Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles Special Edition (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:Bryce Coulter
Review Date: Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A great protocultural collection for the Robotech fanatic.

What They Say
The legendary Admiral Hunter is missing as a deadly new adversary threatens the vulnerable survivors of the Robotech wars. Vince Grant and Scott Bernard must race against time to unravel a treacherous mystery that could spell the end of the human race!

This two-disc collectors' edition containing both the movie and over 90 minutes of DVD extras.

The Review!
Audio:
This collection has a stereo and 5.1 mix.  It also film has two English language audio tracks. The 5.1 mix’s 448kbps encoding was solid, but could use a little more oomph, especially in the battle sequences. The mixing is solid and the dialogue is clean.  The musical theme was solid.  Unfortunately, the music just didn’t really have any big themes that stood out.  The old Robotech theme and music from the series is but a faint whisper in the movie.

Video:
Originally released in 2006 to theaters, the film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The transfer is clean and clear for a standard DVD release.  The mixture of CGI and hand drawn animation looks good, but shows some, very minor, quality or bitrate loss during scenes that have a number of stills or panning sequences.  The colors are solid throughout with lots of vibrant pieces throughout while the black space sequences look excellent.  The only major color clashes that I noticed, and is mentioned in the director commentary, is how Janice and Ariel.  Their hair color is too much alike.  Another thing that was noticeable was the lack of detail in some of the battle sequences. There was little, if any, space debris from explosions or battle damage shown on the ships.  This, of course, was due to budget constraints and is evident when compared to higher budget CGI features.

Packaging:
The cover for this collector’s release resembles the movie poster for the Shadow Chronicles with exception a plastic slip cover. Scott Bernard, Vince Grant, and Ariel are featured on the top third of the cover.  Below them is an image of the Alpha fighter in guardian mode along with a view of two Cyclones.  I have mixed feelings about this cover as Scott’s hair resembles Yellow Dancer from the Robotech: New Generation series.  Scott Bernard doesn’t have long hair!  The Cyclones are also hard to make out unless you really focus in on the art.  The slip cover features the title of the series and once removed, it allows you to look at the poster art completely unobstructed.  This is the same for the backside as it features a naked picture (non-hologram) image of Janice.  Again the slip cover, once removed, allows you to view the image of Janice completely unobstructed by the typical DVD summary information and clips from the movie.

The inside of DVD jacket features concept art of the main characters, which is a nice touch.  Here, you get to see art images of each of the main and supporting characters in the movie.  The two DVD’s have an image of the locket that Alex keeps.  The movie disc art features the locket in its closed state.  The extras disc art features the locket in an open state.  Kind of a nice touch in that the locket plays a role of significance for Alex in the movie.

Menu:
The menu design is formatted in a simple letterboxed design that has clips from the film.  The darker musical score loops in the background without any cutoffs.  Selections are lined along the bottom while the logo is along the top.  This allows the viewer to easily check out the visuals that are playing. The menu selections are fast and very easy to navigate. 

Extras:
Robotech fans will love the extras that are piled into this release.  I spent several hours going through them and gained a new appreciation for what Tommy Yune and the gang went through in creating the film. 

The "Birth of a Sequel Featurette” runs about 45 minutes in length and takes a while to get going as its loaded with fans geeking out about Robotech.  I would strongly suggest that you watch the feature commentary prior to watching this as it will add some more depth to how the movie was developed and what took place.  Once it gets moving into dealing with the creators and the production it proves to be much more interesting.

The “Original Score Music Video” feature runs just over eight minutes and highlights some of the main animation sequences of the film.  Here, you can identify the musical themes that the Scott Glasgow talks about extensively in the “Feature Commentary”

The “Anime Selects Featurette” is a two minute video that took place at Anime Expo 2005 when Select On Demand did a brief piece about the feature with Harmony Gold.
The “!PoN Anime Podcast” feature is an eleven minute piece done by AnimePodcast.net.  It includes an interview they had with Tommy Yune about the feature and what went into it from his perspective.  Nothing new here as it is the same reiteration of what Tommy has described in the other extras.

The “Robotech 3000 Promo” will remind you about what could have been and will make you thankful for what is presented in Shadow Chronicles.  It’s nice to know that Harmony Gold admitted that they were thankful the project was canceled.  I recommend that fans watch this when you get frustrated with Harmony Gold’s current process.  It will serve as quick reminder that they are very meticulous about making the series carry onward with what fans love about Robotech

The “Deleted Scenes” and “Outtakes” are included in this release. The “Deleted Scenes” have commentary options with them, which are mostly extensions and alternate takes on scenes. The “Outtakes” run about three minutes and are not really that amusing.

The “Split-Screen Animatics” sequence depicts the conceptual drawings and basic storyboards that were used and how they were assembled.  This is always intriguing to me as I am always curious about how storyboards are transitioned into animated/CG sequences or partially animated as in this case.

A collection of trailers is also included in the release. It’s not an extensive collection, but it was good to see the various ways it was being promoted. The one trailer that I would have liked to have added was the UN promo trailer that was made prior to the movie being released. 

The “Galleries with Production Designs” was my favorite section of extras.  Lots of coll stuff here from personnel, ship material, mecha pieces and a few other sections that are more general. My favorite is the Secret Files section, of course, was the mecha database and ship registry.  Lots of good stuff to geek over!

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers). 
Many times in my reviews, I often refer to Robotech as the single most influencing anime series for me as a kid.  I imagine that is so for many of us who love anime today.  If you grew up in the 80’s this was the show that probably hooked you on anime and has brought you to reading this review.  If you don’t know much about Robotech, then you owe it to yourself to grab the Macross saga and watch it.  Like Lays potato chips, you can’t eat just one.  So, prepare yourself to watch the next two series, The Robotech Masters, and The New Generation.

There have been many reviews done about Shadow Chronicles at the time of this writing.  Just try doing an internet search on Shadow Chronicles!  I’m not going to delve into the history of how this movie came into being, but rather focus on how it builds from the existing cannon of the three Robotech series preceding it.  I want to submit a new perspective after having watched the movie after a considerable amount of time.  Hopefully, this review will persuade some old fans to reconnect with the franchise or even convince some skeptics to jump on board. 

The Shadow Chronicles takes place right after the conclusion of Robotech: The New Generation, the third and final animated series.  The New Generation’s conclusion left fans with a cliff-hanger wondering what was going to happen to Scott Bernard and Earth.  Shadow Chronicle’s makes a decent attempt to reconnect us with those last moments of the series with the return of the Robotech Expeditionary Force to remove the Invid from earth.  Scott Bernard and his crew of freedom fighters had been holding a resistance movement against the Invid up to this point.  With the Expeditionary Force’s return, and the Invid’s departure, Scott can now rejoin the Robotech Expeditionary Force and help search for Admiral Rick Hunter. 

The movie does a fairly good job of recapping what transpired at the end of the New Generation saga and transitioning it into the plot of the movie.  Part of me wishes that they would have dwelled a bit longer on this as there are some details that are missing.  Everyone, but Scott and Ariel, is pretty much missing from the movie. There is nothing mentioned about the freedom fighters whom Scott worked with to push out the Invid.  The plot of the movie warrants their omission, but it would have been nice to have had them in there somewhere.  Some memorable moments, like the one with Alex and the locket that he keeps, would have been a nice addition for the characters that were omitted from the movie.  This would have worked well for other characters from the Macross Saga and the Robotech Masters.  From interviews, forum discussions, etc. it looks like Harmony Gold painstakingly took all of this into consideration when they created Shadow Chronicles.  If tributes were to be made for all of our favorite characters, the movie would have become a documentary!  It’s not like there are not all kinds of other hidden tidbits, nods and winks in the movie.  Believe me; the directors really put a lot of thought into this, just watch the Feature Commentary on the Extras Disc.

Of course, the majority of the characters carried over from the previous series are from the New Generation saga, which can be somewhat of a letdown as Rick Hunter and Louie Nichols are really the only two main characters from the first two sagas.  Incorporating new characters into the Robotech cannon was successfully and tastefully done with Marcus Rush and Maia Sterling.  Both Marcus and Maia are pilots of the newly retrofitted Alphas that the REF is using.  Maia is the leader of Skull Squadron while Marcus is a young and aspiring pilot who has connection with Scott Bernard.  Scott was engaged to marry Marcus’ sister Marlene who was killed in battle during the Invid invasion.  This connection will draw Scott, Marcus, and Ariel together in many ways as the movie progresses.

The new enemy, the Haydonites, are the protagonists for the movie.  Their mysterious background is not revealed in much detail other than they are the race responsible for giving the Robotech Expeditionary Forces the shadow technology that helped them turn the tide against the Invid occupation of Earth.  After learning of the shadow technology, the Invid leader, the Regis, immediately withdraws all Invid forces from Earth.  Ariel chooses to stay with the humans because of her love for Scott.  Upon the Invid departure, Ariel has a premonition of the impending arrival of the "children of the shadow".  They are an ancient enemy of the Invid that are responsible for the destruction of Optera (the Invid home-world). 

Meanwhile, Captain Vince Grant is dealing with a failed attempt to save the SDF-3 and Admiral Hunter from a unsuccessful Neutron S-Missile test.  The test of the Neutron S-Missle created a black hole.  Unbeknownst to Captain Grant, it is the Haydonites who have caused this catastrophic incident and have also thwarted his best attempts to save a badly damaged SDF 3.  All is not lost, as Captain Grant and the crew of the Icarus save the science vessel Deukalion.  The secret to the Haydonite plot is revealed when Maia and Marcus discover the android Janice.  Janice was created by the Haydonites and was used by the REF to create the shadow technology.

This sets up a very climatic ending that is not worth spoiling in this review.  Without a doubt, the movie only gets better with age.  Unintentionally, I waited almost two years after the movie debut to write this review.  I along with many other Robotech purists got caught up in the hype, discussions, belly aching, etc… when the movie first came.  It did not immediately satisfy my craving for more Lisa Hayes and Max Sterling from the Macross Saga.  Even that annoying blond, Dana Sterling, from the Robotech Masters was not there. And, most of all, nobody from the rag tag of freedom fighters in The New Generation Saga.  Oh, and what about those Jack McKinney novels that held us over throughout the years along with the comics??

As you can probably tell, this caused quite a bit of angst for me and other fans that continues to this day.  Be what it will, one has to move on and reflect on what took Harmony Gold almost 20 years to create.  Shadow Chronicles may have its flaws, but it is definitely a story worth its place in Robotech lore.  It is one that I am surely appreciative of.  I expect that Harmony Gold is working to incorporate our missing favorites into the next Robotech iteration, whether that is the upcoming Shadow Rising movie or even the newly proposed live action movie. 

Robotech is a series that all anime fans, both old and new, should view at least once.  It is a timeless classic that remains one of the most revered anime series of all time.  If you’re curious about the saga, then be prepared to delve into some really deep content.  Spend some time with it and you will soon become one of those fans that will be eagerly awaiting the next news tidbit from Harmony Gold in the ever developing saga of Robotech.  If there is one thing I hope for, it is that Harmony Gold will strike the iron before it cools off too much!

In Summary:
Putting all criticisms and emotion aside about the recent Robotech developments, Shadow Chronicles is a movie that will reignite fans’, both old and new alike, love for the saga.  This is definitely a movie worth viewing for those who have never seen Robotech as it will soon suck you into the protoculture of fans that have loved it throughout the years since its debut in 1985.  Very highly recommended!

Features
English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Deleted Scenes, Alternate Opening and Closing, Storyboard Animatics, "Birth of a Sequel," Robotech 3000 Promo, Director Commentary Track, Trailers, Galleries, Outakes

Review Equipment
Hitachi 62VS69 62" UltraVision LCD Projection HDTV, Samsung BDP-1000 Blu-ray Player with Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound.



Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
MSRP: 39.98
Running time: 88
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2