Although Robotech was a heavily edited (even-more-heavily rewritten) mishmash of three unrelated anime series, it’s hard to overstate the importance it had in America. For many, it was their first taste in anime and a key part of creating today’s massive fandom. It was the first time ‘80s kids got to see a serialized cartoon that didn’t talk down to them, dealing with love, loss, war, and death. It was the greatest love story of the 20th century. And now it’s finally on Blu-ray… which isn’t quite as exciting as it should be.
If you want to know about what Robotech is about, its history, and its significance, we’ve got you covered elsewhere — please head here, because the series is great. If you want a review of Robotech’s highly anticipated arrival on Blu-ray, particularly the giant Collector’s Edition, read on. While Funimation is separately releasing each of the three parts — The Macross Saga (based on Super Dimension Fortress Macross), The Masters Saga (Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross), and The New Generation (Genesis Climber Mospeada) — only The Macross Saga is currently available, which the latter two due later in the year. If you want access to the entirety of Robotech on Blu-ray now, you’ll need to pick up the Collector’s Edition for a brisk $US250 ($348).
There are 13 discs in the set: five for Macross’ 36 episodes, four for Masters’ 24 episodes, and another five for New Generation’s 25 episodes (totaling 85). The many, many special features are distributed somewhat haphazardly on the last disc of each series.
Visually, the Blu-rays are a definite improvement over the prior DVD releases from ADV Films and A&E Networks Home Entertainment. The colours are brighter and the lines are sharper than they ever have been. However, you’ll never mistake it for the beautifully crisp, vibrant Blu-rays of Hayao Miyazaki films. To be fair, I doubt that such remastering would even be possible, given that both Robotech and their formational shows were made for the significant limitations of ‘80s TV. Even if pristine source material was available, there’s only so good the show could ever look in HD.
However, the picture is also very grainy, a problem that has plagued Robotech basically forever. Funimation touts that the “remastering will be faithful to the preceding DVD box set release and retain a classic ‘film grain’,” as if it was an intentional decision to satiate fans rather than a necessity dictated by the quality of the source material. Maybe it was intentional, but it’s hard to imagine any fan who would prefer the colours to look staticky, as if the interiors are faintly swirling, to the clear, pure hues of the aforementioned Ghibli remasters.
The episodes themselves offer only English captions, and English is the sole audio track, although the extras include multiple clips in French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian, meaning those languages are out there somewhere. There’s no Japanese language soundtrack because Robotech wasn’t made in Japan — Macross, Southern Cross, and Mospeada were. There’s never been a Japanese version of Robotech because the three series were so extensively rewritten to form a single, semi-coherent story in America, so it was never an option. I don’t have the sound system to tell how great the Dolby TrueHD audio track is, but there was no hissing and the voices sounded clear, so no complaints here.
I also have no complaints about the sheer number of extras. There are over seven hours of special features including character and mecha designs, classic toy commercials, the original intros and closings of the Japanese series, merchandise galleries, classic archival material, and much more. Some of it’s good, some of it’s bad, and a lot of it’s confusing because there’s absolutely no context given for them.
For instance, there are several music videos that seem to have been assembled in the ‘80s, but what for? They certainly didn’t air on TV. There’s an English adaptation of the first episode of Super Dimension Fortress Macross that I assume was created before Robotech, either as a failed first attempt to import the series or made as a proof-of-concept to give to TV networks. But then there’s also a 70-minute version of that pilot, and I can’t imagine its intended purpose.
The most baffling thing about the special features is the deleted scenes. There are seven entries, titled “First Contact,” “Transformation,” “Homecoming,” “Battlefront,” “War & Peace,” “Final Conflict,” and “A New Threat” in that order. Now, “First Contact” is the title of episode 11, while “Transformation” is episode five, “Homecoming” 15, but “Battlefront” and the other three don’t correspond to anything. It’s impossible to know what they mean until you hit play and discover “First Contact” contains deleted scenes from episodes 1-6, “Transformation” has 7-12, and so on. It’s a truly incomprehensible way to present them, but it’s even crazier that for some reason the deleted scenes stop at episode 45, leaving a full 40 episodes without deleted scenes that surely must have existed at some point, but are now lost to time.
Funimation isn’t touting this Collector’s Edition as an ultimate edition or anything, but these extras are all taken from those previous ADV and A&E DVD releases. There’s absolutely nothing new included in the special features, and none of them are in HD. Also, several obvious extras have been inexplicably omitted, including Robotech: The Sentinels, a 1986 attempt to continue the show that was aborted after three episodes, and the 2006 movie Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles, both of which are currently licensed by Funimation. It also doesn’t have the 36-minute, 2011 documentary Carl Macek’s Robotech Universe, which would have offered a much-appreciated modern assessment of the show. Only one of the special features seems to have been made after 1990, and it’s a three-minute video titled “Robotech Overview.”
As I mentioned before, Funimation is also releasing each series separately for $US70 ($97) each, which means you’re paying $US40 ($56) for the set’s physical extras which include four nice, embroidered patches and a somewhat exclusive Toynami action figure of Roy Fokker’s battle-damaged Veritech from the Macross Saga episode “Farewell, Big Brother.” I say “somewhat” because Toynami released the 1/100-scale figure as a San Diego Comic-Con exclusive in 2017, but this version comes with a 4.25-inch retro Roy Fokker figure and in different packaging. If there’s a difference between the two Veritechs, the Blu-ray set’s version looks more “battle-damaged,” which honestly looks more like dirt than the ravages of war.
I don’t know that the toys and patches are worth $US40 ($56), but if you’re a major Robotech fan the beautiful artwork of the packaging might be enough to entice you to spend $US250 ($348). To all the other Robotech fans, I say this: if past is prologue, then we should be getting another Blu-ray collection in a few years. Hopefully, it’ll be less for Collectors and more Complete.
The Robotech: Collector’s Edition is available here, and the Robotech: The Macross Saga set is available as well. You can pre-order Robotech: The Masters and Robotech: The New Generation here and here, respectively. All versions also include digital copies.