SECTION I: INTRODUCTION
OH, WHAT A TANGLED WEB WE WEAVE
The History of ROBOTECH
Written by Enrique Conty (email@example.com) April 27, 1993
(Edited by Peter Walker)
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.
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 alt.tv.robotech, and firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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.
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
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.
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"
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
"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
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
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!
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
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.