The Moviehunter

Pulp Culture
'Robotech' and 'Macross'
DVDs battle for fan support


June 28, 2001
By Franklin Harris

Depending on who you ask, Carl Macek is either a visionary or a butcher. There is little room in between.

In the mid í80s, Macek the Visionary created "Robotech," which, in terms of its content, was one of the most ambitious animated series ever seen on American television. It was an epic spanning three generations and chronicling three wars in which humanity found itself pitted against waves of alien invaders.

This before, left, and after photo shows the much brighter and crisper image resulting from AnimEigoís ''Super Dimensional Fortress Macross'' restoration. AnimEigo is releasing the restored ''Macross'' on DVD this summer.
Courtesy Photo Copyright Harmony Gold USA Inc.
This before, left, and after photo shows the much brighter and crisper image resulting from AnimEigoís "Super Dimensional Fortress Macross" restoration. AnimEigo is releasing the restored "Macross" on DVD this summer.
Characters lived, loved and sometimes even died, all of which made "Robotech" far more sophisticated than its contemporaries — cartoons like "G.I. Joe," "The Transformers" and "He-Man and the Masters of the Universe."

But "Robotech" suffered from poor timeslots, an inferior line of merchandising (a must for most cartoons in the í80s) and an interest-group backlash against action cartoons.

(Iíll refrain from launching into my stock rant against the busybodies who tried to sanitize animation during the í80s. That could go on for pages.)

So, despite the seriesí loyal cult following, a promised second season, "Robotech II: The Sentinels," never materialized, although it did eventually appear as a series of novels.

But now longsuffering "Robotech" fans have something to be happy about, as ADV Films is releasing all 85 episodes on DVD, starting with the two volumes that arrived in stores last week.

The two are also available as a boxed set, which includes a bonus DVD containing behind-the-scenes footage.

You can learn more at ADVís Web site, www.advfilms.com.

Many credit "Robotech" with helping create an audience in America for Japanese animation. That is because Macek created "Robotech" by editing together three separate and unrelated anime series, each comprising one "Robotech" generation.

Macek the Butcher, to get to his other persona, also rewrote plotlines, replaced the music and, in his view, "improved" various aspects of the original stories.

Needless to say, some anime fans — myself included — donít think much of Macekís improvements, even if we do have some nostalgic fondness for "Robotech" and grudgingly recognize that it helped make anime popular in the United States.

Macek did have pragmatic and understandable reasons for editing three different series into one. None of the series on its own had the 65 episodes needed for weekday syndication. The three together had more than enough, making the combination an attractive package for TV stations.

But when Macek claims to have improved the three series, it upsets fans of the originals to say the least.

Two of the series Macek used for "Robotech" were "Southern Cross" and "Mospeada." The first was a flop in Japan while the second was only a modest success. But the third, "Super Dimension Fortress Macross," has a following in Japan thatís second only to that of "Mobile Suit Gundam," which will soon air here on Cartoon Network.

Two "Macross" sequels, "Macross Plus" and "Macross II," are available in America on VHS and DVD. Another sequel, "Macross 7," isnít available here commercially, but subtitled tapes of it do make the rounds among die-hard fans.

"Macross," which Macek used as the first segment of "Robotech," blended transforming robots, epic space battles and music to create something truly original.

And soon the complete Japanese version will be available uncut in America for the first time.

AnimEigo is taking pre-orders now for the "Macross" DVD boxed set. It will be available only in Japanese with English subtitles, but AnimEigo has remastered all of the old footage for the best picture and sound quality. The preview footage AnimEigo has released so far simply blows away ADVís dark, grainy "Robotech" prints.

However, to be fair to ADV, remastering "Robotech" would have been virtually impossible. It would have required remastering the Japanese footage and then re-editing "Robotech" from the ground up.

While "Macross" is filled with lots of action and cool technology, itís really about human emotions triumphing over an alien force with no concept of culture. Itís about the victory of art over violence.

Of course, those are the themes Macek downplayed when he was "improving" things.

Fans of the "Macross" segment of "Robotech" should definitely consider checking out the original. As mature and complex as "Robotech" was by American standards — and to some degree it still is — "Macross" makes it look like just another space opera.

You can get more information on AnimEigoís "Macross" DVD release at www.animeigo.com.

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