When it comes to 80s television, there wasn’t a whole lot of stand-out shows. The TV programs that did stand out in this era often found a niche audience, and some are often lauded as classics. I talked about particular 80s show, a cartoon called “Galaxy Rangers”. What made Galaxy Rangers unique for its time, was that the animation was done by a Japanese anime studio. The wonderful animators over at TMS put hard work into presenting well-animated action sequences and characters for this series.
Shows that used Japanese animation often saw success, as this animation style often allowed for more expressive characters and more fluid movements. Not only was there a demand for shows with Japanese animation in them, but also for shows that originated from Japan. Voltron was one such show, using animation from a failed Japanese television anime called “GoLion”.
Unlike its Japanese counterpart, Voltron sold well and became staple of American pop-culture. This is a show that got a ton of sequels and reboot, with some studios even talking about doing a live-action version of the series. Voltron was definitely a pioneer of this early era of anime translation, but it was not without its faults.
Voltron completely rewrote the entirety of the original series, reworking it into a vastly different show overall. New characters, elements, and even concepts were introduced. Heck, they even merged the show with a completely different series to create a brand new show! Hardcore anime fans were generally un-pleased, though Voltron definitely found an audience with the many people who tuned in during that era.
While Voltron was definitely the longer lasting series, no one could deny that GoLion’s source material had found its way into the hearts of old-school anime enthusiasts. Despite Voltron eclipsing GoLion as the head of the franchise, there’s still a small contingent keeping this dead show alive. Now, why am I bringing this all up? Well, Voltron wasn’t the only show of this era to combine footage from separate unrelated anime.
A lot of people often forget about Robotech, a series that also combined different shows into a singular continuity. However, Robotech has an advantage over Voltron: It used three different shows to help craft its own lore and timeline. These shows happened to be Super Dimension Fortress Macross, Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross, and Genesis Climber Mospeada.
These three shows are completely unrelated, despite the identical names of a couple of them. Macross and Southern Cross are considered to be part of the same series, though follow separate continuities. In Robotech though, they are all part of the same continuity. The same goes for Mospeada, which was an entirely different show altogether.
Unlike a lot of shows that attempted to merge multiple anime together, I’d say Robotech was mostly successful. While the series were watered down when compared to the originals, they still kept a fair bit of grit and dark subject manner. It was still fairly violent, and death was a constant. Not only that, but almost all of the main story was kept intact.
The show had its faults, such as sub-par voice acting and the obligatory name-changing. Still, it was a pretty solid localization for the time. Honestly, I prefer Robotech seasons 2 and 3 to both Southern Cross and Mospeada. Despite this, the original Japanese version of Macross trumps season of Robotech, in my opinion.
Robotech definitely had its share of flack. The creator of the series, Carl Macek, was often criticized for how he handled the show. A lot of people didn’t like that he was mashing up three unrelated series, especially the people who often prefer their anime to be close to the source material.
I’m certainly not against an adaptation being like this, the problem is that Robotech was not handled well after the original show. You see, the franchise was and still is owned by the company known as “Harmony Gold”. To this day, Robotech is still seen as their most popular and well-known franchise. Most of Harmony’s other dubbed anime fell by the waist-side, but Robotech remained somewhat relevant in the public’s eye.
I say somewhat, because Robotech isn’t as big of a series as Harmony Gold would have you believe. At least, not in the West. You see, after the show aired back in the 80s, every project in the series ended up either cancelled or delayed. Robotech II was cancelled and made into a TV movie, Robotech: The Movie bombed in the initial box office airings, Robotech 3000 never made it past the pilot, and the ambitious N64 game Robotech: Crystal Dreams was also cancelled.
Not only that, but Robotech Shadow Chronicles received a ton of delays. When it finally came out, it had mediocre CGI and a somewhat bland story. I still enjoyed the film, though mostly in a “guilty pleasure” kind of way. The thing that really irks both me and a ton of Macross/Robotech fans, is how the franchise is treated over here.
The problem is that Harmony Gold owns all the rights to the US distribution of Macross, due to a copyright loophole. One may think that Harmony Gold would want to bring as much Macross material over as they can, right? The thing is, Harmony Gold is very protective of their copyright.
They won’t allow DVD releases of Macross, Southern Cross, or related shows in any way. DVD releases of these shows did crop up, but Harmony Gold shut them down as quickly as the could. The problem here is that HG would only allow the American versions of Macross to be released, while refusing to release the original Japanese versions.
This meant that they only allowed their audience to watch the show in the ways they deemed fit, instead of allowing people to see the alternatives. The problem is that in the early years of DVD releases, this was the only way to watch the show. Anime streaming wasn’t really a thing yet, so it was pretty difficult to watch the Japanese version.
You either had to have the original DVD release before HG shut it down, or bootleg subtitled episodes from Japan. Even the Japanese version of Voltron got a proper western DVD release, yet HG felt it necessary to throttle all attempts to bring the show in its original format here.
This wouldn’t be a huge problem if HG had a lot of Macross and Robotech releases, however the franchise has become stagnant. The last time we got anything Robotech related was in 2013, with the release of the abysmal “Robotech: Love Live Alive”. This film was just a 90 minute summary of the third season of Robotech, with some new footage made just for the movie.
The new footage is sparse, and clashes horribly with the old animation. Love Live Alive was meant to act as a bridge between Shadow Chronicles and Shadow Rising, which is the planned sequel to the previous film. 4 years later and Shadow Rising still hasn’t been released, which is par for the course with this franchise.
To summarize, I feel Robotech is wasted potential. I’m not saying that because I hate the original show or the novels, I actually enjoy those quite a bit. I say this because of how poorly Harmony Gold handled its releases. They acted like Robotech was a household name, when it was really a cult-classic anime that should’ve stayed in the 80s.
Over 30 years have passed since this show came out, many voice actors and even the creator have passed away, yet HG is still obsessed with trying to bank on nostalgia. It’s impossible to watch the newer Robotech projects and be completely lost, especially due to all the elements and characters that lack explanation.
As mentioned earlier, HG also hoards Macross and Southern Cross like its going out of style. While they are legally viable to hold the rights to these shows, it’s still a shame that most audiences will never get to experience them legally in their original format. I’m not saying that HG is awful, nor is the franchise they helped build. Still, they handled the franchise so poorly, that I feel there is no coming back.
I’ve heard there are talks for a live-action Robotech film, which I feel is a bad idea. Why adapt a franchise that hasn’t been relevant in almost a decade? I’m not saying that it can’t be done, I just don’t think it’s the best idea. I think HG needs to get its act together before it commits to such a large project. Whether you love or hate Robotech, you have to admit that it deserves better than the treatment it got.