Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles (2006) is a feature-length animated sequel to the traditional Robotech storyline, overlapping briefly with the concluding events of the New Generation chapter while revealing several previously unknown details about the Robotech Expeditionary Force (REF) and its interactions with a mysterious race known as the Haydonites. Characters from all three chapters of Robotech appear along with others intended to have been introduced during the never-completed Sentinels saga.
The events of the Shadow Chronicles begin with the arrival of the main REF fleet in lunar orbit and the launch of its assault on Reflex Point. These are events that took place during the last few episodes of the New Generation saga, but here they are told from the perspective of characters who are based with the fleet.
Vince Grant takes the REF ship Icarus and a crew that includes former 15th ATAC Corporal Louie Nichols to search for the SDF-3. They find the battle fortress in a decaying position relative to a newly formed black hole, and learn from Admiral Rick Hunter that the singularity formed from the test-firing of a Neutron-S missile. The Icarus returns too late to prevent the order from General Reinhart that launches the missiles at Earth. The Invid Regess, however, recognizes these weapons, and determines to leave the Earth with all of her children, destroying the missiles as she goes.
Following the departure of the Invid as previously seen in Symphony of Light, the remnants of the REF fleet withdraw from Earth orbit and rendezvous at Space Station Liberty (which survived the invasion) for repairs and to plan their next moves. The fleet is low on protoculture, which it cannot produce without the SDF-3 (which we know from Symphony of Light did not arrive with the rest of the fleet). At this point, Scott Bernard arrives from Earth to report in.
Scott is immediately distrusted by the REF command because of his involvement with Ariel, the Invid simulagent whose appearance is that of his deceased fiancee, Marlene Rush. The situation is exacerbated by the presence in the fleet of Marcus Rush, Marlene's brother who had until this point seen Scott as a close friend but comes to view him as a traitor. Scott is arrested and interrogated.
In the course of events that follow, we learn that the synchro cannon, the protoculture-cloaking shadow device, and the Neutron-S missile were all technologies given to the Expeditionary Force by a race called the Haydonites, ostensibly part of the Sentinels alliance that fought to free its member planets from the Invid after the latter's conquest of Tirol. Shortly thereafter, mysterious invaders materialize in the vicinity of Earth and attack the REF fleet with sleek fighter craft backed by similar-looking warships unfamiliar to the Expeditionary Force. The subsequent battle goes very badly as it becomes apparent that the use of synchro cannons results in system failure among both REF ships and mecha; Louis estimates fleet losses at 89%.
Recognizing that efforts to confront the invaders (who we and the characters all rapidly understand to be the Haydonites), Vince Grant abandons the Icarus and brings a number of REF troops and pilots along with his crew to the Ark Angel, which was not retrofitted with the Haydonite technologies and also contains mecha that was not altered. Through a combination of planning and luck, and along with the help of Marcus and Maia Sterling, Scott and Vince lure the Haydonite fleet into close proximity of Space Station Liberty and set off one of the Neutron-S missiles, destroying the attackers.
The victory is both bittersweet and pyrrhic: having already sustained extremely heavy losses in battle with the Invid, the remnants of the Expeditionary Force have now been reduced to a further tenth of what was their surviving strength. The heroes realize that their only hope lies with the SDF-3, and they set off on the Ark Angel to attempt to rescue the damaged battle fortress.
The Shadow Chronicles uses a combination of computer-generated imaging (CGI) and traditional cell-shading. Mecha, warships, and large-scale environments are rendered by computer. To keep consistency with the feel of the main Robotech series, however, Harmony Gold intentionally made use of cell shading to create faces and features. The result is impressive and reasonably familiar if not entirely consistent with the original footage.
It had been more than two decades since the debut of Robotech (and longer since the rendering of the Japanese source material combined to make the series) when the Shadow Chronicles was released in 2006, and taking that into account, considerable effort was made to keep the events of the new film reasonably consistent with those of the New Generation storyline.
Nonetheless, there were several notable examples in which the new footage differed from the original, including the following:
- Weapons. Most New Generation weapons, specifically including the gun pods of Veritech Alpha Fighters and the handgun model carried by Scott Bernard, were clearly depicted as energy-based in the series. In the Shadow Chronicles, these and most REF weapons (other than missiles and the synchro cannons) are instead presented as firing projectiles (e.g. bullets or kenetic energy penetrators).
- Presence of Characters. While all of Scott Bernard's group of freedom fighters is seen in Dark Finale to have arrived in the private chambers of the Invid Regess, the Shadow Chronicles perspective shows only Scott and Ariel/Marlene discussing matters with the Regess. No other member of the New Generation team is seen at any point in the film.
- Casualties. The events of Symphony of Light give reasonably clear indication that the departure of the Invid was as destructive to the ships of the REF fleet as it was to the Neutron-S missiles, and the SDF-4 is particularly shown to have been affected. In the Shadow Chronicles, however, no Expeditionary Force vessels are destroyed by the Invid departure (though many have clearly been lost in the battle itself).
Benefitting from being original footage, the Shadow Chronicles is free to reveal some answers to questions that fans of original series may have held throughout the years, particularly if they did not read the Jack McKinney novels that covered the Sentinels and pre-Invid portions of the storyline. These include the following:
- 15th ATAC Private Bowie Grant was left in the care of Rolf Emerson because his parents, Vince and Jean Grant, joined the REF mission to Tirol.
- The "other daughter of Max and Miriya" seen in the protoculture-enduced dream of Dana Sterling is real, her name is Maia, and she was born during the events of the SDF-3's mission.
- Louis Nichols not only survived the Invid invasion but is by the events of the Shadow Chronicles assigned to a fleet position with the REF, indicating that at least he and probably other members of the 15th ATAC had already left Earth by the time of the Invid's arrival.
- The vast amounts of protoculture needed to power the REF fleet and its mecha were created by a new protoculture matrix on the SDF-3, the only one of its kind since the destruction of the original matrix in the final battle of the Second Robotech War.
Questions that RemainEdit
While tying up certain loose ends, the Shadow Chronicles arguably creates more questions than it answers, including the following:
- Having defeated the Invid, and recognizing that humanity has been pushed to the brink of extinction, why would the Expeditionary Force remnants withdraw to Space Station Liberty with utter disregard for the situation on Earth's surface?
- Given that Attack Group Three' represented the last significant human force in the galaxy at the time of its engagement in the Battle of Reflex Point, with literally no hope of defeating the Invid if the assault failed, why would the REF have held any Neutron-S missiles "in reserve?"
- Assuming that the fleet that arrived in Dark Finale massed as many as ten thousand ships, taking into account that there were millions of Invid and the losses that were sustained in the Battle of Reflex Point alone saw at least half of their forces destroyed only to then sustain a further 89% loss in the Battle of Space Station Liberty, how many ships and how much mecha could the REF reasonably have left by the end of the Shadow Chronicles? A few hundred?
The most perplexing question, however, deals with the introduction of the Haydonites, who until this point had not place in a generally understood Robotech chronology of events that originated long before the Macross Saga. If the Haydonites were responsible for the defoliation of the Invid homeworld Optera, what was their relationship 'to the Robotech Masters' -- who evidently at least believed they held sway over a large part of the galaxy and at their height had command of nearly five million Zentraedi warships?