When you talk about the current anime boom, one show can almost single handedly be credited -- Robotech. This show was actually an American creation, though the original footage came from three unrelated Japanese series. With some editing and a lot of rewriting, the three series were turned into the story of three separate but related alien invasions of the Earth. While other anime had made it to US shores before Robotech, Robotech was the first one to be aimed at the teen demographic.
ADV Films has begun releasing the series on DVD, six episodes per disc. The first two discs, available in the Robotech Legacy Collection 1, cover the first twelve episodes of the series, which were created from the Japanese series Macross. The original Macross is perhaps best known for starting the transforming robot craze, which in turn led to the Transformers.
These initial episodes tell the story of a young amateur pilot named Rick Hunter who gets involved in the war between humanity and the giant alien Zentraedi. The Zentraedi are looking for the SDF-1, a giant spaceship that landed on Earth years before, and has been refit into humanity's main defense. Rick, and about 70,000 other civilians, end up living in the SDF-1 when it accidentally warps into Pluto orbit, taking an entire city with it. In these 12 episodes the SDF-1 has to fight its way back to Earth, Rick joins the military, and the all important love triangle between Rick, starlet Minmei, and bridge officer Lisa is established.
These are fun discs, especially if you have fond memories of the show. A lot of the character interaction is straight out of soap opera, and during the many battle scenes the dialogue will degrade into technobabble, but the series keeps moving and there are plenty of twists and turns even in these first twelve episodes. While definitely old school animation, the design work is consistently good. The characters are just as annoying as you remember, and the robots are just as cool as you remember.
You can buy the first two volumes separately under the titles Robotech: First Contact and Robotech: Transformation. Ironically, the volume named First Contact has the episode "Transformation" and vice-versa.
The presentation is pretty ragged, no doubt because the original materials are in such bad shape. There is a lot of dirt, occasional scratches, and damaged frames. The colors often look dull and the detail is poor, but that's how it looked on TV. The sound is listed as Dolby digital Stereo, but it seems to be completely centered.
Each of the regular discs includes previews for Getter Robo, Nadesico, Orphen, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Gasaraki, Gunsmith Cats, and others.
The boxed "Legacy" collection also includes a third disc entitled "Macross Saga Extras Disc 1." The main feature on this disc is Codename: Robotech, a 1 hour, 13 minute compilation of scenes from the first 13 episodes of the series. Apparently, this was intended to act as a primer and was supposed to be shown on stations showing Robotech before the first episode aired. It's little more than a curiosity. On an alternate audio track is a talk from Carl Macek, who supervised the American adaptation of the original three series. His speech is dry but informative. He speaks a lot about how the project came about, and the technical innovations they made, and the differences between American and Japanese animation. Codename: Robotech also has an undocumented third audio track, sound effects and music only.
In addition there are 33 pages of character design sheets and a few short clips dubbed into a variety of European languages. Also, though you can hardly tell from the picture above, the packaging is pretty spiffy.
Scott Hamilton, 6/18/2001