There is no denying that Robotech is something special. During a time when cartoons were perfectly content with giving us black and white lessons about heroes and villains and stories were story arcs were limited to, at most, three episodes in length, Robotech did something different. There were no moral lessons to learn after the episode ended. The shortest story arc would go for more than 20 episodes. Characters, both from the heroes and the villains, could die. Robotech was something special and, growing up, this was one of my favorite shows. I would eagerly await each new episode and, when I would hear those familiar strains of Robotech’s awesome theme song, I was immediately energized.
But after the years passed, I do realize that, as fantastic Robotech is and I owe a lot to the show, I had outgrown it. Not because I realized that it’s for children. Far from it as Robotech dealt with a lot of adult stuff and did not talk down to its children audience. No, the reason I feel Robotech isn’t for me anymore is because, well, it could have been so much better. I just didn’t realize it at the time.
To fully understand what I mean by that, you do have to get a brief history lesson on the show as well as my time growing up with it. In the mid-80s, Harmony Gold wanted to broadcast Super Dimensional Fortress Macross, a very popular anime from Japan in the United States. However, Macross only consisted of 36 episodes, way below the 65 episode requirement for a full season. So, in order to get the required number of episodes, Harmony Gold got two other shows. The first being Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross and the second being Genesis Climber MOSPEADA.
In a genius move, Carl Macek, a producer for Harmony Gold, reworked the three individual shows into one continuity. This led Robotech to be broken up into three story arcs. Macross was the first chronologically, which had Rick Hunter joining the SDF to fight the invading Zentradi and became known as the First Robotech War. Southern Cross followed Dana Sterling, the daughter of one of the characters from Macross and her battle with the Robotech Masters in the Second Robotech War. Genesis Climber MOSPEADA had Scott Bernard, a soldier in Rick Hunter’s squad, to lead a rebel force against the Invid in the Third Robotech War.
One thing that Carl Macek did was ensure that, while there were changes to the stories to make them fit one flowing timeline, they would keep a lot of the adult themes from the original anime. The villains had motivations and weren’t just invading because they were evil. There were prominent deaths on both sides. These were usually the kind of things Western localization would change to make them kid-friendly. Not Robotech! They had the guts to make war feel hellish. For a series that had cool transforming mechs, that’s unique!
Among all of the “Robotech Wars,” my favorite was and still is MOSPEADA, the Third Robotech War with the Invid. This is because of a whole mess of reasons. First, I love all the mech designs here. The Alpha and Beta fighters are a step above the Valkyrie fighters, in my opinion. The Invid mechs, with their crab-like appearance and their one eye, had very inspired looks. But my personal favorite mechs from the show were the transforming Cyclones. This was the toy I desperately wanted to get as it was just a cool idea! I also think that this had a really easy story to follow. The Invid invade Earth because they needed a planet to live on. It’s not truly a malicious reason but it was for their survival as their home world had been destroyed.
One thing that I have to mention about Robotech is that it has some really excellent music. I already mentioned how much I love the opening theme. It still gets me every time I hear it. But, growing up, I actually enjoyed the other musical numbers. Off the top of my head, I still remember the techno sounding “Look Up! The Sky is Falling” by Yellow Dancer from the Third Robotech War and the super cheesy “My Time To Be A Star” by Lynn Minmayfrom the First Robotech War. My ultimate favorite is, strangely enough, Lynn Minmay’s love ballad “To Be In Love” from the Macross storyline. Sure, the lyrics are cheesy but that song still has a special place in my heart. The super lame “Where silver suns have golden moons/Each month has thirteen Junes” still gets me in the feels even today.
One of my favorite things about Robotech were the novelizations. Yes, Harmony Gold actually published a long series of novels detailing the events of the show! The novels did add a whole lot of additional stuff, like detailing to readers what Protoculture is and their uses. Now, I never read them myself but I had one friend who really enjoyed reading them and I guess his enthusiasm was contagious as I would join him to the closest bookstore in the hopes that the latest book was already released. I still have some nostalgic memories about talking about the series with him.
Nowadays, I do look at Robotech much differently. Oh, I still believe it’s a fantastic show and it’s super influential, even to this day. The thing is that I am much more aware of the shows where Robotech got their episodes and the original stories just come off as much better.
One of the things that do hobble the entire Robotech saga is, well, them having to have each story interconnect with each other. I will give credit where credit is due as Carl Macek and Harmony Gold did an outstanding job in making them work into one continuous tale. The thing is they had to invent the entire gimmick of making Protoculture an energy source. In the original Macross storyline, it was just the ancient culture that was similar with the culture of Earth. The invading Zentradi and their enemy, the Meltradi, are so shocked to see the remnants of Protoculture found on Earth that they have no defense over simple things, like music and affection with another gender. This is much better than the mystical Protoculture power source idea found in Robotech!
Also, as much as I love the music in Robotech, I just love the original music of Macross and MOSPEADA a whole lot more. Oh, I still like Lynn Minmay’s “To Be In Love” but it doesn’t hold a candle to the epicness of “Ai Oboete Imasu Ka?” also known as “Do You Remember Love?” from Marcross: The Movie. “To Be In Love” does still give me the feels, but “Do You Remember Love” affects me much more that I feel tears welling up in my eyes when I hear it.
Probably the worst thing about how Harmony Gold handled the localization is something that I only noticed when I got older. It’s the overuse of narration. More often than not, whenever they transition to a new scene, you’ll hear an embodied voice tell you what’s happening before they show you what’s happening! I guess when I was a kid, I appreciated them hitting me over the head with the explanations. But, now that I’m older and I grew a brain, it can get on my nerves! Just show me! Don’t tell me!
Ever since then, I have watched both Super Dimensional Fortress Macross and Genesis Climber MOSPEADA in their original Japanese and, frankly, I just love them more than the Robotech versions. I still have to watch Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross and I am dying to see if its better. Honestly, The Robotech Masters storyline in Robotech is a mess and it is by far the worst of all the Robotech stories. But I can’t help but think that’s partially because of the changes they made. Looking at the synopsis of the original Japanese version of Southern Cross, where the Earthlings can actually be the invaders as they’ve colonized a different world, it does look more interesting. If there’s a place where I can watch the original Japanese version, I would really want to know where.
Now, I’m not bashing Robotech. Nor will I ever bash this wonderful show as it had a legacy of being one of the best introductions to the world of anime for many a geek worldwide. It’s just that the original stories, at least Macross and MOSPEADA, are much better than the reworked ones. The music of Robotech, while awesome in their own right, don’t shine as brightly as the originals. The only reason why I’ve outgrown Robotech is because, as I got older, I was able to find the original versions and found them much more intriguing. It’s not a hit on Robotech. It’s just a fact.
Do you have any memories of Robotech? How did it affect you? Let me know in the comments section below!