Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Carl Macek's Robotech Universe.

I'm a Robotech Fan. I enjoy saying that. Part of my enjoyment of saying it is because it makes a lot of Anime fans exceedingly angry.

I like it for a variety of reasons. Nostalgia. The generational saga. The dense and convoluted storyline that arose from the combination of three pre-existing sagas along with new material.

Don't mistake me, I enjoyed all 3 of the original Japanese shows.. but I wasn't converted to the accepted dogma. I didn't abandon my Robotech fandom to rush into the arms of Macross. They mock, but it only makes me love it more.

Last year, the man responsible for "creating" Robotech from those three shows, Carl Macek, died. He was a talented man who gets berated greatly by the Anime fan community in general. They don't stop to think that he didn't originally want to put those three shows together, he wanted to show Macross on its own. But he was hampered by the syndication rules at the time. He took a bad situation, and found a solution to get that great material out to the people. Now you can just buy DVD's from Japan or even get them subtitled in the US, but at the time Anime was a nascent barely clinging together clump of cells.

Because of Carl, Robotech expanded beyond the confines of the TV series. It was adapted into a series of Novels, the novels expanded even further on the background of the show and were themselves integral to the creation of the Robotech RPG which went into stunning detail in filling in the gaps left by the construction method of the TV series. Many comic book series, two feature films, and an assortment of other bits and pieces followed.

Thats essentially not the story as presented in the new Documentary Carl Macek's Robotech Universe. Though it is present in its barest forms, most of the documentary is taken up, not buy the writers or technical people discussing how Carl made Robotech, but is instead mainly fixated on the voice actors lavishing praise on their recently dead friend. I understand that since Robotech was many of the VA's first job, they would wish to postulate on the man himself rather than his production. It just wasn't a very good documentary about Robotech, even though it was a decent enough one about Carl's Role in Robotech's creation. It re-iterated some of the mythology that Harmony Gold now makes use of. They've taken the tact of simply ignoring the critics entirely and creating a some what delusional world in which Robotech was the Saviour of Anime in North America. I love it to death but I think that Voltron, Macron 1, G-force, Star Blazers, and many many other shows were just as important to the burgeoning Anime fandom. I think that the role that Harmony Gold wants to place Robotech into, likely belongs in reality to Dragon Ball Z. DBZ was on multiple channels, multiple times a day, lasted forever, and it was sometime while the characters were still on Namek that the Anime bomb went off and it was EVERYWHERE.

When I was in Elementary school, Anime consisted of shows like Robotech and Voltron and Star Blazers, no one really watched it. When I got to Middle School, DBZ was on and a vast cross section of people with highly divergent interested were watching it. When I got to Highschool, Anime was literally everywhere. It was omnipresent. There were anime exclusive stores in the suburbs around Atlanta. Book stores were stocking Manga. Best buy had two whole aisles for Anime VHS tapes at outrageous prices.

I'm not trying to say that Robotech and Carl Macek played no part in this, it was back on TV at the time on Cartoon Network.. but I just feel its disengenueous to simply decide it was the most important catalyst.

Another problem I had with the documentary was Tommy Yune's casual dismissal of Transformers and Transformers fans. I'm not sure if Mr. Yune has noticed.. but while Tobey Mcquires live action Robotech film is floundering.. Michael Bay has produced a Trilogy of (admittedly bad films) which have cumulatively grossed billions of dollars. Robotech's 25th anniversary is largely remembered because of the hardcore fans of the series going back to the 80's, its high DVD sales are the result of perpetually releasing newer and newer DVD sets. Just since DVD got big around 2001, there have been no fewer than 5 different releases of the show on that format. Every one of them offers drips and drabs of new material. the first ones were just the broadcast masters, but were loaded with extras. Then they released just the broadcast show in bare bones release. Then they remastered the show using new tapes from Japan, cleaning it up and re touching the sounds. Those releases got re-released later with all of the special features from the original release. Now A&E has re-re-re-released a new set, that has all of the remastered shows, all of the special features from all of the sets along with this new documentary and a variety of other bits and pieces. They even finally acknowledge Robotech the movie, but don't go so far as to actually include it. Pity. I suppose they are holding it back, along with the new Yellow Dancer centric mini-film Robotech Love Live Alive (made from a Japanese music video and which will apparently bridge the gap between Southern Cross and New Generation) for another future release.

All of this isn't to dismiss the documentary. It was a good enough documentary, it simply wasn't what their hype made it out to be. It should have gone into more detail about the show itself, about the comics, about the controversy, about the very rational for creating it in the first place. Instead we just got a bunch of weepy voice actors talking about their friend.


Anonymous said...

"Part of my enjoyment of saying it is because it makes a lot of Anime fans exceedingly angry."

Congratulations, you are a troll. This is the definition of trolling.

Lagomorph Rex said...