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The History of ROBOTECH
Written by Enrique Conty ( April 27, 1993
(Edited by Peter Walker)

Preface by the Author:

Harmony Gold's ROBOTECH is one of the five best remembered science fiction television shows ever, according to a recent poll. However, few people are aware of the convoluted story of how the show was brought to the US, and I constantly see questions in USEnet's rec.arts.anime newsgroup as to whether a particular anime is related to ROBOTECH. This document will try and make some sense of the convoluted history of this show.

Editor's Preface:

I have chosen to retain the majority of Enrique's original work, almost without alteration. Where I did step in, it was to correct minor issues of detail in which I feel I have some expertise, to update it with new material, and to remove sections redundant in this FAQ. This essay was revived in the hope that a coherent introduction for the, and FAQs would bring a newcomer or casual fan up to a higher level of appreciation for the show's history and complexity quickly.

There has been much confusion regarding this show's history, and though I feel I have much to add to Enrique's comments in specific areas, I decided to preserve the integrity of his writing, and add most of my thoughts elsewhere. In all, I feel that this is the most comprehensive introduction to the Robotech phenomenon I have seen, and give full thanks to Enrique for the effort he put into it.

The Original Shows:

In late 1982, Tatsunoko Productions' SUPER DIMENSION FORTRESS MACROSS premiered on Japanese airwaves. Originally intended to be a comedy, it went on to become one of the most popular shows ever in the giant robot (a.k.a. mecha) genre, right next to MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM. After MACROSS ended in 1983, it was followed in the same time-slot by Tokyo Movie Shinsha's SUPER DIMENSION CENTURY ORGUSS. ORGUSS shared some creative staff with MACROSS (thus the similarities in character designs and mecha), and there were a couple throw-away in-jokes in the first few episodes, but otherwise there was no relation between the shows. Meanwhile, an obscure mecha show called GENESIS CLIMBER MOSPEADA came and went. According to Robotech Art I, Mospeada was placed with a disastrous time-slot, but developed a very popular fanfollowing, ensuring its survival in an OVA, Genesis Climber Mospeada: Love Live Alive.

When ORGUSS finished its run in 1984, it was replaced by SUPER DIMENSION CAVALRY SOUTHERN CROSS. Again, there was no relation between the shows other than the words "Super Dimension".

Two other important events happened in 1984. The first one was the theatrical premiere of MACROSS: DO YOU REMEMBER LOVE? in July. This movie was a condensed re-telling of the original MACROSS plot, with completely new animation. The second event was the release of MEGAZONE 23, one of the first OVA (Original Video Animation, i.e. made-for-video) features ever made. It had the same character designer as MACROSS and ORGUSS, Haruhiko Mikimoto, who had become a fan-favorite due to his previous work in these shows. MEGAZONE 23 PART II was released in 1986.

Hasbro and Revell go to Japan:

American toy company Hasbro was looking in Japan for a transforming jet model for their "Transformers" toy line, which uses the premise of vehicles which transform into giant robots.

Model kit company Revell was also looking in Japan for models for their "Robotech Defenders" line of robotic model kits. They eventually used models from MACROSS, DOUGRAM (more on this later), and ORGUSS.

Toy giant Bandai got the license to manufacture toys based on MACROSS. Bandai was approached separately by Hasbro and Revell for the rights to sell the "Valkyrie Fighter" from MACROSS (a jet which transformed into a humanoid robot). Bandai sold the rights to the fighter to BOTH companies separately. Hasbro's toy eventually became known as "Jetfire", where the Revell models, called Vexar, Axoid, and Orbot, represented, with altered paint schemes, 1/72 scale Macross VF-1S, -1J, and -1D Valkyrie models respectively.

Enter Harmony Gold:

Sometime around mid- to late 1984, the rights to the MACROSS series were acquired by an American company, Harmony Gold. Originally, MACROSS was slated to be translated rather faithfully, and a TV-movie compilation of the first three episodes had been broadcast. However, the "golden number" for television syndication is 65 episodes (13 weeks of daily weekday episodes), and MACROSS only had 36 episodes.

Carl Macek, a producer for Harmony Gold, came up with an idea which to this day he insists was brilliant, although many purists might disagree. Macek bought the American broadcast rights to SOUTHERN CROSS and MOSPEADA, and rewrote the plots of the three series to get a more-or-less coherent plotline. The "chapters" in this generation-spanning story were now known as "The Macross Saga" (MACROSS), "The Robotech Masters" (SOUTHERN CROSS), and "The New Generation" (MOSPEADA).

With the addition of a "bridging" episode between "Macross Saga" and "Masters" (created entirely from re-used footage), the episode count was brought up to 85 episodes. All they needed now was a title.

Three-Way Fight:

Revell was looking for ways to advertise their line of "Robotech Defenders" in other media. There was a two-issue limited comic series published by DC Comics, whose plotline no relation to any of the original Japanese shows, or to Harmony Gold's plot.

When Revell learned about Harmony Gold's plan to bring Macross to the US, they forced Harmony Gold to rename the series to "Robotech." They also wanted to stop Hasbro from manufacturing the "Jetfire" model. Hasbro won that legal battle.

And so, ROBOTECH premiered in October 1985 on American airwaves. The rest is animation history.

ROBOTECH: The Spinoffs

In early 1986, Harmony Gold was riding the crest of Robotech's popularity, and had started production on ROBOTECH II: THE SENTINELS and ROBOTECH: THE MOVIE.

SENTINELS was to be a brand-new series of 65 episodes, written in the United States and animated in Japan, for North American broadcast. Matchbox, who had the license for ROBOTECH merchandise and was one of the major sponsors for SENTINELS, backed out of the project at the last minute. It has been theorized that low profits on the ROBOTECH toy line were the reason for this.

ROBOTECH: THE MOVIE was a re-edited MEGAZONE 23, combined with footage from SOUTHERN CROSS, plus a 12-minute happy ending, comprised of new animation commissioned from Japan. The movie was a disaster: after a few test screenings in Dallas, Texas and a showing at the Los Angeles Animation Celebration, the film's distributor (Cannon Films) decided to cut their losses, and abandoned the project.

Back in Japan

In 1986, both MACROSS: DO YOU REMEMBER LOVE and MEGAZONE 23 PART II were translated into English, to teach the language to Japanese students. Both of these were released on video in Japan. An "extra gift" was added to the video version of MZ 23 II -- the 12 minutes of additional footage created for ROBOTECH: THE MOVIE.

Also in 1986, the MACROSS FLASHBACK 2012 OVA was released in Japan. This was made of 8 minutes of new animation showing what became of our heroes after the war, and 22 minutes of scenes from the MACROSS series and movie, set to Lynn Minmei songs.

FASA and BattleTech

In 1984, before the Harmony Gold deal with Revell, FASA Corporation created a pencil-and-paper game inspired by the Japanese mecha genre. This game, at the time called BATTLEDROIDS, evolved into what is currently known as BATTLETECH.

To give the game's 12 basic units the right "anime" look, FASA used mecha designs from MACROSS, DOUGRAM (another anime show), and CRUSHER JOE (an anime space opera movie). However, FASA did this without permission from the Japanese companies. These eventually learned about this, and threatened to sue FASA. An out-of-court settlement was reached on which FASA could keep the existing designs. Thus, some of the mecha in BATTLETECH are based upon MACROSS mecha. In recent years, new FASA publications have made the mecha taken from anime look increasingly less like their Japanese originals, presumably because of the whole fuss.

Other Merchandising

Comico used to sell comics adaptations of the ROBOTECH TV series. Eternity Comics took over the license from Comico, and for several years published comics which took the ROBOTECH universe into new directions. In summer '94 with the issue #12 of _Return to Macross_, Bk 3 issue #8 of _The Sentinels_ Eternity ended it's affiliation with the Robotech line. The line will be picked up in autumn '94 by Academy Comics.

"Jack McKinney" wrote prose novelizations of the ROBOTECH series, and an original Robotech novel called THE END OF THE CIRCLE and THE ZENTRAEDI REBELLION, inspired by _The Malcontent Uprisings_ from Eternity Comics.

Palladium Books sells an official role-playing game based on the Robotech universe. For a while, they also used to sell videotapes of the second and third chapters of ROBOTECH, along with the 76 or so minutes of animation ever done for ROBOTECH II: THE SENTINELS.

Family Home Entertainment (FHE) used to sell a "condensed" version of the "Macross Saga" portion of ROBOTECH. They also sold a video version of the English dub of the MACROSS movie, from which they removed 18 minutes and re- titled as "Clash of the Bionoids".

US Renditions used to sell a CD of the ROBOTECH soundtrack, now out of print.

The American fan group Seishun Shitemasu created ROBOTECH III: NOT NECESSARILY THE SENTINELS, a video parody/homage mixing footage from ROBOTECH: THE NEW GENERATION and GUNBUSTER (a recent mecha OVA series which also has designs by Mikimoto), along with voice acting provided by the group itself. The scary part is, their story fits flawlessly with the existing ROBOTECH universe!

The Present (Up to 1993)

In 1992-93, MACROSS II is released nigh-simultaneously in the US and Japan. This six-part OVA series continues the MACROSS story 80 years later, and has Mikimoto back as character designer. Because it's based on the Japanese MACROSS, it obviously has no relation to the ROBOTECH story, or to ROBOTECH II.

While Harmony Gold is still the sole rights holder of ROBOTECH rights to all the ROBOTECH material are licensed to producer Carl Macek, now head of Streamline Pictures, a company formed to bring English-dubbed anime to the U.S. Streamline also sells the ROBOTECH II: THE SENTINELS videotape, as well as the 'Perfect Collection' which pairs two ROBOTECH episodes, and their subtitled Japanese originals on each tape. FHE is still selling the original ROBOTECH episodes (now unedited) in a more conventional format. No firm plans have been made to release either ROBOTECH: THE MOVIE or MEGAZONE 23 in any form, though it is reported that Streamline has acquired MEGAZONE 23 in the last year.

The status of the rights to CLASH OF THE BIONOIDS and/or MACROSS: DO YOU REMEMBER LOVE is unclear at this point.


I'd like to thank Peter Walker and Emru Townsend for providing most of the information in this article. I also want to thank the thousands of readers in rec.arts.anime for their input and corrections.


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