Old News: Robotech Sucks; News: Not-Robotech is Awesome (Even if it’s Still Called Robotech)

My first experience of Macross, unlike most western fans, isn’t Robotech. Instead, it was a pre-Robotech dub of SDF Macross, also by Harmony Gold called Super Space Fortress Macross it was so long ago (1984) that I’ve forgotten most things about it, except a vague line in the OP that went “SUUPER SPACE FORTRESSSS, MACROSSSS!” I can still remember the melody. Having met a fan of that show who’s also my age, he told me something interesting: that series ended at episode 27!

If true, this meant that I would not have known about the post-Bodolle Zer fleet battle until I saw Robotech later on in the 1980s. DYRL didn’t include anything related to the events in episodes 28-36, and these episodes form the content that to me makes the Macross story exceptional.

When I finally watched the original series in full the last decade, I too had a knee-jerk reaction of revulsion and hatred for Robotech. My reasons probably differ from those of many fans of Macross in that they were (predictably), Minmay-centric: Minmay’s wonderful discography was reduced to three songs. Three fucking songs: “To be in love,” “Stage Fright,” and “We Will Win.” I have a host of other complaints about the Robotech version of Minmay, but I won’t go into that here.

The hate apparently stems from the process by which Robotech was produced: via cutting and pasting three separate shows and passing it off as a single narrative, taking many liberties along the way. SDS notes,

One of the bigger criticisms of the whole franchise is that in order for it to remain cohesive it requires a “god of the gaps,” or something to explain why these disparate parts of the story and universe actually fit together. I’ve made fun of Robotech for that reason before as well.

Fans on tvtropes attempt to make sense of things. Carl Macek gets his own trope: “Macekre:”

Pronounced similarly to “massacre”, the term was coined by anime fans from the name of producer/writer Carl Macek, whose early “free adaptations” of anime frequently bear little or no resemblance to the original Japanese stories. His usual procedure was to dispose of the original script entirely, and write his own from scratch — but this was no Samurai Pizza Cats. Often he would combine two or more unrelated series simply in order to have enough episodes to fulfill a syndication deal. He is particularly reviled for the seemingly xenophobic ruthlessness with which he purged any hint of Japanese culture — what he euphemistically called “ethnic gestures” — from the series which he adapted. (Macek has since claimed that many of these changes, including his having to splice together three different series to create Robotech, were a case of Executive Meddling; he was required to force the show to fit syndication-length guidelines, without having complete scripts for any of them, while still making it compelling enough to sell the accompanying toy lines. Trying to tie the three shows together by giving them a unified script was his attempt at meeting these conditions; obviously, this didn’t work as well as he hoped.)

Fans (with some justification) feel that this practice is disrespectful to the creators, as the series is being treated as a pure marketing product rather really “getting” the draw.

This is old news. I personally can’t rewatch any of the Robotech episodes, from whatever arc. Let it remain fondly in my nostalgic memory for what it’s worth. I know it sucks.

Speaking of nostalgia, SUCK ON THIS:

This was the Macross of my childhood. But this isn’t the point. If I watch this anime today, I’d probably vomit (at times, cry in a nostalgic stupor at times; or just ROFLMAO).

However, I posit that the novelization of Robotech by the writing partnership under the pseudonym Jack McKinney is awesome. Immensely readable and fun, especially for its use of Frank Herbert (Dune)-style quotes from metafictional texts at the beginning of every chapter (e.g. The Collected Journals of Admiral Lisa Hayes-Hunter, The Road to Reflex Point by Scott Bernard). This touch gives a Tolkien-esque breadth (if not depth) to the overall narrative.

Since many of such quotations are from future publications within the narrative but outside the main story, it gives a sense of history to the whole thing; documents from different people and perspectives provide in-universe analysis that provokes thought and speculation on the part of the reader. It’s quite delicious, actually.

While the readily enjoyable parts for the Macross fan in me were the first six installments (covering the Macross arc of the series), a special kind of fun begins upon reading the Sentinels series (5 books) and The End of the Circle finale. These books form the impetus as to why any Macross fan should have fun reading.

These books are basically the continuing adventures of our favorite characters from Macross: Rick and Lisa (Hikaru and Misa), Britai, Max and Miriya and the rest. The SDF-3 was built around Britai’s flagship! Special mention goes to Minmay who I can’t decide if McKinney really loves or truly hates. It’s because she just keeps on getting sluttier and sluttier, to universal proportions at the very end.

My friend Mechafetish gave me this idea that the Robotech novels are the most delicious examples of fanfiction. I think I can really get behind this. The world of Robotech takes many of the canonical parts of Macross and throws it in a blender with Southern Cross and Genesis Climber Mospaeda and spices it with a cocktail of hallucinogenic drugs.

I’m not kidding, Protoculture itself is a mysterious power source that is part of universal evolution and transformation. It’s derived from the Invid Flower of Life whose very leaves are ingested (by Khyron — Kamjin in SDFM) as a hallucinogenic drug. When you reach The End of the Circle, the elements of evolution, transformation, music, and love are taken to such far out levels you can’t help but guffaw at the audacity and ridiculousness of it all.

But I said ‘Not-Robotech,’ what do I mean by this? It’s because the novels are indeed so far out that they’ve been stricken by Harmony Gold from the canon! This makes me think of it as fanfic even more (I promise you I am laughing my ass off the whole time I’ve been writing this post).  They still publish the books, and omnibus editions are available. Harmony Gold may not like them for its canon, but I’m sure they like money.

If you’re interested in speculative fanfiction, or just looking for unintentional lulz (there’s more than one way to enjoy these books) give these a try and you just may end up reading them ^9000 times over (maybe not, I just couldn’t get my hands on any actual Macross in the early 90s until Macross Plus came).

Further Reading

SDS brings a new perspective on the problems of ‘cut-and-paste’ translation in Robotech. You may be surprised (SDShamshel 2010/01/13)
I got some facts wrong here I realize, now that I’ve done a little more research (and remembered love more clearly); but this still tells some of my love affair with Macross [->]
I’ve come some ways since 1984 (in terms of Macross love: The Super Dimensional Journey of Love Remembered) [->]
Links to Macross resources all over the web [->]
Here’s an interesting partial bibliography of the separate individuals who formed the Jack McKinney writing team (wikipedia):
James Luceno
Star Wars: The New Jedi Order novels, Agents of Chaos: Hero’s TrialAgents of Chaos: Jedi Eclipse and The Unifying Force.
Darth Maul: Saboteur (this ebook was effectively a prologue to his prequel trilogy novel, set directly before The Phantom Menace, called Cloak of Deception). Two of his latest novels within the Star Wars universe include Labyrinth of Evil and Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader. His most recent novel was Millennium Falcon, was released in October 2008.
Film adaptations for The Shadow and The Mask of Zorro; for “The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles
(The late) Brian Daley
the first Star Wars spin-off novels,The Han Solo AdventuresHan Solo at Stars’ End. Daley also adapted the original Star Wars film trilogy as a series of radio dramas forNational Public Radio.
Luceno’s tribute to his friend: Tributes to the late Brian Daley.

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 fanboy, Macross and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

50 Responses to Old News: Robotech Sucks; News: Not-Robotech is Awesome (Even if it’s Still Called Robotech)

  1. STAGE FRIGHT! GO AWAY! THIS IS MY BIG DAY! MY HEART AND SOUL BELONG TO YOU!!!!

    Back when I got really into Robotech, I had seriously considered buying the novels on multiple occasions, having seen them at the local comic store. I think the reason I never bought any was that I didn’t know which one I was supposed to start with (that and my limited funds were going to other things.)

    If there’s one real reason that I would hate Robotech, it’s just because I feel so lied to. I was completely wrapped up in the so-called world of Robotech, only to find out later that it was all a lie.

    However, really, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying both in their own right. It’s just like people liking dubs, which are pretty much all a lie, because they aren’t what the show was meant to be. Baka-Raptor watched Cromartie High School dubbed. I would never consider us to have watched the same show.

    • You know what’s horrifying? Mechafetish can still sing all 3 songs perfectly. What’s even more horrifying than that? I end up singing along.

      Well, to start you gotta start from the very beginning “Booby Trap.” IIRC there are omnibus editions now so they’re not very difficult to track down. Your reason is a valid one, and I’ve felt that way intensely for some time.

      But, life’s too short for hating. I mean, after I blew up Bincho-tan’s mountain I didn’t feel like hating her show anymore. I really didn’t have to care that much.

  2. Hehe, I remember seeing the Robotech books in bookstores when I was in elementary or middle school and looking for the Battletech novels (some of which were really really good, and also canon.) The mecha and fighters intrigued me, but in my pre-anime days a terms like ‘Super Dimensional Fortress’ made me dismiss the entire thing for using such silly, nonsensical language. Being brought up on a steady diet of US science fiction and documentaries about military aircraft (since age 3!) I could not take seriously a series that didn’t sound like it was even trying to explain the technological principles behind it. What the hell does a ‘super dimensional fortress’ have to do with an space aircraft carrier? What does ‘super dimensional’ even mean? And the book went right back on the shelf. Even after having watched the original SDF Macross, the name still bothers me a little.

    Sounds like there might be a lot of potential lulz in the Robotech series and novels for a fan of Macross, though I’m pretty sure I would mostly be groaning about what they did to the series and throw the books against the wall in anger, heh.

    • By the time I saw the original series in full, most of my Robotech books were either pilfered, never returned, or just plain lost. Sill me then, I didn’t mind so much. I think I would enjoy reading them again after my initial rage.

      Dude, the writers being American probably shared your distaste for fuzzy SF so they really went wild with ‘Robotechnology’ and the ‘Protoculture’ energy that runs it. Yeah you’re going to groan, but if you get past that there’s a lot of fun to be had.

      Robotech was my friend for many years while I was parted from my beloved Macross. I just can’t hate a friend just like that. We had a whole lot of good times back in the day.

    • Zarvoe says:

      Super Dimensional is just a way to say “Really Big” in the futurese lawyer talk they used to commission the ship!

  3. drmchsr0 says:

    So wait, the novels slowly become Macross 7 plus LSD?

    If so, then I must read them.

  4. Einherjar says:

    I always hear from people about what the Robotech Novels, and maybe the comics too, did to Minmei. She’s definitely NOT the legendary songstress Minmay people these days remember. I don’t even think the ending they gave her in the books really helped at all. New Robotech is even worse, she doesn’t appear at all or has been killed off like some other characters for no reason. But hey, at least you get to see a very old and wrinkled Rick Hunter for five minutes.

    Poor, poor Minmei.

    • No, the ending didn’t really help. She was the cunt of the cosmos; the vagoo of the universe. When they plugged her in the musical trio (Allegra, Octavia, Musica — I forgot which of them got killed) while Bowie Grant was playing some cosmic piano and their music started affecting ‘The Shapings’ I facepalmed so hard I saw the fucking stars.

  5. “Macross! The dawn of a new day!”

    Oh man I remember that dub. The accents were so thick 😀

    “Ten years later Super Fortress Macross will rise!”

    And the lyrics 😀 So literal!

    As for the Robotech novels — erm, so the SDF-1’s protoculture drive disappears because the ‘Newtype’ kids on the SDF-3 steal them from the future. And Minmay and a clone of Zor spawn the real Zor? … Er, sure.

    • “Just a pile of rust was all they found on that island…”

      I was 7 and still learning language in general, not just english — I can’t say I could discern.

      As for the literal lyrics, they were in keeping with the old super robot songs — which basically told in very particular terms what the robot was for, where it came from, and what it does to enemies. Lulz.

      REM, his name is REM! lololololololol

      Also, the Flowers of Life were ORIGINALLY planted by Haydon IV on Earth, but for some reason transplanted them to Optera. Zor’s ship wasn’t sent to that ‘Blue-white planet’ arbitrarily lolololololol.

      • That’s what his name was! 😀 Actually at the time I read the last novel I thought it was a nice, elegant, poetic way to end the series. Then I realized that it felt like a really well-written fanfic, just as Robotech was sort of the crossover fanfic of three separate series. It made me feel a little bad that it wasn’t the actual canon.

        • FUN FACT: The Veritechs (VTs) were piloted via ‘thinking caps’ — neuro-linked helmets. These things preceded the YF-21 VF design used by Guld Goa Bowman in Macross Plus.

          Yes I do think that the removal of the novels as canon makes Robotech far less interesting. Instead they went with The Shadow Chronicles, of which I have nothing good to say.

    • Zarvoe says:

      I didn’t read the novels but, how do you do that? Given the clone would be 50% Minmey then how is it that Zor clone could be his own progenetors Father?

  6. Crusader says:

    Some of my Senior NCOs still love Robotech, but for me I’d rather have legit copies of Macross Zero, Macross 7, and Macross Frontier. Books are fine but it will never compare to seeing a good old dogfight with a Variable Fighter. Just my 2 cents.

  7. 2DT says:

    Despite the fact that Robotech and Macross fans have grown to be quite different entities, I think there’s still a charm to the fact that we like the same things. When I was a tyke watching Robotech on TV, I wanted to know what was going to happen with Rick and Lisa more than any of the other stuff going on. And I still have “fond” memories of the “We Hate Minmay” anti-fanclub.

    They say Zentraedi, we say Zentradi, let’s call the whole thing off… No? Too corny? Okay.

    • I think the Robotech fans aren’t anime fans. They don’t really care for the Japanese original and for the cultural content. To me that’s just fine, people will like what they like. My disapproval of the Robotech cartoons has to do with translation/adaptation and acting performances, and the aforementioned treatment of Minmay.

      Like you, I did want to know what happened to Rick and Lisa. And you know what? I still want to know what happened to Minmay, Hikaru and Misa. Kawamori wouldn’t tell me, but I’m glad the Robotech novels exists even just for this.

  8. Rakuen says:

    Good thing I was prematurely informed that Robotech and Macross aren’t the same. Whew.

    I did remember seeing Robotech in a local Philippine channel, but can’t remember if it was English dubbed or if it was Filipino dubbed. I never bothered to check anymore.

    One of the few things that made me rewatch parts of Macross Frontier (something partly unrelated to this post) was the music bits. I’m pretty sure once I finish watching Macross, not Robotech, I’ll crawl back into it again to watch the Minmay bits. A three-song discography is a no-go for me.

  9. adaywithoutme says:

    Ok, not related, but – I just watched the second episode of Hanamaru Kindergarten. It is still creepiness-free, although there is a three-year old who tells people she’s dating the teacher and is going to marry him some day. However, she isn’t Rin, so she’s just really happy when he slides down the slide with her and doesn’t try to strip in front of him or anything.

    The best way to describe it is that its a lot like the cartoon Rugrats, except we get plot and character development on the adult characters as well.

  10. gloval says:

    I thought you were going to write about that Chinese rip-off “Astro Plan.” I have the same complaints as you about Robotech. Add to that the blocking of new Macross due to some lame copyright. (Although, I think the Philippines isn’t covered, so, aside from the difficulty posed by the music, there should be no stopping a local media company from making a Filipino dub on any of the Macross shows. Am I right?)

    @Rakuen
    ABS-CBN showed Robotech around the summer of 1997. It’s in English back then, because the media isn’t dumbing us down yet. This was how I got to know of Macross/Robotech. The bad thing that happened to me was that ABS-CBN did not show anything past episode 26. WTF, right? For almost a decade I was deprived of that epic battle.

    @adaywithoutme
    You didn’t mention that Hanamaru Kindergarten IN SPACE ending they had for that episode. It even has a Macross-like conclusion, punctuated by a TTGL cosplay.

    • If I’m not mistaken GMA7 showed it a lot earlier than that, in english too, and in full — all the way to Mospaeda. Also Star World looped it many times in the 90s, in english as well.

      I don’t know the legality of a new Philippine dub, but man there’s so much Music in Macross that I don’t know what they’ll do with it. Alos, I’m rather afraid of what they’ll do with it.

      At least, they should mix the dub track properly so that it doesn’t sound like they’re all talking in a room.

  11. JELEINEN says:

    Just to be pedantic, the dub you mention above was actually from Toho itself. Harmony Gold never had the rights to the movie. The US dub was done by a company called Celebrity and released under the name “Clash of the Bionoids.” It was heavily edited and pretty vile, so I guess having seen it makes up for missing out on ever seeing Robotech. Other than the nostalgia aspect, I never understood why people would continue being fans of Robotech with the original series available to them.

    • However, this isn’t the movie. It’s the series. I followed it every week for many weeks. I have never seen Clash of the Bionoids, though I’ve read the horrified reactions some years back.

      On your other point, I feel much the same way. But as I’ve mentioned, there are fans of the show who aren’t fans of anime and don’t really care about it (and by extension, the source material for Robotech). This I think is why there’s some interest in a Hollywood adaptation. I don’t think it’ll be any good at all, but I won’t be able to help myself. I’ll watch it should it ever get shown.

  12. InheritedWill says:

    Hi,

    I was just wondering if you are certain about the length of the “Space Fortress Macross” version of the series. Wikipedia (which, I know, isn’t infallible) says Harmony Gold only ever produced one tape containing three episodes before moving onto Robotech (which is pretty much in line with everything I’d heard before). If this is the case, it seems the “other fan” (and your memory?) may have misled you.

    I hope I don’t come across as abrupt or rude, but I’m genuinely curious about the possible existence of this extra material.

    • Certainty is a luxury, I admit. However, I do know that this is the intro I remember (and my wife does remember the melody and lyrics as well); and I’m certain I did watch it prior to 1986. It is very unlikely that Robotech was simulcast here in the Philippines in 1985, so there is a possibility that a 27-episode version existed halfway between the Super Space Fortress Macross and the Robotech that aired in the US in 1985.

      When I have time I will attempt to track down the broadcast tapes at the local station. It’s likely to be a wild goose chase, but I’ll be happy to acquire these and digitize them if given the chance.

  13. Cobrafire says:

    I have never understood the outrage directed towards Macek. Besides taking three unrelated shows and making it into one story, the shows themselves were untouched(I think. I haven’t seen Mospeda and Southern Cross yet) Example: When first saw the Macross part of Robotech, or more specifically that part where Kyle kept getting drunk and abusing Minmay…when I was SEVEN. When I saw it again when it was on the SciFi Channel, I went “I can’t believe they got away with showing that. Then Toonami picked it up and pretty much opted to end the Macross arc from the end of the last battle.

    The Robotech Minmay songs are still horrid in my opinion, BTW…

    • Yeah, I personally don’t see much point to the “OMFG YOU RUINED/BETRAYED THE ORIGINALZ” kind of thinking. They were necessary decisions at the time, and Robotech served its purpose as being a gateway anime for so many people (not me though, that would’ve been 70s super robot shows etc).

      At 7-8 years old when I watched this as well… and I had no defenses against Minmay. It was love at first sight. But yeah, the Robotech songs are still horrid.

    • Einherjar says:

      It’s the legalities of the entire situation. Robotech exists to this day at the expense of Macross and its merchandise being barred from most people to get legally.

      Also, Macek sounds really proud about his work to the point of calling his version better and being condescending towards the originals.

  14. donkangoljones says:

    HA! I think I already know the answer to question of if I should watch Robotech or Macross.

  15. ex-sell69 says:

    All hail lord Shoji Kawamori! Long live Macross! Death to Harmony Gold! Robotech fans should kill themselves for the love of lord Shoji Kawamori!

  16. Pygar says:

    I grew up on Robotech, it was the show that hooked me on Anime for life. I never read the books even though I had a friend or two that did, and I have only ever heard of the Macross version. While many people choose to get angry over the confusing nature of how Robotech/Macross exists…I think the confusion actually gives Robotech/Macross an added dimension of interest for it’s fans because of the multiple interpretations people have from the various materials they have watched and read over the years.

    From friends that described the story, I believe the novels were probably the best version of the story…. especially because the story does actually come to a end, unlike many stories now days that are left open for the possibility of sequels on purpose.

    • I favor the Robotech extended novels too (not over Macross though), though they are kind of terrible in many ways too. I read them as a raving fanboy back while I was in university so I don’t know how I’d react to them if I read them now.

  17. Quinton says:

    Heh… it’s snowing in the galixy…

    And robotech dosent suck!

    you can’t compare the 2, cause it’s like power rangers.

  18. Jestr says:

    Haha IMHO I like both macross and robotech do you remember love the other 2 series never really got in to I don’t see why people argue about which is better and what not they’re both great on their own ways the dog fights are amazing and the endless missiles are fantastic lol but however I was born horrifically in 93 so I wouldn’t know to much of the dispute but my father and uncle especially my uncle owns vintage toys of both macross and robotech toys novels and other things I havnt come around to yet, and because of them I learned about these great shows, would like to read those novels but probably wouldn’t get a chance to not for a while But one thing I would love to see is a live action macross movie I’ve see the live action commercials and i’ve heard about the robotech movie that suppose to be coming soon is this true?

    • You make me feel brutally old son.

      I’m terrified of a Tobey Maguire-produced Robotech movie with him as Rick Hunter. That thing will straight up kill me (because I cannot not watch it). All I know is that Tobey owns the rights to make the film(s).

      I do plan to rewatch and reread all of Robotech so I may blog it a lot more, much to the dismay of all the fandom.

  19. TheTrueHeather says:

    I love Robotech AND Macross. I don’t see any reason why people don’t want that. I often here Macross fans bitch endlessly about Robotech, but if they hate it, why don’t they go back to watching Macross, which, coincidentally enough, is available in the US on DVD! I respect you for not liking the Robotech show but still being civil. My hat is off to you.

    By the way, you are right about the song thing, It is a shame the Macross songs were excised.

    • How can I hate something that’s meant so much to me back then? How can you hate the water that sustained you in the desert? Robotech is indeed unwatchable to me now, but I can’t not remember love for it. My best friend and WRL co-founder Mechafetish has all the episodes. We can’t wait to watch it despite my trepidation. I also have all the books again. If time permits I will blog the whole thing, canon issues notwithstanding as hard as I can.

  20. Troy says:

    Offering only one example of a literary redaction that may suggest that your evaluation of Robotech is a bit more personal than analytical, Le Morte D’Arthur enjoys critical and popular acclaim as the center of the Arthurian canon despite the fact that the author very obviously works from a variety of source materials that he–of course–interpreted in his borrowing. Purists argue that the resulting text and the narrative heritage it inspires suffers in some ways and thrives in others. They’re right. But their criticism loses or gains validity according to the degree that they are willing to acknowledge that the new text stands alone. I mean, was Harmony Gold attempting to remake Macross and the other source texts or were they commissioning a new story using the source texts as resources? The answer could go a long way in helping me decide how I think or feel about what happened.

    That said, I agree with your assessment of the novelizations. I enjoyed them utterly. However, The End of the Circle threw me for a loop at sixteen. An old man now, I want to read it again to see whether I find it any less “ridiculous” as you called it. It was certainly surreal. I was too young to consider whether that dreamlike/nightmarish surreality was supposed to play a larger, meta-role in “shaping” and defining the narrative (and perhaps the consciousness it attempted to reflect) as it evolved. You know? And how much of that has to be intentional in order to be awesome?

    Good stuff, though. I’ll be happier when “the academy” takes conversations like this one as seriously as it used to take conversations about Shakespeare. Thanks for going there.

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