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Super Dimension Fortress Macross verse Robotech the Macross Saga

February 17, 2014 1 comment

Robotech Verse Macross

The differences and what a difference they made to a long-time viewer.

 

 

Macross artwork

Seeing the anime in its original form…

After, who knows how many years, I found a resource to watch Robotech: The Macross Saga in its original form; Super Dimension Fortress Macross. In 1985, three separate animated Japanese television series were translated, adapted and combined into a single franchise called Robotech. There are subtle changes and drastic, sweeping additions (and subtractions) that left me with the feeling that the true story is somewhere in the middle. I don’t care to debate which one is better, because I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to these things, but I see improvements in several areas for the American Robotech version. Since this discusses a few plot differences, prepare for spoilers if you’ve never seen either show or series.

 

Character Caricatures

 

Of course, all the names are switched and the main change is in the race/nationality of central characters Rick Hunter and Lisa Hayes. Seeing him as Hikaru Ichijyo gives hints to a mixed-race make up. Some of the other names come as direct translations so no harm, no foul. Some prefer the original Roy Fokker and some see the latter’s version as more humane and understanding. Small changes in script can have a huge impact. In Robotech, there’s a scene (I’m assuming you’ve seen one of these stories already, if not SPOILER ALERT!) after Roy’s death that it’s noted Rick Hunter is going to be piloting Focker’s Skull Leader jet fighter. Claudia (his ‘widowed’ love interest) remarks that Roy would have liked that…. In the Macross subtitle her reaction reads simply as a questioning “that boy?” as if to question Rick Hunter’s worthiness or at its most subtle, lost-in-translation meaning, isn’t the same positive sentiment.

 

Lisa Hayes from Macross

Just say it.

Japanese culture gives us love unrequited as the most common and fundamental state. Hey, characters never seem able to express their feelings, so you hang on and hang on hoping someone figures it out before it’s too late. Westerners love happy endings and Robotech takes the liberty of adding a few I LOVE YOU exclamations to lead to the happily ever after endings. In Macross, it’s more of a suggested ‘next’ and you are left to imagine where this thing is headed.

 

 

The Music, Mayhem and the Minmei Effect

 

Music plays a huge part in the saga and numerous scenes (action and dramatic) are heavily altered and changed in tone by the addition or subtraction of incidental music and thematic cues. Many scenes lost impact and fell short in Macross (that were thrilling and exciting in Robotech) due to silence or use of ambient music. The grand theme song for Robotech is a powerful symphonic piece that is used throughout the series to accent the action and I consider it a huge part of Robotech’s personality.

 

My western sensibilities also lean towards the Robotech version’s of Minmei’s songs. The rousing “We Will Win” by Reba West is simply incredible and the combination of music and action blend together seamlessly in the late episode “Force of Arms”. I just find that the wide range of moods are better captured with the newer material.

 

Cuts to the Chase

What about the diminished violence, sexual overtures and eliminated partial nudity? Censors went to work on Robotech- removing many scenes of death and animated violence. It is a show about war, isn’t it? A huge deal? No, not really. I already thought there was a lot of darkness and loss in Robotech so seeing a few extended clips in Macross doesn’t change the story for me. I do admit, seeing Macross certainly did smooth out some scenes, which felt a little clunky, as they repeated clips to fill in the gaps of the edited edgy material.  There is some admission of sexual attraction in Macross, which I wish could have stayed as it added a more human-dimension to some of the proto-culture shock and seemed like more realistic urgings for the Zentradi soldiers to be responding to.

 

Rendering Endings

And finally is the finale. Robotech gave us this big letdown as the bridge crew of the SDF-1 is killed in the final attack of Khyron. Even as a kid, I wasn’t feeling that. It’s explained that Admiral Gloval pushed Lisa Hayes into an ejection module right before impact. I understand the reasoning as you’d have to explain where everybody went once Dana’s Story starts the next Robotech Saga arc, but really, you could have said EVERYBODY left in the SDF-2. I still think that’s a bad writing move and it’s a joy to watch the original Macross and see everyone live.

 

Like I said in my opening paragraph, I feel like the true experience of Macross/Robotech is an imagined combination of both versions. I think no matter which one you feel is better, they are both important to the franchise and have done a great deal to spread and share the world of Macross. Mostly I wrote this for those who have only seen Robotech and I am urging them to go back and watch Macross.

 

Links of note:

KissAnime, where the original Macross can be streamed for free

http://kissanime.com/Anime/Macross/Episode-001?id=35455

 

 

 

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