DVD REVIEW: Robotech 2-Movie Collection
Combo Pairs Shadow Chronicles With Brand New Love Live Alive Film...
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Robotech fans are hardcore, and as one myself I should know. We’re extremely loyal, and patient in a way that most other fandom doesn’t understand (maybe with the exception of certain things like Voltron). And so, when there’s a new release it’s a pretty big deal, and with fans around the world there’s going to be a lot of attention. Well, that time has finally come again with the imminent release from Harmony Gold and Lionsgate of the DVD Robotech 2-Movie Collection featuring The Shadow Chronicles Collector’s Edition and the premiere release of Love Live Alive! Due out next week on July 23rd, this combo pack represents the first truly new release since Shadow Chronicles first came out in 2006.
Robotech, for anyone who may not be familiar with it, is a classic cartoon series that was created from footage spliced together from three completely unrelated Japanese anime series in the 1980s. Legendary producer Carl Macek took Super Dimension Fortress Macross, Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross, and Genesis Climber MOSPEADA, wrote a whole new storyline for them that links the series through events, character relationships, etc., and brought it to American television in a time when most cartoons were 22 minute toy commercials. The result was a complex, intriguing story with fantastic animation and music that would stick in collective culture and help pave the way for better cartoons in the U.S. as well as the flood of anime that would continue to this day. At its core, Robotech is about humanity defending itself against alien invasions and overwhelming odds while accepting its enemies and finding commonalities across cultures and races.
The new DVD 2-Move Collection comes in standard sized case and features a cool cover image with the Earth in the background behind a VFA-6I Alpha Fighter in two different modes (Battloid and Guardian) from Love Live Alive (LLA) as well as a pair of Cyclones taken from a scene in Shadow Chronicles; the mecha, title, and other text is embossed on the slipcase. The back side of the package has a description of the two films, a breakdown of special features on the discs, and some thumbnail images. As for the discs themselves, Love Live Alive has art of Lancer/Yellow Dancer while Shadow Chronicles has a cool shot of Marcus’ holo-pendant displaying his sister Marlene and Scott.
Since the Shadow Chronicles film has been available in various forms over the last six or so years I’ll take just a few minutes to talk about this presentation before getting on to the new content here. If you’re a Robotech fan, you’ve probably already seen this at least once, but you may be new to the movie. In the show’s continuity, the third or “New” generation concerned a band of freedom fighters trying to dislodge the Invid overlords from Earth while awaiting assistance from the faraway fleet. Shadow Chronicles picks up the story during the final moments of the show’s finale, catching up with Scott Bernard on the ground while following the fleet’s arrival in Earthspace. Little do any of our heroes know that as soon as the Invid are gone they will trade one secretive enemy for another in the form of the previously helpful Haydonites, supplier of crucial “Shadow” stealth technology. The film is a race against time to uncover the nefarious plot and figure out a way to fight against it without using the very systems the heroes have grown reliant upon, all the while searching for Admiral Hunter and the missing battlefortress that may hold the keys to all of their fates. A satisfying if not always impressive blend of traditional and computer generated animation, Shadow Chronicles proved that Robotech still had legs and that Harmony Gold could produce new content in the modern age that respected and reinvigorated the characters and storylines from so long ago.
The main event here is, of course, Love Live Alive. Like the original Robotech series itself, this film is an interesting conglomeration of re-cut original Japanese footage, American storytelling, and more (in this case several scenes of all new animation). The series on which Carl Macek based the New Generation, Genesis Climber MOSPEADA, had its own OVA (Original Video Animation) called Love Live Alive that was essentially a concert movie. Knowing that a series of flashy 80s animated music videos wouldn’t quite cut it here in the U.S., producers and writers (including Macek himself before his untimely passing) made something unique. There’s a new framing story but in between it’s mostly a clip show, although there’s also some new animation mixed in here and there to bridge gaps and tie everything in to the current continuity. Sound complicated? It is, but the end result, at least for this Robotech fan, is quite enjoyable. Let’s take a closer look.
One of the most interesting characters to come out of the New Generation was one Lancer Belmont, a soldier-turned-cross-dressing pop idol named Yellow Dancer. [Note: Yes, this character was on a popular kid’s cartoon airing in 1985!] Lancer joined up with Scott Bernard and the others to oppose the Invid, finally taking part in the battle for Reflex Point. After that, according to canon Belmont pretty much disappears, and he did not have a role in the Shadow Chronicles film. And so, Love Live Alive tells the story of his/her plans after the war. It begins with a framing story, that of a young journalist interviewing Lancer before a Yellow Dancer concert. The result is a sort of “clip show” highlighting different elements of the New Generation series from the gathering of the main group to fallen heroes, and of course love. At the end Yellow Dancer performs, albeit briefly, and the double coda sees the group officially saying farewell (before the events of Shadow Chronicles) and what Lancer plans on doing with the next stage of his life (no spoilers!).
The framing story, concert, and coda are mostly original OVA footage, while much of the flashbacks are straight out of the series. There is brand new animation as well, notably during the credits, a striking visual scene of Dana Sterling and a fleet lift off, and a brief segment of Lancer reuniting with Sera. If you’re a fan of the Robotech series but haven’t watched the New Generation in a while, you’re in for a treat as LLA brings you a lot of the best action and some of the most poignant scenes (including the group’s first meeting, Jonathan Wolfe, Denver, the old-timers of “Ghost Town,” etc.). If you haven’t watched the show, this is quite the good catch up course that’ll have you ready for Shadow Chronicles and its (hopefully soon to come though long delayed) sequel Shadows Rising. Beyond the fun story and neat wrapping up of a character’s journey, LLA had two things that really resonated with me: the music and the voices. While I loved Scott Glasgow’s sweeping score in Shadow Chronicles, there’s really nothing like the original Robotech music by Ulpio Minucci and Arlon Ober, and you get lots of it to enjoy in LLA (Glasgow did do some really great new arranging for some of the classic themes, and Jamey Scott did the sound design for the new footage). There are also several of the original songs (super 80s and super awesome) from New Generation including “Lonely Soldier Boy” and “We Will Win.” Similarly, while Shadow Chronicles brought back many of the excellent voice actors from the original series, one star was notably absent: Cam Clarke. The voice of fan-favorite Max Sterling as well as Lancer wasn’t featured in that film, but took center stage in Love Live Alive and it was all the better for it.
The 2-Movie Collection has an assortment of special features on the two discs, though they’re heavily weighted toward the 2006 film. For Love Live Alive the star of the show is the gallery that includes lots of concert elements like Lancer/Yellow Dancer costumes, instruments, tour bus, and more. The Shadow Chronicles DVD, on the other hand, is packed with cool extras. A much larger image gallery features multiple subcategories like mecha, spaceships, and people. Outtakes provide some laughs, while animatics and deleted scenes (both with optional commentary by Tommy Yune) offer insights into the creative process. Finally, a slew of featurettes take you to places like the making of this film, a look at creating the score, Robotech press appearances of the years, and even behind the scenes looks at the cancelled Robotech 3000 epic.
This new release, especially the new Love Live Alive film, proves the long-held belief that Robotech is an enduring property that will continue to share its stories with the fans no matter what. The 2-Movie Collection is a great way to purchase two features in one, especially if you don’t already own Shadow Chronicles (and it’s definitely worth the price of admission alone). Any serious Robotech fan will need this to fill out his or her collection, and lovers of anime and space operas will enjoy it as well. This week will see the Robotech presentation at San Diego Comic-Con where they will no doubt discuss this new release, and hopefully make some announcement about its intended sequel, Shadows Rising. Look for our full report here on Figures.com, and keep the faith!
Review by Scott Rubin.
Review sample courtesy of Lionsgate.