Robotech is an 85-episode adaptation of three different anime television series. Within the combined and edited story, Robotechnology refers to the scientific advances discovered in an alien starship that crashed on a South Pacific island. With this technology, Earth developed giant robotic machines or mecha (many of which were capable of transforming into vehicles) to fight three successive extraterrestrial invasions.
Robotech was one of the first anime televised in the United States that attempted to include most of the complexity and drama of its original Japanese source material. Produced by Harmony Gold USA, Inc. in association with Tatsunoko Productions Co. Ltd., Robotech is a story adapted with edited content and revised dialogue from the animation of three different mecha anime series: The Super Dimension Fortress Macross, Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross, and Genesis Climber Mospeada. Harmony Gold's cited reasoning for combining these unrelated series was its decision to market Macross for American weekday syndication television, which required a minimum of 65 episodes at the time (thirteen weeks at five episodes per week). Macross and the two other series each had fewer episodes than required since they originally aired in Japan as a weekly series.
Harmony Gold hired American writers to adapt the scripts of the three Japanese series. This complicated process was supervised by producer Carl Macek, a pioneer of the anime industry in United States.
This combination resulted in a storyline that spans three generations as mankind must fight three destructive Robotech Wars in succession over a powerful energy source called "Protoculture":
- The First Robotech War (The Macross Saga) concerns humanity's battle against the giant Zentraedi warriors who are sent to earth to retrieve the wrecked starship that contains the last known source of Protoculture in the universe.
- In the Second Robotech War (The Robotech Masters), their rulers, the Robotech Masters, attempt to take up where the Zentraedi left off.
- In the Third Robotech War (The New Generation), the alien Invid have been attracted to earth by events that transpired at the end of the Second Robotech War, and it is up to returning elements of the Robotech Expeditionary Force to fight them off.
- North American television debut: Robotech originally aired in 1985 in first-run syndication, meaning it was sold directly to local television stations without having been run on a network first—this was part of a trend in animation in the 1980s. Previously, local stations would rerun theatrical cartoons like Looney Tunes or shows that had previously aired on network TV on Saturday mornings. This changed after He-Man and the Masters of the Universe introduced a new economic model: shows sold directly for first-run to stations, driving and funded by sales of related toys. Though the original Robotech series did well in ratings, the attempt to cash in on toys may have doomed Robotech II: The Sentinels as the original series attracted older viewers, not necessarily the children targeted by the toy line. The failure of the Matchbox toy line is cited as a primary reason for the cancellation of the Sentinels series.
- International broadcast: In Australia, Robotech was aired in 1980s and late 1990s by both the Seven and Ten networks in different states. Ten cut the series at episode 52, while Seven broadcast all 85 episodes. The Philippine network GMA-7 aired the Masters and New Generation episodes in the late 1980s, as part of the late-afternoon weekday animation block (together with Captain Harlock). The Hong Kong cable television channel Star Plus (now Star World) aired all 85 episodes, from May 1994 to January 1995, with changes in time-slots (May-early October 1994, 11:00 a.m. Sundays; October 1994-January 1995, 5:30 p.m. Weekdays). The series was broadcast in Europe by then Super Channel during the 1980s. In Spain, all Robotech episodes were aired, from August 1990 to April 1991, with changes in time slots, in Telecinco channel. The series was aired again in the same channel from October 1993 to May 1994. At that time only The Macross Saga and The Robotech Masters Saga were aired, leaving the third part of the show unaired. In Russia, the entire series was shown in the beginning of 1990's on 2x2 - the first commercial Russian channel. The Dubai-based channel MBC 3 began broadcasting an Arabic-language dubbed version in early 2010.
- Subsequent airings: Robotech appeared on the Sci-Fi Channel in 1993, and on Cartoon Network in 1998. Cartoon Network made the decision to air only episodes 1 through 60, consummating their run at the end of the Robotech Masters story-line. Cartoon Network reran selected episodes of Robotech as part of a "Giant Robot" special during Toonami in 2003. KTEH, a public television station in San Jose, California aired the "Macross" and "New Generation" storylines, as well as the Robotech II: The Sentinels feature. Robotech currently airs daily on The Anime Network. As of January 7, 2007, the show also airs in Canada on Space and Retro.
Home video releases
- Family Home Entertainment (FHE) first attempted to release one episode per VHS tape, but only got through a handful of early episodes before abandoning this approach. In 1987, the company then heavily edited the 36-episode Macross Saga portion into six feature-length tapes, cutting out episode introductions and slower scenes, and ignoring the Southern Cross and New Generation series entirely. A third VHS run finally succeeded at releasing the entire series with two uncut episodes per tape, over a total of 42 volumes. The Macross Saga and The Masters were also released on Laserdisc in 1993 and 1994, respectively. Each Laserdisc contained four uncut episodes.
- Palladium Books, which once published a Robotech role-playing game, was the first company to release Southern Cross, New Generation, and Robotech II: The Sentinels on VHS home video. These VHS videos were available via mail-order, as well as some direct-market game and hobby shops.
- Streamline Pictures, founded by Macek after the end of Robotech, released Robotech II: The Sentinels on VHS and Laserdisc after the Palladium Books releases went out of print. In 1994, Streamline Pictures also released an incomplete series of "Perfect Collection" VHS videos. Each volume included two episodes of Robotech after their corresponding episodes of Macross, Southern Cross, or Mospeada, completely uncut but inaccurately subtitled. This series allowed English-speaking viewers to see many of the changes made.
- GameTek Cinema released the first episode of Robotech on CD-ROM in 1994. This uncut episode was encoded in QuickTime 2.0 format at a video resolution of 320x226. The episode contained a marginally different arrangement of background music.
- AnimEigo, a specialty anime company, released the original Japanese Super Dimension Fortress Macross TV series on DVD in 2001 with subtitles and unedited in its pre-Robotech form. The footage was extensively restored from the original film stock by Shin Kurokawa, making this the most pristine release of Super Dimension Fortress Macross outside of Japan. The final DVD of the series also contains commentary by chief director Noburo Ishiguro.
- ADV Films, an American distributor of anime, began releasing the entire series on DVD in 2001, typically with six episodes per disc. The first box sets of the series (dubbed the Robotech Legacy Collection) included extra discs with special features ranging from Robotech II: The Sentinels to pre-Robotech dubs of the first Macross and Mospeada episodes. Complete collection box-sets were also released, containing all the episodes of each of the three Robotech sagas, minus the extras discs.
- The restoration of the original Super Dimension Fortress Macross TV series led to speculation among fans that the remastered footage could also be used to create a similarly-remastered version of Robotech. However, Carl Macek stated that a remaster would be impossible at the time because they lacked the necessary source materials, including edit-decision lists, unmixed audio elements, and restored video elements for Southern Cross and Mospeada, as well as for Macross. Some of this (the audio elements and edit-lists) had been destroyed in a flood in the early 1990s; some of it (remastered footage for the other two series) had never been available to begin with. But in 2002, a set of off-site audio backup tapes was discovered to include the missing audio elements, and in 2003 ADV delayed its release of the subtitled Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross and Genesis Climber Mospeada series by several months in order to remaster them, as well. With the remastered footage and audio elements available, ADV were able to forego needing the edit-decision lists by commissioning the same video production company that had originally edited Robotech to create a new edit of the show. Robotech: Remastered included the restoration of some scenes previously cut from the original Robotech release to conform to broadcast standards and broadcast length requirements, new opening/ending sequences, 5.1 Dolby surround sound with rerecorded sound effects, and new eyecatch sequences.
- Robotech: Remastered is not without its share of controversy. Some fans were upset by the reversal of ADV's position on a remastered Robotech, feeling betrayed because they purchased the expensive Legacy Collection during the time ADV was insisting that there would be no remaster, and that this would be the best way Robotech would ever be seen on DVD. Other fans feel that the new 5.1 mix is overly loud and lacks subtlety; they prefer the unremastered version of the series, because it represents the Robotech that they love and remember as it first aired on television without the distraction of new sound effects. Also, the extent of the new footage is limited to sequences that did not require newly-recorded dialogue (though other cut scenes are included, in the original Japanese, on one of the Legacy Collection extras discs). The video quality suffers slightly by comparison to AnimEigo's Macross DVDs: ADV includes six episodes per Robotech disc to AnimEigo's four per disc of Macross, meaning that more compression is necessary, and therefore more compression artifacts appear. However, there is little question that the audio and video quality are substantially improved over the prior Robotech DVD release, and Robotech fans would likely prefer having had two different DVD versions released than none at all.
- In 2003, the original Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross and Genesis Climber Mospeada series were released subtitled on DVD in their original Japanese language by ADV Films.
- Finally, in 2005, ADV released yet another box set, Robotech: The Protoculture Collection, containing all the Robotech: Remastered DVDs plus the seven extras discs from the Legacy Collection in one thin-pack box. Detractors criticize these DVD re-releases as part of an industry trend to entice buyers to "double-dip", or buy more than one edition of the same DVD.
- Nevertheless, ADV Films announced at Anime Expo 2005 that they would be creating an uncut dub for Macross, with the original Japanese voice actress Mari Iijima reprising her role as Minmei. This release has been completed, with the first volume being released on January 10, 2006, and the final volume being released on December 19, 2006. However, this dub did not utilize the same voice actors used in Robotech.
- Manga Entertainment started to release Robotech on DVD as two-disc sets in the UK in late 2005. These sets are essentially the same as the Robotech: Remastered release from the US, but in different packaging.
- Madman Entertainment released an Australian Region 4 version of the Robotech Legacy Collection boxed sets starting in November 2002 with Volume One, and ending with Volume Seven in May 2003; the Australian version almost identical to the original US release, except for not repeating the "gold box" mistake.
- Claiming for a long time there wasn't enough demand for subtitled-only DVD releases, Madman eventually chose to test the waters with the release of the Japanese Macross series in March 2004. It was successful enough to secure the release of Southern Cross in July and Genesis Climber Mospeada in October of the same year. All three series are released in their own Madman-designed box, and bear little resemblance to the US releases; many fans preferring the Madman Macross box design over the various US versions.
- When initially asked about the possibility of an Australian release of Robotech: Remastered, Madman claimed that it would not be cost-effective or profitable with the Legacy Collection already in the market, only to change their tune and release the Robotech 20th Anniversary Remastered Extended Edition, a single box with all 14 discs, in June 2005. The recommended retail price for this box was only a little more than that of two of Madman Legacy Collection boxes.
- Continuing to follow the ADV Films trend, Madman announced the release of an Australian version of Robotech: The Protoculture Collection in November 2007, again with an RRP only a little more than the preceding 20th Anniversary set.
Original series episodes
Original series cast & crew
Executive & creative staff
Since Robotech was a non-union project, many of the voice actors involved worked under pseudonyms to avoid trouble with their union. The voice actor list printed in Robotech Art One lists the pseudonyms rather than the real names of most of the actors.
Continuing after the original series
- Harmony Gold attempted to produce several follow ups (see Robotech: Animated sequels and spinoffs) to the original series, most notably Robotech II: The Sentinels, but only enough footage for a single feature was completed. The project fell through due to problems with toy licensing and changes in the Japanese yen-US Dollar exchange rate, among other reasons. The Sentinels saga continued to be chronicled in the novelizations by Jack McKinney and comic book adaptations by the Waltrip brothers.
- A terrible reception by the fans to the Robotech: The Movie screening in Texas led to Cannon Films pulling the feature from release in 1986. Director Carl Macek has gone on record as disowning it.
- A disastrous reception by the fans to the Robotech 3000 trailer in 2000 prompted Harmony Gold to cancel the project before any more footage was completed. In addition, Netter Digital, the animation producers of the trailer, went bankrupt shortly afterward.
- Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles was first announced at Anime Expo 2004 as the latest incarnation of the Robotech saga. Unlike previous attempts, the movie was direct continuation of the original series' last episode. The first teaser trailer debuted one year later at Anime Expo 2005 for the 20th anniversary of Robotech. The 88-minute movie premiered at various film festivals in 2006 and a limited theatrical run in January 2007, but the DVD release was delayed until February 6, 2007.
- Robotech: Shadow Rising is a proposed sequel to the Shadow Chronicles that was originally intended to be released in 2009. However, subsequent announcements in mid-2008 have made it clear that little or no progress has been made on the film, and it has been indefinitely postponed, pending developments with the live-action film.
- Warner Bros. and Maguire Entertainment have licensed the film rights to Robotech and are reportedly considering the production of a live-action adaptation. Tobey Maguire (Spider-Man and Seabiscuit) "is eyeing the lead role" and will also serve as the film's producer.
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- "An Introduction to Robotech". Robotech.com. Retrieved 2008-09-01.
- "Macek Training". Anime News Network. Retrieved 2010-01-25.
- "Why were the names from the original shows changed?". Robotech.com. Retrieved 2008-09-01.
- "The Past, Present and Future of Macross". IGN. Retrieved 2010-04-20.
- "What is Robotech?". Robotech.com. Retrieved 2008-09-01.
- "Robotech Remastered Extended Edition Vol. #01". Mania.com. Retrieved 2010-04-20.
- "Robotech Masters Remastered Extended Edition Vol. #02". Mania.com. Retrieved 2010-04-20.
- "Robotech Remastered Extended Edition Vol. #03". Mania.com. Retrieved 2009-11-20.
- "Macek Training". Anime News Network. Retrieved 2010-01-25.
- Borys Kits. Maguire, WB attack the big screen with 'Robotech' , reported by HollywoodReporter.com September 7, 2007. Last accessed Dec 29, 2007
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- ROBOTECH.COM - Harmony Gold's official Robotech website.
- Robotech (anime) at Anime News Network's Encyclopedia
- Robotech at the Internet Movie Database
- Robotech at TV.com
- Robotech Macross Saga at YouTube
- Robotech Masters at YouTube
- Robotech: The New Generation at YouTube