What is Robotech?
Robotech is a story of a multi-generation war waged by humans, genetically created beings, alien races, and an evolved hive species fighting with giant machines, bio-mechanical systems, and reconfigurable mecha. Its story is on a scale in which whole worlds and races and the very fabric of the universe lay in jeopardy. It is told through different mediums; a Japanese animation series, or anime, an adult novelization, role-playing game sourcebooks, and comics which results in a conflagration of different points of viewpoints relating to the specifics of the Robotech Universe. Though there are as many different answers as there are fans to the question of what Robotech is, most people would agree that it is one of the greatest science fiction epics of our time.
The Story of Robotech
(Preface, which is revealed through flashbacks and storytelling throughout the series.)
Long ago in a distant quadrant of the galaxy, an explorer and scientist from the planet of Tirol named Zor explored the planet of Opera. On Opera there lived a hive species called the Invid, which fed and depended on a native plant called the Flower of Life. The Invid had a male leader, the Regent, and a female leader, the Regis. From the Regis, Zor learned that the Flower of Life could be used to make a remarkable energy source called Protoculture. By working with Protoculture, Zor created a new type of technology called Robotechnology. Zor introduced Protoculture and Robotechnology to his planet’s leaders, the Robotech Masters, who became corrupted by the power it gave them. The Robotech Masters genetically created a warrior race of giants called the Zentraedi and seeking a monopoly on Protoculture, ordered the Zentraedi to defoliate Opera. The Invid were forced to fight for their survival and became a race of fierce warriors who battled with the Zentraedi and the Robotech Masters.
Zor became disgusted by the way his leaders used Protoculture and Robotechnology and vowed to undermine them. He built a powerful ship and hid in it the Protoculture Matrix, a vast Protoculture resource, and dispatched the ship and died. The Robotech Masters, who needed the resources of Protoculture the Matrix held to maintain their empire, dispatched the Zentraedi to find it.
(This portion is based on Super Dimension Fortress: Macross)
In the year 1999, an alien ship crashes on Earth on a small Island called Macross bringing an end to a civil war on Earth. The people of Earth unite and rebuild the ship, which they name the SDF-1. During the reconstruction, a large city named Macross City rose up around the fortress. From examples recovered and information learned from the SDF-1, the Terrans learn about Robotechnology and apply it.
It takes ten years to rebuild the SDF-1, but in 2009 it was finally done. On the launching day of the SDF-1, the Zentraedi arrive and the First Robotech War begins as they try to reclaim the fortress and the Protoculture Matrix it contains.
Rick Hunter becomes one of the pivotal characters in Robotech. He starts as a civilian, becomes a fighter pilot to follow in the footsteps of his older kid-brother Roy Fokker, and becomes the leader of the SDF-1’s fighter group in Roy’s place after he is killed. The SDF-1’s First Officer, Lisa Hayes, falls in love with Rick. Rick, however, is in love with Lynn-Minmei, a young singer and popular icon in Macross City. Later Rick and Lisa realize their love for each other.
During the war, the Zentraedi in the fleet sent to recover the Matrix is exposed to Terran culture and emotions for the first time. They refuse to fight and wish instead to abandon their war-dominated culture to join theirs. One female Zentraedi, Miriya Parino, and a Terran pilot and friend of Rick, Max Sterling, marry and have a child, Dana Sterling.
At the war’s conclusion, the ships of the Zentraedi fleet are summoned to Earth for a final showdown against the SDF-1 and the renegade Zentraedi which allied with them. The Earth is bombarded and its surface is all but sanitized of life. The entire fleet of the enemy Zentraedi is destroyed although remnants of it survive on Earth and continue to fight a brief guerrilla-style war. At the conclusion of the First Robotech War, the SDF-1 is destroyed and plans are made to send a force to Tirol, the home of the Robotech Masters, to prevent another war from coming to earth.
(This portion is based on what consistent information on the Sentinels is available)
The Robotech Expeditionary Force, comprised of Rick, Lisa, Max, and Miriya and the SDF-3 leaves Earth for Tirol. They join forces with a rag-tag group of aliens called the Sentinels who have had their home planets conquered by the Invid. The Terran Robotech soldiers and the Sentinels liberate the home planets of the Sentinels.
(This portion is based on Super Dimension Calvary: Southern Cross)
Fifteen years after the end of The First Robotech War, the Army of the Southern Cross is the defender of Earth. Dana Sterling, the daughter of Max and Miriya, is a soldier in the Army of the Southern Cross and becomes the commander of a hover tank unit, the 15th ATAC. The Robotech Masters arrive and ignite the Second Robotech War to recover the Protoculture Matrix from the buried corpse of the SDF-1.
Dana falls in love with Zor Prime, a captured warrior clone of the original Zor who is an unknowing spy for the Robotech Masters. Zor Prime eventually remembers his past and tries to fulfill his plan to undermine the Robotech Masters. At the end of the Second Robotech War, Zor and the Robotech Masters are killed and the contents of the Matrix are released which caused Flowers of Life to grow. There is a sense of impending doom as the savage Invid are summoned to where ever the Flower of Life takes root.
(This portion is based on Genesis Climber Mospeada)
The Invid, led by the Regis, conquer Earth, and waves of fleets from Admiral Hunter’s expeditionary force dispatched from Tirol attempt to liberate it. In one of these fleets is a pilot named Scott Bernard. Scott’s fleet is all but wiped out and he believes himself to be the only survivor. On Earth, he continues his mission, which is to destroy the main hive of the Invid on Earth, a structure called Reflex Point.
During Scott’s journey, he collects a rag-tag group of freedom fighters who are dedicated to helping destroy the Reflex Point with him. By the time they reach Reflex Point, the largest portion of Admiral Hunter’s fleet arrives for the final attempt at retaking the Earth. Admiral Hunter’s flagship, the SDF-3, mysteriously fails to arrive with the rest of the fleet. During that battle, the Regis utilizes all the remaining stores of Protoculture to raise herself and her race to a higher plane of existence, leaving Earth behind.
What happens to the SDF-3, Rick, Lisa, and friends is only concretely addressed by the Robotech novels, which some fans accept and some do not.
The Creation of Robotech
The first steps in the creation of Robotech were unknowingly taken in late 1984 when an American company, Harmony Gold, bought the rights to Super Dimension Fortress: Macross, a 36 episode anime series created by Tatsunoko Studios which aired in Japan in late 1982. Such purchases were common as Harmony Gold was the international distributor of Tatsunoko-produced works and their partnership resulted in the enormous popularity of series such as Speed Racer. Harmony Gold intended to release an English translation of SDF: Macross for television syndication in the United States but discovered it couldn’t as it was 29 episodes short of the minimum requirement for television syndication.
A producer at Harmony Gold named Carl Macek conjured up a creative way to meet the requirement by taking other anime series and blending it with SDF: Macross to create an entirely new series. Macek looked to the series Harmony Gold already purchased and found Super Dimension Calvary: Southern Cross and Genesis Climber Mospeada. Both series were produced by Tatsunoko Studios and were aired in Japan in April of 1984 and October 1983, respectively. They were purchased by Harmony Gold around the same time SDF: Macross was acquired. Like SDF: Macross, they were intended to be translated into English and released separately, but in Macek’s hands, the three series would be reconceptualized, revised, redefined, and Westernized into the anime series known to the world as Robotech. The Robotech anime, which was comprised of 85 episodes, premiered in early 1985.
Robotech started with anime, but it soon began to expand into other mediums. As its popularity soared in the summer of 1985, products like lines of Robotech toys, comic series, and merchandise were created. In the fall of 1985, a 65-episode sequel to Robotech called Robotech II: The Sentinels began to be developed. It was financed in a joint effort by Harmony Gold and Matchbox International, which was the master toy licensee for Robotech. It was expected to be released fall of 1986 but ran into financial complications and was abandoned after only completing 3 episodes. A Robotech movie, Robotech: The Movie, was released in 1986 but due to advertising snafus, the turnout at the screenings was so disappointing that it was abandoned. The first printings of the Robotech role-playing gamebooks by Kevin Siembieda took place in late 1986. In March of 1987, the first book of the Robotech novelizations written by Brian Daley and James Luceno under the pseudonym Jack McKinney was published.
Interestingly enough, each separate writing of the Robotech story seemed to differ a bit from the others, which to this day spawns debate and controversy among the fans of Robotech. There are fans that accept the novel’s version of the story that is referred to as McKinneyists after the author of the novels Jack McKinney. There are those who accept the RPG’s version of the story and then those who accept the anime’s version who are referred to as Purists. Then there are sub-groups of Purists that disagree on the matter of incorporating material from the original animes like SDF: Macross into the Robotech Universe. There are fans who try to take a little of everything to make a version called Universalists. Then there are fans who don’t think that the events of Robotech: The Movie should incorporate into the Robotech Universe and there are fans that do. Then there are fans that think that only some of the events from Robotech: The Movie should be incorporated into Robotech and the rest should be left out. (The list goes on and on.) Multiply all of that by the fact that people can’t even agree on conclusions from the same version of Robotech and you get a phenomenon that exists only in the Robotech community.
Survivability of Robotech
Even nearly a decade after Robotech was originally released and aired, it continued to endure and even grow proving its long-term survivability. Through the mid-1990s Robotech role-playing game sourcebooks have continued to be printed, the Robotech novels by Jack McKinney have been reprinted in 3-in-1 collections, and two brand new novels were published. Robotech even got back on the air in 1994 when all 85 episodes were shown on the Sci-Fi Channel in an early AM timeslot. Streamline Pictures released a 2-CD Robotech Soundtrack and re-released some of the Robotech anime on VHS cassettes. In 1996, a Korean company, Joons, re-produced the 12-inch fully transformable VF-1J Veritech Fighter toy. In March of 1997, Antarctic Press printed the first issue in a new Robotech comic series. A video game for the Nintendo-64 console was also being produced by Gametek until that company ran into financial problems. The series made another more pronounced television appearance in the summer of 1998 when the Cartoon Network aired the first 60 episodes in its regular Toonami afternoon line-up. There are even rumors of new and upcoming projects, such as Robotech 3000, which could ensure Robotech’s longevity well into the next decade.
The Future of Robotech
The future of Robotech is and will always be firmly in the hands of its fans. As the last decade has demonstrated, the existing fans are capable of producing a demand so large that the industry hasn’t been able to ignore it. As long as there are fans that demand Robotech, there will be industries compelled to supply it. As a result, people will continue to be exposed to Robotech in all forms, original and new, which will, in turn, continue to create future generations of fans to carry on its legacy.
The concept of the page was inspired by Mr. St. D, who after seeing The Robotech Page for the first time asked, “yeah, but what is Robotech?”.
Robotech Art 3 by Carl Macek was my main source of information and dates. I also referred to Erique County’s ‘History of Robotech’ essay a handful of times for additional dates. Basara was also a great help in providing information. Thanks also to my test readers, especially Pumukl, whose positive endorsements meant a great deal to me.
I’d like to thank those who took the time to submit their essays. -Macross