|Dana and her tank were the largest toy|
released for the Robotech series in the 80s.
I know this, and yet it never seems to stop me.
Back in 1985 I experienced Robotech, a series that destroyed my conventional expectations of what a cartoon could be. I blogged a bit about the series and it's initial impact on me. But I also mentioned that I was never able to see the entire run of the show straight through. That changed when Netflix download made the entire series available to viewing.
One of the things I notice is that whenever I see anyone mention Robotech they usually talk about the following: Veritech Fighters, the SDF -1, the love triangle between Rick, Minmei and Lisa, the Zentraedi, Max and Miriya's relationship and the impressive action scenes in the series. Except for that last bit, nearly all the conversation revolves around The Macross saga.
After watching the full show, I understand why.
|Cool bit of fan art for a DVD|
collection of the original series.
I don't want to say that The Macross Saga is perfect. It slogs a bit in the middle and some of the soapier aspects of the series start to weigh down the story. But it still has a very clear narrative line. It has well developed and interesting characters who have clear motivations. It has antagonists that start out rather two dimensional, but evolve over the course of the series. It feels like it has real stakes tied to it. The drama is there. The action is impressive and overall it delivered a well told story with memorable characters.
But the following two storylines of Robotech are missing key elements. They end up falling well short at times. This is only compounded by the narrative problems of trying to tie the three very different series into one cohesive whole.
|So many clones. So little time.|
There are hints that several of the people in charge on earth would be willing to help the Robotech Masters if they just ceased hostilities and asked for help. But the Masters refuse to even consider it. Their interaction with the Invid have soured their view on all other species. It is hinted that this acceptance of war is tied into the fact that they are essentially clones, and their hive mentality keeps them from seeing other options. The cloning aspect and civilization built on trios is also fascinating, and something that was fleshed out early in the series. Unfortunately the rushed ending doesn't give us a substantial payoff for these antagonists.
|Resistance is futile!|
|Bowie and Musica facing a group of clone soldiers.|
As I mentioned in my nostalgic musings, I appreciate now that the lead hero in The Masters Saga was a female tank commander. It was also cool that there was a young black man as the other main protagonist. Of all the heroic leads they are most interesting. Bowie's journey is very real. He starts out as rudderless in this war torn world. He loves playing the piano and writing music, but joins the army so he can please his godfather (who is his adopted father) and his best friend. But he has no stomach for fighting, and doesn't seem too good at it. As the series progresses we see him regretting his actions and becoming his own person. By the end of the series he has pretty much rebelled against the army, and even against Dana to an extent. He doesn't' want to fight people who he feels are very smilier to humans and just want to live in peace. We don't get to spend as much time as I we could have with Bowie, but I found his character to have the most interesting arc.
No, we get to spend more time with Dana and Zor. I think this was supposed to mirror the Max and Miriya relationship from the Macross Saga, but it feels like a stale retread of sorts. Dana comes across like a school girl infatuated with Zor. His memory loss makes him a less appealing character compared to the fiery Miriya and the cool, confident, but genuine Max. Zor's big secret isn't really too much a secret - he's a clone created by the Robotech Masters. This is pretty much given away within the first few episodes of the series. So the whole time you are waiting for the other shoe to drop, and when it finally does it doesn't deliver a gut punch but more of a ho-hum.
|Dana doesn't like me talking smack about her.|
I think a real great character could be made with Dana Sterling. Here is a young woman who has famous parents. Her father was THE ace pilot of the SDF-1 and saved countless lives on a number of occasions. Her mother is a Zentraedi ace pilot who killed many humans before joining in the fight against her own people. The relationship must have loomed like a large shadow over Dana as a kid and would surely influence her as she pursued her own path in the military.
|Nova and Marie wonder if Dana can really pull off|
But the writers of the series were locked into whatever the animation provided. Unfortunately Southern Cross provided a very confusing lead character. In the first portion of the series Dana gets tossed in the brig for behaving like an ass a couple of times. And while she does end up getting respect from those around her (especially Marie and Nova) by the end of the series, it just doesn't ring true. I also think the animators felt that if they had to have the lead character be a woman than we needed to have many gratuitous shower scenes. Seriously, Dana must have felt that she was always covered with tank dust or something.
|Yeah Nova is Lawful Good to the extreme!|
|The Bioroids have the ability to cause massive devistation.|
I don't think that was the intention. I think they didn't want one side getting an upper hand, and I can appreciate that. Both the Macross and the New Generation feature humanity going up against a much more powerful enemy and in a constant state of struggle. It created natural drama. But here with both sides so equally matched, you get bored feeling that neither side can win. This is why the desperation of the Robotech Masters adds such weight to the overall feel of the show. But it happens behind the scenes and never seems to impact the actual war until the end.
|One of the three modes for the battle tanks used by|
the Southern Cross brigade.
What is missing is the cost to humanity. The Macross Saga did a much better job showing how much damage and loss of life the Zentraedi caused to humanity. But we don't see that in The Masters Saga. All our protagonists survive unscathed. We hear and see some aftermath of the war, but nothing comes home like the attacks agains Macross city in the first series. We don't hear Earth defense forces talking about any costs to personal, supplies or technology. You just have the firebrand leader behaving like a jerk and yelling that they can never be defeated. But in the end, he kinda turns out to be right. I'm not sure if some material was edited out, or if it just wasn't there to begin with. But the cost of the war to humanity just doesn't seem to be that high. Especially when you see the massive destruction and backsliding of civilization in the New Generation saga. It just doesn't seem to line up.
|Staring contest... and GO!|
Sadly this doesn't happen. When the Masters Saga ends you don't feel like you got a proper climax to the plot. It just feel like the filler in the middle to get to the third act. This is actually intensified in the New Generation when you don't get any mention of Dana or Bowie or the Southern Cross brigade at all! You hear about the devastation of the war against the Robotech Masters, but it feels like the events you just spent so many episodes watching didn't impact the story much at all. In fact you get more name dropping of Rick Hunter and the SDF-1 in the New Generation than anything from the Masters Saga. It could be because the middle series just wasn't too popular and they wanted to remind viewers (kids) why they liked this show so much the in the first place.
It is frustrating that so much potential was in place for the Masters Saga of Robotech, but it just never really comes to fruition. Luckily things get a little better with the New Generation, but it isn't without its problems.
|Dana gets ready to rock a rhapsody of Robotech.|