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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Robotech: Love Live Alive (2013) Direct To video animated OVA

 

Overall verdict: 6/10

The Good: A creative summary movie given a new spin, high nostalgia factor, good voice acting, improved sound effects, marvellous music and songs, consistent and coherant narrative.

The Bad: sub-par new animation, reflects the shortcomings of the aged original animation, mediocre editing of scenes, over-reliance on reused scenes, some voice actors did not age well.

3D Readiness: none
IMax-ability: none

******************************Review*****************************
 Robotech. A franchise best known as a successful rebranding of 3 unrelated japanese anime series. It's claim to fame was the construction of a cohesive narrative and rich backstory using footage from the Japanese anime Macross, Southern Cross and Mospeda. In a bid to shed that polarising reputation, the Robotech franchise created its first mass released original production "Roboteh: The Shadow Chronicles" in 2006.

Yet 7 years after that, they have gone back to old habits with this 'new' production "Robotech: Love Live Alive". True to what it did with the original Robotech, the production team took "Mospeda: Love Live Alive", a music video OVA, and expanded it into a full flashback detailing the experiences of fan favorite character Lancer, aka the concert Superstar Yellow Dancer, during the 3rd Robotech War.

Using footage from the Mospeda: Love Live Alive musical special, the original series and new original animation, Robotech Love Live Alive is a "summary movie" of the 3rd season of the original Robotech series. Now, summary movies are quite common in the anime market, compressing a whole season into a feature length production. Love Live Alive does that wonderfully by using a pre-concert interview with Yellow Dancer as a framing story for the movie.

In present day 2044, the war with the alien race known as the Invid has finally ended and Lancer is about to hold his final concert as Yellow Dancer. An intrepid reporter gets an exclusive interview with the superstar in which he shares the journey he had with his comrades:
Lost solder Scott Bernard, the mysterious Ariel, the happy-go-lucky Rand, hot headed Rook, spunky Annie, and gentle giant Lunk. We are brought through their first meeting where the group mistakes Lancer for a lady to the ups and downs of their relationships as they face a clash of ideals, betrayal and seemingly insurmountable odds. The narrative never seems disjointed, showing how much effort the producers took to craft a coherent story, reframing what was originally Scott Bernard's adventures from the perspective of Lancer. Amidst the backdrop of war, a "romeo/Juliet" like romance develops between Lancer and an enemy Invid princess called Sera. A romance that may be more than what Lancer is willing to share with the reporter.

Now other than jumping on the whole "summary movie: bandwagon, another trend Robotech producers have picked up on is combining old classic anime footage with newly produced animation. The most famous example of this is the "Dragonball Kai" series and the "Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam" movies. In Love Live Alive, the old footage is beautifully restored to a pristine state, both footage from the series and that from the music video OVA

Sadly, the "new" footage comes across as a major disappointment, consisting of only at most 10% (including a long drawn out opening sequence of planets and asteroid fields) of the movie compared to almost half of Dragonball Kai and half of the Zeta Gundam movies. The quality of the animation also varies, having apparently been done by 2 separate animation studios (Ragex and Big Star).


Some scenes do look spectacular at first, such as a flashback to the final moments of the Invid's initial invasion and the evacuation of Earth. The animation is smooth, it has a really dark atmospheric look reflecting the desperate hopeless last battle and the computer generated imagery (CGI) is blended seamlessly with the traditionally animated characters. On subsequent viewings, the stark reality of the animation's shortcomings become apparent.


 The cel shaded CGI has a "lag drag" in the models' movements. Character animations look like it was done in Adobe Flash. And To hide this clunkiness, the production company takes full advantage of the 4x3 frame and has a good deal of action take place out-of-frame or have close-ups of irrelevant foreground objects such that the object takes up most of the frame, thus drawing viewer attention away from the actual subject of the scene.

Although character designs between old and new footage do not vary that much, it is jarring when new footage has characters changing looks from scene to scene. Lancer himself is depicted as a svelte, thin, almost elegant pretty boy bishonen with sharp features. (compared to the relatively "rounder" designs of 80s anime)


 Yet some of the new footage has him with smooth features and a rounded chin

 whereas in the scene immediately after, he is back to having his sharp features. 

 This lack of quality control in the newly produced animation is disappointing. Those expecting quality over quantity thanks to the small amount of new footage would be let down. The voice acting is expertly done but, again, there is a clear distinction between lines from the original Tv series and newly recorded dialogue. Some of the actors, particularly the women characters like Rook, clearly sound older in the new dialogue.  Afterall, 20 years is a long time and can change how a person sounds. Thankfully, Cam Clark who reprises his role as Lancer is able to maintain consistency with his recordings from back then.


 No doubt a labour of love from the producers of Robotech, Robotech Love Live Alive remains polarising among audience. Those expecting a musical extravaganza like the original Mospeda Love Live Alive would be let down by the inclusion of 2 snippets of songs, one full song over the end credits and one more full song that Yellow Dancer performs in concert.

That concert, by the way, seems hastily edited, with Lancer changing costumes and even stage props constantly throughout the song, and too much repeated footage; a flaw that permeates the entire production. Seriously, there are at least 4 of the same shot of the reporter with her obsolete tape recorder on her lap pausing and restarting the recording. The whole finale comes across like a fan made anime music video.
For all the time and effort that went into digitally restoring the old footage, perhaps this summary movie would have been better off if it were animated from scratch. That way the flaws in the original series animation, like inconsistent quality of artwork, would not be so apparent. Or perhaps the slip shod editing of re-used scenes would not be so obvious. But most importantly, with a fully reanimated production utilising modern animation styles, Robotech would have finally shed it's sad reputation of being no more than a cut-and-paste americanised edit of japanaese anime.

*****************************Review End***************************

Entertainment: B-
Story: B-
Characters: A-
Animation: C
Art: B-
Music: B+
Voice work: A-
Replay Value: C-
 "Brains": D

 

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