The Robotech Saga – By Danny Runion

Anime has spanned many genres from Pokemon to Dragon Ball Z. It was only a matter of time before someone would try to export anime to America. Battle of the Planets and Star Blazers were a couple of the first series from Japan to be show in America. Would a series like Sailor Moon be popular with young boys? Something would have to appeal to boys. Giant transforming robots are always a good start.

The 1980s had one of the most definitive anime series shown: Robotech. To be technical, Robotech isn’t anime. It was edited together and Americanized from 3 different anime series. Why would 3 different series be combined? Syndicated cartoons needed at least a 65 episode run. The different series explain why characters seem to vanish and are never heard from ever again. Super Dimensional Fortress Macross, Super Dimensional Cavalry Southern Cross, and Genesis Climber Mostreada were combined to create a multigenerational story of Earth’s conflicts

One of the big problems of the Robotech was trying to figure out what happened to the characters. The Southern Cross arc dealt mainly with Dana Sterling, daughter of two heroes from the Macross arc. None of the characters from Macross played any part in either of the other eras. In fact, the Mostreada arc had even less of a connection with Macross.

Zor, a dying alien genius, creates his most powerful device, the Super Dimensional Fortress, incorporating everything he has learned from the Flowers of Life. He has had visions of a small white and blue world. Zor sends it far from his Masters and their warriors to a small world, Earth.

In 1999, in the middle of a global civil war, a giant starship crashes on a small Pacific island, Macross. The next 10 years see the world reunited to understand and rebuild the mysterious technology. As the world is about to get its first glimpse of this alien technology, a fleet of alien warships arrive to recapture the SDF-1. Rick Hunter, a cocky hot shot pilot, is paying a visit to his best friend Roy Fokker on the day the Zentraedi attack. A freak accident with space warp engines has warped the SDF-1, the residents of
Macross Island, and the giant alien warriors, the Zentraedi, near Pluto

The brave Robotech Defense Force has no time to grieve and bury their dead as the Zentraedi hound them across the solar system. Rick Hunter, ace pilot, is drawn into this war of survival. The SDF-1’s captain, Henry Gloval, must contend with an enemy that no one can fathom. First Officer Commander Lisa Hayes besides dealing with the daily running of the SDF-1 also keeps butting heads with Rick Hunter. As the entire crew of SDF-1 struggles to return back to Earth, they must keep fighting against the fearsome Zentraedi. Many friends are lost as Rick slowly begins to mature.

The populace of the SDF-1 tries anything to forget the horror being chased across the solar system. A young girl, Minmei, becomes a celebrity among the SDF-1. In fact, she will play a far more critical role in the war. Three low level Zentraedi spies sent to infiltrate the SDF-1, but after returning, they start a cult about humans that focuses on Minmei. Her songs help to release the Zentraedi from the programming that inhibits their emotions.

The Robotech Defense Force keeps battling as the Zentraedi keep attacking. Max Sterling is one of Rick Hunter’s wingmen. It is seen from his first minutes in a Veritech that he is an ace without compare. Through many battles, he keeps encountering a Zentraedi ace. Miriya is the top Zentraedi female ace pilot. Her code of death before defeat is challenged when she encounters Max. She is so determined to atone herself she will micronize herself and infiltrate the SDF-1 to engage the pilot in a true battle to the death.

However, the SDF-1’s crew and populace learn that the Zentraedi aren’t the only enemies. The Earth government may be a more dangerous enemy. Captain Gloval learns the Earth government has used the disappearance of SDF-1 to establish total control of the planet. The SDF-1 is an embarrassment to the Earth government and a threat to their power. The Earth government doesn’t even comprehend the true threat of the Zentraedi.

The Zentraedi high command has seen how ineffective that their forces have been against the RDF. For more than 2 years, the SDF-1 hasn’t been captured despite the attempts of the Zentraedi. The cost has become too high. The Supreme commander of the Zentraedi has been ordered to destroy the SDF-1 and Earth. The RDF must join forces with their former enemies, the Zentraedi, who have defected to Earth. This ragtag group must now fight against overwhelming odds.

The scattered remains of humanity and the few Zentraedi left now have to share the devastated Earth. The SDF-1 had brought the RDF back to try to rebuild Earth. Unfortunately, a numerous of the Zentraedi are reverting to their warrior lives. The most infamous Zentraedi general will lead them to reclaim their glory in a final battle will irrevocably alter the RDF and Earth.

Robotech is definitely a far cry ahead of any of the storylines of G.I. Joe or He-Man. These are characters that truly develop through the series. I wouldn’t go as far as to say the characters are 3-dimensional. However, they have more depth than what was considered of the typical 80s cartoon. The heroes aren’t always perfect. In fact, you can’t expect which characters will live or die. This is a cartoon series dealing with war featuring death. Robotech does feature several soap opera plot twists. The love triangle between Rick Hunter, Minmei, and Lisa Hayes is probably the most soap opera element. Most viewers want to slap Rick for him to quit pining for the annoying Minmei.

The Zentraedi start off originally as the emotionless warrior race. It would be easy to keep them as evil aliens. Robotech doesn’t go the easy way with the Zentraedi. Some of the aliens are far more heroic than some of the humans portrayed. Slowly through the Macross era, we see how more and more of the Zentraedi are corrupted as they discover their emotions from Minmei’s songs and with extended contact with humanity. As their emotions free the Zentraedi from the control of their overlords, the Robotech Masters, some of the Zentraedi will continue to battle against humanity.

Most 20 year old cartoons don’t normally have such an impact years. How popular can such a cartoon be? Robotech has been released in its second DVD release, and each of original Japanese versions Super Dimensional Fortress Macross, Super Dimensional Cavalry Southern Cross, and Genesis Climber Mostreada have been released, too. The series has been novelized into 12 books and has 8 novels to fill in the missing gaps between the generations. The entire Robotech series has been adapted into comic books and recently been re-released in trade paperback form, too.

Time is a harsh judge for most shows from the 80s. Numerous anime series feature giant mecha, and most are almost forgotten as quickly. However, giant robots can’t be enough to keep a series in the minds of fans. The characters and plots define the story for the fans. The greatest compliment a show can receive is that it isn’t forgotten after it has cancelled. Robotech has had quite a respective run on television. It was shown on the Sci-Fi channel and Cartoon Network before it’s now run on Tech TV. For a series made up 3 series that had nothing in common, it has caught on far more that anyone could ever imagine.