I don’t know if I’ve ever really admitted this before, and I actually had to go back to a Black Gate post from two years ago to check, but I’m pretty much a Robotech junkie. Of all the crazy geek culture stuff I’m involved in, there is no licensed universe I care more for than Robotech [sorry Star Wars, it’s true].
It began, as most things did for me, in the 1980s, on VHS. I managed to get the entire series off a weekday comic block from a television station broadcasting out of Terre Haute, Indiana. At the time, it was like a drug, and I personally pored over those scratchy recorded episodes (that I’d captured at 7 AM for a year) so many times that the tapes finally corrupted. I even carried them around with me when I could, and I remember this time I took my collection, complete with commercial breaks, down to my grandparents’ house for Christmas and convinced my two cousins, Jeff a year younger and Greg, two years younger, to watch Macross with me.
Greg, always game for my little geeky desires because he looked up to me, stayed true to the course as the episodes ticked by into the wee hours of the morning, but Jeff, always the mathematical pragmatist (and now very wealthy and successful, go figure), decided he’d had enough by 1 AM. Bowing out, he went off to the rear of the house to sleep and Greg and I trudged on. Ten minutes later, Jeff reappeared, sat down glumly with a blanket wrapped around his shoulders, and never said a word, but finished out the series with us.
THAT is the power of Robotech! Even for a young man, soon to be actuary, and later high stakes financial guru, he just couldn’t blow off the end of Macross without knowing what happened between Rick, Lisa, and Minmei.
I mean, even my wife, who hates anime, hates fantasy, hates science fiction, hates… well, let’s just say her middle name should be ‘hate’, actually watched every episode of Macross just last year with my son and I! Is that even possible? Sure, she might have rolled her eyes on occasion as she looked up from her Mac while shopping online, but damnit, I’m still counting it!
My friend Mark, who I met in 8th grade at the middle school D&D club, introduced me to Robotech, and also Robotech the RPG, by Palladium books. He started reading the novel series by Jack McKinney in high school, watched the show, and was hooked as well.
As I was reading other fantasy books at the time, I never considered it necessary to read a novel version of the same shows I could watch on my VHS collection any time I liked. However, once the license moved to Harmony Gold’s expected release of Robotech II: The Sentinels, and was subsequently cancelled before airing, I was forced to dive into McKenney’s novelizations of the next Robotech series if I wanted to continue getting my fix.
Mark actually loaned me the first book of the Sentinels, The Devil’s Hand, and after reading it, I would rush to Waldenbooks each month to snatch the next release in the six book series. While doing so, Mark and I fought battles inside the framework of the Fourth Robotech War in the RPG, and afterward continued to spin our own tales of Robotech as the line ground to a veritable halt come 1990.
I spent summers in Vegas with my dad during late high school and the first year of college, and it was there I finally got to see my first Robotech toy. I was ecstatic to pick up a Scott Bernard in CVR-3 armor and also get a Rand figure for Mark.
Years later, I managed to find an Excalibur, Spartan, and Raider-X destroid collection at a Toys R Us, and now all these toys still sit proudly on my shelves behind my desk as I work each day.
It was also during this time, as Robotech faded from mass media consciousness, that I discovered it in comic form. I spent years tracking down Sentinels comics to get visuals of the novels I’d read, and also made it my personal ‘white whale’ to collect all twelve issues of Robotech: The Malcontent Uprisings (which I finally completed with the help of eBay almost a decade later).
To keep hope alive, I found a copy of the Robotech soundtrack and played it ceaselessly during all Robotech gaming sessions, including the sound effects tracks, during the 1990s, and I have to say I’m still pretty fond of Lonely Soldier Boy.
By 2000, Robotech was getting its first DVD release, and of course I purchased the entire collection in multiple boxed sets as I’d long since worn out all my VHS bootlegs.
That meant I could once again revisit the series, and I was also extremely happy to see yet another resurgence of the license when Robotech: Battlecry was released for the Playstation 2 a couple of years later. I ended up purchasing a PS2 just so I could play it, and that system is still hooked up to my TV today for my occasional need to fly a Veritech, or in the case of Robotech: Invasion, a Cyclone!
In 2006, I walked into a Target in Maryland and, lo and behold, a brand new Robotech movie, The Shadow Chronicles, was sitting in the new release endcap. I was so excited I could have had kittens on the spot, and raced home to tell Mark I was watching it.
This smooth anime, certainly much better than the ill-fated Robotech II: Sentinels movie, and yet falling somewhere between Invid Invasion and Southern Cross in ‘cool’ factor, helped to rekindle my love of the series even as I was beginning to raise a boy of my own.
Rumors at the time indicated another Robotech release, Robotech: Shadow Rising, was scheduled for 2007, but this never materialized and my glee was short lived.
However, upon my son finally turning 8 in February 2014, I decided to break out the old DVD collection from 2000 and show him Macross. Little did I realize, however, that the quality on those DVDs was absolutely horrid compared to what was on high definition television today, and so I couldn’t bring myself to watch them again.
Enter Netflix, which I found was currently carrying the entire series in remastered format! So, without hesitation, my son and I (as well as my wife) watched Macross in all its glory, and afterward, played that old PS2 Robotech: Battlecry until the living room sang with the joy of Robotech goodness.
It was during this time that I wandered into a used bookstore in L.A. and found a copy of Robotech: The Macross Saga: Battlecry, which binds the first three books in the Macross series into one volume. Although I didn’t have time to read it at the moment, I still purchased it and put it on my shelf in waiting.
Last week, after ordering Robotech: The Complete Series (with remastered content and three movies including the 2012 release of Robotech: Love Live Alive) on eBay, I finished Scalzi’s latest Old Man’s War novel and started reading a Macross novel for the first time.
It was so incredibly strange and fantastic to read lines I could recite verbatim, including inflection, in my mind, and soon I was surfing eBay again looking to complete my collection, while also finding new McKenney nuggets I’d not realized were even written! Yes, indeed, Robotech: Before the Invid Storm, which tells the tale of the fall of the Southern Cross during the initial assault by the Invid, was produced in 1996 and I was totally unaware!
So now I sit in an new wave of Robotech bliss, waiting for never-before-read fiction to be delivered to my door, once again hearing rumors that with the release of Love Live Alive, there is a ‘good’ chance we’ll actually see Robotech: Shadow Rising in the next couple years, and hoping that someday soon I can revisit the RPG with my son as we start at the beginning and see what new stories can arise.
Robotech is a true masterpiece, and I can’t say how valuable it has been to my development over the years, even if my wife once again is rolling her eyes at me!
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