A&E // 1985 // 2028 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Victor Valdivia (Retired) // November 6th, 2011
A sweeping science-fiction anime epic of humans defending their home world against alien domination.
Yes, it's another Robotech DVD release. Yes, Robotech: The Complete Series purports to be the definitive release for fans. Actually, it really is a outstandingly comprehensive and well-produced DVD, so even if you have the previous DVD issues, this is still a must for diehard fans, even if it is a mouthful for newcomers to the series.
In 1999, an alien spacecraft crashes to Earth, revealing a new type of technology dubbed "Robotech" that humans use to form a multinational alliance. Ten years later, just as Earth is about to unveil the new series of advanced weaponry created with Robotech technology, Earth is attacked by aliens. Three wars, one for each season of the show, follow. In the first season, "The Macross Saga," the aliens who fought the creators of Robotech attack Earth to prevent the spread of Robotech technology. In the second season, "The Masters Saga," the original creators of Robotech attack humanity to recapture their technology. In the third season, "The New Generation," the remaining survivors of the Robotech wars launch an attack on the heart of the alien invaders.
There are so many nuances and details in such a massive production (eighty-five episodes spread out over thirteen discs) that it's impossible to truly assess all of them without writing a hundred-paragraph review. Besides, in many ways, it's not so much the actual details of Robotech that are significant, it's how the series was produced and the effect it had on its fans that's a truly fascinating story.
What was significant about Robotech was that it was arguably the first anime series that was marketed to kids without being watered down. There had been other series, such as Speed Racer, that had previously aired in the United States, but they were unquestionably kids' shows. Robotech, by contrast, aired weekday afternoons just as kids were getting home from school, and had enough action and sci-fi scenes to enthrall them, but also contained some remarkably complex elements that were not left out to pacify them. In Robotech, beloved characters can die, act badly, make mistakes, and have full-fledged arcs. This was virtually unheard-of for animated action series pitched towards children; you never saw the characters on Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends grow or change in any way. It was a way that Robotech was such an important show for the generation of kids who watched it.
What's even more interesting is how the show was produced. American writer/producer Carl Macek stitched together three unrelated Japanese cartoon series, redubbed them, added some minor animation links, and rewrote their scripts to create Robotech. This has always been a controversial move that anime fans have debated about for years: Should Macek simply have translated the shows straight or did he turn them into something more compelling? Whether or not the original shows (each of which is available separately) would have been as successful without Macek's modifications is debatable, but it's hard to argue with how much of an impact Robotech had. For a generation, it was the first glimpse of anime and many future American anime professionals frequently cite it as an influence.
Macek's modifications are not nearly as intrusive as you might expect. Sure, the voice acting is sometimes rather one-dimensional (heroic declamations and villainous sneering), but that's a characteristic of animated voice acting, especially in that era. What's more significant is that the storylines that Macek and his writers imposed on the material is genuinely complex. It encompasses issues that are hard to sum up concisely in regular animated shows. When the war comes to Earth, humans, in fear and prejudice, end up turning on each other. When peace is mentioned, there are warriors on both sides who would rather fight than sue for peace. These complex stories are deftly integrated by making each series take place in a different generation. That way, the fact that characters disappear and are replaced is easily explained, and also allows for more variety. It makes Robotech a more accessible and fascinating space opera than a lot of anime can be at times. (Viewers should note, however, that there is some adult content in some of these episodes, such as shots of brief nudity. Preview first if you feel you need to.)
This DVD set is probably the definitive release technically. The full-screen transfer looks about as good as it can look, considering its age. There is some grain and these are not the razor-sharp images of modern anime, but how could they be? Where this collection shines technically are the 5.1 surround mixes, which are spectacular. They easily rival those of any sci-fi blockbuster. They're loud, dense, and well-balanced. Guaranteed, if you put these on at full blast, you'll get the most out of your sound system.
Even more extraordinary are the extras. There are no less than four discs worth of extras, totaling some nearly eleven hours. There are featurettes covering virtually every aspect of the series. There are select episode commentaries by Macek. There are hours of deleted and alternate scenes. There are promos, music videos, art galleries, and toy and merchandise galleries. There's an edited version of Robotech: The Movie (edited "for licensing reasons," whatever that means) and select episodes of the original Japanese shows that the series is taken from. It can safely be said that anything you've ever wanted or needed regarding Robotech is on this collection. The whole set serves as a tribute to Macek, who passed away in 2010, although he does appear on many of the extras.
Seventeen discs -- for a list price of $99.95? You'd better be a huge Robotech fan to even consider buying this set. If you're only curious, this will be a sizable mouthful, especially if you have a low tolerance for anime. You'd do better to start with a few episodes first in that case.
Robotech fans are understandably wary of yet another DVD release for the series; they've been burned by having to buy endlessly repackaged issues before. This, however, promises to be the last possible word on Robotech. Love it or hate it, you've got to have it. Watch a few episodes first if you're not a fan, but since Robotech is easily one of the most accessible and intriguing anime shows (especially for non-anime fans), you should have no trouble deciding, soon enough, whether you might just want to splurge on this set after all.
Review content copyright © 2011 Victor Valdivia; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 2028 Minutes
Release Year: 1985
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Episode Commentaries
* Alternate Episodes
* Deleted Scenes
* Music Videos
* Image Gallery
* Text Extras