Sweet As Syrup: Robotech Shadow Chronicles Review

I’ve realized something as of late: I have reviewed that much anime on my blog. Which is weird, because I find anime a lot easier to review than games. Despite this, I have more fun talking about games than I do about anime. However, lately I’ve been wanting to talk about more anime on my blog. After all, there are a lot of good ones out and some not so good ones. One that I’d like to talk about today falls between those two categories.

I’m of course referring to the “Robotech: Shadow Chronicles” film. It’s based off a three season anime from the 80s that combined footage from three different unrelated shows, in order to fill up over 80 episodes. Robotech Shadow Chronicles is the sequel to the original series, which we will discuss today. So, without further adieu, let us delve into a an often forgotten anime film from the mid-2000s.

Background Information

As previously mentioned, this film is a sequel to the original 80s show. It came out over 2 decades after the show ended and was released to the world in the year 2006. In fact, the movie just turned 10 a couple of weeks ago! One of the directors for this film was Tommy Yune, who worked on several Robotech projects and also wrote for the other Robotech film “Love Live Alive”. I highly reccomend not watching that film though, as it is pretty bland and features a lot of reused stock footage.

A comic book prelude was written for the film and ties in nicely to the mythos. Unfortunately, the comic and film retcon elements from most adaptations of Robotech II: The Sentinels. Despite Robotech II being canon, most iterations of the story are considered non-canon due to changes in continuity. Confused yet? The film featured a fair amount of talent associated with it. It features the voice of Mark Hamill as well as a bunch of voice actors from the original series. The film features a good selection of anime and cartoon voice actors such as Yuri Lowenthal and Richard Epcar.

Plot and Characters

poster-3217
That guy on the left looks super bored.

The film is interesting in that the first 30 or 40 minutes or so is a recap of the finale to the original show, while the rest of film is completely original content. The film catches us up to speed on the finale of the series. It shows the humans repelling the Invid invasion, the use of weapons they have inherited from a mysterious alien race known as the “Heydonites”, as well as a new perspective on the final battle featuring brand new characters. The second half of the film revolves around the humans dealing with an all new threat that’s even more powerful than the Invid.

The plot feels a bit boring at times. Space battles felt like they were spaced too far apart. Also, the film does a miserable job of explaining the characters that occupy its world. I’ll get back into this in a minute, but for now I’ll just say that a lot of these characters will fly over the heads of casual viewers. The world itself feels like it isn’t expanded on enough. For example, they keep bringing up “Protoculture”, which is essentially the energy-source that all the races in the Robotech universe fight over. They don’t go into enough detail on this energy though and they never really explain its history all that well. There are 85 episodes of the original that go into more detail on what Protoculture is, as well as other concepts like Veritech Fighters, Robotechnology, what the SDF, as well as various other concepts. The problem is that the film is more for people who have been following the series since the beginning.

Sure, there is supplementary material that will help the casual viewer get more in tune with both the world and characters, but a film should be able to explain its world to the viewer in a a natural way without extra research required. What’s worse than the rather vague concepts presented by the film is the over-abundance of characters. This film has over a dozen primary characters, yet none of them really feel like the true protagonist.

That being said, I can appreciate the film giving an ample amount of screen-time to most of its characters. This is a near 90 minute film that manages to focus on a number of its heroes. A lot of characters get backstory or pivotal scenes that manage to make me care about them. Characters like Louie from the second arc are really entertaining to see in this film. Louie has a rather entertaining arc where he falls in love with a robot named Janice, who is enjoyable in her own right. Unfortunately, their interactions have a tendency to bog down the film. I felt like a bit too much time was spent on the romance and not enough on the actual events that were unfolding.

The film tends to focus a lot on three new characters: Marcus Rush, Alex Romero, and Maia Sterling. These three feel like they should be the main protagonists, but a lot of their scenes don’t really advance the plot all that much. Maia seems noticeably lacking in screen-time despite being related by blood to the protagonists of the first 2 seasons. The villains get it worse though.

The Regis, who is the villain of third season takes up the plot of the first half of the film. The main villains known as “The Children of the Shadows” are only in a few scenes. Most of the scenes featuring them occur on their ship while they are plotting evil deeds. We only ever see one of them attacking the humans, and he is taken out very easily.

While I don’t think the plot of the film is terrible, it does leave a lot to be desired. It’s overabundance of characters coupled with its lack of explanation of its own plot elements is a bit of a turn off. Despite this, I enjoyed what was here even if it felt a bit basic. The story is pretty basic sci-fi fare, but it’s enjoyable enough, even if it is a bit hard to understand.

Visiual Stimuli

The voice acting is the true star of this film. Having amazing voice talent like Chase Masterson and Mark Hamill is always a treat, as well as having a good selection of both old and new voice actors. The film brings back most of the old cast, which is great because you don’t hear a lot of these guys in shows anymore. The music is pretty good, especially the return of the old theme song.

The animation is okay, sometimes it looks pretty good. While other times, it looks a bit bland. The world offender when it comes to the animation in this film is the CGI. The CGI looks dreadful! It looks like an old Playstation 2 game made in 2001 or 2002. It’s very amateurish and kind of sad. There’s even a scene where a bunch of CGI attack drones are released from a larger ship, and they just kind of teleport out of the ship because of a lack of animation frames. All in all, the visual stimuli is a bit mixed.

In Summation

The film is just okay. Its animation is a mixed bag, the story relies too much on the viewer understanding its source material, but despite that it has a lot of heart. You can tell that the people working on it appreciate the original series. You can tell that they want to create a good sequel to a series fans grew up with. Despite this, the film fell short in several areas. I now see why the reactions to this old movie are bit mixed.

I love this movie in the same way I love Starship Troopers, it’s just a dumb sci-fi movie that is full of cheese and action. It’s got problems, and has an overabundance of characters but is still great to watch. I reccomend checking it out for curiosity’s sake. If I had to give this film a score it would most likely be a 6.5/10. I can’t say that this film is as sweet as syrup, but if you want a silly sci-fi anime to distract you for 90 minutes, give it a shot. Just be wary that it relies a lot on previous knowledge of the series.

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