Robotech

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A cult anime series about three wars fought by Earth with alien technology against alien enemies over control of a powerful energy source. Initially a major success, its relatively adult story content is credited with introducing Western audiences to the sophisticated dramatic potential that Japanese animation had to offer.

This in turn led to a major rise in popularity of anime that was oriented towards the original Japanese productions unedited by American producers—somewhat ironic, because Robotech is actually a Cut and Paste Translation of three different anime series, edited together by Carl Macek of Harmony Gold, who wanted to bring the Japanese anime Super Dimension Fortress Macross to western television, but was unable to since it did not possess the sixty-five episodes needed for a syndication deal. Macek's solution was to tie Macross to two other unrelated series with similar elements and art styles, Super Dimension Calvary Southern Cross, and Genesis Climber Mospeada, and to turn the whole thing into a multi-generational saga, using Macross's Protoculture—now retrofitted to be the fuel source behind the various technology used by the different races—as the uniting factor between each series.

The series was thus divided into three sagas, each based on its respective parent show and portraying a particular generation of characters. These are:

  • "The Macross Saga" (Macross) started things off, telling the story of pilot Rick Hunter and the crew of the SDF-1 battle fortress. Of the three sub-series, this one has the most in common with the original anime: aside from the names, the biggest changes were made mostly to help fit all three series together, such as the relationship between the Zentraedi and the Robotech Masters. This is mostly backstory dialogue, though a few episodes late in the series have some Southern Cross footage of the Masters spliced in.
  • "The Robotech Masters" (Southern Cross) features the second generation of heroes, and had probably the biggest number of changes (starting with moving the setting from the faraway planet Glorie down to Earth, and ending with, well, the ending, which became a Bittersweet Ending due to the series coming up next). It features Dana Sterling, the (first) daughter of Max and Miriya Sterling from Macross. Having been left on Earth in the care of General Rolf Emerson, she has joined the Army of the Southern Cross, and unlike her high-flying parents, pounds the ground in a Veritech Hovertank. Naturally, she ends up on the front lines when the Robotech Masters, the men behind the Zentraedi, invade the earth searching for the Protoculture Matrix hidden in the wreckage of the SDF-1 Macross.
  • "The New Generation" (Mospeada), the third generation of Robotech, features the Invid, enemies of the Masters and the Zentraedi, who conquer the Earth after it is accidentally seeded or rather intentionally seeded according to the Shapings' design if you buy into the book version with the Invid Flower of Life, the source of Protoculture, after the conclusion of the war against the Robotech Masters. Earth forces that left the planet between the first and second generations return to save their homeworld, including Scott Bernard, who quickly finds himself the only survivor of the first counter-invasion, and finds himself gathering a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits on his way across the Scavenger World the Earth has degenerated to in order to reach the Invid home hive of Reflex Point.

In addition to redubbed anime, several comics, novels, and games have attempted to tell the story, with varying levels of success, within and between the Robotech "generations". One of the most ambitious was The Sentinels, which chronicled the story of the Macross heroes as they go into space towards the Robotech Masters' homeworld in an attempt to stop any further wars. Naturally, they miss them, only to find the planet besieged by the second faction of the Invid, and meet a collection of alien races fighting to free themselves from Invid domination. Although the animated series fell apart after a few episodes were created, the story continued in comic, novel, and RPG form, each offering similar but varied takes on the story. Another stillborn project was Robotech: The Movie (a.k.a. Robotech: The Untold Story), which spliced footage from the show with scenes from the anime Megazone 23 in order to create a story set between the "Macross" and "Robotech Masters" sagas. Unlike The Sentinels, this project was completed, but its tepid reception during test airings caused Harmony Gold to shelf it, and it has never had a wide release inside the states.

One of the stranger aspects of all of this was how Harmony Gold was able to gain the US trademark for Macross simply by defending the rights to Robotech. At the time, Japan and the US did not have reciprocity for copyrights, and Bandai/Big West (the owners of Macross) had sublicensed the international distribution rights to Tatsunoko Production, who licensed all aspects of Macross except the Japanese model kits to Harmony Gold. Bandai also licensed several mecha designs to FASA for use in BattleTech, and they were incorporated and used in the miniatures game. Harmony Gold sued FASA for incorporating these designs, citing their license from Tatsunoko. The suit was successful, and the designs (now known as "The Unseen") were withdrawn. Big West subsequently successfully sued Tatsunoko, as their license to Macross was originally only to cover the original animation content of Macross, and not any derivative content based thereon.

The end result of the convoluted legal snarl[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Harmony Gold can continue to release the original Robotech stories, and can release their own DVDs of the original Macross in the US, but cannot create derivative works based on Macross (or its Big West stablemate Southern Cross).
  • However, they can create derivative content based on Mospeada, which was wholly owned by Tatsunoko in the first place.
  • In addition, they effectively have veto rights for the imports and English translation of Macross merchandise and series that are not covered by the original license. Consequently, all the sequels since Macross Plus are blocked from being sold or translated in North America, and under Harmony Gold's interpretation, Shoji Kawamori cannot make or distribute his own drawings and designs within North America. (This has not made them popular.)

Consequently Harmony Gold's more recent sequels, most notably the completely original feature-length film Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles, are all set in or after the part of the Robotech timeline drawn from Mospeada.

The rights were purchased by Warner Bros in 2007, and as of summer 2017, a Live Action Adaptation is in active development.

Tropes used in Robotech include:
  • A-Team Firing: At least in The New Generation, where Scott's Team seems completely incapable of landing a rifle hit on the giant crab mechs the Invid like to terrorize the world in.
  • The Ace: Max Sterling in the Macross phase—a subversion in that he is a secondary character yet indisputably the best pilot, and a nice guy to boot whom everyone likes. Roy Fokker, Rick Hunter, Dana Sterling, and Scott Bernard all qualify to a lesser extent as the main characters.
  • After the End: Earth is devastated no fewer than three times in the series.
  • The Ageless: The Zentraedi apparently have biological immortality due to a protoculture-based genetic engineering, despite having a life expectancy lower than humans due to being a Proud Warrior Race and Martyrdom Culture.
  • All Just a Dream: A nightmare by Rick Hunter in the original series, and Rand and Ariel in New Generation.
  • Amazonian Beauty: Bela and Gnea from The Sentinels.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: Lisa gives one to Rick right before Khyron's attack on the SDF-1 at the end of the first series.
  • Apocalypse How: Each series ends with one of these. Original Series faces a Class 1, Southern Cross' war is a Class 0, and the Invid Invasion is another Class 1.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: Robotechnology and Protoculture in particular.
  • Ascended Extra: The nameless Chief Engineer of the Macross with the weird eyes who appeared twice became Dr. Emil Lang, Earth's Chief "Robotechnician" since being Touched by Vorlons during the initial exploration of the SDF-1.
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: Zentraedi.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: Breetai can take down two Battloids with a piece of pipe.
  • The Battlestar: The SDF-1.
  • BFG: The Veritech's cannons, the SFD-1's reflex cannon, and the Grand Cannon.
  • Big Guy Fatality Syndrome: In The Sentinels, Breetai activates a Self-Destruct Mechanism to take down the Invid Regent.
  • Big, Thin, Short Trio: Bron, Konda, and Rico, respectively
  • Bishonen: Max, Kyle, Konda, Bowie, Zor Prime, Rem, several Tirolian clones, Lancer ...basically, a lot.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Several examples from each series.
    • In Macross, while Earth was still recovering, both the SDF-1 and the SDF-2 get destroyed in Khyron's suicide attack (which he turned into one after getting too severely damaged to escape into space), and most of the main bridge crew aside from Lisa get killed.
    • Then in the Robotech Masters, Zor Prime attempted to destroy the Protoculture factory in the SDF-1, but accidentally released the spores instead, which then causes the Invid to invade Earth. Since Earth's defenses were already really exhausted from all the fighting with the Robotech Masters, they weren't able to put up much a fight against the Invid.
    • Then in the New Generation, while the humans are able to persuade the Invid Regis to leave Earth relatively intact (and she even destroys the neutron bombs the Expeditionary Fleet launched in a Scorched Earth attempt), Scott decides to leave Ariel alone while he tries to find Admiral Hunter (although Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles shows that they still end up together after all).
  • Blithe Spirit: Dana.
  • Bridge Bunnies: The originals.
  • The Brigadier: Emerson from Southern Cross.
  • Canon Foreigner: Most of the cast of The Sentinels and Shadow Chronicles.
  • The Captain: Gloval.
  • Captain Crash: Rick gets his Veritech trashed a lot....
    • This is lampshaded in the episode Phantasm, in which Rick dreams he crashed while trying to fly a bike.
  • Capulet Counterpart: Miriya to Max; Musica to Bowie.
  • Celebrity Is Overrated: Minmei starts to feel this way after the Earth's been destroyed, mostly because of how hard life is for everyone, and also because she never gets to spend any time with Rick.
  • Chekhov's Gunwoman: Lynn Minmei, both in the series and in the movie.
  • Chinese Girl: Again, Lynn Minmei.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Khyron is literally referred to as "The Backstabber."
  • Clip Show
  • Combining Mecha
  • Commander Contrarian
  • Command Roster:
  • Cool Bike: The Cyclone motocycle/PoweredArmor.
  • Cool Spaceship: SDF-1.
  • Curiosity Causes Conversion
  • Cut and Paste Translation: One of the most famous examples.
  • Dark-Skinned Redhead: Exedore, without the usual personality type.
  • Desk Jockey: Henry Gloval becomes this after being promoted to admiral. It still does not keep him from going down in combat.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Macross has numerous allusions to WWII, including:
    • The Zendraedi's warrior culture is extremely similar to the militaristic culture of WWII Japan.
    • When the war begins, their first strike is a carrier-launched surprise-attack on a coastal military base.
    • Near the end of the war, the Zendraedi use carpet-bombing to raze the entire Earth's surface, Curtis Lemay style.
    • After the Zendraedi have largely lost the war, their culture starts incorporating elements of their former enemy's culture, mirroring the post-war Americanization of Japan.
  • Doomed City: Toronto gets leveled when the SDF-1's barrier overloads.
  • Downer Ending: Even worse in the books.
    • Depends on which books, and which ending. The novelization of the Invid Invasion, for ex, ends more or less on an upbeat note, with a hint of more adventures to come as Scott Bernard heads back into space to find some missing personnel and clean up the loose ends. A later novel called The End Of The Circle picks up at the same point, but with a completely different tone, and it's ending is just plain stone cold stupid.
  • Dressing as the Enemy by way of Mugged for Disguise: Max knocking out a Zentraedi to dress up his Veritech while trapped on an alien ship.
  • During the War: Every season references the previous war.
  • Dub Name Change: An example:
    • Rick Hunter (Hikaru Ichijyo)
    • Lynn Minmei (Lynn Minmay - this is her stage name)
    • Lisa Hayes (Misa Hayase)
    • Roy Fokker (Roy Focker)
    • Claudia Grant (Claudia LaSalle)
    • Maximillian Sterling (Maximillian Jeinus)
    • Henry J. Gloval (Bruno J. Global)
    • Miriya Parino Sterling (Millia Fallyna Jeinus)
    • Dana Sterling (Komillia Jeinus and Jeanne Francaix)
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Really, don't the Fan Haters even realise that this show is one of the main reasons why there even is an anime industry outside of Japan.
    • No, most of them don't. Quite a few of them are a bit too young to remember when anime (then called Japanimation) was practically unheard of in the USA.
    • Even bigger problem is that Harmony Gold chose not to credit any of the character designers, writers, mecha designers, directors or animators. Some ignorant Robotech fans think that Carl Macek single handedly created Robotech although the things that are praised in it are already present in Macross.
  • The Dragon: Breetai, who matches one in size, too!
  • The End of the World as We Know It: Humanity is always threatened with extermination by the invaders.
  • Expanded Universe: The novelization of the series and the comic books.
    • Which conflict with each other extensively and the original material somewhat. At their worst the expanded universe materials are ghastly, at their best they can be quite good. This is especially true of the novels.
  • Fake Brit: Exedore and Khyron.
  • Fallen Hero: Coronel Jonathan Wolfe.
  • Fighter Launching Sequence
  • Final Girl: In the Macross Saga, Lisa Hayes is the sole survivor of the original bridge staff following Khyron's suicide attack, as she was forced into an escape pod by Claudia and Gloval before the SDF-1 was destroyed.
  • Five-Bad Band: The Zentradi senior hierachy:
  • Five-Man Band: The third generation.
  • Four-Star Badass: Breetai demonstrates Four Star Badassery when he takes on three VF-1 Valkyrie veritech battloids armed only with a pipe.
  • Flaunting Your Fleets: For example, here, starting at 0:24.
  • Foreshadowing
  • Frothy Mugs of Water: Rico, Bron, Konda, and the "punch" at the SDF-1 landing celebration. Surprisingly this, trope is often averted in the series.
  • Fun with Acronyms: SFD-1 is the short version of Super Dimensional Fortress One
  • General Ripper: Supreme Commander Leonard, especially as Flanderized in the Expanded Universe.
  • Genius Ditz: Dana.
  • Giant Enemy Crab: Invid Mecha-Mooks.
  • Girl in a Box: Ariel/Marlene.
  • Green-Skinned Space Babe: Green-haired, at least; one in each series.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Dana and Ariel.
  • Hand Wave: The human-like appearance of the enemies is explained away via ancient common ancestors.
  • Heroic BSOD: Several characters go through them at various points throughout the story, such as Rick when Roy Fokker died, Lisa when she finds out Minmei is at Rick's apartment, and Minmei towards the end of the series after she gives up singing.
    • Scott Bernard suffers one when he finds out that a large contingent of reinforcements that arrived earlier were wiped out entirely by the Invid. He gives up hope until he sees Ariel screaming in fear at the Invid, and promptly pulls a Big Damn Heroes moment.
  • Hey, It's That Voice!: A complete list could easily take up half a page, but here are a few outstanding ones.
    • Tony Oliver = Rick Hunter = the arrancar Ulquiorra Schiffer in Bleach.
    • Jimmy Flinders (Cam Clarke) = Max Sterling / Yellow Dancer = Liquid Snake / 2002 He-man
  • Hit and Run Tactics: Partially Averted in Palladium Books' Robotech Tabletop RPG 'verse. A machine gun has to do 100 HP of damage (in a single burst, which is all but impossible) to a Humongous Mecha before it counts, so people with ordinary weapons can't use this strategy against heavy armor. However, you can use this strategy with land mines vs Humongous Mecha or Humongous Mecha vs naval or space craft.
  • Hive Mind: The Invid. The human-form ones can evidently unlink at least partially and don't 'need' it, but the ones with their memory still mostly maintain their presence on it.
  • Hover Tank
  • Humanity Is Infectious: For all the mecha and weapons Earth has, this trope is at heart the only thing that saves humanity.
  • Humans Are Bastards: On occasion, especially during the Southern Cross arc.
  • Humongous Mecha
  • Idol Singer: Minmei, Bowie, Musica, and Yellow Dancer.
  • Is This Thing Still On?: In Khyron's first appearance, a subordinate says that his fleet collided with four friendly ships and that the subordinate had won a bet. While Breetai is still watching them.
    • Roy Fokker had a similar moment in the first episode when he is giving an airshow when Rick Hunter comes barnstorming into the airspace. Fokker is yelling at Rick through the mike's radio function forgetting that the speakers are also amplifying his speech to the audience and they are laughing it up. Embarrassed, Fokker orders the mike to be switched to radio only.
    • As a meta-example, Robotech's ratings took a dip after the episode 'Force of Arms' because viewers had assumed the show was over, now that the Zentraedi were destroyed, and Rick had picked Lisa over Minmay. When they came back, they were shocked to find that the show was still going on, and that it was dealing with the aftermath. Some fans who had watched Robotech never came back, and didn't learn about Southern Cross or the Invid saga until years after it's first run.
  • Kawaiiko: Minmei.
  • Killed Off for Real: Roy, Ben and then most of the population of Earth. Quite a series of shockers for the typical 1980s North American audience accustomed to Never Say "Die". Also a number of characters, most notably Scott's fiancée and Col. Wolfe in "New Generation".
    • The destruction from Dolza's attack in the first part continues to hang over the whole story, too. There's no magic recovery, Earth is a wreck afterward.
    • It is not immediately clear in the early episodes whether the main protagonist is Rick Hunter or Roy Fokker. It's only with the death of Roy that Rick comes fully into the spotlight...and Roy was a major character, with well-developed personality and connections. His presence is still felt many episodes later.
  • Kissing Cousins: Minmei and Kyle.
  • Kudzu Plot
  • The Lancer: Sgt. Angelo Dante, Rand, but ironically not Lancer.
  • Landmark of Lore: The Statue of Liberty.
  • La Résistance: Scott Bernard's rebellion against the Invid; The Sentinels.
  • Legacy Character: Dana Sterling.
  • Leitmotif
  • Loads and Loads of Characters
  • Lost in Translation: A strange case came about as part of the translation of Genesis Climber Mospeada to "New Generation". While in most cases the script rewrite is accurate enough (barring necessary rewrites for "protoculture" and bowdlerization) to assume the Robotech writers had translations of the Japanese scripts to work from, sometimes just having a script isn't enough. The writers were confused because there are Only Six Faces in anime and assumed that the superimposition of the deceased Marlene's face over the Invid simulagent Aisha/Ariel's in the episode where Aisha/Ariel was introduced meant the two characters were supposed to be identical save for their hair color (and so they ended up getting the same name and even the same voice actress, as well as some nonsense about cloning and genetic memories carrying over in the tie-in novels).
In actuality, they weren't supposed to be identical--it was just post-traumatic stress flashbacks on Scott/Stick's part coupled with the general similarity of faces in anime. When Harmony Gold was working on the Shadow Chronicles sequel, which was mostly a direct continuation of "New Generation", Mospeada writer Shinji Aramaki made the mistake clear (and pointed out that the whole idea was actually rather creepy). As a result, in Shadow Chronicles Ariel got a new voice actress, and suddenly insisted Scott stop calling her by his dead girlfriend's name (among other retcons).

Miriya: I am Quadrano Leader Miriya Parino, Zentradi Air Force!
Max: There goes our first date.

    • Rick Hunter, as he finds himself caught in friendly fire, thanks to Lisa. Oops.
    • Another one from Rick is finding out that the woman who he called an 'old sourpuss' is his commanding officer.
    • Rick and Lisa, while captured, witness the horrifying firepower of the Zentradi fleet as it blows up an unknown planet in a show of force.
    • The Earth's military upon seeing Dolza's entire Zentradi Fleet warp into Earth's orbit. They find out that Lisa was in fact right. Cue carpet-bombing of the entire planet.
  • The Omniscient Council of Vagueness: The Robotech Masters.
  • One-Gender Race: The Praxians from The Sentinels. The male and female Zentraedi were segregated by gender, and effectively fulfilled this trope.
  • "On the Next..."
  • The Power of Love
  • Point Defenseless: As impressive as they look while firing, the turrets/mechs on the surface of the SDF-1 don't seem to accomplish anything aside from getting blown up.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Scott Bernard's rebellion against the Invid; The Sentinels.
  • Roboteching: The Trope Namer.
  • Spanner in the Works: The defenders of the SDF-1 Macross and Minmei were this to the Zentraedi plans to capture the ship.
  • Scary Dogmatic Aliens: The Invid could be taken as a stereotype of Communist China, and the Zentraedi as...Americans.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right: Captain Global defies the orders from his superiors to take off from the Earth in order to bait the Zenreadi forces away from Earth.
  • Shape Shifter: The Zentraedi's "micronization process."
  • Shout-Out: The visual references that Macross made to several other popular anime of the day, as well as to the Macross production staff, are largely left intact. The novels and older comics also incorporate some homages and extra data from the component series, and also include references to several science fiction properties.
    • In "The Big Escape" (Macross Saga episode 12), Lisa Hayes suggests that humans and Zentraedi might actually be related somehow, and it is commented upon by both Zentraedi and human scientists that physical makeup, cell structure, biology, etc between the two species is almost identical. In the original Macross anime, humans, Zentraedi and Meltrandi (female Zentraedi) were all directly related species of Human Aliens, different offshoot branches of The Protoculture.
  • Sixth Ranger: Zor Prime.
  • Shoot Stab Kiss: This is how Max and Miriya's relationship start off. First they fight on opposite sides, then she tries to kill him with a set of knives...and then they get married.
  • Smart Guy
  • Snap Back: The city inside the SDF-1 is shown to be seriously damaged in many space battles, not to mention every time the ship transforms. It's always fine in the next episode.
    • It could be said that eventually they would figure out where damage would be and make it easily repairable. This is lampshaded in the novels, where the civil engineers were marvelous, able to both synthesize new building materials at an incredible pace, and devised a way of setting up the city in such a way it sustained minimal damage during transformation.
  • Sorting Algorithm of Evil: A classic example with the Zentraedi, controlled by the Robotech Masters, who were afraid of the Invid, who were TERRIFIED of the Children of Shadows.
    • Not exactly: the Robotech Masters kept the coolest toys for themselves, but the Zentradi were more powerful than them or all the other enemies combined in the series due sheer numbers (see We Have Reserves); initially the Robotech Masters were scared of the Disciples of Zor, and don't consider the Invid as more than a nuisance until after various battles against the Southern Cross and the relative losses. Played straight with the Children of Shadows in Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles: the Invid are truly terrified of them, with good reasons.
  • Space Is Cold
  • The Starscream: Khyron, who gets bonus points for Dragon Their Feet during the Colony Drop.
  • Supporting Leader: Captain Gloval, General Emerson.
    • Implied Admiral Rick Hunter.
  • Tank Goodness
  • Tie In Novels: Jack McKinney's adaptation of the unproduced Sentinels sequel, and several other original stories.
  • Tragic Hero
  • Transforming Mecha
  • The Spock: Exedore.
  • The Squad: Skull Squad and the 15th Tactical Armored Corps.
  • The Tokyo Fireball
  • They Look Like Us Now: Zentraedi becoming human sized. The Masters, particularly Zor Prime being sent in as a Heel Face Mole. The Invid Simulagents.
  • This Is Not a Drill
  • Town with a Dark Secret
  • Villain World
  • Wagon Train to the Stars: The SDF-2 and SDF-3 missions.
  • Wave Motion Gun: The Macross reflex canon. It doubles as a fancy light show for special occasions.
  • We Could Have Avoided All This
  • We Have Reserves: Dolza's Grand Fleet consists of 4.8 million ships.
  • Wham! Episode: Episode 18, Farewell, Big Brother. Goddamn pineapple salad!
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: Lancer/Yellow Dancer.