I have talked about Robotech quite a few times on my blog, although I have never really done a review for anything that has been released for this classic animated series. Something that is going to be changing in the coming months, starting today. Robotech is an animated series that ran for 85 episodes way back in 1985. It was my first introduction to the world of anime, although I didn’t even know what anime was back in those days. Technically though Robotech isn’t considered as such, as it’s an Americanised version of three totally unrelated Japanese animated series that were produced by the same studio. A man called Carl Macek rewrote the entire storyline of these three shows, a feat that is pretty astonishing, and in that way combined them into a science fiction epic that spanned three generations. Robotech has been responsible in a big way for making anime popular in the Western world. Back in the days when it was first released, nobody had ever seen anything quite like it. It was unheard of to have an animated series that had very mature themes in it, as well as main characters dying on screen. The fact that Robotech is still popular even now, is because it has a very loyal fanbase. I should know, as I have been a fan of Robotech for over 30 years now. Because of that, there are still a lot of products being released for it, which is rather unique for a show that has it’s roots way back in the 80’s.
Robotech’s most popular story arc has always been the Macross saga. Macross just like Gundam Wing, now has several shows with no end in sight. If you are interested in learning more about Macross, you might want to check out a post I wrote a while back, that covers a lot of the different series that have so far been released for it. But I’m not here to talk about Macross today, but about Robotech, or rather a very cool artbook that has been released for that first installment of the series. Robotech Visual Archive: The Macross Saga, is a truly amazing book that showcases art from the first era of the Robotech series. The first thing you will notice when you open this 245 page tome is the presentation of it all. The layout of this book is very easy on the eyes and whoever has done the graphic design for this should get a raise. Throughout seven different chapters you will be taken on a journey through the history of the first Robotech war. Each chapter has a different coloured label, and in that way is very easily identified. So what exactly can you find within these pages?
After a short introduction the book starts off with an episode guide of the 36 episodes that comprised the first arc of the Robotech show. Every episode has a short synopsis and is accompanied by some very crisp stills from the animated series itself. The pictures are great to look at and bring back some wonderful memories, but I honestly admit that this chapter for me had the least appeal as of course as a fan I know exactly what happened in each episode. After this things become interesting though. The next few chapters contain a massive amount of illustrations for all of the characters, ships, mecha, in short everything that made this epic science fiction world come alive. Taken from the original artist’s sketchbooks, much of the artwork contained within these chapters has never been seen before. You also come to appreciate just how much work and details have really been put into the creation of this series. This being primarily an artbook, the focus really does lie on the pictures, and most of these pages contain very little to no text. Which I didn’t mind because most of the time I just found myself gazing at the wonderful art that was reproduced here. I loved revisiting some of those famous characters and the classic robots and ships that the show is so very well known for.
But it doesn’t end there. The book also reproduces some of the storyboards that were made for the series. Just like in movies, these are small sketches that outline some of the scenes that make up an episode, and are then used to create the final product. Unfortunately the pictures for these were so small, that you could hardly see what was going on, and honestly I could have done without those. The most interesting chapter for me though was an extensive essay written by the show’s creator Carl Macek. It’s a very detailed history of not only the show’s creation, but also of anime in general. If you are a fan of classic anime series, this chapter is something you will enjoy very much. It really dives back into the past of how anime came to be, as well as how it was first introduced to American audiences. It’s interesting to hear that the general misgivings about anime (animation is just for kids right?) was even more prevalent in the past. As we all know now, animation really isn’t just for kids anymore, and Robotech played a big role in turning that view upside down. As I said above, nobody was quite prepared for this show when it hit the airwaves back in 1985. I remember when I first saw it myself, and my young mind could not quite grasp what I was seeing.
As cool as the book was overall, I was slightly annoyed at the fact that the book had two errors. One was in the episode guide, where it repeated a section of text that didn’t belong to the episode it was supposed to describe. This same error also occurred with a description of one of the ships. While this didn’t detract from the overall experience of the book, I do think errors like that should not happen for a high quality book like this one. So, do you have to be a Robotech fan to enjoy this book? Well, yes and no. I think if you have no love for anime or science fiction animation in general, this book certainly isn’t for you. If you want to find out more about the history of Japanese animation, or love classic anime it’s a book well worth purchasing. As you can see from some of the pictures that I included for this review, the artwork is truly amazing, and that alone makes this book very worthwhile. However you will probably get the most enjoyment out of this book if you are a Robotech or Macross fan, I won’t lie to you there. Having read this book, I am really yearning to revisit this classic anime series, something that I plan on doing maybe next year. Because this Robotech stuff just goes in your blood or something, I don’t know…..
I give Robotech Visual Archive: The Macross Saga a 9 out of 10 score.