There is a certain generation of anime fans that were pulled into Japanese animation by a show called Robotech. The series has recently returned to Netflix download and I gave it a full viewing. This inspired me to write a few posts about it. As happened in the case of Urusei Yatsura and Lupin III I realized I was spending a bunch of time on history, plot and characters of the series instead of what I wanted to say specifically. So that means it is time for another anime primer.
Robotech is a strange case, because it is actually three different anime series that were edited together, rescripted and dubbed to create a unified story. Why take three perfectly good shows and smash them together? At the time (1985) you needed to have at least 65 half hour episodes for your show to get syndicated. So the company behind this, Harmony Gold, found three anime series from Tatsunoko productions that had a similar look and feel to them for the project.
|The SDF - 1 flying into adventure.
The middle series came from Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross made in 1984. This series deals with human colony on a distant world dealing with an incursion by aliens who use clones to further their technology. Our heroes pilot transforming tanks and find themselves battling aliens who seem obsessed with obtaining a bioluminescent flower.
The third series used to make Robotech is Genesis Climber Mospeada (and no I'm not making these names up). This one takes place on a post apocalyptic earth. Alien beings have invaded the planet and enslaved humans. The human colony on Mars tries to help, but only one soldier makes to Earth. He gathers a rag tag group (is there any other kind of group in a post-apcolyptic story) to find out why the aliens are on Earth and the best way to stop them. You've got transforming planes in this one, but the real highlight are the motorcycles that transform into cool body armor.
|When Dana has her helmet on,
she is all business.
In many ways this was an innovative undertaking. I can't think of any animated series at the time (in North America at least) that had one continuous story that spanned 85 episodes. And yeah, if you missed an episode or two (especially of the first series) you would end up pretty lost.
Robotech aired in March of 1985 and for most of us who grew up with the series, it was like nothing we had ever seen before.
The first series of Robotech is called The Macross Saga and sticks pretty close to its source material. An alien ship crashes into earth near Macross island. Humanity researches the vessel and discovers an amazingly advanced technology called Robotech inside. They also discover that the aliens who piloted this vessel her war-like giants called the Zentraedi.
Fearing that the Zentraedi will come looking for the downed vessel, humanity bands together to create new weapons to defend earth combining this alien technology with human ingenuity. The result are amazing transforming fighter jets and mecha war machines. But the crowning achievement is to refit the downed alien vessel into the SDF - 1, a massive space going battle fortress that also transforms and has an enormous cannon that can cause massive destruction.
All too soon the Zentraedi arrive and begin to wage war with earth. As the story progresses we discover they are looking for something called proto-culture. Turns out the Zentraedi are a warrior race being used by beings called the Robotech Masters who are after proto-culture for their own purposes.
Human resistance is spearheaded by the brave crew of the SDF -1 and brash mecha pilot Rick Hunter. But surprisingly the best weapon is actually pop singer Lynn Minmei. Her music has charms to sooth the savage Zentraedi. But just when he battle seems to be turning in earth's favor some extremely passionate Zentraedi unleash a final attack on earth. Many sacrifices are made and much of the earth is laid waste, but the Zentraedi are defeated. The series ends with Rick Hunter leaving earth with the surviving SDF -1 crew to find out more about the Robotech Masters and proto-culture.
Once again earth is invaded by a massive fleet of warships. This time it is the Robotech Masters who have arrived looking for proto-culture. Turns out they are running low on their sources, and need it to keep their civilization from dying. They are desperate especially since they are being pursued by an infamous group of aliens called the Invid, who are out to wipe out all other users of proto-culture.
The Masters come in with guns blazing and humanity answers in kind. Soon all out war erupts between the two factions. Earth forces have Dana Sterling on their side. She's an fearless and brave commander of the Southern Cross brigade, but she is also reckless and hot tempered. This gets her and her crew into all kinds of trouble outside of the battle field.
The two forces get closer and closer to destroying each other, when a mysterious Flower of Life is found on earth. It opens up and dispenses proto-culture all across the earth. The Masters know this is the end of them, because that will cause the Invid to attack earth. The Masters are defeated, but humanity is so weakened from the endless war, that they are easy pickings for the new alien threat.
And it fails pretty spectacularly, but one heroic soldier Scott Bernard makes it to earth with a clear objective, find and destroy the home base of the Invid on earth, called Reflex Point. Scott starts on his mission and brings with him a group of misfits with various skills that come in very handy. Nearly all of them can pilot transforming mecha too, so that helps.
Along the way to Reflex Point they have all kinds of adventures and mishaps. This post-apocalyptic world is dangerous enough, but the Invid pursuit is relentless. It also becomes obvious that the Invid are using proto-culture for some unique purpose - to further their evolution into an ultimate life form. Can Scott and his team stop the Invid before they become unbeatable and all hope for humanity is lost?
With a series this sprawling it would be silly of me to cover all the characters. I'm going to focus on the key ones for each series and ones that were pretty innovative for 80s television marketed to kids.
The Macross Saga
The Masters Saga
The New Generation
Lancer (aka Yellow Dancer)
Annie (aka Mint)
A kid who has grown up under Invid attack and occupation. She's a big fan of peppermint candy and seems obsessed with finding a cute guy to marry. Annie is a bit silly but is braver than most of the adults they run into. She want to see Earth freed and finds comfort with her new friends, who treat her a bit like the team mascot. But Annie is constant reminder of what is at stake in this war. When she first shows up in the series, you pretty much sigh and roll your eyes. But as we get to know more about her life and see how much the team means to her, she really becomes a character that you connect with. She also has red hair, is an orphan and has a hat that says E.T. on it, so that makes her so 80s it hurts.
Ariel (aka Marlene)
|They are still making detailed
models of the mecha for