Saturday, February 17, 2007

Life Outside the Box

So, what does someone like me do when I'm not acquiring and/or reviewing toys? Well, this may come as a shock to you, but I enjoy a vigorous game of shirts-n-skins rugby now and again. And by that I mean, I watch TV.


Yes, I feel a bit dirty admitting I watch this show now that it's entered circulation on Cartoon Network. Admittedly, though, they have done a bang-up job of retaining its original feel. Bleach just recently entered back into its main storyline on Japanese TV (after a few months of Bounto storyline filler), so more Shinigami-gone-bad and less pseudo-vampires. Yay!


My dirty pleasure. Well, one of four, anyway. Naruto in Japan has entered its second series after about a year of filler episodes (bleh), and Kid Kyuubi is back as a teenager in Naruto Shinpuuden. Yeah!


Yeah, this series has been on TV forever. It's even in reruns on Comedy Central. I've just discovered it, and it's given me a reason to keep on living.

Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles:

Eesh. Well, for those of you (like me) who have not seen a Robotech episode in about 13 years, Shadow Chronicles begins where New Generation leaves off, and ties in Robotech: The Sentinels (ZOMG Rick and Lisa are teh married!), sort of. I'm glad we finally get to see it after what seemed like a year of production time since its announcement; even so, I'm not sure it deserves all of the praise lauded upon it (something about winning best animated sci-fi flick...).

There's a nice, healthy bit of nostalgia in Shadow Chronicles as you get to see a lot of your favorite characters from the first three series. Scott Bernard and alien-chickadee, Ariel (who has a skimpy new Invid-made costume!), make an appearance, as do Louie Nichols (Southern Cross) and Vince and Claudia Grant (proving that minorities are, indeed, allowed in space). You even get to see Rick Hunter for a bit, but I won't tell you how. New faces include the brother of a New Generation character and his annoying frat-boy of a friend. The writers did their homework at least; 'new' character Maia Sterling is actually Dana Sterling's little sister (daughter of Max Sterling and Milia from the original series) from the long-running Sentinels novels written by Jack McKinney (if you read those, you are a true nerd). I'm sure there are a lot of references that I've missed, but I can't spoil too much of the story.

Hmm, this makes me want to read the old novels again.

Anyway, after a near-twenty-year hiatus after the last American Robotech series, it was quite gratifying to see more of the story after New Generation. While The Sentinels was only animated in a single movie, the series stretched far beyond the departure of the SDF-3 in the novels. The movie manages to capture and hint at some of the history and great storytelling that occurred in those pages.

Unfortunately, there's quite a bit of 'bad,' in my opinion.

I don't know if using CG animation for the mecha action was the best route. Shadow Chronicles uses straight CG, not the cel-shaded techniques that have been used in more recent Japanese animes. It comes off looking like a throwback to the 90s, rather than cutting edge animation. The explosions, to me, are particularly poorly done.

Not to harp on the animation, but something about the character design just is a bit off-kilter to me as well. I don't know who the animators were, but there were a number of perspective issues that sort of stick out during the movie. Moreover, it's just a little TOO clean and neutral- there are no stylistic quirks in the character depiction that give them a particular soul or flair. This sounds terrible, but the look reminds me of a hentai game. Some of you might know what I mean.

It also kind of bothered me that the main ship is named Archangel. They could have at least tried to name it something that wasn't directly appropriated from Gundam SEED.

My general take on the movie is that it relies too much on the history of the series to push it along, without creating something remarkable in its own right. The writers and producers seem to sacrifice solid storytelling in favor of paving over the plot with enough nostalgia and obscure references to distract fans. Granted the movie has big shoes to fill, with 20 years of hopes and wishes and fanbase development pushing for new Robotech material, but in the end, the animation is not particularly outstanding by modern standards and the plot is somewhat formulaic. Shadow Chronicles is good, but as a revival of one of the most popular American mecha series, it leaves me wanting more.

So that's what I've been watching. What about you?

No comments: