Art of the Genre: Robotech Anime, RPG, Novels, Comics, Toys, Video Games, and Soundtrack, oh my!
I don’t know if I’ve ever really admitted this before, and I actually had to go back to a Black Gate post from two years ago to check, but I’m pretty much a Robotech junkie. Of all the crazy geek culture stuff I’m involved in, there is no licensed universe I care more for than Robotech [sorry Star Wars, it’s true].
It began, as most things did for me, in the 1980s, on VHS. I managed to get the entire series off a weekday comic block from a television station broadcasting out of Terre Haute, Indiana. At the time, it was like a drug, and I personally pored over those scratchy recorded episodes (that I’d captured at 7 AM for a year) so many times that the tapes finally corrupted. I even carried them around with me when I could, and I remember this time I took my collection, complete with commercial breaks, down to my grandparents’ house for Christmas and convinced my two cousins, Jeff a year younger and Greg, two years younger, to watch Macross with me.
Greg, always game for my little geeky desires because he looked up to me, stayed true to the course as the episodes ticked by into the wee hours of the morning, but Jeff, always the mathematical pragmatist (and now very wealthy and successful, go figure), decided he’d had enough by 1 AM. Bowing out, he went off to the rear of the house to sleep and Greg and I trudged on. Ten minutes later, Jeff reappeared, sat down glumly with a blanket wrapped around his shoulders, and never said a word, but finished out the series with us.
THAT is the power of Robotech! Even for a young man, soon to be actuary, and later high stakes financial guru, he just couldn’t blow off the end of Macross without knowing what happened between Rick, Lisa, and Minmei.
I mean, even my wife, who hates anime, hates fantasy, hates science fiction, hates… well, let’s just say her middle name should be ‘hate’, actually watched every episode of Macross just last year with my son and I! Is that even possible? Sure, she might have rolled her eyes on occasion as she looked up from her Mac while shopping online, but damnit, I’m still counting it!
My friend Mark, who I met in 8th grade at the middle school D&D club, introduced me to Robotech, and also Robotech the RPG, by Palladium books. He started reading the novel series by Jack McKinney in high school, watched the show, and was hooked as well.
As I was reading other fantasy books at the time, I never considered it necessary to read a novel version of the same shows I could watch on my VHS collection any time I liked. However, once the license moved to Harmony Gold’s expected release of Robotech II: The Sentinels, and was subsequently cancelled before airing, I was forced to dive into McKenney’s novelizations of the next Robotech series if I wanted to continue getting my fix.
Mark actually loaned me the first book of the Sentinels, The Devil’s Hand, and after reading it, I would rush to Waldenbooks each month to snatch the next release in the six book series. While doing so, Mark and I fought battles inside the framework of the Fourth Robotech War in the RPG, and afterward continued to spin our own tales of Robotech as the line ground to a veritable halt come 1990.
I spent summers in Vegas with my dad during late high school and the first year of college, and it was there I finally got to see my first Robotech toy. I was ecstatic to pick up a Scott Bernard in CVR-3 armor and also get a Rand figure for Mark.
Years later, I managed to find an Excalibur, Spartan, and Raider-X destroid collection at a Toys R Us, and now all these toys still sit proudly on my shelves behind my desk as I work each day.
It was also during this time, as Robotech faded from mass media consciousness, that I discovered it in comic form. I spent years tracking down Sentinels comics to get visuals of the novels I’d read, and also made it my personal ‘white whale’ to collect all twelve issues of Robotech: The Malcontent Uprisings (which I finally completed with the help of eBay almost a decade later).
To keep hope alive, I found a copy of the Robotech soundtrack and played it ceaselessly during all Robotech gaming sessions, including the sound effects tracks, during the 1990s, and I have to say I’m still pretty fond of Lonely Soldier Boy.
By 2000, Robotech was getting its first DVD release, and of course I purchased the entire collection in multiple boxed sets as I’d long since worn out all my VHS bootlegs.
That meant I could once again revisit the series, and I was also extremely happy to see yet another resurgence of the license when Robotech: Battlecry was released for the Playstation 2 a couple of years later. I ended up purchasing a PS2 just so I could play it, and that system is still hooked up to my TV today for my occasional need to fly a Veritech, or in the case of Robotech: Invasion, a Cyclone!
In 2006, I walked into a Target in Maryland and, lo and behold, a brand new Robotech movie, The Shadow Chronicles, was sitting in the new release endcap. I was so excited I could have had kittens on the spot, and raced home to tell Mark I was watching it.
This smooth anime, certainly much better than the ill-fated Robotech II: Sentinels movie, and yet falling somewhere between Invid Invasion and Southern Cross in ‘cool’ factor, helped to rekindle my love of the series even as I was beginning to raise a boy of my own.
Rumors at the time indicated another Robotech release, Robotech: Shadow Rising, was scheduled for 2007, but this never materialized and my glee was short lived.
However, upon my son finally turning 8 in February 2014, I decided to break out the old DVD collection from 2000 and show him Macross. Little did I realize, however, that the quality on those DVDs was absolutely horrid compared to what was on high definition television today, and so I couldn’t bring myself to watch them again.
Enter Netflix, which I found was currently carrying the entire series in remastered format! So, without hesitation, my son and I (as well as my wife) watched Macross in all its glory, and afterward, played that old PS2 Robotech: Battlecry until the living room sang with the joy of Robotech goodness.
It was during this time that I wandered into a used bookstore in L.A. and found a copy of Robotech: The Macross Saga: Battlecry, which binds the first three books in the Macross series into one volume. Although I didn’t have time to read it at the moment, I still purchased it and put it on my shelf in waiting.
Last week, after ordering Robotech: The Complete Series (with remastered content and three movies including the 2012 release of Robotech: Love Live Alive) on eBay, I finished Scalzi’s latest Old Man’s War novel and started reading a Macross novel for the first time.
It was so incredibly strange and fantastic to read lines I could recite verbatim, including inflection, in my mind, and soon I was surfing eBay again looking to complete my collection, while also finding new McKenney nuggets I’d not realized were even written! Yes, indeed, Robotech: Before the Invid Storm, which tells the tale of the fall of the Southern Cross during the initial assault by the Invid, was produced in 1996 and I was totally unaware!
So now I sit in an new wave of Robotech bliss, waiting for never-before-read fiction to be delivered to my door, once again hearing rumors that with the release of Love Live Alive, there is a ‘good’ chance we’ll actually see Robotech: Shadow Rising in the next couple years, and hoping that someday soon I can revisit the RPG with my son as we start at the beginning and see what new stories can arise.
Robotech is a true masterpiece, and I can’t say how valuable it has been to my development over the years, even if my wife once again is rolling her eyes at me!
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Some of the art from the Palladium video boxes is supposed to be in the Robotech RPG Tactics Kickstarter as prints (I added that package to my pledge), and I can’t wait to see them.
That “comic” is one of the two “Script books” – all text with a little design art in front pieces, and comics art. Combined, episodes #1-8 of Sentinels – and they are WILDLY different from the Sentinels video. For one thing, the video starts with the footage meant for the beginning of Episode TWO, and the debate between Exedore and Leonard has them taking the OPPOSITE positions in the video than in the scripts. The references to Emerson and Leonard in the scripts also voids much of the bizarre RDF/ASC politics from McKinney’s books #7-9 & #20-21, as there’s no mention of the ASC in the scripts – Rick & Lisa refer to them being left in charge of the RDF by name.
I’m surprised you like the remastered DVDs – most people I’ve talked with threw their remasters to the curb for the first set as soon as they could, because of the audio changes. Of course, if we could get the original audio effects remastered, with the remastered video, it would be a different story.
All but one of the novels are being reissued as e-books (the awful “The Masters Gambit” isn’t, because it supposedly has too much resemblance to the Robotech Movie made from Megazone 23 – that it does not resemble in the slightest), but we’re hearing things like they might be altering the books to fit the current timeline, without the surviving author’s input and despite their changes to the pre-Shadow Chronicles timeline just DOES NOT WORK. I should know – I was one of the people asked unofficially by a HG employee for input on timeline stuff, and the items that were the worst continuity violations (as in “should result total cast kill” violations if they happened as they wanted) were the items they insisted were the few things set in stone – and nearly everyone they asked were in agreement. Heck, at one point, they had the episode ending where Rick, Minmei and Kyle flew back to the SDF-1 from Japan happening TWO MONTHS before their arrival back on the ship in Kyle’s parents restaurant (about the only change we managed to convince them they were wrong about, and it took WEEKS).
And, don’t get me (or other fans) started on all the apparent breast implants for all the female characters (promo material and especially the new versions of the females that reappear in Shadow Chronicles), or that Maia happens to have the same hair color of her Macross counterpart from the exact same time period in Macross 7 (or that early character design art in 2000 showed up drawing one of the males in SC as looking suspiciously like Gamlin, before being bulked up 100 lbs and being killed off early in the released version of SC)
Basara: Wow, SOMEONE knows their Robotech canon pretty darn well. Don’t live close to San Diego do you? 🙂
Nah, in the back woods of Kentucky where, Ironically, the show never aired. I discovered it through the comics, and then lucking into Siembieda running an RPG game at a SF con in Ohio.
I was part of online fandom going back to 1994, when there was an email list for fans ran by Dave Dietrich off a server at gatech.edu . Ended up moderating a number of Robotech-related message boards after that list became toxic, up until a few years ago, when Facebook gobbled up most of the userbase. Went to Gen Con with Tom Bateman once (joked with him that being seen with him in public was probably why he was fired by Robotech’s owner almost immediately afterward). Constantly got into arguments with friends of his trying to make them understand that the fans of the books, comics and RPG weren’t necessarily wrong, just different aspects of fandom (ironically, same people were obsessed with trying to turn Robotech back into Macross, and even had part of their fanfic used as basis for some of the awful Antarctic Press Robotech comics). And, much like me, they were asked by HG to help them build a more coherent Robotech backstory, their input got mostly ignored in favor of stuff that couldn’t work in any context, and tossed aside when they protested. I was also the last person the late, infamous, Khyron Prime talked online to before heading off on his mad mission to “pie” one of the Yunes at a con in California – never dreamed he was being serious. I’m also one of the few people to ever have a fan design for Robotech published by a licensed source (see The Rifter #5).
I love the franchise (and Macross as well, which makes the Macross fans look at me like some sort of freak), hate the people currently running it.
Basara: I remember Dietrich’s site. My DM, Mark, pulled Cyclone II’s and the what, 6th Stage Invid off of it. We used them in our campaigns. Great stuff. I always wondered what happened to him. And DAMN! Hitting Yune with a pie is messed up! People really freak me out sometimes, especially since Yune is at the very least PUTTING OUT NEW ROBOTECH CONTENT! I watched the tragedy that is Love Live Alive today and wondered Why? Why go to the expense to do that? Why not make a 5 minute trailer that says, Lancer is having an half Invid baby? Anyway, such is life, but I’m still itching to play. Too bad you are in Kentucky! 🙂
[…] Normally I do my darndest to avoid topics that aren’t entertaining, at least on some level. I mean anyone who has ever dropped by the Black Gate headquarters knows we’re nothing around here if not fun. In fact, I’ve heard tell that somewhere in the fine print of the Black Gate bylaws, our leader John O has expressly forbade the broaching of subjects such as politics, religion or the addictive properties of Robotech. […]