Anime: Aura Battler Dunbine

Fortunate are those who remember the story of Byston Well...

What do unicorns, pixies and colossal, insect-like robots all have in common? They're all heavily featured in Aura Battler Dunbine. Brainchild of Yoshiyuki Tomino of Gundam fame, Dunbine tells the story of Show Zama, a Japanese motocross fan who, after a botched trick, falls into the fantasy world of Byston Well. There he is taken in by Drake Luft, a local lord, and is taught to pilot "Aura Battlers", which serve as the show's mecha. Things seem to be going well for him in the new world until Show meets with local resistance leader Neal Given, who tells Show about a much darker side to Drake. Thus, Show takes up his Dunbine to fight alongside his new allies, and eventually takes his fight to odder and more fantastic locales.

Dunbine is mostly known not for its rather formulaic plot, but for its interesting concept of setting Humongous Mecha battles in the middle of a Medieval European Fantasy. The mecha themselves take fluid, organic shapes and are much smaller than most mecha designs. The show starts strong, but the second half drags on until the grand finale, which is among the most flashy and explosive in anime history.

Has had several spin-offs, including Garzey's Wing and The Wings of Rean.

Compare with Panzer World Galient and The Vision of Escaflowne, two other Humongous Mecha series in a Medieval European Fantasy setting.

This series contains examples of:

  • Anyone Can Die: This IS Tomino we're talking about.
  • Black Knight
  • Book Ends: The opening to most episodes (and all of the early ones) states that this is the story of Byston Well, as related by the Mi Ferarrio. This takes a turn for the horrifying when the last episode reveals that Mi Ferrario was singular, and it was specifically referring to Cham Fau, the Sole Survivor of ALL THE MAIN CAST.
  • Char Clone: A Tomino production has a hard time going without one. Bern Bunnings ( The Black Knight) ends up filling this role.
  • Cool Plane: The Aura Fighter Galava. Unusual for a mecha anime, it's a fighter developed with the same technology that's used in Aura Battlers, which they actually stop developing, as the humanoid form seemed to reach its maximum potential with the Zwarth.
  • Deadly Upgrade: Once a pilot's Aura reaches a certain level, his/her Aura Battler can become "strenghtened", growing much larger in size and becoming almost unstoppable. However, this tends to have the rather nasty side-effect of killing the pilot.
  • Downer Ending
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Todd, whose whole reason for fighting, other than defeating Show, is to protect his mother.
  • Evil Matriarch: Drake's wife Luuza. You will be hard-pressed to find a worse mother in any anime. Of course, it's not like Show's mom is any better...
  • Evil Overlord: Drake.
  • Executive Meddling: The original book, Wings of Rean, didn't contain any mecha. Sunrise made Tomino add them. Tomino responded the way he usually does.
  • Fluffy the Terrible: Leprechaun isn't exactly the type of name you ought to give for an Aura Battler, now is it?
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Show in regards to Marvel, later reciprocated.
  • Hufflepuff House: If you can find the map of Byston Well, you may notice a large kingdom called Ree, neighbor to Ah and Ku, that only gets a passing mention in anime.
    • A Day in the Limelight: Seisenshi Gaiden's PS1 game, however, greatly expanded the detail about this kingdom by making the player join them.
  • Keep Circulating the Tapes: Was released on DVD by ADV but is now out of print. Just try getting the entire series on DVD... some scalpers want 125 bucks for the last volume alone....
    • Internet chatter has it that Dunbine sold so badly that the print runs were cut down to a few hundred discs for volumes 11 and 12.
  • Kill 'em All: Nearly every named character on the cast is killed during the final battle, including the hero.
    • Possibly averted: Maybe they all just went back to Byston Well. After all "Byston Well is the birthplace of peoples' souls."
      • This is definitely possible. In The Wings of Rean (which takes place in the same setting but several (Byston Wellian) centuries later), some Red Shirts die and end up being "reborn" as babies in Byston Well.
    • Of course, this is averted in the Super Robot Wars episodes where Dunbine makes an appearance. There, all the good-aligned characters get to live. And sometimes some of the villains - most games let you save Todd, and a few let you save Garalia.
      • Didn't help in Super Robot Wars UX, though. UX takes place After the End, and the only ones alive are Shou, Cham, Marvel, Burn, and Shot Weapon. You can convince Burn to join you and save his life, though, as with everyone else dead and his fight with Shou effectively concluded in the prologue he has no real reason not to fight with you.
  • Mask Power: The Black Knight
  • Mid-Season Upgrade: From the Dunbine to the Billbine.
  • Mini-Mecha: Aura Battlers are pretty small by Humongous Mecha standards, standing at 6 to 8 meters tall in most cases. For perspective, Dunbine's entire torso is about the size of that protruding blue bit on the Mobile Suit Gundam's abdomen where its cockpit hatch is.
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Shot Weapon. That is all.
  • Offing the Offspring: A very chilling example near the end. Also counts as a crossing of the Moral Event Horizon.
  • Organic Technology: The aura machines are built using body parts from Byston Well's huge insectoid beasts. Aura muscle come from tissue, armor from carapace, etc.
  • The Punishment: In the Tales of Neo Byston Well OVA, it turn out that as the head developer of Aura Machines, Shot Weapon was cursed to live forever even if his body became rotten.
  • Pretty Little Headshots: Riml's death.
  • Psycho for Hire: Jerril
  • Rebellious Princess: Riml, Drake's daughter. She cares about her father, but hates what he's doing.
  • The Rival: Both Todd and Bern.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Except King Furaon.
  • Schizo Tech: Essentially defines this series.
  • Science Fantasy: This anime was noteworthy for this. The setting was a medieval kingdom full with unicorns, fairies... and giant robots.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Spell My Name with an "S": A lot of the names suffer from this, not at all assisted by a number of cases of dissonance between the "intended" English spelling and the katakana used for the names. The official DVD subtitles even change spellings half-way through!
  • Super Robot Wars: Was a mainstay during the franchise's early years, and was included in EX, 4/F/FF, Alpha 1, Compact, the Compact 2 Trilogy & Impact and Compact 3. It's also worth pointing out that, due to the way size and their unique "Holy Warrior"/"Aura Battler" skill works in the games, the Dunbine units tend to be extremely powerful and useful "real"-style robots (ironically) and are a favorite of many players.
  • Trapped in Another World
  • You Will Be Spared: "We will spare the city of Boston out of respect for Todd Guinness."