The Legacy of Robotech in Macross

Robotech-Flight-Of-The-Valkyries-1-1MPUBQNGNK-1280x1024


Pssst ghostlighting, don’t you have it backwards?

Do I, really?

Of course, strictly speaking Super Dimension Fortress Macross, Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross, and Genesis Climber Mospaeda all existed prior to Robotech and it was the work of Carl Macek and Harmony Gold that synthesized and repurposed the above anime into a syndicated cartoon that introduced many viewers around the world to Japanese anime.

It must follow then that anything Robotech is derivative from its source material – at least in animated form, in the original syndicated run. The subsequent Sentinels as well as the now non-canon novelization introduced a lot of elements that fleshed out and unified the whole universe and narrative. I make it no secret that I am a huge fan of this novelization and have read the books many times over. I am re-reading them at the moment which then makes me remember all these things I found interesting in it, that I also started finding in subsequent Macross shows since the 1990s.

DISCLAIMER: I am not concluding that the creators of Macross read the Robotech novels and were subsequently influenced by them. No. The furthest I go is to note the uncanny similarities in Macross post-Robotech, that allows me to put together a makeshift “tradition” as it were.

This post will also serve as a jump-off point for a post series remembering love for Robotech – as it served, for a time, as the locus of my love for Macross.

Eotc

A Brief History of the Robotech Narrative

This is not canon, but I don’t care, because Macross itself has a very cavalier attitude towards canon.

The Robotech story is that of a galactic or universal endeavor to evolve. There is an alien super-entity named Haydon (who manifests itself in the form of a technological planet) who, for all intents and purposes is seeking immortality/godhood. The key to this is the mystical energy source called the Protoculture. The Protoculture allows Robotechnology to run, and beyond this powers the “Shapings” of the universe, and/or the races/species in it.

The launching point of this is the planet Optera, home of the insect-like Invid. These are a peaceful species, who consume a form of Protoculture as distilled from the “Flower of Life” – vegetation native to Optera. The tragedy begins when the humanoid scientist Zor discovers this in Optera… he and the Queen basically fall in love, as the Queen assumes human form and shows him the possibilities of The Shapings.

Zor however, is under the authority of a ultraconservative Tirolian government faction. Protoculture was seen as a military asset. Zor was used to develop Robotechnology. The Tirolians became the Robotech Masters and launched a war of conquest against the Invid for their Flowers. The Zentraedi became the genetically developed super soldiers of the Robotech Masters. A bitter war ensued after the Invid, feeling betrayed by Zor, militarized themselves and fought back ruthlessly and mercilessly.

Zor, with much regret developed the Super Dimensional Fortress which then held the LAST Protoculture Matrix (energy refinery) and sent it to Earth away from the Robotech Masters, until it crashed on Macross Island. Zor dies, but the Robotech Masters continued to clone him in their attempts to reproduce his intelligence to make Protoculture Matrices. The Zentraedi are sent to find the SDF, and thus find it on Earth which leads to the Macross story we know.

After the great war with the Zentraedi, the Robotech Defense Forces form the Robotech Expeditionary Force to sue for peace with the Robotech Masters in Tirol. On their way there, the Masters arrive on Earth and wage the second Robotech War. The Robotech Defense Forces prevail, but are spent. The Invid invade finally, and the Third Robotech War was mostly the Invid taking over the Earth. This war ended when the REF returns from deep space (a part of them anyway) much improved and powerful and attacks the Invid, whose Queen triggers The Shapings and leaves the Earth in an evolutionary blast – all her race in the form of a galactic phoenix.

This is what Haydon wants to replicate for himself. And the REF led by Admiral Lisa and Rick Hunter confront this entity in the last showdown.

Far out right? You don’t know half of it. This post isn’t so much a discussion on the above (much less about its merits or lack thereof), but rather on the similarities of the elements that are involved in the above and those found in the Macross franchise. Let us begin.

The Invid and the Vajra

1. Insect Mecha

image

The Invid are Genesis Climber Mospaeda’s “Inbit.” These are amoeba-like organisms that somehow mechanized themselves and invaded the Earth. In Robotech they are peaceful inhabitants of Optera, whose Flowers of Life are key to not only the aforementioned evolutionary Shapings, but to Robotechnology itself. The evolutionary path, is unsurprisingly anthropomorphic. The machines with Robotechnology transform into human forms.

image

Compare these to the Vajra, also an insect-like, matriarchal species that have powerful mechanized soldiery. They too, live on a planet with valuable raw materials exploitable by would-be galactic imperialists with a bent on mechanized evolution (the shadow board of directors from Macross Galaxy).

Relevance/Significance: High

2. Super Dimensional Powers

The Invid’s Protoculture, is key to the ability to execute Hyperspace Folds. This is what enables galactic conquest and is why the Tirolians wanted it so badly, styling themselves as Robotech Masters. The evolutionary properties of Protoculture, is why Haydon wants The Shapings to transpire and Zor is part of his manipulations to trigger it.

image

Compare these to the Vajra, who has Fold Quartz, instead of Flowers of Life, but for almost all intents and purposes this is the same thing, split up into different elements. The Vajra themselves use the fold quarts and other fold-related biological elements to form a fold network that connects them with other Vajra colonies within and perhaps outside the galaxy. The name alone “fold quartz” implies the power to cross spacetime. This is the Macross equivalent to Robotech’s take on Protoculture.

Relevance/Significance: Very High

3. Queen and the Human Male

Zor is sometimes referred to have “seduced” the Invid Queen, which led to the sharing of the vision of The Shapings, which then led to the discovery of humanoids of the Protoculture. In any case, they had a meeting of the minds, at the very least. One account states (Robotech Wikia):

At night time, the expedition went to sleep but Zor was compelled by a psychic voice into the surface where he made contact with the guiding intelligence of the Invid; the Regess who took on a Tirolian female based form that was pleasing to his eyes. They later engaged in a telepathic communion where he shared all aspects of his society with her and she shared with him her knowledge of the Flower of Life. The next morning, he would be awakened by his colleagues and take samples of the Flower of Life with him back to Tirol.

This is less seduction than it is cultural exchange.

Now, take the finale of Macross Frontier: Sayonara no Tsubasa. Saotome Alto did an aerial kabuki dance using his YF-29 Durendal to do what exactly? He wanted to communicate with the appropriately upset Vajra Queen that humans are kind of ok. The result of this exchange is the Vajra entrust their home world to the humans of the Frontier Colony fleet. The Queen takes Alto with her during her hyperspace fold.

[Commie] Macross Frontier the Movie ~Sayonara no Tsubasa~ [BD 1080p AAC] [66AE8F11].mkv_snapshot_01.43.48_[2011.10.30_18.30.54]

If Alto’s kabuki dancing could “seduce” a loli Sheryl, it is not unreasonable to imagine something similar going on with the Vajra Queen, who could’ve sang Aimo (the Vajra mating song) not only in response to VALKYRIAAAAA~ but specifically to Alto who’s been trying to reach the Vajra’s hearts throughout the battle.

[Commie] Macross Frontier the Movie ~Sayonara no Tsubasa~ [BD 1080p AAC] [66AE8F11].mkv_snapshot_01.45.42_[2011.10.30_18.34.45]

The Vajra Queen, given her powers, didn’t really have to take Alto away with her. She in her time-stopping awesomeness could’ve left Alto with Sheryl and left the triangle in an unspeakably awkward state (Alto can’t have Sheryl and Ranka just got rejected by him and they’re stuck together LOLOLOL). But no, the Queen took Alto. He made such a good impression that pretty much results in this transaction:

HEY HUMANS, YOU CAN KEEP THE PLANET. I GET TO KEEP DELICIOUS ALTO.

I bet you nobody thought of it this way. I can see it because I know Robotech’s Zor x Invid Queen was the precedent. Alto x Vajra Queen is now very possible.

Relevance/Significance: Low; Plausibility: Very Low; Entertainment Value: Stupendously High

The Macross Galaxy Shadow Council and The Robotech Masters

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The Robotech Masters by the time of the Second Robotech War are a desperate, dying race because Tirol was overrun by the Invid, and that their Protoculture reserves are running out. They communicate and manage things telepathically and are routinely organized in groups of three. They run a clone army that are managed via cosmic instruments and music (Musica, Octavia, Allegra). They have cloned Zor – their original agent to put one over the Invid in order to retrieve his lost intelligence and memories.

The Macross Galaxy Shadow Council is a barely human, dying race who have lost their bodies and their home (Macross Galaxy) after the Vajra attacked it (using the movies chronology and events). They too communicate telepathically (technology-driven, just as the Robotech Masters). They send their clone body/cyborg soldier and scientist Grace O’Connor to get the Vajra to yield their secrets so they can control the galaxy via the fold network and the fold crystals. She would use a songstress to put one over the Vajra.

These aren’t really very strong similarities beyond how they read on paper, however I saw this in Macross Frontier: The Wings of Farewell:

[Coalgirls]_Macross_Frontier_Movie_2_-_The_Wings_of_Goodbye_(1920x1080_Blu-ray_FLAC)_[D7E20477].mkv_snapshot_01.37.19_[2011.12.30_20.03.15][Coalgirls]_Macross_Frontier_Movie_2_-_The_Wings_of_Goodbye_(1920x1080_Blu-ray_FLAC)_[D7E20477].mkv_snapshot_01.36.41_[2011.12.30_19.05.56]

You can hear three distinct voices from the shadow council. Now compare it with the Robotech Masters’ Triumverate pods:

image

I could no longer ignore the similarities. If this isn’t exactly Macross remembering love for Robotech, then there’s something else going on. Super Dimensional Cavalry Southern Cross has nothing to do with Genesis Climber Mospaeda but Robotech makes the link between both both obvious and relevant, at least in the novels. It makes more sense to trace the tradition through Robotech than the Super Dimensional series, where Mospaeda isn’t even a part of.

Relevance/Significance: Moderate

The Battle Finale

The ending of The Wings of Farewell, involving the arrival of the UN Spacy and SMS Support Fleets and firing from space, is less remembering love for SDF Macross as I originally thought, but rather for Genesis Climber Mospaeda, or rather more interestingly Robotech and how the Third Robotech War ended.

image

The Robotech Expeditionary Force arrived from deep space to liberate the Invid infested Earth and laid siege upon Reflex Point, their home base. This resulted in the Invid Queen taking all her race and folding out in an evolutionary Phoenix of light outside the known Galaxy.

image

In The Wings of Farewell, the arrival of the SMS Support Fleet with its many Macross Quarter class ships as well as the UN Spacy fleet resulted in the planetary bombardment and extermination of many Vajra units. The final concentrated Quantum Cannon attack (not to mention all the reaction weapons from the other ships, carriers, and König Monsters) led to the Vajra Queen (in Battle Frontier form) fold out of the planet taking all her Vajra with her.

image

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Similarly, Haydon IV the planet transformed into a giant version of the Macross in the Robotech: The End of the Circle Finale. Robotech anticipated and predated Macross Frontier in using a giant Macross ship as the final boss way back in 1989 – which then precedes Macross Plus in using the SDF Macross itself as some kind of Final boss for Isamu’s YF-19.

Relevance/Significance: Moderate

Other Notes:

The Veritech Fighters (VTs) are controlled not only via the pedals and sticks, but also via neural connections in the helmets. Robotech christened these “Thinking Caps,” building upon the science fiction of Macross. I may be wrong but I think this is no longer canon in Robotech. Well, Harmony Gold sucks. Interestingly enough, in Macross Plus, the YF-21 piloted by Guld Goa Bowman uses a fancy neural helmet to control the then state of the art mecha.

macross plus guld thinking cap

Haydon, the would-be galaxy eater god-entity, is pretty much Geppelnitch of the Protodevlin. No. I’m just kidding.

Not So Crazy Anymore, Aren’t I?

No, don’t answer that. Seriously though, the similarities are uncanny. While it is perfectly reasonable for Macross Frontier to be more influenced by Southern Cross and Mospaeda, I don’t really see why get so much material from these two works in particular. Why not Super DimensionCentury Orguss? These are all Big West productions along with SDFM. Why only from the shows that Robotech localized and Repurposed? Well, it really makes sense after one reads the novels – which are quite obscure and aren’t even canon. But did anyone think somebody wouldn’t notice?

And that somebody is me, who is probably one of the most uh, Catholic Macross fan. I really, really like almost everything related to Macross. No, I couldn’t really watch The Sentinels original anime production, and could not watch more than 15 minutes of Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles. Still, I love Robotech in my own way, and especially the novels. I will do a special blog post series on the novels, at least the Macross Saga part of the works.

Let me just leave this here:

I know, I I know. It’s not exactly VALKYRIAAAAAA~ But may all of you find it in your hearts to forgive me.

About ghostlightning

I entered the anime blogging sphere as a lurker around Spring 2008. We Remember Love is my first anime blog. Click here if this is your first time to visit WRL.
This entry was posted in analysis, comparative, fanboy, Macross, Macross Frontier, SDF Macross and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

43 Responses to The Legacy of Robotech in Macross

  1. Shinmarizu says:

    1) You’re forgiven. The Minmay song fits the post quite well.
    2) “HEY HUMANS, YOU CAN KEEP THE PLANET. I GET TO KEEP DELICIOUS ALTO.” That had me in stitches. Imagine if the Queen said that directly to Sheryl. Galactic bitch-slap-fest ensues, we win!
    3) Not sure how you do it; you just seem to have all this info at your disposal. If there ever was a Macross Trivial Pursuit game, you’d win every time.
    4) Happy New Year! Cheers to you and your loved ones, and best wishes for 2012!

  2. Kuro says:

    Thank you for explaining and making the pairing Alto x Vajra queen possible. So will we possibly see a possible human-vajra hybrid in the near future?

  3. drmchsr0 says:

    Man, after reading this, I cannot help but think that Carl Macek truly captured the heart and soul of Macross, despite the difficulties of his time. He truly was a misunderstood man.

    Going by your hypothesis, Macross Frontier truly would be the ultate love song to Macross, Ronotech included.

    Also, Alto x Vajra Queen. I lol’d so hard.

  4. WhatSht says:

    “The arrival of the SMS Support Fleet with its many Macross Quarter class ships as well as the UN Spacy fleet resulted in the planetary bombardment and extermination of many Vajra units.”
    The way I see it, is most probably a reference to SDF Macross where Boldoze(however you spell his name)’s fleet folded to Earth and took out the entire Earth’s population.
    I noticed this similarity as well.

    Macross Frontier: Sayonara no Tsubasa
    -Alto reached the Vajra’s feelings though fold quartz(and Fold Quartz is probably Macross’s version of the psycoframe, I expect the new VFs to have some Fold Quartz in them)

    Gundam 00: Awakening of the Trailblazer
    -Setsuna understood the ELS with the help of GN particles(and GN particles are like Minovsky particles with Newtype properties)

  5. Matt Wells says:

    Kind of off topic, but I think MOSPEADA’s giant cosmic phoenix ending is remembering love for Osamu Tezuka’s Phoenix saga. The Phoenix may be a fairly common trope of Asian culture, but I think given the transcidental cosmic trippiness evident even in the Robotech version that it’s an overt tribute to Tezuka’s incarnation. Check out the film “Phoenix 2772″ if you need further convincing.

  6. Andaer says:

    [spam]Happy new year, ghostlightning! Happy new year fellow readers! Hereby I promise to watch SDF Macross and Macross F in this year 2012 – may it be the last or not – and thus be able to read more of your amazing blog posts. Keep rolling![/spam]

  7. animekritik says:

    I’d like to know how Ranka relates to all of this :)

    • She doesn’t, unless she emerges from the whole thing as some kind of broken slut the way Minmay turned out to be in the novels LOL.

      • Reid says:

        Minmay, a broken slut? Do go on >:)

        • Rick and Lisa marry. Minmay inexplicably hooks up with T. R. Edwards — Roy Focker’s rival from the unification wars. The guy is frickin’ forty years old. It’ll be worse than Isamu hooking up with Ranka… not really but still!

          Eventually, after being dumped and treated like a trashy whore, Minmay ends up with the Zor clone Rem and goes into another dimension via some weird Haydon shit, in some form of new Optera (the Invid homeworld), where she and Zor will start the Shapings anew, like some Eve and Adam shit.

          Lynn Minmei: The Vagina of the Universe.

          • Reid says:

            How very unusual…sad and unusual.

          • Pterobat says:

            I’ve never quite gotten why fans called her that: is she a “whore” because she was involved with Edwards, Wolff, and Rem through the course of the novels? Or is she the Vagina of the Universe because she’s the Eve of a new universe? I have a problem with the first, not so much the second.

            Anyway, there are a lot of Robotech fans who will assert baldly that later Macross series were influenced by Robotech for these very reasons. I don’t buy it, being an advocate of the common wisdom that “Macross doesn’t give a damn about Robotech and Robotech rests in Macross’ miserable shadow”. I’d chalk it all up to coincidence.

            There have been interviews published with Macek where he claims he made Minmay deliberately more annoying in the dub. Interesting, then, that the themes of Macross come through even with Minmay being rather irritating in the dub.

            I like the novels, though. I could talk for a long time about how many things they did badly, but I like them.

  8. Reid says:

    Don’t feel bad, Ghost. The only decent English-versions of anime songs are From MIO herself and from the localization team of Bubblegum Crisis. I’ve never seen more than an episode or two of Robotech, so I don’t know how well the Minmay song fits, but it seems like it would, given the analogous relationship between the final battles of SDF Macross and the Macross Saga of Robotech. Still, good times, good times. Happy New Year to everyone!

  9. Stormshrug says:

    This post is all kinds of interesting, and proof that willingness to look beyond conventional “wisdom” (“lolol robotek is an unoriginal, bastardizing ripoff and anything that isn’t original/’pure’ cannot be influential”) can have fascinating rewards.

    • You will have to take into account the novels to arrive at your conclusion. Harmony Gold removing it from the canon makes robotek an unoriginal, bastardizing ripoff.

      • Stormshrug says:

        Regardless of specifics, I’m all for taking a critical eye to works that most people disregard.

        • Yes, but with what framework? What lens?

          Do you have only one? Would you take the same approach to Citizen Kane and Schindler’s List? To Groundhog Day and Ace Ventura: Pet Detective? The Brothers Karamazov and Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency? Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and the Robotech novels? Lucky Star and Legend of the Galactic Heroes? Martian Successor Nadesico and Code Geass?

  10. inthealley says:

    As one Robotech fan on Facebook said (more or less): “NEW GENERATION: Ariel, the Invid Princess, has green blood. MACROSS FRONTIER: Ranka, the Vajra Queen, has green hair.”

    Basically, I think one can make all the connections one wants…but that doesn’t change the fact that the Macross producers probably didn’t read the Robotech novels before proceeding (as you said).

    • WOAH, Miriya has green hair… SHE MUST BE THE INVID QUEEN’S MOTHER! DANA’S TWIN SISTER IS THE INVID QUEEN!

      There are connections, and there are connections. Anime hair color doesn’t make for much. But I don’t think you’re being that serious anyway LOL.

    • FishDude says:

      Don’t forget:
      Alto=Lancer: Both looks very feminine and dressed as girls (in SnT Alto wore a gothic lolita).

      I think this subtle references is possibly due to the fact that Mospeada tried to capitalize on Macross’ success and used a similar concepts like the enemy falling in love with one of the heroes, the enemy alien being swayed, and of course, their version of the Valkyrie, the Legioss.

      Also, i read in somewhere that one of the original title for Mospeada was Super Dimension Reflex Point or something to that extent. It makes me think that Tatsunoko originally wanted it to be part of the ‘Super Dimension series’.

      • Yeah, wow Yellow Dancer!

        I think it could’ve well been a Super Dimension series, though there really isn’t much to tie the series super dimensionally (narratively) apart from the transforming mecha (and other similar elements).

  11. Einherjar says:

    Have you heard about the next Harmony Gold production of Robotech Love Live Alive? Recent news hints that they’re editing Mospeada: Love Live Alive into a side story with whole new animation added in. Another similarity soon to be added might be The Post Battle Finale Musical Number with Lancer a la Macross Flashback 2012.

  12. otou-san says:

    “I am not concluding that the creators of Macross read the Robotech novels and were subsequently influenced by them. “

    You’re getting pretty damn close, Sonny Jim.

    But really, I like this, because you’ve taken a big pile of lemons — the fact that Frontier seems to piss on canon, the legend of the Protoculture, the story of Macross Zero, and some of the very concepts we held true as fans — and made lemonade. Perhaps the orgy of nostalgic fanservice that is Frontier does indeed “remember love” for story points as well? Perhaps, but maybe this is just ghostlightning cementing his place as the ultimate Frontier apologist. :P

    • LOL I don’t mind being a Frontier apologist… though I’m not here to convince everyone that it’s supposedly good. It’s just a clear and true thing for me that I celebrate it the way I do. What kind of fan would I be if I couldn’t share this joy and exuberance that fills me whenever I do, think of, talk about, remember anything about Macross Frontier?

  13. Bruno J. Global says:

    Not really the first time I heard of this. Somewhere in the depths of the AnimeSuki Macross subforum back when Frontier was airing there was a post like this. Basically it pointed out that the third saga was like Frontier because the Invid is like the Vajra. I forgot about the comparison between the second saga and Macross 7. I guess it’s something about space vampires, or hot-blooded singing.

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  15. Sir Galahad says:

    Why do they assume that any subsequent macross releases were inspired from robotech?

    Aren’t most insectoid species matriarchal? Of course the Vajra are like space insects sharing a hive mind. Sometimes I would see that the Vajra has more resemblance to the insects from Starship Troopers, can’t they be inspired from that instead of Robotech? Are the Invid connected via hive mind? The vajra could be zerg you know, as they are totally organic and not mechanized.

    The fold quartz… it isn’t fuel, it’s a substance that allows fold communication and travel without lag time, which makes everything real time. It could be something like dilithium from star trek that is used for FTL Travel? And this item is not for mining, you get this from vajra corpses, meaning you have to kill them first. They can habituate on any planet. And the vajra produces the fold quartz from dead stars. Destroy the Vajra race and you can have no more fold quartz, but destroy the Invid and there are still flowers. I liken the protoculture to = spice from dune and midichlorians from star wars. I don’t think the fold quartz is either as you can fold space without it. It’s more like an enhancer.

    In an interview with Kawamori, Alto was able to return and Sheryl wakes up… so no romance between Vajra and Alto there. And I think that the Vajra think more like bees instead of humans.

    A lot of final bosses are large objects, robots or planets like unicron, even the bosses from robot anime like mazinger z. So it’s too common to draw inspiration to one more source.

    Thinking caps. For robotech it was pedals, sticks and caps. for Macross it was all or nothing, either it’s manually controlled or mind controlled. BDI/BCS allows you to control the aircraft by feeding images into your brain and let your body think as it was the aircraft. I think the concept is different and the cap looks to simple compared to the setup in the YF-21. It was improved in the VF-27 Lucifer by letting the cyborg pilot interface it with implants.

    • Who is “they”?

      Nobody thought of these things really.

      I certainly did not get these ideas from others. I came upon these myself as a big fan. And if you read carefully, scratch that. If you actually read the post it’s pretty clear that I am not suggesting that Macross copied Robotech in any way. I am suggesting a tradition of tropes if anything at all.

  16. MAK says:

    interesting BUT I think macross frontier is related with Mospeada and Southern cross, because in it’s base Macross is inspired in the works of James P. Hogan… aothor of Inherit the Stars… ALL the animes comented in this post wer in some way or another inspired by James P. Hogan…. My god, one of Hogan books eaven apired in Mospeada in an episode.. it was of course Inherit the Stars…. SO .. you are very much mistaken you should read Hogan instad of that awfull robotech univers…. Pleas forgive my eanglish I can read and talk well but, writing is another story..

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