Monday, September 3, 2007

Revenge Of The 80’s presents Robotech

In 1982 the anime series Super Dimensional Fortress Macross premiered in Japan. It was wildly successful and it even spawned an animated film based on the series called “Do You Remember Love?” that was also a hit in 1984. Later that same year, the team at Harmony Gold headed by Carl Macek had the idea to capitalize off of the giant robot phenomenon that had exploded in America with the popularity of Transformers and Voltron in the States and chose to edit, adapt and redub a new series for North America and Europe beginning with the Macross series.

The problem was that Macross only had 36 total episodes so they’d have to use other series related to the popular Macross program to make one cohesive series. The crew at Harmony Gold decided to add episodes from two other Macross related anime series’ called The Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross and Genesis Climber Mosapaeda. After editing together some episodes and doing splices and major rewriting and voiceover work they were able to create an 85 episode show that they decided to call Robotech.

Robotech was split into three parts, The Macross Saga, The Robotech Masters and The Invid Invasion. The storyline had some elements of the original series but a lot of them had to be changed as they just would’ve been deemed too weird by a North American or European viewing audience. In the end Carl Macek had to create his own back story in many cases. By 1985, all of the work had been completed and it was time to sell the series and premiere it. The show was to begin airing in syndication all over North America. The shows selling point was that it not only had transforming robots, excellent action and great animation but the storyline was much like a soap opera during war time. Surprisingly, the series became a hit with not just young kids, but teenagers and adults as well.

Robotech’s opening series was the perfect hook. The Macross Saga was 36 episodes of high drama, death, deception and unrequited love. The story follows the exploits of Rick Hunter (his signature veritech pictured above), a stunt pilot that is mentored by a world famous ace fighter pilot named Roy Fokker and invited to see him off before the launch of the newly renovated alien space fortress that crash landed on Earth decades before. The war was at war but they decided to stop fighting and work together to decipher the secrets of the space fortress and it’s alien technology. The ship in christened the SDF-1 (Super Dimensional Fortress/Super Defense Fortress).

The result was the Earth learned how to harness a power called Robotechnology (or Protoculture) to create weapons and enable space travel. Rick Hunter ends up getting trapped on the ship during an alien attack and it folds into space while somehow taking the city that it was docked at with them when they folded (?). This made no sense at first because where did the city come from inside the ship if it wasn’t there before? In the original series, Macross City had ALREADY existed inside the ship and the ship wasn’t forced to take on the people of Macross City because their city somehow magically ended up inside the ship due to fold technology (Wow, this is some serious nerd shit right here).

Rick Hunter ends up joining the RDF (Robotech Defense Force) and ends up the pilot of a Veritech fighter which can transform into 3 different modes, a regular fighter jet, a robot/plane hybrid mode called a Battloid and finally into full Veritech robot mode. The Robotech Defense Force defended the Earth from a possible alien invasion...which was a good idea since the alien race called the Zentraedi attacked the Earth in hopes of retrieving the SDF for themselves. The SDF-1 is forced to fly home using it’s conventional engines while fighting off the Zentraedi armada every step of the way.

The second part of the series was by far the weakest link in the Robotech story. It dealt with the Robotech Defense Force’s exploits 20 years after the First Robotech War ended and the story centered around the half human/half Zentraedi daughter of Rick Hunter’s best friend, Max Sterling after Rick Hunter takes the SDF-3 (long story) into space on a mission to find the aliens that are looking for the SDF-1’s secrets (The Robotech Masters) home planet. They instead took most of the new war technology with them, leaving the Earth completely vulnerable to an attack from another alien attack. Ironically enough, the Robotech Masters and their massive army of clone fighters make it to Earth and attack it while the main force is away. The remaining divisions are forced to deal with a massive armada. There were so many weird storylines and occurrences in this series that a good amount of scenes that appeared in the Japanese version were completely omitted from the North American/European version...unfortunately, that didn’t make the chapter any less confusing to the viewer.

The third and final chapter of the Robotech series was called The Invid Invasion and told the story of the Earth being enslaved by the Invid (the aliens that chased both the Zentraedi and the Robotech Masters to Earth searching for the SDF-1 and it’s cargo). It turned out that the SDF-1 was carrying something called the Flower Of Life that is harvested and cultivated to produce the energy necessary to create more weapons of mass destruction for the aliens races to use and sustain their lives.

The Earth has been completely beat down after decades of alien invaders attacking them constantly and now only a handful of military forces are still active on Earth while a grassroots resistance movement fights the formidable Invid forces. The story begins when one of Rick Hunter’s soldiers ends up crash landing on Earth ahead of the SDF-3 which was supposed to return to Earth but somehow got lost during the fold to the Milky Way galaxy. He eventually falls in with a small band of rebels and leads them in the original mission to destroy Reflex Point, the nerve center of the Invid army.

Robotech was also a popular toy line, fielding multiple licenses from Tomy, Bandai, Revell, Matchbox, Playmates and Harmony Gold simultaneously. The most popular toys were the Macross veritechs, the Southern Cross Ajacs helicopters and the ultra popular transforming Cyclone motorcycles as well as the Alpha and Beta veritech fighters from the Invid Invasion. The enemy fighters sold well but the Robotech Masters Bioroid Invid Fighters and various Invid Shock Troopers far outsold the Zentraedi figures. At one point in time, Hasbro got sued because their Autobot fighter plane Jetfire was a perfect copy of Tomy/Bandai’s original Valkyrie/Veritech fighter design. Hasbro stopped producing Jetfire toys immediately afterwards.

Robotech didn’t die out after the cartoon stopped airing either, their were several comic books, novelizations, art books, video games, sequels and even a popular role playing game created by Palladium Books. To this day, Robotech is regarded as one of the best anime series’ ever made and the entire saga is now available on DVD in all of it’s incarnations.

For more information about the expansive universe that is Robotech check out the following sites:



Phantom Foetus said...

I always wondered why I saw the Jetfire figure in all those Robo-Tech renditions, toy and media alike. I thought it was the other way around (i.e: Jetfire came first). Thanks for the info, and keep up the good work.

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Anonymous said...

I have no idea what you're talking about in these posts, Dart, but I fuckin' love 'em. Keep it up!

brandon said...

Great post! The Macross Saga is one of the best things ever made. I found a Robotech graphic novel a few weeks ago that is sort of a prequel to Macross, showing the crashing of the ship and Rick as a kid, etc. etc.

Dart Adams said...

Oh yeah, it's just been reported that a Robotech movie has been greenlighted and Tobey McGuire wants to play the part of Rick Hunter. Oh God...


Dart Adams said...

@ phantom foetus:

Actually the Macross toys came out first...back in 1982 in Asia. The Transformers toys didn't appear until 1984 and were made by Hasbro...that's why they won the lawsuit.


Anonymous said...

thank you fucking very much. i search without name for this serise of cartoon about 3 houres and years and years;-)

Unknown said...

This is the first time I read Hasbro got sued for Jetfire...?! I always read they licensed the toy and thus released it, before Harmony Gold could!