krpalmer: (anime)
[personal profile] krpalmer
Since starting to rewatch an anime series (at a somewhat higher tempo than I watch them the first time around) every few months, still worrying, perhaps, about how I buy the stuff much faster than I can watch it, but not letting that shape my viewing habits altogether, I don't seem to have lacked for ideas of series to view again. (That seems kind of encouraging in its own way.) It seems, though, that I managed to map out my return viewings for this whole year well in advance through a simple idea: since the calendar shows 2009, and that year was established once upon a time through a time-lapse sequence of iconic significance in my memory as the year the action really started in Robotech, I would rewatch the anime series (released a few years ago with their original Japanese language track subtitled and a strong component of nostalgia associated with them) that were combined to make it. After a little bit of toying with unorthodox ways to approach this, I decided at last to just start with Macross, the series first considered to be brought to North America and the series that started Robotech off. In contemplating how I might say something about that to help keep this journal going, though, I recalled how the last time I rewatched Macross, I was able to post about it here, for all that this time I was going to listen to the original Japanese language track...

Somewhat from the start (perhaps even before it), I was contemplating a "difference between Macross and Robotech" that I hadn't mentioned in that previous post, that I just may have come up with myself on my own first viewing of Macross as itself, and that's not quite weighted with the regular complaints of certain other anime fans who seem intent on exalting Macross by dismissing Robotech. Stepping beyond things such as "an ancient and vanished civilization that created the giant aliens" becoming "an ultimate biofuel that also somehow created the giant aliens" and "for once it's said that people who didn't die in the original did die" (which is apparently just as much a sin to some as the inversion), it's struck me that the romance in Robotech between Lisa Hayes and Rick Hunter is played up a lot more than the romance in Macross between Hayase Misa and Ichijo Hikaru, through both altered dialogue and Robotech's narrator having much more to say than Macross's. I'm tempted to say that where Rick can seem "indecisive" to the point of "two-timing," Hikaru can seem just plain "clueless"... although I suppose it might also tie into the smug comments of some that Minmay comes across better in Macross than Minmei does in Robotech.

In any case, I was working my way through the show, handling well enough its wild swings in animation quality as different studios were brought in for different episodes, and secure in what's either a "middle of the road" or a just plain "wishy-washy" belief that, now that I have Macross, I'm more likely to watch it than Robotech but I see no particular reason to get upset over the mere existence of a show from the 1980s (although I suppose I do wonder at times if some seem to apply a "double standards" to "adapted anime" of that time other than Macross)... and then, on what might have been a whim, I started to revisit another part of the "Robotech experience" by starting into its novelizations.

Robotech certainly interested me when I first saw it on Saturday mornings in the middle of the 1980s, but I could only see it when visiting my grandparents, who had cable TV. Little by little, I pieced together bits of its story, but I think I grew aware to some extent that it wouldn't be on TV forever... and then, towards the end of 1987, I went to the school book fair (supplied by the local bookstore) and spotted Robotech novelizations on a table. I can still remember my flurry of excitement and asking for one volume to be reserved overnight for me to get the money to buy it with (and reading it in class the next morning...) Over the next half year, I managed to collect all twelve volumes, not quite in order (and, alas, occasionally getting "spoiled" for things I hadn't seen on TV.) I have the definite feeling they kept me interested in the story years after Robotech was long gone from TV.

Eventually, though, the feeling seemed to creep up on me that it was somehow "beneath" someone to be reading mere novelizations (even as my "guilty pleasure" perhaps became Star Wars novels for a while), and I think I was sort of drifting away from Robotech when some Internet service providers finally started up in our little town... but I was still curious enough to do some poking around in those "pre-search engine" days, and discover that there were actually pages devoted to the program, willing to clarify what I had heard at last about how it had been put together from three different Japanese animated series, and how there were a lot of other "anime" series like them out there... There was also a Robotech Mailing List, and it wasn't long before I was able to subscribe to it... and then, I learned that not only was the author of the novelizations, "Jack McKinney," a pen name for the collaboration of Brian Daley and James Luceno (which nowadays brings to mind thoughts of how Daley had already written some Star Wars novels and Luceno wrote some more years later), but also that the fans on the mailing list were constantly complaining about how the novelizations had introduced things that didn't exist in the series. It seemed to boil down to the books now making "Protoculture" something capable of answering every objection someone might have about the series, from "how do you pilot a giant robot" to "why does a character behave in a particular way"... Instead, the fans promoted a more rationalist interpretation of the Saturday morning cartoon, one that seemed almost "hard SF" at times to me. It was interesting... but perhaps, too, I just wanted to fit in. The one problem was that, unlike the other fans, I didn't have a complete run of the series on videotape... but I did have the sudden idea to take a black marker and strike out all the passages in the novelizations that didn't seem to fit this bold new worldview. It didn't seem I had drawn that many black lines through things once I was done...

Time passed, though. The Robotech Mailing List seems a distant memory now, even after some of its theories got adopted in a new "official continuity" (and the former "ins," interested in the role-playing game and the comics and the like, became sour "outs" trying to rebut all of it with many angry arguments)... and going back to the novelizations, I had the sense that they did try to smooth over the more awkward moments of adaptation, and that just perhaps getting upset over how "novelizations" altered the show is an echo of getting upset over how "Robotech" altered "Macross." Perhaps, too, my trying to "revise" my copies of the books sits a lot more uneasily on me than it once did in this age of sanctimonious attacks on "copyright holders" who are at times also creators and the lauding of certain proclamations of "fans taking works back"... at least I can still see what was under the black lines if I look closely. I've also managed to see some of the spinoff material produced before the novelizations were written, and at times it does seem they were bending in the same "mystical" direction as the books extended to, that "Jack McKinney" didn't twist things to "his" own whims. The "Robotech as hard SF" interpretation is interesting to me as an interpretation, but perhaps it doesn't have to be "the way things used to be" (although I do wonder if that was more an impression of mine than an actual claim of others).

Of course, I'm still only going through the "Macross Saga" novelizations, and the changes perhaps wound up "eating" the story later on... which may, in the end, just support the arguments of those who say that "The Macross Saga" is what really drew people to Robotech, and in that case you might as well just watch Macross for itself and not have it stretched out. Another thought I did have return to me about the novelizations, though, is that their descriptions can seem kind of vague. No doubt they work well enough for someone who can visualise things they've seen before. In my case, though, when I first read about the stupendous climactic battle (and at last understood those episodes that had the SDF-1 floating in the middle of a small round lake and the aliens now somehow on Earth's side) and then rented the videotape years later but a few years before I found those for whom "differences" were controversial, I was amused to see Lisa wearing Rick's helmet (the essential "mental control" device in the books) to protect her head, but surprised to see that the SDF-1 had been torn almost to shreds in its victory... the novelizations hadn't mentioned that.

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