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Suprisingly Disappointing but worth watching as background for Shadow Chronicles
on January 6, 2008
** SPOILER WARNING **
I guess I must be the oddball that thinks that Robotech Masters/Southern Cross was the better of the two post-Macross series -- It is in this reviewer's opinion, that New Generation was indubitably the worst season of Robotech. Though there are some good aspects of New Generation, these have already been covered by others and so the reviewer will focus on what are deemed to be the bad things about New Generation that some fans tend to sidestep.
New Generation picks up where Robotech Masters left off, with the Invid invading the Earth after having detected the presence of their precious Flower of Life upon conclusion of the Second Robotech War. A returning portion of the Robotech Expeditionary Fleet (Carelessly called "Mars Base" although this fleet was returning from the homeworld of the Robotech Masters, not Mars..An editing mistake never rectified) is all but annnihilated-- save for one survivor-- Scott Bernard, who undergoes a series of adventures with his growing band of resistance fighters in a quest to destroy the Invid headquarters, Reflex Point.
I was extremely excited about the post-apocalyptic feel about this and the different tone this was going to take from its predecessors, but the execution was botched up. For starters, even though some fans say that this series has a "good storyline," unlike the other two seasons which had an ongoing storyline with each episode building up from the one before it, New Generation took a much more episodic approach, particularly in the first half. Many of the episodes were characterized by adventures distinct enough from one another that they that could have been re-arranged in any order without deleterious effect on the overall storyline. i.e. It was not necessary to watch Episode B before C since none of the events in B had any bearing on C, and vice-versa. In this reviewer's opinion, episodicity may be effective for casual Saturday Morning cartoon viewers, but not for getting absorbed into a long, evolved and rich tale.
In addition, the first half of the third season was marred by excessive repetition in that most of the episodes had a predictable formula: The heroes would overcome some problem and be attacked by yet ANOTHER random patrol of Invid near the end of the half-hour. This same formula was staple for the first 14 episodes or so, with few exceptions. This really accentuated the aforementioned episodic feel of this season. As a result, this repetition and lack of a continuous story-arc made New Gen feel more like a Saturday Morning cartoon akin to Voltron (nothing against Voltron, just not Robotech) than to the first two Robotech seasons. Like Voltron, most of the first approx. 14 episodes of New Gen were characterized by episodicity and a climactic (although predictable) big battle near the episode's end. It didn't help that Lunk looked a lot like Hunk from Voltron, but I digress.
The above mentioned episodicity problem of New Gen would have been more palatable had the Invid side of the conflict been better presented (like they were in Macross or Southern Cross). Unfortunately, although there is some focus on the band of freedom fighters, the Invid are mysterously left in the background, only manifesting themselves as a random patrol of adversaries that the heroes dispatch without much difficulty at the end of many of the episodes. For most of New Generation, there is very little showing the Invid side of the conflict-- their thoughts, motivations, fears, plans..etc. It didn't help that many of the episodes had little to do with the Invid (except with that random and predictable battle near the episode's end), as the challenges the freedom fighters faced often had to do with other outside forces such as thugs, immoral businessmen, bad weather..etc. Interestingly, this is in sharp contrast to both Macross saga and the much-maligned Robotech Masters, where the enemy side of the conflict was a big focus of both.
Another thing that bugged me about this third season was the unsatisfactory resolution of some episodes. This may be a consequence of the episodic format of New Generation making it difficult for unresolved adventures to continue on over into subsequent episodes. Case in point was the ending of the episode where Rook defeats a rival gang and along with Rand meets up with her mom that she hadn't seen in a long time. Rand explains that he had already spoken with her mom, although the episode never shows this- it was done behind the scenes. Her mom had never been mentioned up to that point nor was there any evidence in the episode that Rook was looking for her mom. Inexplicably, without her mom ever saying a word, the reunion doesn't even last 10 seconds before Rook inexplicably takes off leaving her mom behind. She mentions something about thinking her mom was disappointed in what she had become but the character development in that sequence fell flat and the viewer is left thinking that there could have been much more. Again, there were many instances like this throughout the series with unresolved story arcs, cut corners, and missed opportunities for character development.
The first 14 episodes were so repetitive and episodic that by the time that the storyline picked up in the last 12 episodes or so, it was too little too late. Regardless, both the character development and story improved considerably in the second half. Around this point the mystery surrounding the simulagent, Ariel, and her visions kick into play,as she plays a key part in unraveling (finally) some of the Invid plans. Other standout moments include Sera developing human emotions and beginning to question the Invid ways, Lunk's breakdown setting off a temporary disband of some members, and Rook/Rand's relationship beginning to take off. Unfortunately, I find Annie to be more annoying than Lynn Minmei can ever hope to be and easily wins the coveted honor of "The Jar Jar Binks of Robotech" for me. I just found it so unbelievable that the band would let this tiny, annoying girl with no combat usefulness whatsoever tag along on so many dangerous adventures. It would have been the equivalent of Minmei joining the Skull Squadron, failing to shoot down more than one enemy plane, yet somehow surviving all the missions! I understand Annie was meant to be comic relief, but Macross and Southern Cross did without such a character.
Other things that made me cringe about New Generation was that many of the actions scenes were cinematic to the point of incredulity. In Star Wars, stormtroopers could be shooting the heroes in plain sight and miss them utterly. Well, New Gen took this principle to new heights. There were many, many embarrassing sequences like this but I will recount here one in particular. In one of the first episodes, Rand had turned on his protoculture-powered blaster and alerted nearby Invid of their location. The Invid had the heroes surrounded and were shooting at them at *close range* in a clearing(of course Annie was just doing nothing), and the blasts would continually go past the heroes' shoulders while they were turned away from the blasts, having a full conversation to boot, and ignoring the enemy fire! At least in Macross and Southern Cross, targets made attempts to avoid enemy fire, whereas in New Gen, enemy fire would continually miss even though the target would not even try to get out of the way! This can only be attributed to really lazy animation.
As much as I absolutely love The Robotech music, I am of the opinion that this differently-flavored chapter could have been given a few tunes that better described its post-apocalyptic feel. Still, the basic Robotech music works well just not as well as it does with the first two chapters.
Although New Generation is the worst of the three Robotech seasons, it is still a crucial part of the saga, particularly, if one wishes to be up to date with the latest project (Shadow Chronicles) and any subsequent ones.
New Generation is actually worth closer to 3.5 stars, but due to the reviewer's opinion that the average reviews for this part of the saga are significantly inflated (as high as Macross??? WHAT?!), he gives New Generation 2 stars.