krpalmer: (anime)
[personal profile] krpalmer
In my plan to use the time I devote to rewatching anime series this year to an odyssey of revisiting the different series that got put together and called Robotech, I've taken another sort of side trip. When I first got online with some curiosity remaining about one particular Saturday morning cartoon I had seen bits of a decade before and then followed up some of its spinoffs, I managed to turn up a "Robotech FAQ" which, among other things, mentioned there had once been a "Robotech movie" that had glimmered on the edge of release and then vanished. (I had actually seen a few brief, unrevealing references to it in some of the spinoffs before that, but that didn't have much of an effect on me.) It was explained that the "original" footage in the somewhat patchwork "Robotech: The Movie" had been taken from a fourth work of anime, the "Original Video Animation" Megazone 23, and when that OVA got re-released on DVD years later I took the chance to buy it... although aware that a "draw" now advanced at times to catch interest wasn't its brief, tangential connection to Robotech, but resemblances invoked between it and The Matrix. (Of course, those who invoke the resemblances do seem to have been interested in Megazone first...)

Saying that may be more than enough to give the "surprise" at the core of Megazone away, but in some ways what's interesting to me about the OVA isn't just shock value but the gradual way secrets are revealed and things grow more complicated, for both the protagonists and the villains. Too, I suppose I can see the anime OVA and the live-action movie as separate developments of a theme familiar elsewhere in science fiction, "things are not what they seem"... and even whereas Megazone has a large motorcycle transforming into a small sort of "giant robot" and an "idol singer" of crucial importance and The Matrix has bullet-dodging and kung fu, I can see "the illusions" as being somehow a lot more complicated to keep up in Megazone. As much unspoken work as might be required to keep people believing "it's 1985 in Tokyo, and everything is swell" (and as troubling as the full implications of that work might seem to be), though, hearing about the "lost decade" that followed the 1980s in Japan leaves me able to contemplate that, in trying to define "a good time to be preserved," the creators of the anime might have selected better than they could know.

I've heard that Megazone was converted into an OVA from plans to make a TV series (and that the work was done by people who had worked on "Genesis Climber Mospeada," previously one of the three series made a part of Robotech), and I suppose I can wonder about when and how things are introduced in it as a possible reflection of the story having been cooked down... and, as well, the OVA seems to leave off with a note surprisingly "down" yet incomplete. For "Robotech: The Movie," some new animation was commissioned, but reflecting the reconfiguration of Megazone to play down much of its most significant theme (the better to fit it into a larger world) and involving a sudden and perhaps suspicious shift from "the agony of defeat after having been utterly outmatched after all" to "overpowering everything and getting an even better weapon, the better to lay waste." As for Megazone itself, there was a direct sequel made where the hapless protagonist does at last assemble a ragged team of misfits and take on the organization, and "Megazone 23 Part 2" has interested some people more than the first OVA through its own qualities. In rewatching it, I did find myself thinking that this time, it seems to "get to the point" quicker than it seemed to before. Still, the way the returning characters have been redesigned (going from what struck me as an "early-to-mid 1980s anime look" to a "late 1980s anime look") do at times leave me thinking they're simply different people from a somewhat detached original. I also rewatched the third OVA in the series, where the connections to the original seem to have dwindled (although there's the occasional uneasy thought that it presents the original characters as having failed after all after the fact) and the artwork has an unfortunate wobbly quality to it. Still, perhaps the mere fact of "difference" between all the parts kept me watching "Megazone 23 Part 3" as one of them and part of a loose whole.

As it turned out, even I had a chance not that long ago to see "Robotech: The Movie" itself at last, and I watched it again just perhaps "warming up for the actual event." In some ways, the strongest thing I get out of the movie is a sense that "creative redubbing" can only be carried so far, and that Robotech was successful not just because of a clever plan to make something long enough to sell in weekly syndication but because it still keeps most of the themes of its components, two of which in some ways imitated the first... At the same time, I've heard that the movie is a footnote to history not because its test audiences were offended by footage repurposed from "Robotech: Masters" tossed in (at, I've also heard, the behest of "studio executives," once more getting the blame), or even by the way the scenes kept from Megazone were rearranged to jumble up the revelation of certain points from the original, but because the thought that "animation" equalled "a kids' movie" meant the test audiences were too young for the violence, and in the end nobody seemed to care enough to try again to recoup their investment. It was only later that "a lack of success" let different people declare their own reasons for why things had turned out the way they did, which may remind me of even my own reactions at times to the Sentinels...

In all of this, though, a different "footnote to history" I also noticed years ago in the "Robotech FAQ" began to return to me, of how the different OVA "Gunbuster" was once turned into a "parody fandub" connected to Robotech, and how when the first time I got to see Gunbuster I was keeping "character resemblances" in mind... the "fandub" itself remains elusive, but the thought of wrapping the odyssey up by rewatching Gunbuster is kind of amusing.

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