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Robotech Remastered Extended Edition Vol. #01 Anime DVD Review

8 min read
Robotech's basic idea is sound, but the way it's presented didn't work too well for me

Another classic series comes to DVD on the back of some extensive audio & video restoration work. Does one of the giants of 1980’s anime still have what it takes to be engrossing today?

What They Say
It’s the year 1999, and Earth is embroiled in a Global War that is systematically destroying every country involved. However, the year brings great change to Earth in the form of a giant alien spaceship that astronomers have discovered hurtling towards Earth. It crashes in the South Pacific, on Macross Island, and soon the Global War has stopped and the world’s best scientists have devoted themselves to restoring the technologically advanced battle fortress that has fallen to Earth. Ten years later, Project Robotech has been completed, and the SDF-1 is ready for its maiden voyage. Unfortunately, the SDF-1 has attracted a Zentraedi armada who want to claim the ship as their own. So, a war begins with Captain Gloval struggling to defend the ship with the alien technology of the SDF-1 as the men of the Earth’s Veritech Fighters, led by Lieutenant Commander Roy Fokker, struggle to keep up with the superior alien firepower. An involving and exciting space opera that has been immensely popular since its release, ROBOTECH is a landmark anime series.

This special collector’s edition includes digitally remastered episodes 01-12 of the series’ THE MACROSS SAGA, as well as new opening and closing credits and deleted scenes.

The Review:
The audio on this release is provided in English-only and has been remastered into 5.1 surround. Unfortunately, neither disc in the set would play on my only 5.1-capable system (see the Video comments), so I was only able to watch this in 2.0 stereo. The audio remastering has been used to give some added “oomph” to the sound effects, sometimes to the point where you can’t hear much else, while the dialogue has been left rooted to the centre channel. Minmei’s songs, first heard towards the end of the set, are similarly lacking in direction. I definitely feel more could have been made of the new surround track than simply beefing up the explosions.

Robotech Remastered uses the restored masters created by Animeigo for their release of Macross & is presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The restoration work done means the show is free of any of the usual signs of old age, while the DVD transfer is clean, with no signs of any encoding problems. The animation style clearly shows its early 80’s origins though, with low frame-rates, a lack of detail in many scenes, and character designs that aren’t particularly appealing. Unfortunately, neither disc in this set would play properly on my primary player (a Pioneer DV-626D) without exhibiting serious problems with video artifacts. This is the only release I’ve had problems with on this player, but both discs play without problems on both my other standalone player and my Apple Mac, so I’m not certain if the problems were a result of a player or disc glitch.

No packaging was provided with our review copy.

Strangely in 16:9 format when the rest of the disc is in 4:3, the menus here are quite simple. An image of Rick is projected on the walls of the ‘room’ used by the menus, while a video clip runs on a table in the centre of the room. There are only two options, Play All and Episode Selection, with the camera’s point of view shifting depending on which option you choose. The opening theme plays throughout. Disc two uses a similar theme, using a different character in place of Rick. There are short transition animations when selecting options that slow things down a bit, but the menus are clear and easy to use.


Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
Continuing something of a recent trend for me, Robotech is another legend of anime that I’ve never seen before. It’s time to see if it lives up to its reputation.

Earth, 1999, and a giant alien spacecraft, nearly 3 miles in length, crash-lands on Macross island in the South Pacific, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. Faced with the knowledge that aliens considerably more powerful than humanity are out there, humanity put its full efforts into restoring the craft & learning from the advanced technology on board, which the scientists have dubbed “Robotech”. Eventually, the alien ship, renamed the SDF-1, is fully restored and ready for launch, but no sooner is it ready to fly than a race of warriors known as the Zentraedi come looking for the downed ship. As luck would have it, young hotshot aerobatic pilot Rick Hunter is visiting the SDF-1 on the day of the attack and gets unwillingly dragged into the fighting.

While the SDF-1 prepares to launch and take the battle to the Zentraedi, Rick and his friend Roy Fokker, a military pilot, are defending Macross City. Rick’s complete lack of experience with Veritech fighters means he’s not much use, but he does manage to save a young girl, Lynn Minmei, from the fighting before the SDF-1 engages its Fold drive, jumping through hyperspace and taking a large chunk of Macross Island, including the city, with it. The ship emerges near the orbit of Pluto, where it’s quickly discovered that the Fold drive has simply disappeared during the jump. The survivors from Macross City are quickly moved inside the giant ship, complete with the city’s buildings and vehicles, and set about creating a normal life for themselves while SDF-1’s captain, Henry Gloval, sets about finding a way back to Earth.

I found myself shaking my head in disbelief a few times at the way things kept going conveniently wrong for the SDF-1 – what with anti-gravity generators floating off and Fold drives magically disappearing, the whole setup around the ship’s retreat from Earth just felt wrong. Add in the way the Macross City citizens simply picked themselves up, moved their buildings into the ship (intact and apparently in the same layout the city had back on Earth) before carrying on as if nothing had happened, and my suspension of disbelief was being stretched to its limits. The upside of this move is to bring a human aspect to the war, as the military can’t simply do what they please – the 70,000 civilians below decks have to be considered as well, and there are times when the needs of one group are almost completely opposed to the other.

The characters themselves weren’t helping, either. Rick Hunter, whose reluctance to get involved in the fight against the Zentraedi is a key theme in the early episodes, eventually signs up as a Veritech pilot as a result of pressure from his long-time friend Roy Fokker – a Lieutenant-Commander in the military and ace Veritech pilot – and Lynn Minmei, the young girl Rick saves and soon falls in love with. Minmei comes across as somewhat selfish and pretty much fails to catch on to Rick’s growing interest in her, especially once she begins her rise to stardom. Rick is plainly out to impress, and has a misplaced sense of priorities, failing to grasp that in wartime risking the lives of thousands to save one maybe isn’t the smartest thing to do. Roy is the most personable of the three, with a genuine heroic air about him. From the bridge crew, Captain Gloval and Lisa Hayes get the most of the screentime. Rick gets off to a bad start with Lisa, calling her an “old hag” (a slip that keeps coming back to haunt him) – she has a hard exterior, but there are signs of a heart in there somewhere – while Gloval seems to have been given the command of the SDF-1 solely on the size of his hat, as his command skills certainly don’t seem to be up to much.

If anything, the Zentraedi are a more interesting bunch. Bred for battle, they’re a ruthless race, but that focus on just one goal in life comes at a price – they’re not technically-minded, as Rick and the others find when they’re captured at one point, while the human concepts of love and relationships are something they’ve had no experience with. That quickly becomes something they’re almost obsessed with learning more about, and there are some fun moments when Zentraedi spies try to explain their reactions to seeing humans interacting with each other to their superiors, as it seems to them almost as if the humans have unleashed some sort of psychological weapon on them.

The story itself is fairly straightforward so far, with three main tracks. First, there’s the Zentraedi and their desire to retrieve the SDF-1. They’re after the technology on board so they need the ship intact. This is a life-saver for those on board as it’s shown early in the series that if they wanted to simply destroy the ship they would have no problem doing so. Next, there’s the human military, and their attempts to keep the SDF-1 in one piece and get home through the constant harassment the Zentraedi forces keep throwing at them. These two storylines provide the series’ action scenes, along with a little bit of intrigue and a lot of confusion on the Zentraedi side, and are the better parts of the show. Some more detail to the animation would have been nice here, but there’s only so much you can expect from a 1980’s show.

The third track follows the attempts of those on board the SDF-1 to follow a normal life, despite the extraordinary position they find themselves in – the rebuilding of Macross City, Rick’s attempts to win Minmei’s affection, and Minmei’s move from restaurant waitress to singing idol are the main focus here, among other things. As mentioned before, this side of things feels somewhat forced and unreal. Some really cheesy dialogue only adds to that feeling.

In Summary:
Robotech’s basic idea is sound, but the way it’s presented didn’t work too well for me – I had to work my way through this release in bite-sized chunks as it wasn’t something that could keep my attention for any length of time. There are some aspects of the story that have some real promise, but Robotech hasn’t made any real use of its potential yet.

English Language 5.1

Content Grade: C
Audio Grade: B-
Video Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: N/A

Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: September 26th, 2005
MSRP: £16.99
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Review Equipment
Samsung 28″ ProLogic widescreen TV; Wharfedale DVD-750 player

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