has an interesting justified reason of why the characters can speak Japanese in this series. It’s just that in Byston Well, people can somehow understand each other. Like if someone is talking to you in Chinese, you’ll magically hear it as English and when you talk to that person, they’ll hear your English as Chinese. And of course it’s believable.
The music is also excellent and highly intense which is appropriate for the action, and relaxing and mystical in appropriate for the middle ages setting. So you’re getting all kinds of tracks appropriate for the atmosphere in terms of not just setting, but mood as well. MIO who would later rename her self MIQ sings both the opening and ending songs. The songs are also very kid friendly and are exclusively made for the show just like how the Macross and Gundam themes were. She has also sang the theme songs for Gundam 0083 and Area 88. I believe she also sang an English version of the theme song of Aura Battler Dunbine which I have yet to hear.
After watching this review or if you had any prior exposure to this series, then you can take an obvious assumption that this anime could have influenced Escaflowne by Shoji Kawamori, the creator of Macross. I don’t think that has officially been confirmed, but I say it’s still a safe assumption to make. As much as I personally highly regard Aura Battler Dunbine, I do see it will not appeal to everyone outside of a dedicated fan base of mech or the staff members or old school anime in general, just like how lets say fan service and the sports genre isn’t for everyone either. I say this is still a must see for fans of Gundam and Macross. But as I believe, if you appreciate excellent story telling, presentation and an approachable orthodox sense of originality, I say give this a shot.
One of the few things that stands out about this anime is that it's overflowing with the 'Mecha' mentality and grounded with 'Shounen' based rules; A demonstration of how this instance is applied here is: the Aura Battlers who are piloted by people who can use the Aura and if 2 Battlers came face to face, then the person with the stronger Aura wins. This is one of the main reasons why I didn't enjoy this show since it takes away the excitement of employing strategies and tactical fights, and utterly degrading it to a "Shounen with giant Robots".
Another thing that
standout for me is that the story becomes annoyingly formulaic due to the excessive use of "The Hero Comes And Saves The Day" excuse to solve every crisis the crew faces. This is a grave mistake since it takes away from the characters by degrading them from being actual characters to becoming a mere plot devices to ease out the story, not to mention that you will grow to dislike these heroes and start rooting for the villains, because you'd wanna see the heroes lose and quite frankly the villains make for better characters, for instance there is Bern, Todd and Garalia, which are all great characters; characters that elevated the show from 'bad' to 'average' status.
However on the other hand There is Shou, Elle, Riml and Neal, which are characters that almost ruined this anime with their blandness, they're just "Stereotyped Plot Devices" nothing more, nothing less. I previously mentioned that you'll grow to dislike them and start rooting for the villains, I certainly undermined how much animosity anyone would have against these characters upon watching this anime because you won't dislike them you'll hate them and I shall explain why by summing most of their flaws:
1) Shou Zama: first we start with the MC; the Overpowered As Fuck MC, who is a Stereotypical Shounen Kiddo that is sometimes angry, sometimes calm and sometimes a little bit of both. One thing is certain about him and it's the fact that his ass got turned into one of the biggest plot devices in this anime, what made things worse is that "Shou Zama" or as I like to call him now "Shou Medeeznuts" never loses a fight, I know I mentioned that he's OP but this is different because no matter how many times the situation gets dire, no matter how many times his opponents get the upper hand, no matter how many times you get a boner out of eagerness of watching him lose, mister "Shou Medeeznuts" will always erect victory.
2) Elle Hunm: a troubled princess who suddenly got spiritual powers outta no where that only served as means to continue the story and keep it progressing, She is one of those characters that won't grow or develop no matter how many tragic events that happen to her, she is just a below average character made even worse with these powers of hers that only serve the plot.
3) Riml Luft: Basic Bitch made even more annoying by the fact that she is an Over-Exaggerating, Good Doing, Law abiding, Battler Piloting Little Princess with rebellious EMO Spark in her that makes her go against her father because of her unwarranted love for her father's nemesis "Neal Given", not to mention that her actions are only taken for the sake of plot convenience and to keep the story progressing.
4) Neal Given: this guy is just a pity, I mean when you look at his status in the story and how he was supposed to be positioned as main character and then to be degraded from a Stereotypical Shounen EMO dude that is always screaming, always shouting about how much he wants to save his beloved princess, how he will cleanse 'Byston Well' of everything that is evil and lots of blah blah blah N shit to a mere bland red-headed Fucksack who is thought to be matured just because he became more calm. Fuck. Me. But when you think about it, it's not that much of a downgrade since both of his personas are actually SH!T.
After Extensive analysis and delving deep into show's core I came up with this conclusion: The Aura Is A Plot Device. Just think about it, whenever something bad happens you can rely on the Aura to boost the strength of a 10 year old girl to fight an army conformed of skilled and professional Battler pilots with years of experience and utterly beat them and mop the floor with their asses. Or whenever "Shou Medeeznuts" is about to lose and then all of a sudden he's whoopin' ass all over the battlefield with his Kung Fu Mecha Style.
In Essence; This anime is pure waste of time due to the stupidity of the writing team that floods the the story with a parade of plot devices, stupid plot convenient actions and repetitive events that makes the show feel stretched out. Also, I think I'm obliged to highlight that EDGY CLUSTERFUCK OF AN ENDING where nothing makes sense. NOTHING.
A true classic anime. The series is over 20 years old so the art is going to turn some people off.
The story, the characters and the unique approach to the world of the Wee-folk is very well done. The Irish and Scottish lore that is mixed with the Japanese language and sense of honor and humanity is a cool blend.
The mechanical designs are all based off of natural life forms (like insects).
If you are a true fan of anime, love great stories and have a longing for something different then by all means watch this series.
Do NOT waste your time or your money on this anime UNLESS you possess a secret love for bad animes.
If you do then I can highly recommend it for:
ART: You will love the old fashioned styled animation with a palette of colours to jar the eye.
STORY: I would lke to praise how the creators have managed to make the always interesting senario of sending a lead character into another dimension, mundane. Furthermore, they should be extolled for successfully alienating any fascination to see what happens next in the story by producing unappealing characters and poor dialogue.
The dialogue was particularly
clunky, devoid of wit and humour, worth a listen for any lover of bad lines. As I do not speaker Japanese I cannot guarantee this pleasure. Sadly, I did not have the stamina to watch another espisode with subtitles. Forgive me for my weakness.
MUSIC: Disappointingly the music was not bad just forgettable. I cannot recall a note of it.
For those who hate bad anime, please, avoid this like you would a rank smell but for those who have a secret pleasure for terrible anime indulge yourselves.