What is there to say about Robotech that hasn't already been said? If you've made up your own opinion about this show, there's no way my review will change it. On the other hand, if you've not seen Robotech, you are missing one of the most important landmarks in the history of anime coming to America. Although some critics have tried to diminish the importance of the show, the resurgence of merchandising and items related to it seventeen years after its initial broadcast emphasizes its significance to the anime community.
Robotech took three separate Japanese television series--Macross, Southern Cross, and Mospeada--and combined them into an 85-episode colossus. As broadcasters in 1985 weren't interested in an anthology series, Carl Macek took the shows and created an overarching storyline that linked each show to the next.
The overarching theme becomes protoculture, a rare and mysterious energy source derived from the Flower of Life. In the first segment, a ship known as the SDF-1 crash-lands on Earth in 1999. Engulfed in a global war, all attention shifts to understanding the ship and its secrets. Ten years later, the Zentraedi come to reclaim the ship, which holds the secret to creating more protoculture. In the second segment, the Robotech Masters (the creators of the Zentraedi) come to Earth in search of the secrets their slave race couldn't capture. In a desperate attempt to reclaim their lost power source, the Masters wind up spreading the seeds of the Flower of Life (the source material for protoculture) across Earth. In the final segment, the Invid arrive. Nasty, hard-shelled monstrosities, they want the Flower of Life back, which was stolen by the Masters generations before. They enslave the Earth, and a ragtag group of resistance works to defeat them and restore peace to what's left of society after generations of intergalactic conflict.
Purists hate Robotech for a number of reasons, particularly because plotlines and concepts from the original series were subverted to Carl Macek's vision of an interconnecting plot. Footage was moved around to serve the plot, some bits were removed based on content too strong from American TV, and dialogue was often completely re-written. To match lip movements, lots of verbal stutters were added, making an art form of the statement "uh". For those determined to do so, there are a lot of things to find wrong with Robotech.
Considering all that, though, Robotech is still amazing, and in my opinion better in some ways than the sum of its parts. For all the conflict, it's the relationships that make the series important, and those shine through. The interpersonal feel keeps the show going even in slow moments. Also, the show kept an edge unseen on American television's cartoon hours before or since. Robotech involved the violent deaths of millions of people, and some truly important characters die onscreen. The essence of the shows was the same, despite all the changes. Frankly, the new plot got two shows into America that would never have made it otherwise, as both Southern Cross and Mospeada were busts in Japan. One could even say that the American version improves upon Southern Cross by making connections amongst characters more personal. It's also impressive that there are virtually no throwaway episodes in the bunch and few "enemy of the week" routines. Robotech remains an exciting, moving show even now, and it remains one of the few true epics in science fiction television.
What others also forget is that Robotech started the anime craze. Although other shows like Star Blazers and Battle of the Planets brought in some fans, to be certain, Robotech opened up the first floodgates. It also empowered certain companies to release Japanese animation in the US, starting the trends that exploded in the late 90s that created a Western market now overflowing with anime goodness. I point to Robotech as my first real experience with anime, and it was the "gateway" to everything else. Without this show, this website would not exist, period.
With the ADV Films' release of the series on DVD, along with AnimEigo's release of Macross in its original form and the announcement that Southern Cross and Mospeada will get the same treatment from ADV, fans can have it both ways. With the ability to enjoy the series in its American form and to appreciate how the individual shows worked on their own, we finally have synergy. I encourage you to take a look at the show, especially if you've never seen it, to fall in love with its characters and to be swept into a galactic struggle that you can actually care about.
Robotech -- violence, appropriate for middle school and up -- A