?Mention Robotech to any devoted anime fan, and you’ll wish you hadn’t. Over two decades after Robotech first aired on American television, many anime geeks still hate the show for splicing together one awkwardly connected space opera from three unrelated Japanese series: Super Dimension Fortress Macross, Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross, and Genesis Climber Mospeada. In particular, fans of Macross will tell you that the original show is much more coherent, far more serious, and just plain better than the big, embarrassing mess it became in Robotech. These fans are lying to you.
Surprising as it may sound, Carl Macek and the rest of Harmony Gold’s producers actually improved many things about Macross by making it the keystone of Robotech‘s big anime mash-up. And because no old-school anime cultist will admit it, we’re going to prove Robotech‘s superiority to Macross. What you’re about to read may challenge your deepest beliefs regarding robot-filled cartoons of the 1980s, but, like a race of giant, warlike aliens won over by shrill Japanese pop singers, the revelation will only improve you.
8) Robotech Makes Max and Miriya’s Romance Less Insulting
To be fair, neither Robotech nor Macross looks good when it comes to the trans-species romance between ace human pilot Max Sterling (a.k.a Max Jenius) and hotshot alien pilot Mirya Parina (a.k.a. Millia Fallyna). Outraged at her inability to kill Max in space-robot battles between the giant Zentraedi and the ragtag human forces, Mirya gets herself shrunk down to human size and stalks her chosen rival through a transforming city-spaceship. She initially seeks to beat Max at an arcade game, and when that fails, she tries to stab him in a park. Max narrowly evades death and does what any man should do when faced with an alien woman out to kill him.
Reduced to a sobbing, easily married wreck, former hardened combat pilot Mirya is soon wearing pink dresses and popping out Max’s kids. Their courtship was less demeaning in the Macross: Do You Remember Love? movie, which saw Max turned into a Zentraedi-scale giant so he and Mirya could tear shit up during the film’s climactic space battle.
We still find their original relationship more plausible in Robotech than in Macross, though. Why? Because Max is voiced by Cam Clarke, the distinctively talented voice actor behind Leonardo of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Liquid Snake in the Metal Gear Solid series, and about a billion other roles in cartoons and video games. We doubt there’s a man or woman alive who wouldn’t betray his or her deepest cultural values and military loyalties if Cam Clarke asked it.
7) Robotech Is Longer
Some fans will accuse us of cheating here. “Well, of COURSE Robotech was longer,” they’ll object. “Robotech was three different, unrelated anime series, and Macross was only one!” And then they’ll type another four paragraphs that we won’t bother reading because they’re boring and mention Star Blazers too much.
?Yes, Robotech is only longer because American TV required cartoons to have 65 episodes in order to air in syndication, and Harmony Gold had to string three smaller shows together. But continuity doesn’t really matter when you’re a kid. You just want to watch cartoons, and 65 episodes of bizarrely joined Robotech are more satisfying than a mere 36 episodes of Macross, especially when you consider Macross‘ production problems and the strange, tacked-on epilogue that resulted from them. In Robotech, you could look forward to dozens of other episodes after Macross, and some of them had transforming robot bikes.
6) Robotech Has Less Ridiculous Names
Some of Robotech‘s name changes were standard Americanized stuff, and it doesn’t really matter if the hero is named Hikaru Ichijyo or Rick Hunter, or if his apparently middle-aged girlfriend is Misa Hayase or Lisa Hayes. However, other Macross names were changed for the better. Max Jenius in Macross (Get it? GET IT?) became Max Sterling in Robotech, with Mirya’s subsequent marriage to him giving her a less horrible name in Robotech.
?While Roy Fokker’s name is pretty much pronounced the same in both Robotech and Macross (since it’s a reference to the airplane manufacturer), far too many official Macross products spell it “Roy Focker.” As much as we would’ve liked to see Harmony Gold slip that one past parents of the 1980s and sell kids all sorts of official Roy Focker merchandise, we still defer to Robotech‘s spelling, as do many Macross fans who aren’t completely insane.
5) Robotech Has More Empowered Women
This is another result of Robotech having three anime series to adapt, but the point still stands. As the first chunk of Robotech, Macross was sexist in restricting most of its female characters to non-combat roles. The second part of Robotech, adapted from Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross, breaks with that idea, as many of its major characters are take-charge women. The show focuses on the anti-authority Dana Sterling, and her rival, Marie Crystal, is quite competent in piloting a robot.
Granted, Dana is also self-centered, lazy, and not above risking the lives of those under her command just so she can afford expensive dresses. But at least she’s out in battle instead of being confined on a starship’s bridge, the space-opera equivalent of getting stuck in the kitchen. Meanwhile, the original Macross lets Miriya, its most skilled fighter-piloting woman, be humiliated by a man and allowed back into combat only after she’s appropriately pacified through marriage and motherhood.
4) Robotech Inspired Fewer Awful Videogames
If anime series are judged on how often they make fans buy terrible video games, Macross is a war criminal. Since the days of the Famicom, Macross games have been largely dull shooters that players are expected to enjoy just because they can change a Valkyrie fighter into a robot, a jet, or a jet with arms and legs. Few Macross games stand out as above average, including the Super Famicom’s cult-favorite Macross Scrambled Valkyrie, and most of them are horrible traps just waiting for gullible fans of either Macross or Robotech. And those fans have fallen in many times. Just ask anyone who imported the bland Macross: Do You Remember Love? game for the Saturn or PlayStation, and don’t even mention the borderline-unplayable Playstation nightmare of Macross Digitial Mission VFX. Macross games even managed to turn Macross Plus, the high-water mark of the entire mecha-cartoon genre, into a boring arcade shooter, and there’s no excuse for that.
While Robotech inspired fewer games, they’re not half-bad. Robotech: The Macross Saga is an easily dismissed Game Boy Advance cash-in, but both Robotech: Battlecry and Robotech: Invasion are enjoyable 3-D space shooters on the PlayStation 2 and Xbox (and, in Battlecry‘s case, the GameCube). It’s only recently that Macross games managed to produce decent shooters along the same lines.
Moreover, what could’ve been the worst Robotech game was never inflicted on the public. Robotech: Crystal Dreams, a 3-D shooter that became one of the first major titles announced for the Nintendo 64, was canceled after its publisher went under. It probably wouldn’t have lived up to anyone’s expectations, much like the majority of third-party Nintendo 64 titles, but at least it didn’t leave any Macross or Robotech fans $70 poorer.
3) Robotech Inspired Fewer Awful Sequels
Here’s where anime fans point out that Macross has some excellent sequels and remakes, though only two of them are genuinely great: the OVA (and movie) Macross Plus and the original Macross: Do You Remember Love? film. The other Macross follow-ups range from god-awful failure (Macross II) to cheaply animated boredom (most of Macross 7). The most recent sequels, Macross Zero and Macross Frontier, are indulgent, CG-heavy puffballs that are good only when jet-robots are blowing shit up or principal characters are dying valiantly to Yoko Kanno music. Frontier also has this thing, which throws us over to Robotech‘s side like nothing else.
Robotech‘s sequels are horrid, yet there’s only one major example around to plague fans today. We can’t count Robotech: The Movie (actually an edited version of the unrelated OVA Megazone 23), as it was buried in someone’s backyard after a disastrous test screening. Robotech II: The Sentinels is also obscure enough that you’re not going to see it unless you look around YouTube or plumb the extras of a Robotech DVD set. Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles, a Robotech sequel film from 2006, is a plastic-looking, half-finished mess craftily aimed at fans seeking closure (which the movie never provides). Still, it’s just one high-profile piece of crap compared to the pile of lousy Macross follow-ups.
2) Robotech Didn’t Result in Clash of the Bionoids
Some fans maintain that Macross sequels could’ve been worse if Robotech had mangled them for American audiences, even though Macross has received far more painful treatment in English-speaking countries. In fact, the crowning achievement in disgracing Macross came in Macross: Clash of the Bionoids. A censored version of the original Macross movie, it was apparently dubbed by about five or six people in Hong Kong, and it showed up at Blockbuster Videos throughout the 1990s.
If you ever think Robotech is the worst thing that happened to Macross, just crank up the volume and watch whiny-voiced Hikaru and drunk, half-Australian Roy Focker in action.
1) Robotech Has Better Theme Music
Robotech and Macross may be different shows in the details, but they’re both flashy, grand-scope space operas at heart, full of lasers and transforming jets and exploding warships. All of that requires the right kind of opening song, and that’s exactly what Robotech has.
Composer Ulpio Minucci may have taken a note or two from John Williams’ Superman movie theme, but Minucci put together a stirring anthem that perfectly fits outer-space warfare. It also helped that Robotech got to choose from the introductory animation of three different anime shows, opening with the broken film reel of Southern Cross and slipping in the motorcycle mecha of Genesis Climber Mospeada.
By comparison, the original Macross theme is boring. It attempts some mournful, romantically bleak air, but that doesn’t really suit images of jet-robots shredding entire city blocks with gunfire. In fact, the whole song becomes unplanned comedy when vocalist Makoto Fujiwara tries to give the word MAH-KU-ROSS some dramatic impact. But don’t try telling anime songwriters (or anime fans) that made-up words can sound silly.