ANIME MINOR JEWELS SERIES
Full list of the review series can be found on this page, 3rd post from bottom:
Dunbine is another work by Tomino, the Gundam dude and this time he kinda did it right as the story suffers a lot less from his “the characters make no sense” syndrome. For a change I could follow their line of thought, as well as the story.
Now the story part is about people from Earth being transported by force to another dimension, where they become pilots for huge robots that work with aura, this world’s life source. It’s very similar to Newtypes in this regard. So similar that it’s actually… a complete copy which was added by force. In the original story there were no mechas but the production company insisted to add some because Gundam was “in” and the show would sell better; thus you get these bug-like huge robots that work like Gundams. After all, how can there be a Sunrise anime without mecha? Throw them in, even for the lulz.
Anyways, the story continues with the lead pilot turning renegade after he sees how cruel his boss is and afterwards aids rebels and neighboring kingdoms to end his dictatorship. Oh I said kingdoms, didn’t I? Yes, it’s because the setting of the world is like the Middle Ages, accompanied with unicorns, fairies and … flying saucers and bug robots. Ok, it is a weird blend but it looks nice. I was getting several Lodoss and Dune vibes from it which was cool.
Most of the plot is about doing missions, like transporting a princess to safety or battling enemy camps, while occasionally we get several romantic sub-plots as well as various turn-heels, in a “not-so-Tomino” way, as they feel logical this time. Love and greed seem to dictate one’s actions in a clear to understand way.
The pacing will definitely feel slow for modern viewers, as the need to have a mecha battle in each episode feels forced and usually just an excuse to stretch an event to last several episodes. It was ok in the Gundam franchise as it was a trademark, plus it was a pure war/action drama. Dunbine is more of a fantasy/adventure and thus it seems like half of the battles were unnecessary or just a Gundam rehash. And that still didn’t save the last two episodes from going turbo and ending rashly two dozen sub-plots at once, which feels sloppy and unsatisfactory.
The story is not that linear or predictable, as at times armies transport from one world to another and they cause a lot of damage there, making you see the whole event more as genocide and less as war. Plus there is a big death total throughout the show than maintains the feeling of dread war leaves in its path. The ending is even killing almost all its cast, which Tomino reused as a concept from his Ideon work. Not that it was excused or anything; the way they all died was very convenient and happened for the sake of last impressions, which is a cheap method to gain attension.
As far as the cast goes, there is a huge variety in personalities and agendas that keeps them from becoming boring. Plus, many of them eventually die or just gain your sympathy along the way. But as far as personalities go, I only consider Chaum, the mascot pixie, to be the only memorable character for her perky looks and silly actions. She works as nothing but a comic relief but she is also a huge contrast to everybody else and as weird as it sounds, she is the only one I was cheering for. So ok, she is cute too, but that is not all I found in her. Tomino had another pixie in his later L-Gaim anime, yet that one didn’t manage to win me as much because she was mute and used too much as a panacea for various problems. Not that the cast is otherwise bad; it is in fact a worthy bunch of idealists and scheming aristocrats. Their names are also so weird; a blend of mythology and engrish that vary from cool to silly. They all have their purpose in the story and it’s just that the finale just wraps everything in a poor way.
The production values are bit hard to appreciate if you are accustomed to modern anime. There are a lot of jerky motions and still panels used, while the background will usually repeat in a fake way and the characters will look weird in many occasions. Other than that, the weird blend of sci-fi and fantasy create an interesting setting that can be captivating if you don’t expect to see Avatar. The music department is a lot easier to like as the characters have fitting voices that don’t feel fake like in most Tomino works, plus the music themes are very catchy and memorable.
In all, this is one of Tomino’s best works after Turn-A and the original Gundam season. I think he was drunk during production and thus wasn’t himself or something like that. There are many pacing issues and the animation suffers more than it should for its time but it’s otherwise a good sci-fi / fantasy anime. But I still place Escaflowne way above it, as it has a much better pace and a lot more story in it.
Oh, by the way, keep the hell away for the sequel New Aura Dunbine as well as the spin-off The Wings of Rean. They are as shitty as shit can get since Tomino was sober during those.
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 6/10
General Artwork 1/2 (generic)
Character Figures 1/2 (generic)
Backgrounds 2/2 (very heavy on fantasy and sci-fi)
Animation 1/2 (basic)
Visual Effects 1/2 (basic)
SOUND SECTION: 7/10
Voice Acting 2/3 (corny but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Music Themes 3/4 (not great but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Sound Effects 2/3 (ok I guess)
STORY SECTION: 5/10
Premise 2/2 (interesting)
Pacing 1/2 (slow)
Complexity 1/2 (not much)
Plausibility 0/2 (none)
Conclusion 1/2 (messy but solid)
CHARACTER SECTION: 6/10
Presence 1/2 (generic)
Personality 2/2 (rather cheesy but well founded)
Backdrop 1/2 (generic and simplistic but it’s there)
Development 1/2 (overblown but it’s there)
Catharsis 1/2 (overblown but it’s there)
VALUE SECTION: 5/10
Historical Value 1/3 (still remembered by some as an interesting retro title)
Rewatchability 1/3 (low because of the slow plot)
Memorability 3/4 (distinctive for a mecha show)
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 4/10
The pacing is too slow and most battles are pointless, plus the ending is messy. All the rest are average to good.