There is no Robotech, only Macross

There is no Robotech, only Macross

SDF MacrossYesterday, I noticed my Twitter feed mentioning the news that Sony Pictures now has the rights to Robotech and plans to make a live-action movie, hoping this will turn into a franchise. Well, I have only one thing to say to Sony Pictures — “There is no Robotech, only Macross.”

For those who don’t know, Robotech is the mid-1980s amalgam of three unrelated anime titles — The Super Dimensional Fortress Macross, Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross, and Genesis Climber MOSPEADA. Harmony Gold licensed these three titles, rewrote them for awesome Americanization, and then mashed them together so that they could meet the minimum number of episodes required to get the show on afternoon TV.

To be fair to Harmony Gold, what they did was nothing new. After all, Space Battleship Yamato was changed to Star BlazersScience Ninja Team Gatchaman was mangled into Battle of the Planets. Voltron (also done in the mid-80s) was created from unrelated anime titles Beast King GoLion and Armored Fleet Dairugger XV.  Heck, even in more recent times, Cardcaptor Sakura was butchered into Cardcaptors.  A title like Pokemon was purged of its EVIL Japanese references in favor of awesomely awesome Americanization. (Onigiri sure looks like donuts to me.)

That being said, this is 2015. Yes, I was a teenager in 1984-85 when Robotech came out and I was aware of it. I watched some of it back in the day (never made it much past the Macross part because of the radical shift in story and new characters). Some of my friends remember watching it as teenagers as well. Only one of them is an anime fan at all, and that’s pretty casual. All of them agree with me — we don’t want to see a Robotech movie, but we would like to see a series of well written Macross movies.

SDF Macross

For me, I found watching Macross to be rather an enjoyable experience, something I didn’t remember watching Robotech. Maybe it was because I was older, though I suspect I appreciated the writing of Macross better (though to be fair here as well, at times the dialog could be quite cheesy; whether that was because of the adaptation or not, I couldn’t say).

When Hollywood attempts to bring over things from Japan as a live-action title, invariably, it seems to have mixed results at best. The reason for this, in my opinion, is that there’s little to no understanding of the source material, especially for the failed titles. There are assumptions about things, usually about how a title needs to be Americanized or otherwise changed to try to sell tickets. Sadly, Hollywood doesn’t seem to understand something critical — if you build it properly, people will come.

I’ve cited this example before, but I point to the success of the Shogun miniseries from 1980 (which I reviewed). While this wasn’t an adaptation of a Japanese novel, the producers took James Clavell’s novel and adapted it in Japan. Because the production was so far from Hollywood, the producers were able to create a miniseries they wanted without interference from Hollywood since by the time the executives saw the dailies, (which were sent by boat), it was too late for them to do anything. The result is a beautiful (though somewhat dated thanks to the late 70s hair styles on the Western actors, and the Western orchestral music) series that keeps things VERY Japanese, including having characters use dreaded Japanese honorifics and such.

Hollywood doesn’t see people as smart. Since Robotech was created during a time when Americans “still had to be protected from those evil, slant-eyed bastards from Japan who dared attack us at Pearl Harbor,” it leaves a bad taste in my mouth today, even if I do understand why they did things that way in the 80s. In my opinion, Hollywood thinks that, “Well, it was Robotech when it came over, so Robotech it will remain. Besides, no one but some niche group of losers in American knows what Macross is, right?”

Wrong!

It is true that there are some who like Robotech who will likely never watch Macross because, “Gasp! Subtitles?! I can’t read when I’m also trying to see things!”  So for them, it is Robotech. There are going to be some people who just don’t care either way. That being said, there are going to be quite a number (and I’ve seen them talking in various places) who’ve seen Robotech and Macross who are going to want a Macross live-action adaptation, not a Robotech one.

SDF Macross

In all seriousness, how big of a demand is there for Robotech? For decades, attempt after attempt after attempt has been made to make Robotech some kind of hot franchise in America, all without success. So are there any Robotech fans outside of guys my age who grew up watching it after school?

How about Macross? What’s the demand for it?  When anime fans watched fansubs of Macross Plus, Macross 7, Macross Zero, or Macross Frontier (to name a few), and they wanted to watch the original series, did they want to watch Robotech or Macross?  I don’t hear them wanting the Macross franchise reformed into a Robotech franchise. I do hear them wanting a licensing and proper English dub of the Macross titles though.

Yeah, I’ll probably be accused of being some kind of elitist (or the like) for wanting Macross and not Robotech. That’s OK, I’ve been called worse. If I had it my way, Sony would make a Macross trilogy in order to properly set up the characters and situation. I felt that the Super Dimensional Fortress Macross: Do You Remember Love anime movie, while nice to look at, just cut way too much from the original story, leaving it without heart. Thus my desire to have at least a three movie deal.

In the end, it likely won’t matter, even if a Macross movie is made. I just don’t trust Hollywood to make a proper movie of anything anime/manga related. I expect that what we’ll get is some crap, whereby Sony hopes that some of us who grew up with Robotech will race down for nastalgia reasons just to see cool mecha-fighters in action without worrying about a decent story. No doubt, Hollywood is banking on the Transformers affect to make big bank.

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14 Responses to “There is no Robotech, only Macross”

  1. Robert says:

    Marcross is one of the three series which make up the Robotech triology. I Do like the ideal of having separate Macross series. While I like the Robotech series, the original Marcross made more sense to me. Marcross was one of the first wave anime series.

    • AstroNerdBoy says:

      Yeah, it would be awesome to have a Macross series of movies. After all, there’s an entire Macross franchise that could be adapted.

  2. Interesting and informative article. I had to wiki it to see just how unrelated the different series used for Robotech were. At least the first two were somewhat related.

    Spoiler Inside SelectShow

    I have to admit that I’ve never seen the original Macross, but I really enjoyed Robotech back when it was airing at around 1993-95 here in my area.

    Also… I think it’s a horrible idea and a waste of creative energy to rewrite a series with an already established storyline just to market it to a different audience.

    I have to agree with your conclusion. I don’t trust Hollywood to make a proper movie of anything anime/manga related either. When it’s happened once or twice before, I just like to think of it as completely unrelated to the source material… just like that live action Hayate series.

    • AstroNerdBoy says:

      When it’s happened once or twice before, I just like to think of it as completely unrelated to the source material… just like that live action Hayate series.

      I never saw the live-action Hayate series, but then that wasn’t done by Japan, so I wondered how well it would be done.

  3. shadowofthevoid says:

    Robotech is a relic, an anachronism in the modern age where anime is now more respected than it was 30 years ago. I mean, the Academy has nominated four Studio Ghibli films for Best Animated Feature, last year’s DBZ movie did spectacularly well in theaters despite the limited release, anime-style cartoons are still relatively common, and even the revived Toonami is getting amazing ratings. The archetypal “Macekre” that is Robotech (it was Carl Macek’s idea) shouldn’t be a thing that still exists. But for some unholy reason Harmony Gold not only still remains in business but continues to aggressively keep Robotech relevant. We can only hope that one day someone with respect for the source material just buys out Harmony Gold and puts an end to Robotech once and for all. Perhaps then we can have proper Stateside releases for Macross Zero, Macross 7, and Macross Frontier. Honestly, the only good thing to come out of the Macekres of the 80s was some memorable original theme music (admit it, the Robotech and Voltron themes were great, and the latter had narration by Peter “Optimus Prime” Cullen).

    Now, to address live-action adaptations of anime in general, if Hollywood wants to make a big-budget adaptation of a popular anime for Western cinemas, they need to pick a series/movie that has a cosmopolitan cast of characters and a setting that would lend itself to a new continuity made just for the film. “Real Robot” shows like Macross and Gundam could work (and they could do a straight reboot of Macross with the same characters), but with Harmony Gold’s continued existence a Gundam movie is more likely. There’s been almost a dozen different continuities in the Gundam franchise, and each one has had a cast of characters hailing from many different parts of the globe, and the stories usually take place in many different parts of the world in addition to outer space and the orbiting colonies.

    Hollywood is too risk-averse to make a big-budget movie with an all-Asian cast (and one wonders if American audiences will flock to such a movie; Hollywood’s fears could be justified), which means they should stay the hell away from adapting something like Akira or Ghost in the Shell that was set in Japan, had an entirely Japanese cast of characters, and was just overall Japan-centric. The international nature of Gundam casts would translate well into an American-centric cast while still fitting in actors of many other nationalities, which could help sell it abroad as well. The mecha action lends itself to the tastes of American audiences, who enjoy big robots and big explosions, yet it could also offer some serious war drama into the mix. Basically, it could be a more serious and dramatic version of other recent American films with mecha, powered armor, and giant robots (e.g., District 9, Avatar, Pacific Rim). So long as it gets a good writer, director, and cast and the mecha designs look recognizably Gundam-ish, I think it could turn out well.

    • AstroNerdBoy says:

      last year’s DBZ movie did spectacularly well in theaters despite the limited release

      I presume this was an anime movie? (I’m not up on DBZ.)

      “Real Robot” shows like Macross and Gundam could work (and they could do a straight reboot of Macross with the same characters), but with Harmony Gold’s continued existence a Gundam movie is more likely.

      I’d love to see the original Gundam series as a set of live-action movies.

      But for some unholy reason Harmony Gold not only still remains in business but continues to aggressively keep Robotech relevant.

      I’d say they attempt to keep Robotech relevant. I’m not sure how relevant it is. As I see it, Harmony Gold is an evil company that has made money suing anyone violating “their” Robotech copyrights while wiping their arse on Studio Nue, who actually owns the copyright. I hate Harmony Gold.

      Hollywood is too risk-averse to make a big-budget movie with an all-Asian cast (and one wonders if American audiences will flock to such a movie; Hollywood’s fears could be justified)

      They’ve always been that way. And yet I think back to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which won an Oscar in 2000.

      The international nature of Gundam casts would translate well into an American-centric cast while still fitting in actors of many other nationalities, which could help sell it abroad as well.

      I agree.

  4. Rob C. says:

    I would not be watching anime today as i know if it wasn’t for Robotech.

    Would not having driving desire to see more anime because of it, because there was just that more. Robotech to be fair was very mature thing to have on the air verse the kiddized (child extra friendly and super dumbed down) cartoons aside from Warner brother cartoons which were meant for adults till they were removed from the broadcasting.

    Do i want a Robotech Movie? Hell no. The company that currently hold franchise rights is terrible. They’ve never treated the property very well at all. Hollywood acts just like Harmony Gold, gold digs someone else jem and milks it all it’s worth and without idea of quality or good writing put into it. Anything related to Macross is banned in the us because of Harmony Gold. It was short to a miracle that Macross Plus came over when it did in the 1990s.

    There has been EXTREMELY very few animes that been translated by Hollywood for mainstream that actually been successful. It’s too rich of a product to survive the conversion. I love Robotech as child/teenager, and thankful to the Old HG for doing hot job on it. It’s still butchered triology of animes who happen to fit together. It’s time is over, let rest in peace.

    • AstroNerdBoy says:

      I would not be watching anime today as i know if it wasn’t for Robotech.

      Funny thing is, back in the day, Robotech was just a cartoon to me, just as Star Blazers and Battle of the Planets were. It was living in Japan for two years that opened my eyes to everything.

      The company that currently hold franchise rights is terrible.

      Harmony Gold is terrible. They sue left and right for anything that even remotely could be seen as “Robotech” while Studio Nue gets the shaft. I never liked them, but in doing this piece, I came to hate them.

  5. Eldritch Gentleman says:

    Wait, wait… can I ask for a clarification? That Frankenseries is still alive? And someone is trying to make a live-action movie about it? And you can’t get other Macross’ series because the owner of that disaster sues left and right? What the actual hell?

    • AstroNerdBoy says:

      Harmony Gold does everything it can to keep Robotech alive, even though they’ve never had any real success that I can tell. *_* And I hate Harmony Gold.

  6. dogofflanders says:

    Macross is more boring, this elitist view is the exact same view anti-anime idiots have. open up and theres more to enjoy, I used to ridicule some shows like Bleach then woah the manga and Aizen bam ownage and the movies. when i introduced anime to one of my brothers he said at first something like “big eyes crap”, now he even knows japanese to a certain extent. (myself I dont want to pirate anymore so im on a several years long break from anime pretty much until a legal stream site that has all anime ever created is available) I dislike plastic discs very very very much mainly for convenience reasons however you spell that in english but ive bought around 100 anime on discs so im not a complete dimwit that starves the anime companys. whatever.

    • AstroNerdBoy says:

      If anyone has an elitist view, it is Harmony Gold. When they licensed Macross and the other two anime titles back in the day, the Japanese apparently had no idea that Harmony Gold was going to do what they did. Studio Nue, the copyright owners of Macross and Orgus, hate Harmony Gold with a passion because Harmony Gold is screwing them like crazy. Harmony Gold made a great deal of money suing left and right over “their” Robotech copyright, which they basically stole from the Japanese as far as I’m concerned since Studio Nue doesn’t get a penny.

      Sony getting into bed with Harmony Gold is not a good thing.

  7. Makiwaiba says:

    I love Robotech, especially the first saga, but Macross is the only/and should be FUTURE canon for everyone. If HG is really the franchise holder, they should release RT as Macross, not RT as RT from their made-up non-Macross canon anymore. I don’t understand why they still keep on trying to continue it, when they can simply release the real subsequent Macross titles for the newer generations of viewers instead and earn money. It’s been 30 years since the first RT after all. They could simply rename it with Robotech, like Macross 7 to RT 7, just like Biohazard to Resident Evil.

    I will treasure the old RT Trilogy, but it ends there, I don’t want any more continuity from it. So for me, yes I agree, there should be no misleading Robotech continuity any more but only the real Macross continuity (which can be conveniently renamed to Robotech by HG if they want to) especially for the newer audiences. Any live-action movie too should be based on the real Macross continuity, HG will still hog money being the holder anyway.

    • AstroNerdBoy says:

      Sorry this post got caught up in the filters, but it is here now. 🙂

      If HG is really the franchise holder, they should release RT as Macross, not RT as RT from their made-up non-Macross canon anymore.

      My understanding is that HG does not have any legal right to Macross, even though they think they do. They’ve claimed ownership of Macross outside of Japan, but since they are only interested in Robotech, that’s all they are going to do.

      If they ever tried making a Macross movie, Studio Nue might actually get the gumption to sue HG in U.S. courts over the copyright. They’ve won a court case in Japan, but HG thumbs their nose at that. Basically, HG is an evil company who want to pretend they own all of Macross outside of Japan, but at the same time, they deny there is a Macross, only wanting their “creation” of Robotech to be acknowledge for what it isn’t — an original creation.

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