In all the talk of a live action Robotech movie coming soon, everyone seems to be forgetting that the animated universe of Robotech is still prime for exploration. Started in 1985 and still going (although not as strongly as it once was) Robotech is a sprawling epic across multiple generations featuring a huge cast of characters and possible story lines to draw on.
Now, while some might wonder why a new animated series is needed with the movie coming, I’ll pose this question: Would you say that just because Marvel has a ton of superhero movies being released that they should just stop their comic book publishing line? With that in mind, let’s take a look at what could be done to bring Robotech back in style.
1. Adapt the Sentinels
Originally meant to be the first Robotech sequel, production had begun and several episodes completed before funding fell out. Since then, the series has been adapted numerous times through comics and novels. The current heads of the Robotech franchise claim the story is played out and they want to move onto new stories, but this is a huge mistake. The story of the Sentinels is perfect for old time fans while also allowing new ones to jump in. It features all of the fan favorite characters plus new ones to allow new viewers a point of view into the storyline.
Now I’m not saying they need to adapt the Sentinels to the exact plan Carl Macek had outlined in Robotech Act 3. If anything, they should pick and choose what worked and what didn’t about that and make their own story that still works within the previously established universe. It’s a chance to give the fans what they want while still making it accessible to new viewers. Hell, use the novels and comics for possible story ideas. After all, adapting novels and comics is all the rage in Hollywood right now, right? Pick and choose what worked in those adaptions, mix in what Carl Macek originally planned, throw in some new ideas, and you’ve got a perfectly fantastic series.
2. Continue the Story of Shadow Chronicles
Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles, the long awaited continuation of the Robotech saga released in 2006 had its heart in the right place. It attempted to give us resolution to Scott flying off to find the Expeditionary Force at the end of the series, but it ended up rewriting that final episode in order to better accommodate the film. The whole problem with Shadow Chronicles was that it tried to serve too many masters. It was trying to be accessible to new viewers while still attempting to be a full on sequel. It just didn’t get the balance right and that’s why it ultimately failed.
If The Sentinels isn’t a viable option, at least solider on past Shadow Chronicles with something fun and new in the Robotech universe. Have Scott and the gang finally find Rick Hunter. Utilize Marcus and the other new Shadow Chronicles characters as the main focus and slowly introduce the other old characters into the series instead of just sticking them in around the edges.
3. Use Rick Hunter
Undisputedly Robotech’s most popular character, fans want to know what happened with Rick. Is he still married to Lisa? How has he adjusted to becoming an admiral? Is Minmei still chasing after what she could have had with him?
The use of Rick has been mired in legal trouble ever since the problems with the original Macross license began. He barely appeared in Shadow Chronicles and his character has been kept away from any future sequel plans. It’s strange, because at this point Rick’s character design is nothing like his original Macross design and thus should not be in any legal trouble.
Regardless, the omission of Rick Hunter is hurting the franchise. Putting aside pure fanboy love, he’s the center of the Robotech universe. Starting from just a young man who was caught in a war, to an admiral wiping out whole armies, he provides the perfect mentor to any of the new characters introduced in a sequel. Use these new characters to show us how Rick has changed and on the flipside use Rick as a contrast to the new soldiers under his command. There are endless ways to use Rick’s character that don’t bog down the overall story.
4. No “New” Sidestories
The Sentinels is an established part of Robotech lore and fills in a crucial part of that universe. Other attempts like Love Live Alive and the proposed Robotech Academy that failed to receive funding through Kickstarter are just a waste of time. Love Live Alive was a glorified clip show and Robotech Academy was supposed to feature a whole new cast of hip youngsters set sometime during The Sentinels but not following it directly.
The main reasons why both of those failed to click with fans were simple. They’re just treading water. Fans want something that actually brings some momentum back to the Robotech franchise, not just another excuse to avoid the story of the characters we love. Maybe if a sequel series really took off and a spin off were viable? Sure, something like Robotech Academy could be a lot of fun. But we are nowhere near a Robotech tv/cinematic universe. Get your main story straight first before you try pawning off clip shows for $15.
5. Strong Female Characters
For an ’80s animated series, Robotech had remarkably capable and strong women who were able to stand toe to toe with any of the men. Lisa Hayes, Dana Sterling, Rook Bartley, and others were a real inspiration and role models to a lot of female fans of the show. Plus they were engaging characters on their own. A sequel needs to continue this with a variety of women who pilot fighters, command starships, and even sing (it’s Robotech, you’ve got to have some singing).
They also need to be designed with realistic proportions. I’m looking at you Maia Sterling and your impossibly huge boobs and form fitting flight suit in Shadow Chronicles. We don’t want eye candy. We want a variety of women who aren’t degrading and who can appeal to anyone and everyone.
6. New Music
I’m as big a fan of, “We Will Win” and “Look Up! The Sky is Falling” as the next fan, but we need new tunes. The music of Robotech is an inseparable part of the series, always complementing the action or storyline. While we did receive some new orchestral tracks with Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles, a new set of songs featuring lyrics would be much appreciated. As much as I’d love them to be full of ’80s synth glory, update it. Some fans will balk at using dubstep or a more modern pop sound, but it helps keep the series fresh and not just a relic of the past.
As much as Robotech is famous for it’s mecha, the main draw for a lot of fans was the more soap opera aspects of the show. Rick and Lisa’s marriage! Scott and Ariel’s interspecies love affair! Dana and Zor’s tragic tale! Bowie and Musica’s interplanetary realationship! The romance was never just a B story; it would often drive the plot and the characters motivation.
Keep the romance at the front and don’t be afraid to go a little corny. After all, in the Macross Saga Max and Miriya get married after knowing each other for a day. Was it ridiculous? Of course, but it was fun nonetheless.
At the end of the day however, we just want a good story and soon. Robotech has fallen on the back burner of pop culture. People barely talk about it. It’s nowhere near contemporary ’80s properties Transformers, G.I. Joe, or even Thundercats. Robotech needs to come back with something big to get people’s attention and the longer it waits, the harder it is.
With the success of Guardians of the Galaxy, space set science fiction is viable again. Star Wars is returning soon and you know kids are going to be all over that. Robotech can grab some of that action and perhaps pull itself out of the gutter it’s been in for the past decade. It’s got science fiction, aliens, romance, military aspects, and did I mention giant transforming mecha? It has all the right elements. Use them.