Robotech first came to my attention in the mid 80s. I turned my nose up at it and didn't even give it a chance because it took the time slot of one of my favorite shows at the time. It was either Transformers
or Battle of the Planets
. Then over the years, it became one of the most iconic amime shows around. It's probably best known for its Veritech fighters that can turn into robots. You've probably seen them...
Then recently, I read up on the show to familiarize myself with what it's all about. It's an english language anime that was made from three Japanese shows… Super Dimension Fortress Macross
, Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross
and Genesis Climber MOSPEADA
. These shows were cobbled together because the original Macross saga only had 36 episodes and at least 65 were needed for a North American syndication package. Those shows, integrated into one, and properly edited, became known as the first, second and third Robotech wars. Three unrelated shows became three seasons in a new product. The franchise also includes a failed attempt at a spinoff called Robotech: The Sentinels
which only produced three episodes. There were also several attempts at movies, but they never materialized. One sequel movie made it through though. It's called Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles
. It was released in 2006. There's also a live action project that's supposed to be in the works, but not much seems to be coming of that.
Anyway, I purchased the complete series along with the 2006 movie on DVD a few weeks ago and watched everything. I wanted to see what this iconic series was all about and have it under my belt. In my review that follows, I'll just cover the basic plot and how I felt about it without spoiling too much, if anything. Random and more detailed points that I want to address will be put in spoiler tags for those who've seen the show.
Here we go...
The Macross Saga
(The First Robotech War) - 36 Episodes
A space ship that's almost a mile long crash lands on Macross island in 1999. Over the next decade, a city is built around the crash. Engineers and military men reverse engineer and repair the damaged ship and use its technology to develop fighter jets that can transform into robot guardians. Then on the day of it's commissioning, Earth is attacked by an alien force known as the Zentraedi. This new ship, known as the SDF-1 is then launched into action, bringing along it's crew and the civilians that populated the island. What ensues is a war with an alien force and a lot of good character drama.
Our main characters include the pilot Rick Hunter and a sweet girl he just met named Lynn Minmay, who wants to become a star. There's also Rick's brother, a few members of their fighting squadron, the SDF-1's commanding officer Captain Gloval and the bridge crew made up of gossipy ladies nicknamed "the bridge bunnies".
The writing can appear simplistic on the surface with a lot of bad science and stuff that's glossed over, severely rushed or contrived to serve the plot, but oddly enough, it's still a solid piece of work. The story is well structured, it advances and the characters feel like real people you can care about. When it's over, you'll miss them. The show is often praised for it's adult themes and it delivers, but I do wish it had more severe consequences to some of the heavier things that happened.
I watched this as a movie that was just over an hour long, but it was in fact the first three episodes of a failed series. It was supposed to continue the adventures of our characters from The Macross Saga
because they don't appear beyond that. I watched it at this point because continuity-wise, it fits here between the first and second seasons eventhough it was made a year or two after the original series ended. I really enjoyed this little movie because I loved the characters so much. It's a real shame that this thing fizzled out so early on. I think there was financial trouble somewhere. If Robotech ever continues someday, this is where it needs to pick up.
(The Second Robotech War) - 24 Episodes
New chapter, new characters. This time, the central figure is the grown daughter of two other characters from The Macross Saga and the supporting cast includes the members of her squadron. Gone are the iconic Veritech fighters and in their place, we have hover tanks that can turn into robot guardians that our characters pilot. The enemy is different (they were introduced in the first season) and this time the battle is on Earth. I don't have much else to say because this saga was pretty damn boring. I couldn't wait for it to be over. This wasn't the Robotech that I had come to love.
The New Generation
(The Third Robotech War) - 25 Episodes
The third and final season still isn't as good as the first, but it's engaging and it's a big improvement over the second season. The action follows yet another set of characters as they roam an Earth, occupied by a third alien force. Their goal is to make their way to their stronghold in order to destroy them or drive them away. Their vehicles of choice? Motorcycles called "cyclones" that transform and envelop the rider to become battle suits. The story's set-up is very good and the characters we meet are likeable and endearing in their own right. My interest was recovered.
The Shadow Chronicles
- I really liked the original Marlene and was saddened by her death.
- The Earth was awfully populated given that humanity was pretty much wiped out only a generation before.
- I thought that Yellow Dancer's voice was a little odd and wondered if she was a guy, then sure enough…
Daring move. I loved the character.
- It was weird seeing a tribe of people who thought that the nearby dam was controlled by a god. They aren't that far removed from our modern day civilization.
The first half-hour of this 2006 movie overlaps with the last episode of the series and then moves on to it's own plot. In fact, some of the scenes from that final episode were redone in the movie's updated animation style. What did I think of the movie? In short, I didn't like it. It was boring and lacked a lot of the heart that the show had. It felt like just a bunch of shooting and space battles. I also missed the catchy and fantastic soundtrack from the show. This wasn't Robotech and I'm not too keen on seeing a continuation of this particular storyline.
I'm a fan of Robotech now. It's good character drama for an anime, but it veered too far from it's roots as well as the characters that made it good. If it ever continues, I hope it goes back to those roots.