Review: Robotech (1982)

Directed by:
Cast: , ,

Distributed in Australia by:

Ah nostalgia. It’s not quite what it use to be.

Having grown up on Saturday morning cartoons, it was hard not to be impressed when Robotech first came onto the airwaves. After all, it was probably the first time I had come across Japanese anime – well apart from Speed Racer, Kimba the White Lion, Astroboy… OK taken a serious interest in Japanese anime.

The thing is, though, when I came across Robotech, it wasn’t my first exposure to the SDF-1, Veritechs and their like – I had actually come across them a few years earlier from a cousin fresh from Hong Kong with a Chinese version of the original Macross saga and even then I thought it was the coolest thing ever. Unfortunately, then my Cantonese was just atrocious (not that it’s gotten that much better) and apart from the shininess, I had absolutely no inkling of the plot. And then Robotech comes along and I get suckered in such that I am the fan boy that I am today.

Yes Robotech has much to answer for. So what happens when one takes a trip down memory lane and asks all those pertinent questions? Well I have to say, I was one gullible sort back then. Looking back on Robotech now, it looks so dated yet it’s hard not to maintain a certain emotional attachment to the material. This is, after all, the source of the “Min Mei” effect (for those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, then… well it’s probably best you don’t know). The animation still holds up though the fashions don’t. High collars and excessive fringes don’t quite have the same impact like they use to but fortunately transforming mecha are eternal and watching the Veritech’s in action is probably the highlight of any episode.

The plot and dialog sound really silly nowadays but considering this was aimed at a young audience when it was released, you would think I could excuse this. However, I can’t help but feel betrayed that Harmony Gold dumbed down the entire show for marketing reasons. As I haven’t really seen any of the original Macross Saga (at least not in any comprehendable sense) I can’t be sure and it may be just a little bitterness that’s tainting my view. This stems mainly from the third disc released in the first boxed set- the commentary from the writer/producer Carl Macek oozes so much pride at creating the Robotech phenomenon with little credit being passed to the original series. Opening his commentary with the fact that since Masters of the Universe, Saturday morning cartoons had become half hour toy adds and then later mentioning the plot changes he made to the series for his market… well I feel somewhat robbed.

Irrational? Maybe but you’re reading this for an insight for my frame of mind so I hope you’re happy. Apart from that, well watching Robotech again is reminiscent of catching Voltron or Starblazers with a bit more of an adult edge. The problems are never solved on a week by week basis by the one, last resort weapon – sometimes they’re not even solved through violence at all and for that alone, I give the show kudos. Sure it looks dated but it really is an integral part of anime history, particularly in the West so it is perhaps more for the completionists out there than those who are new onto the scene looking for a good show to watch.

7 True Engineering Impossibilities (aka mecha) out of 10.
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