Before Pokemon, Dragonball Z and Sailor Moon, there was Robotech. Filled with awesome robots, aliens, wars and soap opera theatrics, many of my childhood mornings were spent transfixed to my TV, waiting to see what happened next. Even today, the show stands out as a technical marvel. Although the storylines are uneven and, at times, boring, Robotech is still a landmark achievement.
Consisting of three separate but connected series, Robotech revolves around a near future where humanity is threatened, first by the giant Zentraedi, then the Robotech Masters and, finally, the Invid. Each war has its own set of central characters, robo-technology and epic battlegrounds.
Robotech kicks off with “The Macross Saga.” Easily the most iconic and memorable installment, this is what I think of when it comes to the franchise. The mix of action and drama were unlike anything I’d ever seen when it first aired back in the mid-1980s. Being a child obsessed with Transformers at the time, even I conceded Macross’ transforming jets were much cooler than Bumblebee and most of the other Autobots. That said, Minmei ranks with Scrappy-Doo as one of the most annoying cartoon characters I’ve ever encountered.
Next up is “The Masters Saga,” which isn’t nearly as good or as memorable. The main reason is the simple fact that the human characters are boring. In particular, the show’s central character, Dana Sterling, is boring. Her personality has about as much flavor as a piece of stale Wonder Bread. The Robotechnology of the 24-episode arc evolves. My beloved transforming jets changed into something much less distinct.
Finally, “The New Generation” closes out the TV show. Although not nearly as good as Macross, it’s still much better than the Masters Saga. The New Generation gets back to the grittier feel Macross introduced. The human characters are also much more engaging and a lot less Minmei.
As a kid, though, Robotech was more about the eye candy. I’d never experienced a cartoon with so much fluid motion or detail. I was raised on Chuck Jones shorts and American 80s animation, which was a high mark for toy sales and a low mark for style.
The knock I had against the show as a kid was that it didn’t make a lot of sense, especially if your sister had to watch My Little Pony and you missed an episode or two. It was like the schoolyard version of Lost where if you missed any point, it’d take a few days of frustration to get caught up with the twists and turns. But that also speaks for the short-term narrative style I was raised on. He-Man was rarely more than a two-episode arc and those that were happened to be a big deal. Robotech never ended. Subplots might have found resolution, but the story was always evolving and moving forward from one episode to the next. Honestly, it was confusing. It still is, a little, but the continuous nature of DVD makes it an ideal way to watch.
Robotech was one of my first experiences with epic storytelling. The detailed animation and sweeping scope that mixed soap opera drama with robots and aliens was unlike anything I’d ever seen. Decades later, the same still holds true today.
Robotech: The Complete Series DVD Review
A&E’s Robotech: The Complete Series DVD release should be considered the show’s definitive box set. At least until it’s transferred over into hi-def Blu-ray. All three parts of the show plus more than ten hours worth of bonus features are spread over 17 disc. Macross is on the first five while the Masters Saga and the New Generation are four discs each. The bonus features are on the final four discs.
Episodes are presented in their original full screen format. Although not perfect, the picture quality is excellent. Audio is in 5.1 English and Spanish.
The mass amount of bonus features are led by the documentary “Carl Maceck’s Robotech Universe,” which tracks the history of the show and how it came together to be a global icon. Other key extras include the extended Macross pilot, the unaired Genesis Climber Mospeada pilot, the abandoned Robotech: Then Sentinels, as well as several more deleted scenes and clips. Fans will also find a ton of promotional material, comic galleries and commercials.
Robotech: The Complete Series Gallery