Ah, of course. Robot Carnival had Robots, the Animatrix had the Matrix and Genius Party has imagination. Every short movie is about imagination in one way or the other. Shanghai Dragon is the work of Shoji Kawamori, the guy behind Macross, who is currently directing Macross Frontier. There are indeed plenty of grand mecha-battles in this one, but I don’t think that you can predict what this one will be about, just by looking at Kawamori’s other series.
First of all, Shanghai Dragon is about a pair of Chinese kids (who also speak Chinese), but it’s also a satire, parodying the trope of the useless kid who suddenly finds the ultimate weapon. It’s just this time, the ultimate weapon is more ultimate than ever, and the kid also couldn’t be more useless. And yet, these have been some fun 20 minutes of airtime, mostly thanks to an adorable cast of characters, which manages to be dynamic, despite the short length of only 20 minutes.
It’s strange, though: the space-soldiers in this short speak Japanese, while the kids are Chinese, and they seem to have no problem understanding each other. The biggest flaw of this short, however, is the rather intrusive CG that sometimes doesn’t flow well with the other animation at all. Shoji Kawamori obviously couldn’t get the same budget for this episode as for an average Macross Frontier episode, and this shows. And it’s a shame, because the other graphics look pretty interesting.
Overall, Shanghai Dragon nothing special, but without a doubt a fun way to spend 20 minutes. Like Genius Party (the first short of Genius Party), it’s also full of symbolism. It may not be the most subtle storyline, but it’s both a parody and homage to an overused cliché in anime. It may start out like a joke in the beginning, but it ends strangely heart-warming.