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Featured TV on DVD Review: Robotech: The Complete Series

October 15th, 2011

Robotech: The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon

Robotech wasn't the first anime series imported from Japan and edited for an American audience. But it did help create a boom in anime popularity when it first aired in the mid-1980s. The Complete Series comes out this week, but has the show aged well? And are there enough extras that it's worth buying?

The Show

The first part of the series, dubbed The Macross Saga, begins in the future, specifically the year 1999. (That was the future back in 1985 when the show first aired.) At the beginning of the series, a global war ravages Earth when a large unknown spaceship crashes on Macross Island. Despite the intense energy of the impact, it survives mostly intact. The prospect of a highly advanced alien race coming in contact with humans is enough for our wars to end and a new united government to form. Over the next ten years, the best scientific minds in the world came to Macross Island to study the alien technology and eventually repair the damaged ship.

The plot jumps to the day before the scheduled launch of the newly repaired ship, christened the SDF-1. We meet several of the main characters in the first series. There's Captain Gloval, who is in command. Roy Fokker is the leader of the Skull Squadron, and the most senior pilot we get to know. The other main pilots are Rick Hunter, who is just a civilian at the beginning of the series, but is invited to see the launch by Roy Fokker, and Maximillian Sterling, who is the silent type, but clearly the best. The bridge crew of the SDF-1 includes several women, but we mostly focus on Lisa Hayes and Claudia Grant. In the second episode, Rick Hunter rescues a girl named Lynn Minmei, who is a polarizing figure on the show. (The Zentraedi have a weird weakness that involves this character, but we are getting ahead of ourselves.)

The day before the scheduled launch, an alien fleet arrives at the outer reaches of our solar system. These are the Zentraedi, a race that have been searching for the Robotech Masters, who created the ship that crashed on Earth a decade previously. The Zentraedi are a race of 30' tall giants who were bred for countless generations to be warriors. They've tracked the battleship trying to capture it and now that it is in the hands of inexperienced crew, this is the best chance they've had.

The first five-disc portion deals with this war, as well as several interpersonal relationships. The cartoon actually cares about continuity, which is very rare for a cartoon in this market. It's one of the reasons it appeals to adults as well as kids. Also, it has a massive spaceship that transforms into a robot. That's instant coolness.

The second part of the series, dubbed The Robotech Masters, begins 15 years after the events of the first series, and features none of the original characters for reasons that are a little complicated. The three series that comprise Robotech are actually three different, and unrelated, Japanese anime series. The plots of the three shows were changed to create a completely new ongoing storyline. Since none of the characters are the same, the first episode spends a great deal of time linking the first two parts including a recap of the climactic battle from the first series, and the romance between Max Sterling and Miriya Parina, a micronized Zentraedi, who are the parents of Dana Sterling. Dana Sterling and Bowie Grant are the two main characters we follow and we meet them on the day they graduate from the military academy. This is also the day the Masters show up.

The Masters are the creators of Zentraedi. The Zentraedi were sent to Earth to collect the Protoculture that is in the SDF-1 and the Masters have come to complete the job. (Protoculture is hard to accurately describe without going on too much of a tangent. Calling it a massive power source should suffice.) They need to recover the Protoculture factories from humans or they will die. (Imagine what would happen to humans if all the oil disappeared overnight. Most machines would be rendered useless within days.) However, the trip to Earth has nearly depleted their limited resources and they need a quick victory. They do have superior technology when compared to the humans, but then again, so did the Zentraedi. The The United Earth Forces and the Army of the Southern Cross are also outnumbered, but they have a lot to fight for.

In my opinion, the second installment is not as good as the first for a couple reasons. Firstly, some of the characters are less engaging this time around, although I do like Dana Sterling. It's always nice to have a strong female character leading the way. Secondly, the robot designs are not as good. Then again, there are few things on this planet that are as cool as Valkyries. I think the animation is a better this time around with smoother movement. And to be fair, my opinion of this installment compared to the first might be colored by nostalgia. It's certainly still worth watching.

The final installment, The New Generation, has a new enemy, the Invid. The Invid look sort of like crabs and operate by a hive mind. They come to Earth looking for the Protoculture, which covered the Earth as a result as the final battle in the last war. That final battle also resulted in the Earth's defenses being depleted, so when the Invid invade, the Earth is quickly defeated. Robotech Expeditionary Force sends a force to repel the Invid, but the initial fight goes poorly. The only survivor of the first attack is Scott Bernard, but he quickly meets Rand, one of the survivors from Earth. The pair team up with Lance Belmont another survivor who has gone into hiding as a female singer. Rook Bartley, a former biker gang member turned freedom fighter. Jim "Lunk" Austin, a former biomaintenance engineer who was trying to run from his military past. Finally there's Annie, a young orphan whose main talent is falling in love with older men.

This installment has a different feel to it. Instead of massive battles in space between two roughly equally large forces, a lot of the action takes place in small skirmishes. The human forces barely qualify as freedom fighters and are better described as fugitives. This is a nice change of pace. Also, the Cyclone Veritech Ride Armor looks awesome. Overall, it's not quite as good as the first installment, but better than the second.

The Extras

There are no extras on the three seasons, however, there's a set of four bonus discs with ten hours of bonus features. Incredible. Disc one starts off with the original pilot, plus clips in various languages. There are image galleries for character and mecha design, a comic book gallery, toy commercials, etc. Disc two has the original pilot for Genesis Climber MOSPEADA, the original Japanese show that was turned into The New Generation. There are also more than an hour of deleted scenes from the original series, some of which were cut for violence. Extras continue with more comic book art, more character art, more international clips, etc. Disc three starts with Carl Macek's Robotech Universe, which is in memory of the show's writer / producer, and all round innovator of Anime. Carl Macek gives commentary on four alternate episodes. There are also alternate scenes, as well as the extended Macross pilot. The final disc has two movies. The first is Robotech II: The Sentinels and the second is Robotech: The Movie and they take place in-between the first two series. There are twelve music videos, several clips from the four video games made for the series, a gallery of merchandise, and more. Any one of these discs would have made the DVD worth picking up. All four of them lift the value even higher.

The Verdict

Robotech was the first anime series I watched as a kid and it was also the first RPG I played, so there is a bit of nostalgia involved here. That said, I think the show still holds up after all of these years, and The Complete Series has more than enough extras to be worth picking up. In fact, it's a contender for Pick of the Week.

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