A cult anime series about three wars fought by Earth with alien technology, against alien enemies, over control of a powerful energy source. Initially a major success, its relatively adult story content is credited with introducing Western audiences to the sophisticated dramatic potential that Japanese animation had to offer.
This in turn led to a major rise in popularity of anime that was oriented towards the original Japanese productions unedited by American producers—somewhat ironic, because Robotech
is actually a Cut-and-Paste Translation
of three different anime series, edited together by Carl Macek of Harmony Gold, who wanted to bring the Japanese anime Super Dimension Fortress Macross
to western television, but was unable to since it did not possess the sixty-five episodes
needed for a syndication deal. Macek's solution was to tie Macross
to two other unrelated series with similar elements and art styles,Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross
and Genesis Climber MOSPEADA
, and to turn the whole thing into a multi-generational saga, using Macross
's Protoculture—now retrofitted to be the fuel source behind the various technology used by the different races—as the uniting factor between each series.
The series was thus divided into three sagas, each based on its respective parent show and portraying a particular generation of characters. They are:
- "The Macross Saga" (Macross), the story of pilot Rick Hunter and the crew of the SDF-1 battle fortress. Of the three sub-series, this one has the most in common with the original anime: aside from the names, the biggest changes were made mostly to help fit all three series together, such as the relationship between the Zentraedi and the Robotech Masters. This is mostly backstory dialogue, though a few episodes late in the series have some Southern Cross footage of the Masters spliced in.
- "The Robotech Masters" (Southern Cross) had probably the biggest number of changes (starting with moving the setting from the faraway planet Glorie down to Earth, and ending with, well, the ending, which became a Bittersweet Ending due to the series coming up next). It features Dana Sterling, the (first) daughter of Max and Miriya Sterling from Macross. Having been left on Earth in the care of General Rolf Emerson, she has joined the Army of the Southern Cross, and unlike her high-flying parents, pounds the ground in a Veritech Hovertank. Naturally, she ends up on the front lines when the Robotech Masters, the men behind the Zentraedi, invade the earth searching for the Protoculture Matrix hidden in the wreckage of the SDF-1 Macross.
- "The New Generation" (Mospeada), concerns the Invid, enemies of the Masters and the Zentraedi, who conquer the Earth after it is accidentally seeded or rather intentionally seeded according to the Shapings' design if you buy into the book version with the Invid Flower of Life, the source of Protoculture, after the conclusion of the war against the Robotech Masters. Earth forces that left the planet between the first and second generations return to save their homeworld, including Scott Bernard, who quickly finds himself the only survivor of the first counter-invasion, and finds himself gathering a Rag Tag Bunch Of Misfits on his way across the Scavenger World the Earth has degenerated to in order to reach the Invid home hive of Reflex Point.
In addition to redubbed anime, several comics, novels, and games have attempted to tell the story, with varying levels of success, within and between the Robotech "generations". One of the most ambitious was The Sentinels
, which chronicled the story of the Macross
heroes as they go into space towards the Robotech Masters' homeworld in an attempt to stop any further wars. Naturally, they miss them, only to find the planet besieged by the second faction of the Invid, and meet a collection of alien races fighting to free themselves from Invid domination. Although the animated series fell apart after a few episodes were created, the story continued in comic, novel, and RPG form, each offering similar variant takes on the story
. Another stillborn project was Robotech: The Movie
(a.k.a. Robotech: The Untold Story
), which spliced footage from the show with scenes from the anime Megazone 23
in order to create a story set between the "Macross" and "Robotech Masters" sagas. Unlike The Sentinels
, this project was completed, but its tepid reception during test airings caused Harmony Gold to shelf it, and it has never had a wide release inside the states. The fact that the rights that Harmony Gold/Cannon Pictures had for Megazone 23
expired is another reason the film will never see the light of day.
One of the stranger aspects of all of this was how Harmony Gold was able to gain the US trademark for Macross
simply by defending the rights to Robotech
. At the time, Japan and the US did not have reciprocity for copyrights, and Bandai/Big West (the owners of Macross
) had sublicensed the international distribution rights to Tatsunoko Production
, who licensed all aspects of Macross
except the Japanese model kits to Harmony Gold. Bandai also licensed several mecha designs to FASA for use in BattleTech
, and they were incorporated and used in the miniatures game. FASA had sued Playmates Toys
over alleged copyright infringement for a design in their Exo Squad/Robotech
crossover line that resembled a "Mad Cat". Harmony Gold countersued FASA for the longstanding use of Macross
IP in BattleTech
, citing their license from Tatsunoko. The suit was settled out of court, and the settlement was sealed so the settlement terms are not known. However, the suit forced FASA to voluntarily remove the offending designs (now known as "The Unseen
") out of fear of renewed legal hassles. Big West subsequently successfully sued Tatsunoko, as their
license to Macross
was originally only to cover the original animation content of Macross, and not
any derivative content based thereon.The end result of the convoluted legal snarl:
- Harmony Gold can continue to release the original Robotech stories, and can release their own DVDs of the original Macross in the US, but cannot create derivative works based on Macross (or its Big West stablemate Southern Cross).
- However, they can create derivative content based on Mospeada, which was wholly owned by Tatsunoko in the first place.
- In addition, they effectively have veto rights for the imports and English translation of Macross merchandise and series that are not covered by the original license. Consequently, all Macross productions with the exception of the original series, Macross Plus and Macross II Lovers Again (the latter two were "snuck in" under Harmony Gold's radar at a time when their TV production and licensing divisions were badly savaged by a "headhunting" raid by Haim Saban. By the time HG could have contested it, it was too late.) are blocked from being sold or translated in North America, and under Harmony Gold's interpretation, Shoji Kawamori cannot make or distribute his own drawings and designs within North America. (This has not made them popular.)
The rights have recently been purchased by Warner Bros.
. This had led to fan speculation that Warner may make its own live action movie. Consequently Harmony Gold's more recent sequels, most notably the original feature-length film Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles
, are all set in or after the part of the Robotech timeline drawn from Mospeada
This show provides examples of: