krpalmer: (anime)
[personal profile] krpalmer
Completing a nostalgic project I set myself to at the start of the year, I've rewatched the third anime series that got turned into a part of Robotech. "Robotech: The New Generation" does sometimes seem to me to be among fans, for lack of a better word, the "connoisseur's segment": it doesn't have anywhere near the baggage both before and after the fact that Macross provides, and its reputation is much better than that of "Robotech: Masters." Even so, it was possible that the odd interest I had in starting Southern Cross wasn't quite there when moving on to Genesis Climber Mospeada, whether through thoughts that this third series was more "episodic," whatever that meant, that it's a little less dubious to pretend that Southern Cross's character designs match up with Macross's than with Mospeada's, or just because Southern Cross's "declared flaws" somehow gave me something to react against in an interesting way the way general approval doesn't...

Pretty much from the moment I started watching the first episode again, though, I found myself enjoying the experience. Mospeada might be called a "post-apocalyptic" series, but without the heavy burden of its initial catastrophe being (entirely) humanity's fault: instead, in the year 2050 enigmatic aliens called Inbit ("Invid" in Robotech, and I suppose many of its names still hold a firm grip on my mind) descend on Earth. Some people escape to Mars to start sending back liberation missions thirty years later; the first doesn't succeed, and neither does the second launched in 2083 (a neat century after the series first aired), but one survivor from that attempt does start out across Earth to try and finish his mission...

This may well have first come from noticing the comments of others, but this time around I was contemplating how that survivor Stig Bernard (although just typing it reminds me of certain people, secure in their unofficial interpretations beforehand, who complained that the official subtitles didn't use "Stick") may be a little less central to the series than "Scott Bernard" always seemed to be in Robotech. Instead, it's the wilderness biker Ray ("Rand" in Robotech) who seems to always be getting involved in the events that develop the characters of his other teammates (even as his own past isn't delved into) and sorting things out himself. With that said, he's also a bit of a goof at times, and I can see how that would make certain groups of people just brush him off... too, Stig's role does seem to change and develop as the series progresses. (As far as Rand goes, the Robotech novels did have him narrate parts of the story through his memoirs, but at times I've wondered if that managed to push the roles of other characters in those parts into the background.)

Another part of the ease I found myself returning to this series with might have been just increased experience with other anime series from the early 1980s than the last time around. Now, I could see Mospeada's character designs as more "typical" of that era instead of just seeing the differences between them and Macross's. Too, at the risk of sounding like one of those familiar, casual dismissals of Southern Cross, it might be said after all that Mospeada's mechanical designs just sort of feel "right" alongside Macross's, with Southern Cross's transforming war machines somehow different.

I suppose that part of the experience was comparing it to memories of Robotech. As with its two other parts, I could pick out places where the dialogue seemed just about a straight translation and other places where things skated off on tangents. (One of them, involving a human the Inbit turned into a murderous cyborg, is very different in Robotech, perhaps even in a way intriguing to contemplate should the danger of a knee-jerk condemnation of "change" be dodged, and to top things off the old Robotech comics and the novels drove that new story in two different directions...) So far as "music" goes, The New Generation's songs seem to have much better reputations than those in The Macross Saga, but one thing about Mospeada is that its slightly infamous gender-bending singer Yellow Belmont ("Yellow Dancer" in Robotech) actually sounds like a woman. Too, I noticed sequences with background songs that I seem to recall not having songs and feeling a little more awkward in Robotech. At the same time, though, it may be that a part of my comparative ambivalence beforehand about returning to Mospeada comes from memories of a tremendous argument among certain Robotech fans years ago.

Once those fans who took a solemn interest in analysing the series from a "technical" viewpoint seemed to have said enough about how the role-playing fame had got a vast number of details about the mecha wrong and how the second "Marlene" wasn't, as the novels had tried to claim, a clone of the first brown-haired "Marlene" except for long red hair (beyond reminding me of those old smirky comments about "anime characters all looking alike," which nowadays just get tossed at the work of certain character designers, in Mospeada the two characters don't have the same name anyway), discussion seemed to start fixing on one other part of their "new outlook." The narration in the first episode of The New Generation comments that "none of these newest Robotech defenders" returning from space has seen Earth "in nearly twenty years," and with the bit animated of The Sentinels showing that the expedition in it had left years after the end of The Macross Saga, it was suggested that these two references could be reconciled by concluding that the narration, in between two sentences, in fact encompassed an Invid occupation lasting a decade, and that other bits of the series could support this.

As far as I went, I had a perhaps odd reason for finding this theory interesting. While I had only seen three episodes of The New Generation when it had been on TV in the 1980s, I had noticed when first reading the three novels adapting its episodes suggestions that the young people returning had been "born in space." At the time, I had gathered their parents must have left Earth right after the end of The Macross Saga, but when the Sentinels novels delayed that departure and offered only vague comments about children having been taken along to show up fully grown when they were needed, I was left puzzled... now, though, I had a series that made sense again, that revived an idea of "people trying to liberate a homeworld they've never seen" that had interested me before and could now interest me again.

Some people, though, disagreed with the theory. Some seemed to be on much friendlier terms with the role-playing game, the timeline of which didn't quite match that of the novels but agreed in a general sort of way, and some seemed to just enjoy the argument, but a vast amount of verbiage was produced quibbling with every interpretation of the theory and making further declarations. My problem with their declarations seemed to stem from the feeling that they had started with their received conclusion, but every so often there were odder moments, such as proclaiming that the characters finding edible canned food in a "frozen city," given that the stuff on supermarket shelves isn't actually immortal, meant that Mospeada "hadn't been thought through" but Robotech had (somehow) been fixed... even so, long-lived canned goods do seem to me to be a familiar part of post-apocalyptic stories, and there are indeed tales of rations left by Arctic explorers lasting for a good while too. The people arguing against the new theory seemed to me to get more and more bitter or more and more smug with time, especially after (to my own surprise as much as anyone else's) the "official" reality began accepting many of the new interpretations, and in the end the endless argument began to seem something to just avoid.

In the end, though, I can wonder if the real disagreement should have been about whether the theory "made sense" or whether it was somehow being "sold" as "the real original intent"... and thinking over it on my own, I can imagine the people who had written Robotech's scripts working from translations of the original series and their own ideas had indeed intended something like the suggestions of the initial novels. At the same time, though, the hopeful suggestions of some of those trying to defend the old interpretations, reading "between the lines" of Robotech Art 3 to suggest that the contradictions had been "forced" on Carl Macek when he was informed he couldn't use Macross's character designs, do seem to me to have little supporting them but hope. Perhaps, a sort of compromise within me suggests, the fine details everyone was so obsessed with had just been forgotten, the way I can wonder "Jonathan Wolff" having a wife and son in the episode of Robotech he appeared in might have been forgotten in the "Robotech Art 3" outline having him romance Minmei, only to be dragged back in the novels, and just perhaps those initial novels weren't working from an "initial outline" their authors hadn't been updated on but were their own attempt at reconciliation before the success of their work required new compromises working from outlines from an abandoned project... I suppose running around this circuit of speculation has made for a marvellous pastime for quite a while.

In any case, Mospeada at least has numbers that add up, and pretty much finishes off this new journey of remembrance. I've pondered too that, just perhaps, what happens in it does finish Robotech more solidly than "the missing SDF-3" might seem to. So far as I can tell, Carl Macek's best way of continuing was to send the SDF-3 back into the past and turn the series into a "closed time loop" (although I suppose those not thrown into the loop might yet be thought to not have it so bad); the novels and other efforts to continue had to set new things up in various ways. It may be, in fact, that the way the first twelve novels wrapped up have shaped my interest in Robotech in certain enduring ways, and so as to endure in its own way.

April 2019

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