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Revising a poorly written story... and still leaving it poor.
on October 24, 2011
Where to begin? Robotech was not my first introduction into Japanese anime, however, it was still well, within my "developmental" years. I loved Robotech. I thought it was clever of Carl Macek to combine three separate stories and reimage them into something American viewer would comsume and come to enjoy. Although the "Second Generation" regarding the Army of the Southern Cross was the weakest link in the chain (It was also very weak in the original Japanese storyline), the series as a whole was captivating and compelling.
Then nothing. Several year passed and still nothing. Then rumors of a sequel. Then the release of a pilot episode! "Robotech II - The Sentinels!" Then more nothing. "The Sentinels" was a huge disappointment. It wasn't that the series was stillborn that disappointed me. The story was ridiculously stupid. I, along with my fellow Robotech / Macross fans, wanted to see the Zentradi homeworld, the Robotech masters' empire, the Invid homeworld, and watch the Robotech Expeditionary Forces take the fight to them!
Instead, we ended up with mediocre invasion of the Robotech Masters' homeworld by a sect of the Invid, some new villians, an a collection of aliens ranging from overgrown carebears to scantly clad amazon warrior women. I have nothing against scantly clad amazons. I rather like them, but for some reason, they just didn't fit into what I thought the Robotech universe should be like. It felt like the writers were trying to fit a bad story, made worse, by sponsors that were more concerned about selling action figures of multiple alien races, and appeal to teenaged boys in the midst of hormonal rage.
The original Robotech was fresh, new, different from American cartoons. Character development, story plots and subplots were often subtle. It made you think (at least for a few seconds). Robotech II seemed too American. It bashed you over the heads with the good guys being good and the bad guys were really, really bad. It was formulaic. Did the original Robotech follow fomula storytelling? Sure. The hero did get the girl. The bad guys were defeated, but they weren't so bad after all, at least most of them. But, sometimes, the hero girl didn't get her guy in the end. The hero made a mess of his personal life. Politics got in the way of military decisions. Military decisions got in the way of personal life. Good friends died. Victory wasn't always total.
Robotech II seemed to have completely miss the character development part and the subtleties of storytelling, was tossed on the trash heap of anime history, never to be seen again. and no one seemed to have missed it much.
Then, after more than a decade of essentially nothing, Tommy Yune steps on to the scene with Jason and John Waltrip. Jason and John Waltrip had a pretty good run with a good story in "Malcontents", and they did a good jobs, as best as can be expected, from the "Sentinels" story, both in comic book form. It doesn't take much, but it is obvious that Yune and both Waltrips love Robotech.
Unfortunately, they could not shake the malaise that Carl Macek and the writting duo that made up Jack McKinney (James Luceno and Brian Daley), left for them, especially in the Sentinel series of paperback books. With the passing of Brian Daley, James Luceno was left to spin his wheels in the mud of a bad concept and his own delusional ideas of what a space-military-government organization was supposed to be like, and what the original characters of Robotech were growing to become.
The Shadow Chronicles was a good attempt and rewritting the outcome of the Sentinels. The look and the feel were more in line to what we had come to expect from Robotech, but it was still too deeply entrenched in the foul soil of the Sentinels. Everyone who was left hanging at the end of Third Generation's Symphony of Light episode still had the same question: "What the ***expletive deleted*** happened to Rick Hunter?!!!"
We got a new enemy (Yay! More new enemies!), the Haydonites, from the Sentinels, allies that weren't really allies after all, and we still don't know the reason why. The Shadow Chronicles loosely tied the Haydonites as "the shadows" that the Invid Regis kept refering to, in the Third Generation and the Robotech Expeditionary Force as "children of the shadows".
The movie provides us with some new characters, and some old ones. On top of that, all the women in the Robotech Expeditionary Force have large breasts! From Max and Miria's youngest daughter to unnamed bridge officers. Even Ariel, the flat-chested Invid princess, now has large breasts with Gainax Bounce (tm).
Again, being a lover of Amazon warrior women, I love large, Gainax-bouncing breasts.
But come on!!! I want a real Robotech story!!! Shadow Chronicles is a very misleading name. It should have been called "Shadow Chronicle", meaning "this is all you get".
That is, until Yune and company bring you their prequel. Which, finally brings you to Robotech: Prelude to the Shadow Chronicles. Whew!)
Is it a bad story? Yes and no. It rewrites the end story for the Invid Regent, Breetai, and the edgey, insane, wild, and crazy, but never boring, T.R. Edwards.
The problem with Edwards is that he was never believable as a bad guy. He's the human equivalent of Khyron (from the First Generation / Macross Series) but without the charming, likeable personality. No one would seriously follow this guy across the street, let alone into a coup d'etat halfway across the galaxy!
There are some things that the story gets right. We want to know more about the new Sentinel characters Vince and Jean Grant. It's nice to see plot involvement from decent characters. However, Vince's heroics are very reminiscent of what he does in Shadow Chronicles. The shark jumping, over the top moment is when Edwards is "helped" into an Invid Genesis Pit (tm), by Janice and comes out a huge, mutant monster! He's almost as large as a Horizon-T dropship, laser proof, and still with a mean bone to pick with Rick Hunter, tentacles and all.
Really? No, I mean REALLY?! Could we possibily try something MORE cliche? PLEASE?!!!
Seriously, did the writers just get lazy and decide to put all of their really bad ideas on a dart board? In addition, Breetai does still die with the Invid Regent, but they are killed in an even more less satisfying way than what Carl Macek and Jack McKinney came up with. The only thing "good" to come out of this is that there is no little "Roy" Hunter. Admiral Lisa Hunter miscarries, after sustaining combat injuries on the bridge of the SDF-3.
Am I taking this too seriously? After all, it's only a cartoon. Maybe, but to be fair, I didn't let George Lucas off the hook for destroying Star Wars. Yune and company did not destroy Robotech. That was done way before them, but they didn't rescue it either. All in all, "Prelude" feels a lot like "Shadow Chronicles" but in comic book form, minus the big boobs. No, seriously. Janice goes from big boobs in "Shadow Chronicles" to just noticable in "Prelude", even when she gets her new body.
Is it worth the money? If you can pick it up for under $5, I'd say you still overpayed, but hey, it's only five bucks, and you might actually think it's entertaining... maybe.