The Robotech Movie Turns 35, and You’ll Likely Never Watch It
Known for essentially being a patchwork franchise, Harmony Gold's Robotech is one of the first major anime to really hit it big in America. The show combined footage from the original entry in the legendary Macross series with other, unrelated shows to create a mostly original series. Though fans of the original certainly have less than rosy opinions on the material's Americanization, Robotech unquestionably planted the seeds for the success of later releases like Gundam and other mech anime outside of Japan.
Its success spawned Robotech: The Movie, which premiered 35 years ago in 1986 and also spliced together footage from disparate sources. Only slightly related to the series and receiving a truncated release, Robotech: The Movie is now essentially lost to time due to legal issues. Here's how a forgotten entry in the controversial series loosely tied into the story, and why it's now become an unobtainable relic.
The Story Of Robotech: The Movie
The plot of the movie takes place over 20 years after the show's first season, known among the fandom as the "Macross Saga." In the shadow of the previous war and the destruction that it wrought, the human race is attempting to rebuild their planet and live in peace. Unfortunately for them, the Robotech Masters invade, seeking to reclaim their stolen technology. Quickly embroiled in this conflict is Mark Landry, an everyday youth who steals a motorcycle with a connection to robotechnology. Also involved is pop star Eve, who herself harbors a secret that could be the key to the Earth's salvation.
The film meshed together footage from the classic anime film Megazone 23 with that of Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross, the latter of which would be used again to create the "Masters Saga" for the second part of the Robotech series. This saw series creator Carl Macek commission for additional animation to be made to pad out the movie's ending, giving it less of a depressing conclusion and also adding more action. This was after Tatsunoko requested for little to no elements from Macross to be used due to the concurrent release of the Macrossmovie Do You Remember Love?. Sadly, it would be all for naught anyway, as the film was, upon release and even more so nowadays, a practically intangible piece of entertainment.
The Lost Legacy Of Robotech: The Movie
The movie's lack of a splash among even the fandom stemmed from its microscopic release window in the United States. It was only briefly shown for a scant few weeks in Texas, whereafter it promptly stopped being shown theatrically at all. This sparse buzz was likely a result of the movie barely being advertised, with commercials being mainly shown at 6 a.m. of all times. Those who did see it noted its nebulous connection to the show's plot, which was a symptom of having to splice together unrelated footage into a cohesive story. The fact that initial character ideas were changed to coincide with the pre-established continuity only made this loose connection even floppier.
Perhaps Robotech: The Movie's biggest hurdle, however, was the strange lack of censorship, especially for the era. This saw rather graphic violence and even an attempted assault becomes part of the story. This was all present in the already more adult-oriented Megazone 23, and the fact that it was kept in was likely a shock to the few parents who took their kids to see it. It actually performed comparatively well in countries like Argentina and Belgium, where it later received a VHS release. These video versions of the film, which contain it in its entirety, are considered extremely rare. Due to how much of the original content they contain, they are in actuality the only way to watch all of the film.
The only release of the original English version was a heavily truncated version contained in Robotech: The Complete Series Collection. This version is right under half an hour, whereas the original version was almost three times that runtime. It explicitly removed any sequences from Megazone 23, as Harmony Gold no longer had the rights to the footage. Even with ADV Films gaining the rights to that movie, it's unlikely that Robotech: The Movie will ever be re-released due to the movie's original film negatives being destroyed. This means that even the recent coming to terms concerning the English release of Macross or Robotech streaming on Funimation will have little effect concerning the movie. Given these circumstances, Robotech: The Movie is no longer considered canon to the series, making this year a particularly bittersweet 35th birthday indeed.