Anime. Giant robots. Judge Bryan Byun. Attack!
Our reviews of Robotech Remastered: Extended Edition (Volume 3) (published October 7th, 2004), Robotech Remastered: Extended Edition (Volume 5) (published November 18th, 2004), Robotech Remastered: Extended Edition (Volume 6) (published November 18th, 2004), Robotech Remastered: Extended Edition Volume 1 (published March 12th, 2004), Robotech: The Complete Series (published November 6th, 2011), and Robotech: The Protoculture Collection (published December 1st, 2005) are also available.
"Robotech is back now!"
The second volume in ADV's Robotech Remastered: Extended Edition series, Set Two covers the middle section of the Macross Saga chapter (and yes, ADV will be releasing the second and third seasons, Robotech Masters and New Generation, in remastered form as well) of the epic Robotech saga. As fans of Robotech are no doubt aware, this is the third release of the series on DVD, following the feature-packed Legacy Collection and its bare bones repackaging, the Complete Collection. What separates this edition from the previous ones is that the entire series has been remastered, with a digital transfer from the original film stock (including footage deleted from the original broadcast), a new 5.1 surround audio track with newly-recorded sound effects, new opening and closing credits, and new commercial bumpers. Just as the Macross Saga was a retrofit of the original Japanese Super Dimensional Fortress: Macross series, Robotech Remastered is a retrofit of the original Robotech release—a fact which is bound to displease as many fans as it delights.
Facts of the Case
At the end of the first volume, hotshot Veritech fighter pilot Rick Hunter, his commander Lisa Hayes, flying ace Max Sterling, and lovable oaf Ben Dixon had effected their daring (is there any other kind?) escape from the clutches of the enemy, the gigantic Zentraedi warriors. Meanwhile, the Zentraedi send three spies to the SDF-1 to investigate the "Micronians" and discover what they can of their knowledge of protoculture (the mysterious and rare form of energy that powers robotechnology).
The second volume, like its predecessor, contains twelve episodes spread across two discs:
This middle set of episodes advances the overall storyline in dramatic fashion, with the SDF-1 reaching Earth only to receive an unexpectedly frosty reception, and Zentraedi attempts to capture the battlecruiser escalating beyond control with arrogant and bloodthirsty Lord Khyron staging increasingly reckless attacks.
The main focus of these episodes, however, is character development, with Rick's all-consuming infatuation with beautiful Lynn Minmei becoming ever more complicated as Minmei's flourishing singing and acting career continues to get in the way of their turbulent courtship. The entrance of Minmei's staunchly anti-military, pacifist cousin, Kyle, further stymies the increasingly jealous and disillusioned young man. Meanwhile, the grudging mutual respect between Rick and Lisa deepens into friendship, although their attentions are mostly taken up with their respective crushes, as Lisa becomes obsessed with Kyle, who reminds her of her dead boyfriend.
The lighter side of the plot involves the ongoing story of the three Zentraedi spies—Rico, Bron, and Konda—who steal aboard the SDF-1 only to be dazzled by the sensual delights of life in Macross City. Another Zentraedi infiltrator, the beautiful and deadly Miriya, has come to the SDF-1 to hunt down the Micronian pilot who bested her in combat.
After a rousing buildup, in which we were introduced to the Zentraedi and the various story threads were laid down, the Macross Saga settles down a bit for an extended interlude that features some of the juiciest soap opera elements of the saga, as well as many fine comic moments, mostly involving the misadventures of the three bumbling spies, who resemble Soviet defectors from the 1980s as they stumble awestruck through the capitalist wonderland of Micronian life. There's also a hilarious bit in "A New Dawn" where Miriya sees a fantasy kung-fu film starring Kyle and, unaware of the concept of fictional stories, assumes Kyle is a superpowered Micronian champion. It's not all romance and humor aboard the SDF-1; the ship's return to Earth takes on tragic dimensions with the deaths of two beloved characters, as well as the horrific destruction of an Earth city that strains relations between the SDF-1 crew and the planetary governments.
Moments like this are what make Robotech such a consistently entertaining series, even twenty years down the line. While it may have been marketed towards pre-teens, Robotech was nothing like the toothless, bland kidvid that American television fed to the youth of the early '80s, featuring complex, character-driven storylines that were kid-friendly without being dumbed down. Not that what we got from Harmony Gold wasn't defanged just a bit—as the restored footage in this collection shows, there was a fair amount of "butts & guts" material that was cut from the Japanese Macross series in the making of Robotech.
The nude scenes and lingering shots of Minmei's posterior in Volume One, along with the added shots of blood and mayhem, make a return here, since no fewer than two clip shows, "Gloval's Report" and "Phantasm," recycle scenes from previous episodes. "Phantasm," however, doesn't really count as a recap, since it's all a bizarre extended dream in the mind of a comatose Rick, and offers such unnerving images as Rick flying off to the moon on a magic bicycle. The most significant revisions in the "guts" category involve the deaths of two major characters, offering changed or added footage that make the deaths slightly more dramatic. Otherwise, the additions are pretty minor, none adding significantly to the story, but cumulatively they flesh out (so to speak) the series a bit and make the action scenes a little more intense.
As with the previous release, both the upgraded video and sound are a step above the earlier Legacy version. While markedly inconsistent and far from newly minted quality, the difference between the Remastered series and the earlier transfer is significant. A few shots look brand-new, and even the grainiest and most faded still beat the Legacy transfer hands down.
Audio, once again, is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in both English and Spanish and your mileage will vary in terms of whether it is an improvement or a step back from the original soundtrack. Purists will most likely reject the new sound effects, which in many cases are quite different from the old ones, while others will enjoy the deepened soundstage and dynamic surround effects. Some have complained that the sound effects tend to drown out the dialogue and music, but I haven't experienced this problem on my system. Since there is no 2.0 mix on these discs, viewers without surround systems may experience distorted sound. Frankly, considering that the most poorly aged aspect of this 20-year-old series is the dated and somewhat cheesy score by Ulpio Minucci and Arlon Ober, I'm not sure it's such a bad thing to push the music into the background. After the umpteenth rendition of "Stage Fright" (Minmei's perpetually "new" single), I was praying for a no-Minmei audio option for future volumes.
Unless ADV and Harmony Gold are saving all of the extras for a separate disc at the end of the series, it has a good deal to answer for with these bare-bones releases, which lack all of the extra features from the previous sets. Don't look for any of the cool supplementary material from the Elements of Robotechnology discs in the Legacy Collection, because they're not here. Even the ubiquitous art gallery is nowhere to be found on the Remastered volumes.
What you do get, however (aside from some ADV trailers), is a toy—a 3" tall plastic miniature of Roy Fokker's "Skull Leader" Veritech fighter. It's transformable, going from robot mode to fighter plane mode, and comes with a removable blaster gun. While I'm not a toy collector, I have to admit that this thing is neat—certainly better than a postcard, at any rate.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
"To be in loooove…must be the sweetest feeling that a girl can feel…to be in loooove…to live a dream…with somebody you care about like no one else…a special man…a dearest man…"
Although much of it seems quaint nowadays, with sophisticated anime series like Cowboy Bebop and Last Exile airing regularly on cable, there's no denying the important role of Robotech in the acceptance and growth of Japanese animation in the United States. But it's not merely a historical artifact; Robotech is a consistently entertaining, dramatic series that aspires to epic, War and Peace proportions. While the lack of extras is a serious omission, and makes this set more of a complement than a replacement for the earlier Legacy box set, Robotech Remastered is well worth the purchase for both the diehard Robotech fan and the new viewer.
The court finds Robotech Remastered: Extended Edition Vol. 2 not guilty, although a warrant is hereby issued for the arrest of Ulpio Minucci on a charge of aggravated Flashdancing.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: ADV Films
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