- This is the Inner Sphere - thousands of planets colonised by humankind. Once it was united under the Star League, but for the last 300 years it had been consumed by savage wars until a new enemy appeared, mysterious invaders known as the Clans. Powerful and ruthless, they struck like lightning, attacking every sector at once. But they made one big mistake - they attacked my home planet! Now, in the spirit of the Star League, ancient enemies have reunited, and we're gonna take back our galaxy!
In the fourth millennium, humanity has expanded into the stars, and the area around Earth, known as the Inner Sphere, is divided into six realms who have spent the last few centuries warring against each other with big giant robots. Without warning, they are simultaneously attacked in 3050 by a force from beyond the boundary of the Inner Sphere, Clan Jade Falcon under the command of Star Colonel Nicolai Malthus, who possessed faster, stronger, more resilient BattleMechs.
Upon hearing that the Clans have conquered his home planet of Somerset and taken his brother, Andrew, prisoner, Major Adam Steiner of the Federated Commonwealth requisitions a smuggling vessel and crew recently captured from the Draconis Combine and, with the approval of the the FedCom Archon and the Combine Coordinator, recruits a small, motley band known as the First Somerset Strikers to liberate Somerset and gather information on the Clans along the way.
BattleTech only lasted one season. It was one of the first American cartoons to have an ongoing storyline, with plot threads developed over multiple episodes that weren't explicitly labelled as multi-parters. It was also one of the first to combine cel animation with CGI, using the latter for 'Mech battles; this was explained as a representation of Enhanced Imaging, a Clan technology that made it into the tabletop game.
While a fair amount of artistic license was taken to keep things family-friendly, FASA did release a few sourcebooks which incorporated the characters and broad strokes of the story into the tabletop setting; Adam Steiner especially became prominent in subsequent stories.note The series itself is regarded In-Universe as a dramatisation of canon events, made as anti-Clan propaganda.
BattleTech'' provides examples of:
- 2D Visuals, 3D Effects: The cartoon's BattleMech rendering sequences, justified in-universe as the Clans' targeting technology. Though one thing they convey well is the ponderous weight of 'Mechs. The animated 'Mech combat has them move like giant humans, similar to many anime of the Super Robot Genre.
- Action Girl: Kylie, and Rachel when needed. Kristen and Natalya on the Clan side.
- All There in the Manual: The sourcebook published as a tie-in to the series clarifies a number of plot points as well as explaining some of the inconsistencies to the lore. This includes confirmation that the rebel group attempting to use Franklin to bring down the Combine is the Black Dragon Society, a recurring rebel group in the novels.
- An Axe to Grind: Adam Steiner's trademark mech was the aptly-named Axman.
- Attack Pattern Alpha: Since the show didn't have the budget or scope to really show intricate military strategies involving Humongous Mecha, we had to take their word for it most of the time. The trope's quoted practically verbatim in the Trust-Building Blunder scene from the third episode.
- Blue Blood: Adam is a distant relative of the FedCom archon. Though he insists (not inaccurately) that he didn't get his rank due to birth, he constantly has to deal with people insisting he did. Franklin turns out to be even higher-class, and is not pleased with this revelation.
- Canon Discontinuity: The animated series was retconed as an in-universe, "poorly reviewed(but otherwise popular) Anti-Clan propaganda holo-vid". A later sourcebook explains it as based on canon events(and characters, see below), but suffering among other things from Anachronic Order due to drawing inspiration from events that hadn't happened yet in the timeframe depicted, as well as more general stuff like sacrificing the Grey-and-Gray Morality of the main material to make it more accessible to its new format.
- Canon Immigrant: Some of this series' characters obtained this status. Adam Steiner is easily the most visible of them, becoming Archon of the Lyran Commonweath during and after the Jihad. Also of note are Vandervahn Chistu (Nicolai Malthus' superior) and Franklin Sakamoto. Chistu would briefly become one of the Falcon clan Khans, ultimately dying at Vlad Ward's hands during the Refusal War. Sakamoto, on the other hand, would survive until the early stages of the Jihad in 3070. (Worth noting that Sakamoto was captured by the Black Dragon forces, with his ultimate fate apparently remaining unknown.)
- Catch Phrase:
- Adam's is well-known - "Information is ammunition".
- Initiate Enhanced Imaging!
- Character Development: Interestingly enough, this is a series where character development doesn't necessarily lead to characters becoming better people. While the Strikers make the expected transition from a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits to a skilled and tight-knit team, their Clan adversaries begin the series as Consummate Professionals and deteriorate into an undisciplined, back-stabbing rabble by the last episode, mirroring the wider problems the Clans had in lore with the stresses of invasion, occupation and having to constantly fight opponents who neither knew, understood nor cared about Clan "honor", straining their previous discipline and codes of behavior to the breaking point.
- Ciro ends up being an example of developing into a less selfish and more honorable soldier, but in an unexpected way. He starts the show thinking that being from a noble family makes him better than the rabble at the military academy where he's an instructor, but after experiencing the Clan lifestyle he sees them as being honest and honorable combatants, embraces their ways and becomes a loyal member of Clan Jade Falcon. It's because of this that he manages to convince Nicolai that he has to accept a challenge of a formal duel in the last episode.
- Clip Show: Episode "5A", titled "No Guts, No Galaxy."
- Crippling Overspecialization: Adam is very much opposed to this, insisting on cross-training for all his subordinates.
- Ciro Ramirez is stuffy and formal, and thinks Adam only got his rank due to his noble ancestry. He ultimately proves to be a true hero, sacrificing himself to save those who aided the Strikers. He survives and is taken as a bondsman by Nicolai, where he comes to identify with Clan culture, eventually becoming one of their most devoted and honourable members.
- Nicolai Malthus is aggressive and ruthless, but straightforward and, in the Clan way, honourable. His repeated failure to defeat Adam leads to him adopting such dishonourable, un-Clannish ideas as deception and ambushes, and disobeying orders to pursue his personal vendetta.
- Cut Short: The final episode ends on a Cliffhanger, intended to set up a second season that never came: Adam wins a Trial of Possession for Somerset, which he'd been trying to liberate all season. But since that's all he specifically named as stakes in the fight, the Falcons withdraw from the planet as promised but take all its people with them as captives. While the novels reveal that the main characters went their separate ways (for example Adam Steiner and Franklin Sakamoto returned to their home nations), the fate of Somerset's populace has remained a mystery.
- FaceHeel Turn: Ciro Ramirez joins Jade Falcon and embraces their culture midway through the series. He sees them as being honest about their more warlike methods and honourable in combat, unlike the petty, squabbling Successor States.
- Fantastic Racism: The issues between freeborn and trueborn are here as well.Adam: You were born in a gene-vat? You're not even human!
Nicolai: We are more than human! Better!
- Fashionable Asymmetry: The right side of Kristen's face is dominated by an eyepatch with a gnarly scar behind it. On her left side is her Clan tattoo.
- Good Colors, Evil Colors: Under enhanced imaging, Clanners look green while the Inner Sphere are red. Presumably because it's Clan tech that the "good guys" didn't have access to until halfway through the series note .
- Gratuitous Japanese: Occasionally comes from a Draconis Combine citizen. The honorifics are used accurately.
- Guile Hero: Adam Steiner, who in the animated series considers accurate intel to be the most powerful weapon around and isn't above manipulating rival clans into fighting each other while his crew quietly escape.
- Hospital Hottie: Dr. Nakamura is very good-looking, to the extent that she's the main reason Val signs up.
- Large Ham: Clanners in general tend to be quite bombastic. Inner Sphere characters also have their moments.
- A Lighter Shade of Grey: While the morality here is much more stark than in the tabletop, it's not quite black and white. In particular, Jade Falcon treats Ciro relatively well when Nicolai takes him as a bondsman, while the First Somerset Strikers humiliate Kristen by treating her as a prison even though she is completely willing to help them. Likewise, while the Clans believe in attaining position based on (their idea of) merit, a succession issue in the Draconis Combine leads to a combat between one faction attempting a coup and another attempting to assassinate the potential new Coordinator, who until that day had no idea he had noble blood.
- Mid-Season Upgrade: Halfway through the show the Strikers are outfitted with new 'mechs built using reverse-engineered Clan technology they captured. Not played totally straight, as the new hardware hasn't been tested and a lot of it acts up during their first fight using the new mecha.
- Mysterious Past: Franklin frequently demonstrates skill with a combat vehicle just when the other Strikers have their backs to the wall, and refuses to ever give a straight answer as to how he acquired all his skills. His actual background comes as a surprise even to himself.
- Never Say "Die": While the word die is never used, Franklin is told that his mother was eliminated by the Combine's Internal Security Force.
- Non-Action Guy: Patch is the Strikers' mechanic. The closest he gets to fighting is being in the room with combatants.
- Opening Narration: Considering the intricacy of the property's lore, probably necessary.
- Power Tattoo: The Clans' bright green enhanced imaging facial implants come down to this.
- Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The First Somerset Strikers have two minor officers, and a motley group of criminals, bounty hunters, and washouts. Needless to say, their unit has certain "integration difficulties"."All the Clans gotta do to win is leave us alone with each other!"
- Real Robot: Naturally, considering the source, and one of few Western examples. 'Mechs come in a few standard (though modular) types, targeting systems can misalign, individual parts give out, and pilots need to keep their engines from overheating. A common tactic is to force their opponent to overexert their heat sinks.
- Recursive Canon: Later games said this was an in-universe propaganda holovid.
- Retronym: It's commonly referred to as either BattleTech: The Animated Series or BattleTech: 1st Somerset Strikers.
- Spoiler Opening:Ciro Ramirez is not standing among the protagonists in the opening titles which play before each episode.
- Story Arc: Plot points continue over the 13-episode season, noteworthy for American animation of the time.
- You Don't Look Like You: While most 'Mechs that appear are pretty faithful to their tabletop counterparts, Nikolai Malthus' Summoner looks quite different from the original version, lacking its massive, shoulder-mounted missile launcher and replacing the tank-like off-center canopy with a slightly more humanoid looking head with two eyes and a fin on top. This is almost certainly due to the original design being an upgraded version of the Thunderbolt, one of the "unseen" 'Mechs (based on Fang of the Sun Dougram's Ironfoot Hasty). Funnily enough, the new design's red paint job and antenna give the 'Mech a passing resemblance to a certain other robot piloted by the blonde primary antagonist of another Real Robot show.