Yup, it’s another Wild World of Video post! With most of my thought-cycles devoted to the secret project I’m working on, we continue looking at the debris left in the wake of our internet era as all that is old becomes new again and even commercials of days gone by offer the warmth of a beloved blanket.
Even if today’s video isn’t technically from my youth.
I love “Robotech.” I know that’s a controversial statement in some circles, but I’m not going to apologize for it. The show was epic in scope and surprisingly complex with characters that grew and changed from episode to episode. Spanning three generations of interstellar conflict, the show also had end-points for each set of characters. It also ended on a cliffhanger that has never been completely resolved in a satisfactory manner. For those of us who were exposed to it back in the 80s, it was a watershed moment. Up until then, we had other shows that tried to sell us toys, but did so in the most slipshod manner. Try watching an episode of “He-Man,” “M.A.S.K.” or even “G.I. Joe” now and you’ll see a certain … I don’t want to call it laziness … maybe ambivalence is the right word. The producers of those shows didn’t think too much of us as an audience. Too be far, I imagine it was largely true as those shows entertained me almost as much as “Robotech.” The difference comes from the way “Robotech” was made.
Where those other shows were built-to-order for their accompanying toylines, “Robotech” was constructed from a hodgepodge of existing Japanese cartoons. Three separate shows were merged together to form the epic saga. Behind the scenes, the decision was made because of a complicated web of merchandise licenses that crossed from various companies both in Japan and here in the States. While certain anime purists decry it today, “Robotech” offered a second life to a failed series called “Super Dimension Calvary Southern Cross.” Here’s the kick-ass intro:
Okay, kick-ass for the early 80s, anyway.
“Southern Cross” was the most out there of the three series that form “Robotech,” it was also the most heavily edited to conform to the new storyline. To be fair, “Southern Cross” — which I’ve subsequently watched in its original form — has its share of problems. The alien threat is kind of nebulous as a culture and any time our heroes board one of their ships, it is insanely boring. The first four or five episodes all feel like stabs at an episode one, with the characters and the aliens constantly being reintroduced. Once “Southern Cross” found its footing, though, it became pretty cool. Sadly, it didn’t find its footing fast enough in a competitive Japanese TV market and was cancelled after 25 episodes.
The funny thing, to me, is that it’s the most visually striking and consistently animated segment of the three shows that became “Robotech.” While “Macross” is the iconic master-stroke of brilliance, many episodes were produced by a B-Team of animators who made shoddy animation. The subtle character models of the lead team vanish in those episodes in favor of a quick-n-dirty approach. Once you notice it, that wavering quality is impossible to ignore.
Up until its last handful of episodes — hastily made to cap off the storyline — “Southern Cross” is consistently on-model and rarely ever looks rushed. You could tell the team behind this project loved it. I’ve been told they had many, many ideas for the world and recycled them into a show called “Red Photon Zillion” and even into the aborted “Robotech” sequel, “The Sentinels.”
The strange part in all of this is how rare Southern Cross toys appear to be. There are some Japanese model kits of the bitchin’ looking armor, but the key vehicle from the series, the Hovertank, appears to only exist as a rare transformable toy from “Robotech” toy maker Matchbox.
And oh, did I ever want one of these. While I also love the Alpha/Beta fighter from the subsequent segment, the hovertank has a special pull for me, probably because I never obtained one.
I should probably check the eBay.