08 June 2015

FWS Broken Promises: The ROBOTECH Sequels

In 1985, one of the landmark anime television shows was broadcast across American airwaves, and by all accounts, it shouldn't even have existed. ROBOTECH was a fusion of three separate anime series done by Tatsunoko Studios that all had similar animation and mecha styles that was redubbed and combined by Harmony Gold USA Studios under an umbra storyline of three generations during interstellar warfare over Protoculture and Robotechnology. This military sci-fi animation series came at the right time in America and furthered the invasion of Japanese cartoons, comics, and toys into the American market. By the apex of the popularity of ROBOTECH around 1987-1988, ROBOTECH had their major toyline by an leading American toy company, the first time that had happened. However, it was clear by 1986 to Harmony Gold that more ROBOTECH was needed to continue the survival of the brand. That is when the promise of more ROBOTECH got twisted for nearly thirty fucking years.

The Promise of ROBOTECH Sequels 
When ROBOTECH was being original broadcast on the American airwaves, I was in elementary school, and already exposed to Japanese Anime via Battle of the Planets and Starblazers. But, ROBOTECH set my brain on fire, and I craved it like a junkie for heroin. Seriously, the mid-80's were a blur of ROBOTECH fueled mania for me. When I heard that there was going to be sequel and even a movie, it was like Christmas morning. Then...nothing happened, and then we learned that The Sentinels was cancelled and all we would ever have was the books and some shitty comics. That was the promise of the ROBOTECH sequels, energizing the base fandom, minting legions of new fans to ROBOTECH and anime/manga as a whole. Of course, due to the massive success of ROBOTECH and how beloved it was by fans, made the crash of the brand hard to stomach and the continued broken promises; a kick right in the balls.

ROBOTECH II: The Sentinels (1988)
At the height of popularity of ROBOTECH, Harmony Gold and producer Carl Macek knew that some new blood would have to be injected to keep the fandom for the cartoon going, after all, everything has a shelf life. Harmony Gold attempted two works to keep the firing from dying out in the 1980's: ROBOTECH: The Movie and ROBOTECH II: The Sentinels. The Sentinels were a bold endeavor for an American company, even with the success of ROBOTECH. Harmony Gold was going forge another ROBOTECH space opera epic with 65 new episodes that told the story that every ROBOTECH fan wanted: the adventures of the Robotech Expeditionary Force (REF). This new syndication TV series would have followed the popular Macross characters and the new crew of the SDF-3 to the Robotech Masters' Homeworld to sue for peace or wage war far from the still recovering Earth.
This was the background story that played out during the The Masters and The New Generation, and I was so excited for this back in 1988 that I got blue balls waiting for it. It was clear by 1990 that The Sentinels was DOA and only a few hints of the sequel were ever going to be were seen by fans. Unlike other cancelled or rumored ROBOTECH projects, we fans saw pieces of The Sentinels in the VHS release of the wedding of Rick and Lisa, the Jack McKinney novelizations, the Palladium Book RPG, and the various dogshit comics with amateur art. According to the official reason for the cancellation, the crash of the exchange rate between the Yen and the Dollar forced Matchbox Toys to pull their cash out of the deal, dooming the production. I personally believe that with the lower-than-expected sales of the Matchbox ROBOTECH toyline, coupled with the stillborn release of ROBOTECH: The Movie, and topped off by the lackluster production value of what was release of The Sentinels caused Matchbox Toys to pull out. The broken promise of The Sentinels was that we fans wanted to see our favorite characters from the series again, and The Sentinels was the vehicle for that experience, and we got that denied. The Sentinels could have reinforced the original fans like me, and forged new fans to not only ROBOTECH, but the wider anime/manga genre as well.
What continues to be a knife twist for fans like me, is that Harmony Gold USA continues to put out shitty ROBOTECH projects when the project that we fans want is being ignored by the company. This probably one of the biggest broken promises of the ROBOTECH sequels, the poor management by Harmony Gold USA of  ROBOTECH and it legacy. Their lack of vision and balls. We fans still want The Sentinels and yet Harmony Gold USA puts out shit like Love Live Alive. I would love to have the cash to make The Sentinels myself, and finally fulfill a childhood dream of seeing the mission of the REF.

ROBOTECH: The Movie (1986)
This is the Star Wars Christmas Special of the ROBOTECH universe. I learned the existence of this upcoming ROBOTECH film back in 1986 via the back page of the Comico comic book adaptation of the ROBOTECH series, and I nearly wet myself with excitement. However, it disappeared and nothing was heard about it due to those being the dark days prior to the existence of the internet. When the internet came to my junior college in northern Oklahoma, I actually up information on this long-lost ROBOTECH work...and boy, I was disappointed when I learned what this "movie" really was. Harmony Gold USA attempted to do what they did with ROBOTECH, take an existing anime that visually and stylistic fit within the ROBOTECH universe, and write new dialog. The work they selected was 1985's Megazone 23, a story about a future mega city and a guy with prototype bike and cool that is destined to discover the truth behind the city he lives in.
Cannon Films and Harmony Gold USA spliced in footage from The Masters to connect this movie with the events around the timline of the Robotech Masters invasion. The broken promise of ROBOTECH: The Movie was to import the world of ROBOTECH to a movie-going audience, allow new and established fans to enjoy a new ROBOTECH story on the big screen. Instead, the film aired down here in Dallas, Texas in a limited test market run that failed to impress, forcing Cannon and Harmony Gold to jettison the idea of a big screen ROBOTECH work. After this doomed attempt, the film was disavowed by Macek and the studio, and it never has seen a ROBOTECH branded released within the many boxsets. This, once again, was a wasted opportunity for Harmony Gold USA and ROBOTECH as a whole. A movie could have given us fans something else to hold on until The Sentients and to keep the momentum of ROBOTECH going.

ROBOTECH: 3000 (1999)
After the failure of The Sentinels, Harmony Gold embarked on the next ROBOTECH sequel broken promise: ROBOTECH: 3000. This would have a series set nearly thousand years after the Robotech Wars, distancing itself from the original series and characters as much as possible; allowing for a clean break and fresh start. Also distance itself from the original series was the then very trendy CGI animation style adapted by The Roughnecks SST TV series. When the trailer was shown in 2000 at Famime Con it caused fans to lose their shit and that venomous reaction to the 3 minute trailer caused ROBOTECH: 3000 to be scuttled by Harmony Gold, despite several efforts to salvage the aborted series. If you watch the trailer today, you can seen broken promise of ROBOTECH: 3000, it is flat, airless, emotionless, and goes against the style of the original series. In addition, nothing about this universe was recognizable by the fans, even the mecha or the enemy. Fans also hated the "technology goes amok" aspect of the central storyline. Once again, this yet another broken promise to the fans of ROBOTECH of a real sequel to the original hallowed series.  

At one time, Carl Macek believed that there could be more ROBOTECH, like several more series that would carry the ROBOTECH forward for a decade...yeah, that didn't happen. The bullshit, promise breaking story was the SDF-3 hyperspace folded back through time, before the arrival of the SDF-1 to Earth in the year 1999, and the crew of the SDF-3 would become citizen of the Masters' homeworld, and even having Lynn Minmei be the mother of Zor! Which makes her some sort of Mary figure in the ROBOTECH Universe. The series would have ended with Zor's death and the crash landing of the SDF-1 on Macross island. Why is ROBOTECH III: Odyssey a broken promise? Because it only proves that Harmony Gold USA and Carl Macek were desperate for ROBOTECH storyline to expand...and besides, it deep offends me that Minmei could be the mother of Zor. God, I hate Minmei!

ROBOTECH: The Shadow Chronicles (2006)
In 2006, we long-suffering fans of ROBOTECH finally get some new in the series...and it wasn't that good. Damn it! Okay, it wasn't Love, Live, Alive or ROBOTECH: The Movie, but it was a broken promise. The Shadow Chronicles was the story that told the story of the REF recon force that were already in position prior to the climactic battle between the Invid and the REF main fleet. This film does retell elements of the final battle, and sheds more light on the deeds of the REF in orbit. In addition, it also gives us a window into the location of the SDF-3 and some of the fates of the core characters of the saga.
While better than some of the other ROBOTECH works that came out after the original saga, it disappointed some fans with the use of 2D animation and cel-shaded CG for the mecha. It also suffers from a half-baked script and weak story that brings up elements of the lost The Sentinels series, especially with the new enemy of the Haydonites (the Children of the Shadow) that were allied of the REF during the war with the Invid, and they helped the REF developed their "shadow technology".
Some of the work here is fine and could be very interesting, even if they are borrowed from BSG, but the way that it delivered with hammy dialog, stiff character animation, and some altering of familiar character and vehicles models. In the end, the real broken promises of The Shadow Chronicles isn't a story that we fans of ROBOTECH really wanted, nor asked for. While most of us were wondering about the fate of the REF fleet and Scott Bernard, it could have handled differently and not introducing yet-another enemy wasn't needed or wanted. And we fans know that Harmony Gold USA is terrible at following up, which causes The Shadow Chronicles to just hang out there in the ether like so many other ROBOTECH sequels.  

ROBOTECH: The Shadow Rising (2008?)
Is it dead or is it not? Will it be made or will it not? Those are the central questions that fans have wondering about since the sequel to 2006's The Shadow Chronicles was announced. The Shadow Chronicles director Tommy Yune had made mention that the movie followup to the 2006 movie would be released roughly two years after The Shadow Chronicles, and was to be called The Shadow Rising. Of course, this announcement also negated the possibility of a television series based around the events of The Shadow Chronicles that was previously mentioned. Of course, the broken promise of The Shadow Rising is that it never happened due to script, animation, and other portions of the production stalling out. Typical. There have been some rumors that Harmony Gold USA is working on this in secret and will just wage a campaign of Shock-and-Awe on the fans with a finished product to prevent the recent fuck-ups with ROBOTECH universe. 

ROBOTECH: Love Live Alive (2013)
You know that a studio is desperate for generating cash and buzz when they take something like 1985's Genesis Climber MOSPEADA: Love Live Alive music video OVA and sell it to us ROBOTECH fans with a repackaged The Shadow Chronicles. This shows the life of fan favorite Lancer after the end of the 3rd Robotech War. He is interviewed by a reporter about Lancer's experiences, and this causes Love Live Alive to be nothing more than an glorified clip-show. The only element that is new is some limited animation showing Lancer during his time with the 10th Mars Division, and how he came to be on Earth. This is just the broken promise of just being a hollow cash grab.

ROBOTECH Academy (2015)
This was going to be yet another ROBOTECH series, and Harmony Gold USA was using kickstarter to fund this project that seemed like ROBOTECH: Ender's Game meets Star Trek Voyager. There was a lot of concept art and some interesting ideas, especially the enemy: "The Children of Zor". Howover, the goal of half-a-million for the pilot was not met, and Harmony God USA cancelled the kickstarter before the end, raising only $190,000. Tommy Yune has stated that ROBOTECH: Academy is not dead and new funding sources are being sought out. Yeah...good luck with that. This is yet another broken promise ROBOTECH sequel that further reinforces the fact that the universe of ROBOTECH is adrift.

Is There a Future for ROBOTECH?
No, not its current form or ownership. At one time, ROBOTECH was the tip of the spear of anime in America, creating fans and customers, and at around the same time, Harmony Gold USA had a plan to expand the ROBOTECH universe in new and original ways. That time was the 1980's. Since the cancellation of The Sentients, ROBOTECH and Harmony Gold USA have stalled...badly. It is interesting that the world of ROBOTECH never recovered from that and partly that is due to Harmony Gold USA lack of understanding that there is an organic story with the ROBOTECH saga.
ROBOTECH at its core is the story of three generations at war with various alien races over Robotechnology and Protoculture, and there is a beginning, middle, and end to that story. Somehow, Harmony Gold USA fails to understand that. Their vain efforts to tack on sequels after the 3rd Robotech War are comically and sad. At the moment the crumbled ROBOTECH empire is mostly repackaging the original saga over and over, selling plastic models of the mecha and characters, and making broken promises. That is the present of ROBOTECH and unless something changes, the dim future as well.

Should ROBOTECH Be Remade or Rebooted?
Since the success of the remake of Space Cruiser Yamato with Space Battleship Yamato 2199, some ROBOTECH fans have been wondering if this same treatment should be applied to our beloved 1980's series. I've really enjoyed the remake of Yamato, and I am fine with ROBOTECH getting a similar remake. Now, it would not be the same ROBOTECH we watched as kids and it would require new voice actors, but I am still fine with that. After all, it couldn't be any worse than what Lucas did to me by raping the Star Wars film.

The reason that an original ROBOTECH fan like me is okay with this is because I realized when rewatching the show via the ROBOTECH Protoculture edition DVD set in my 30's that ROBOTECH has issues and I believe that these can only be resolved via a complete rework, especially The Masters. This remake would allow the story, the dialog, and the animation to be married more harmoniously than the 1980's redub of three separate anime series that were never meant to be connected. While the original Yamato and its sequels were much more a mess with very silly elements, ROBOTECH has better bones to draw on and be constructed around. Going back to my point above, I believe that the paths for new ROBOTECH works is limited and If Harmony Gold USA is not going to make The Sentients or give us a proper prequel, than giving the original saga the Space Battleship Yamato 2199 treatment is the only choice to give the world and us fans new ROBOTECH.

What Harmony Gold Should Do With ROBOTECH
Once again, I think that ROBOTECH saga is a story has beginning, a middle, and an ending already written into its DNA, and pushing beyond those borders is extremely difficult and a waste of time for Harmony Gold USA...let the comics do that. Working within that structure, here are the projects that I think Harmony Gold USA should concentrate on instead of chasing their tail.

Making the Fucking Sentinels Already!!!

Even after all of these years, I still think the overall story for the REF and its (mis)adventures on the other side of the galaxy are a great solid space opera that could be still told and enjoyed...with some updating and tweaking. In my opinion, The Sentinels is the last great ROBOTECH series that can be told in an massive episodic format. There is no other story that fits so organically into the already established universe of ROBOTECH. With some fresh eyes and brains on long suffering The Sentinels, we ROBOTECH fans could finally have another great saga to fall in love with again. Harmony Gold USA could just pull the trigger, ignore The Shadow Chronicle idea, and give us the story that we've been waiting on.

Make a Prequel Movie...a Good Prequel Movie!
Back when there were good ROBOTECH comics being made in the 1980's, Comico gave an very interesting and complex story about the arrival of the SDF-1 in the middle of the Global Civil War. More of the story behind the core Macross characters, alien and human, is told in an epic fashion with wonderful art, that answers a great deal of questions that many of us original ROBOTECH fans have been asking for years. If Harmony Gold USA could secure the rights to this graphic novel, than I could see the original saga be given a proper genesis story that could serve as OVA introduction to the original saga as well as a way to generate buzz for ROBOTECH. As I said, the story of ROBOTECH is written and complete, and this prequel fits within that framework organically, especially if The Sentinels was produced as well. They could serve as bookends to the original saga of ROBOTECH.

A Real Ending...3rd Attempt
The 3rd ROBOTECH series ends on a cliffhanger, and for fans of the series, it was an itch that they could never scratch. At the end of The Next Generation, the SDF-3 near folded back into Normal Space with the rest of the REF fleet, most of the protoculture is gone, and Scott leaves Marlene to locate the SDF-3 and the Hunters. This ending always presented an issue for the ROBOTECH universe, because fans demanded an ending. At the moment there have been two attempts at an ending: Jack McKinney's 1989 book The End of the Circle and the 2006 The Shadow Chronicles
Either one aren't that good...sorry. I think combining elements of the those previous works, plus some of the ideas of what happened to characters of The New Generation. One of the best conclusions to the whole ROBOTECH saga I've seen is the ending narration to The End of the Circle, where Admiral Lisa Hayes-Hunter writes for a fictional book about her experiences during the Robotech Wars, and ends it with a summary of the main characters and the events. Damn good writing there and it should be part of the canonized ending and not the Haydonites. I am not sure what the animation work would look like or if it even possible, but I would like a better ending to the saga that is not some goddamn set-up for yet another war or aborted series.    

The Invid Invasion of Earth
There has been some attempts by author Jack McKinney, Palladium Books RPG, and the comic series of ROBOTECH: The Invid Invasion, The Invid War, and Rolling Thunder. I've always thought that the time after The Masters and The New Generation was a fascinating time period in the ROBOTECH timeline and ripe for a good animated story to tell the story of the Invid Invasion, the Jonathan Wolfe coming to Earth, and the escape of the 15th ATAC from Earth. This could be handled in a limited animated series of between 6-12 episodes, and finally show us some plot elements that have been unanswered. It would also be interesting to see the REF command reaction to the events on Earth, especially since there is a time-gap between the REF and Earth. These limited animated series would connect The Masters and The Next Generation together, and could even end with the 21st Mars Division leaving for their faithful battle over Earth.    
Next Time on FWS...
There is an upcoming new series on FWS: Military Profiles. This new series will be devoted to detailing and profiling the future military organizations seen in science fiction. FWS readers Galvars has been good enough to write the profile of the massive Imperium of Man armed forces, starting with the Imperial Knights. 


  1. Good summary of the show's besmirched legacy. At least many fans like me looked behind the curtain and gained an interest in unsimplified Japanese animation. Ironically, the steady interest in the original SDF Macross hasn't produced a true sequel. Only a couple of the original TV cast are seen again, while the focus in each new show has been fresh pilot/idol adventures. I'm thinking a continuation is unlikely, since one lead VA and the director have passed on.

  2. I totally agree. The end of ROBOTECH is here, and like Rome, the fall will not be sudden, but long and painfully. I think after the generation that grew up with ROBOTECH gets older, Harmony Gold USA will be unable to maintain humping the fans out of their cash for yet another boxset release or model. Sad.

  3. I completely agree with your analysis here. I've never read a more clear-headed breakdown of why Robotech has failed since the original series ended back in the mid-80s. We must be about the same age, because the experiences you describe with Robotech as a kid are virtually identical to my own. And we share the same disappointments with the franchise's subsequent failures to deliver on its promises. And I was especially struck by your point about the series having a distinct beginning, middle, and end. It's so obvious that it never occurred to me before I read it here. But it's right on target. I hope that someone at Harmony-Gold reads what you've written hear and takes it to heart, because I think it's just what the franchise desperately needs.

  4. Thanks for the kind words. ROBOTECH is something especially to us original fans, and to watch the good name of that series be painted up like some child beauty pageant star in order to sell us the original series again and again is horrifying. I would love to have the cash to buy the rights to ROBOTECH II and make it...right.

    1. How would u remake sentinels? What would u change? What didn't u like? Just curious...

  5. I think Harmony Gold USA should shut their doors down for good and just stop making empty promises. Ok, Carl Macek kinda got lucky with his story of linking all 3 series together but they were never meant to be watched in that format to begin with. Harmony Gold originally only had plans to just bring over Macross but for American syndication there had to be minimum of 65 episodes for a syndicated series and Macross only had around 30 or so. Because they had an agreement with Tatsunoko who held the licensing rights to Macross from Big West, that gave them access to Tatsunoko's other properties. So in that respect they had Carl Macek come in and write an opus that would link all 3 unrelated series together. Since they've made a complete mess of it for over 30 years, just give the rights back to Tatsunoko and Big West so that we can enjoy the evolution of Macross and the other properties as they were meant to be enjoyed through their original companies.

  6. I agree that Harmony Gold USA should just end and allow ROBOTECH to have a good death...it has been on life support for thirty years, and they have been unable to product anything of value in thirty years. ROBOTECH eclipse the original anime properties, like Southern Cross, Macross, and MOSPEDA

  7. Unlike most people who like Robotech, I saw Sentinels first and I was already an adult. Sentinels made me curious about the rest of the stories and I was pretty bumbed when I found out it was never released. I would happily donate to a finishing of The Sentinels-fundraiser.

    I tend to agree on Shadow Chronicles as well. Yet another murderous alien race?

    Some people are hoping a life action movie will make the difference. How succesfull were the adaptations of 'Avatar-the last airbender', Dragon Ball Z' and 'Pacific Rim'?

  8. Yeah, I am really hoping that the live-action ROBOTECH film is NEVER frakking made. As much as I would want to see the battle for Macross Island and the SDF-1 in IMAX, it could easily be botched into an unholy mess like the Transformer films. I wish I could finish the The Sentienls myself with other fans, but alas I did not win the billion dollar lottery.
    Thanks for reading and commenting!

  9. Glad to comment. Do you happen to be a member of http://www.robotechx.com ? Someone posted a link to this article there, in the topic 'About this Robotech...Why?' That is how I found and read it.

    I do not have a profile on any of the sites that pop up after 'select a profile', that is how I ended up as 'Anonymous'.

  10. I am not a member of robotexhx.com, but I know the site. Thanks for the link, it is interesting to read about FWS blogposts on another site.

  11. William, I opened up a topic on Robotechx.com you might find interesting? Feel free to join in.


    above known as 'Anonymous'

    PS Aparrently new Robotech comics will appear in 2017.

  12. Thanks! I will take a look at the topic...wished I won that Mega Millions Lottery so I could have funded an Sentinel series.