Robotech Remastered - Volume 1 Extended Edition Review
Robotech - The Macross Saga started life in Japan in the early 80's, simply known there as Macross. Distributors, Harmony Gold had been looking to translate anime for overseas audiences and acquired the distribution rights to this three part television series which consisted of Macross, Southern Cross and Mospeda.
Carl Macek was brought onboard to help oversee the US production of the show; they would re-dub and re-score the episodes while also needing to take the existing stories and re-cut them so that they could fit into a short, weekly running series. What started off as a concept to splice together these series to fit a 13 week televised run ended up being an 85 episode epic.
America was no stranger to Anime. They had already seen the likes of Speed Racer, Astro Boy and Battle of the Planets but Robotech would be the first time anyone had seen such an involving series that would be as captivating as any other show being aired at the time, complete with adult situations and more intricate plots the likes of which had not been seen before. Each week, adults and their children could tune in to see the story unfold.
With the success of the show, a toy line was formed and Robotech took America by storm, following on from previous successful toy lines such as Voltron and Masters of the Universe. Robotech would make Anime overseas bigger than ever before. Today Macross and Robotech are still going strong and have served well introducing new audiences to the wonders of Anime.
ADV once again give us Robotech - This time we get extended episodes, featuring never before seen footage that fleshes out a little more of the characters and contains more of the violence and brief nudity that was trimmed from the original broadcasts.
The series kicks off in the year 2009, 10 years after a mysterious spacecraft crash landed on Earth. The inhabitants of Macross Island worked hard throughout that time to restore the ship and unlock the secrets of its alien technology, which they called "Robotechnology". As time went on, the U.N.Spacey defence force built up an incredible array of weaponry and assault vehicles. Their aircraft fleets known as Veritechs’ are unmatched in battle, making these planes special is their ability to transform into three forms - The Battloid, Gerwalk and lastly, fighter jet. The military had created the ultimate fighting machine in the event of future possible invasions.
During the ceremony of the SDF1's maiden flight, a young pilot by the name of Rick Hunter gate-crashes events, where he soon runs into Roy Fokker, an expert fighter pilot. Unwillingly, Rick soon becomes involved in the events that follow.
The Defence Force's worst fears are soon realised when following the ten-year celebrations they witness an apparent invasion from unknown aliens. Captain Gloval is called to take charge of the SDF-1 - the restored space vessel in a bid to defend Earth's orbit. The aliens are soon revealed, known as Zentraedi - their mission is to capture by force their long lost ship. All forces are soon sent out on their mission. The entire fleet of Veritech fighters is launched and young Rick Hunter, mistaken as a fighter pilot is forced into battle. He will have to deal with this incredible, new and scary vehicle. Can he adjust to his new life, fighting a cause against a new army of alien warriors that threaten the very existence of the planet?
Think of Robotech as three generation arcs. The first arc is made up of 36 episodes. These episodes chronicle the life of Rick Hunter and the efforts of the SDF-1's crew as they fight against the Zentraedi and it's this series that starts off the Robotech saga.
What makes the series so remarkable is that it's not just an action show for kids. At the time of creation the idea was to make Robotech as real as possible yet stay along the lines of Science Fiction. This works very well because of the shows military backdrop. It is completely feasible that the technology used has a purpose and that these transforming planes are not just a gimmick for the series to wow audiences but in fact have real mechanics and various abilities in each transformed mode. Of course later we would also see many different toy lines from Bandai, Yamato and Harmony Gold cashing in on the concept.
Back to the series though, it seems very well researched. The creators at Tatsunoko Productions Co.Ltd had done a brilliant job of bringing to life a unified defence force, taking military procedure and implementing their own physics and mechanics into the fold. With this backdrop now set it was time for the story to take further shape and introduce memorable characters that audiences would care about.
Carl Macek and his team needed to keep Robotech edgy and while they played around with the story's structure they kept many important elements intact. The story would leave questions unanswered after each episode while the next would reveal a little more and it's this which keeps the series so compelling.
In the first 36 episodes, each character was wonderfully fleshed out; as time went on we would learn more about each member of the SDF-1 and become more intrigued by the relationships that would soon develop between Rick Hunter, Lynn Minmei and Lisa Hayes. Other relationships included Claudia and her boyfriend Roy, which added dramatic elements along with plenty of humour and showed them as a very comfortable and likeable couple. Captain Gloval would entertain as the leader of SDF-1; the tension is raised each time he has to make a vital decision that would mean life or death.
And then there were the citizens of Macross Island who had been forced to take shelter inside the SDF1, creating a new city in a bid to maintain a normal life after being forced to leave Earth. These trials and tribulations between all involved showed us the importance of people working together and not falling down in the face of adversity. Finally, the Zentraedi, a race that would continue to feature in the ever spanning series of Macross and whose history would be deeper examined along the way.
Robotech has an impressive voice cast, featuring many recognisable artists for anyone who's into animation. Everyone involved does a great job for the most part, if I had any negative comments it would be about the dialogue they are given. At times there are real cheesy moments but perhaps worse than that is when we get to hear Minmei sing. Reba West does a fine job in voicing the 16 year old wannabe star but when she starts singing it boarders on unbearable, especially when we have to hear the same song "Stage fright" over again in later episodes. The series also has a running narration that tends to come up with an occasional cheesy line. And then there are veterans, Greg Snow, Aline Leslie and Gregory Snegoff who bring plenty of character to their parts - everyone involved deserves a shout out but there are just too many to cover here.
On to the score itself, composed by classical artist, Ulpio Minucci this is considered by me to be just as important as John William's Star Wars fanfare. As a child who loved the series I would always hum the main title theme and to this day it sounds as good as it ever did. Minucci certainly gave the show the epic feel it deserved and throughout the series whenever a major battle kicked in the score would too, giving the viewer that good ol' Goosebumps of excitement feel. When there is no fighting the score keeps to a minimum but is always present and there are a nice variety of themes throughout.
ADV Films present the first volume in a two-disc set. Both DVD's come in separate armaray cases and are housed in a neat, shiny card slipcase featuring Roy Fokker's Skull Veritech on the cover. Also enclosed in the set is a pack of Robotech trading cards. Each disc features six episodes.
Warning - The following episode synopses will contain some spoilers. Read with caution.
Episode 1: Booby Trap
The eve of the "Super Dimensional Fortress Macross"' maiden flight has finally arrived with the ship ready to be launched into space to defend the planet. Thousands of citizens gather for the occasion and the inexperienced crew of the SDF-1 prepare for their first flight. Leader of the Veritech Skull squadron, Commander Roy Fokker starts off the celebrations but is soon interrupted by Rick Hunter, a young headstrong pilot who has gate crashed proceedings. We soon learn that Rick is a good friend of Roy's whom he affectionately refers to as "Big Brother".
Episode 2: Countdown
While the defence force is sent out to attack the Zentraedi, Rick Hunter finds himself piloting a Veritech fighter for the first time. Crashing through her bedroom, he soon befriends the young, Lynn Minmei before coming face to face with a Zentraedi warrior, his first battle. Meanwhile, the SDF-1 receives orders to leave Earth.
Episode 3: Space Fold
Roy Fokker, returns to the SDF-1 after rescuing Rick and Minmei. Finding himself scared by what he's just witnessed Rick decides to run back to Minmei in Macross City. The SDF-1 is ready to leave the island and Gloval gives orders to perform the "Space fold" manoeuvre. However, as the ship launches off it takes most of Macross Island’s city with it. With the citizens now in tow the SDF-1 makes toward Pluto.
Episode 4: The Long Wait
Now in space, the citizens of Macross City try to rebuild their lives as they are stuck inside a spacecraft for an indefinite amount of time. Rick rescues Minmei in his light aircraft and flies her to a closed off section of the ship. During their time trapped they become closer and due to a lack of food, wonder if they'll ever make it out alive.
Episode 5: Transformation
Macross City has been reconstructed within the SDF-1, Rick and Minmei have been safely found with Minmei now helping her family at the restaurant. Meanwhile, Commander Breetai and his right hand man, Exedore discuss keeping away from the Micronians (Zentraedi word for Humans) after witnessing the SDF-1's devastating attack power but keep up the pursuit. The crew of the SDF-1 discovers their new home has the ability to transform into a devastating weapon.
Episode 6: Blitzkrieg
The SDF-1, now transformed has the power to defend itself better against Zentraedi attack but the transformation has left Macross City in ruins. Rick Hunter finally decides to join the Robotech Defence Force, instead of moping around the city. The SDF-1 makes its way toward Saturn and seeks shelter in its rings but the Zentraedi fleet finds them and once again a fierce battle ensues.
Episode 7: Bye Bye Mars
The SDF-1 has once again moved this time heading toward Mars where the crew hopes to lay low. Breetai and his fleet try to arrive first in a bid to ambush the ship and contact the Boturu fleet - led by the powerful, Captain Khyron for back up. The SDF-1 tries to establish contact with Mars Base. Elsewhere, Minmei's birthday party is coming up and she invites Rick. Later the SDF-1 away team is forced to destroy Mars Base in a bid to escape Khyron's onslaught.
Episode 8: Sweet Sixteen
Captain Khyron disobeys direct orders from Breetai and attacks the SDF-1 as it orbits Mars. Rick attends Minmei's party but is disappointed when he sees that she's invited just about every other pilot in the fleet. He is soon promoted to Lieutenant and is awarded the medal of valour for his service. Once again, Khyron sets out to attack the SDF-1 but this time Breetai manages to call him back.
Episode 9: Miss Macross
Macross City holds its first beauty contest in an attempt to boost morale. Minmei enters and wins, even though she shouldn't have. The Zentraedi see the broadcast and are baffled by this concept.
Episode 10: Blind Game
Khyron is still on the rampage, refusing all orders he proceeds to destroy the SDF-1's radar. The Zentraedi order Captain Gloval and his crew to surrender but they refuse and hold their ground. Rick and his squadron help Lisa Hayes pilot a communications ship into enemy territory in order to contact Earth. Central Command instructs the SDF-1 to stay away from Earth.
Episode 11: First Contact
The Zentraedi capture Rick, Ben and Lisa and interrogate them to learn more about "Micronian" culture. The hostages try to help out by explaining what it is to be human and how emotion is expressed. As Lisa and Rick demonstrate by kissing each other, the Zentraedi find themselves disgusted and confused by this notion. The Zentraedi then discuss more about their past and the development of "protoculture".
Episode 12: The Big Escape
The Zentraedi send three volunteers to hide out on the SDF-1. Of course first they need to be "micronized". Max Sterling, in a bid to rescue Rick, Ben and Lisa disguises his Battloid as a Zentraedi guard and boards the vessel. After learning more about "protoculture", they flee and head back to the SDF-1 to report their findings.
Presented in the original 4:3 aspect ratio ADV Films have worked hard on restoring Robotech and the results have paid off with the show never looking better than it does here. Colours are much stronger than the previous box set releases and the picture is more detailed, though zoomed out shots are noticeably softer. There is a slight niggle in that there are often noticeable jagged edges. These were not present on the old releases and are no doubt due to the clean up process which has made them show up more often than I'd like. They’re not a major distraction and are only really noticeable on white areas, while there is also some presence of grain which is inherited from the original negative and not really a surprise to see. Despite these minor drawbacks the picture here is still a great step up from past releases.
Also worthy of note is the brand new opening and closing titles and the inclusion of new scenes. First time watchers won't notice the difference, hardcore fans definitely will as the clips from generation 2 and 3 have been removed in favour of clips from the first arc. I assume when we see the second arc we will have new opening footage relevant to that series.
Now in 5.1 Dolby Digital, Robotech also sounds better than ever. Battle sequences are given a great boost, making for a more involving experience. Dialogue and sound effects are crisp and no longer sound as tinny as the older versions. There is also a Spanish soundtrack.
ADV have chosen to release these volumes as bare bone affairs, presumably because fans of the show already purchased the previous seven box sets that included features such as audio commentaries and toy commercials that retailed for around $30/$40. It seems this time; rather than rip off the fans they have released these new discs at a lower price. Whether or not you wish to purchase these new sets depends on how much of a fan you are. Personally I say it's worth the money, having been able to pick them up for around $17 online.
The only extras on the two discs are ADV previews for other Anime releases.
There are those who will likely say how much Robotech pales in comparison to the original Japanese cut but I'm not here to dispute the matter. Many fans of the Macross saga may not have even seen the original version, having only been available on DVD for 2 years. The fact is that this incarnation is what led fans to check out more of the Macross series and it did a great job in doing so. With characters you cared about, great action and an ever-growing storyline Robotech makes for one hell of a ride.