After the breakout success of Robotech in 1985 and 1986, Harmony Gold planned to expand the series with a completely new show. Rather than adapting older Japanese shows, like the original did, Robotech II was going to use all new footage especially created for the show to fill in the missing puzzle piece--whatever became of the original crew from "The Macross Saga" that went into space to attempt to stop the Robotech Masters and Invid from attacking Earth. At the time the show went into production, the dollar was worth a great deal in comparison to the Japanese yen. Shortly after starting the animation for the series, however, the dollar took a nosedive. Due to the way the contracts were negotiated originally (with payment in yen), the cost to complete the series more than doubled, making it impossible financially to continue. All that's left of the effort is a compilation of the first three episodes, reordered slightly into a pilot that gives the start of the story. For Robotech fans, however, this provides some much-appreciated closure.
The story introduces us to some new alien characters and sets the groundwork for the travels that the crew of the old SDF-1 was to take. However, by itself, that subplot doesn't go very far. The primary focus of the pilot is the preparations leading up to the marriage of Rick and Lisa, as well as the sweet melancholy of Minmei. For those unfamiliar with the original, this will mean little, but the love triangle between these three formed the basis of "The Macross Saga" and was why most viewers were so intrigued in the first place.
Although the show looks reasonable enough, it lacks the visual panache of the original, which is not surprising given that the show was never going to be run in Japan and thus was created with America in mind. The character designs change slightly, but what is telling is the mediocre animation. Ultimately, though, those who want to see this will not be put off by that. The only real reason to see Robotech II is to bring to closure the romantic relationship that many hoped would be continued. Sure, it's great to get an idea as to where the show was heading, and the short battle sequences are actually quite good, but that side is essentially unfulfilling.
For fans like myself, it is simply great to see these characters again. Although Macross has had several sequels in Japan, some of which I've reviewed, none has ever seen the return of this threesome. Seeing this the first time was like visiting old friends. For nostalgia alone, it's fantastic. But there are some other good points as well. For once, there's a English-language Minmei song that doesn't make one cower--the ballad "Together", sung in the wedding sequence, is impressive enough that I've heard reports of other old-school anime fans using it in their own ceremonies. For those who read the Jack McKinney novelizations, which are the only way to get the full story of what was to happen in the second series, it also gives you a better perspective on some of the brand-new characters.
Does Robotech II: The Sentinels stand up on its own? Absolutely not. But for fans that lived and breathed Robotech like I did, this does not disappoint. It's included on one of the bonus discs in the DVD box set collections of the show recently released by ADV Films--make sure to watch for it.
Robotech II: The Sentinels -- nothing objectionable -- B