By David Cabrera
There had been a collective awkward silence at the Satelight panel back at Otakon when the representative mentioned that the crowd cheered for Macross Frontier footage... knowing very well that we had not seen it by any legitimate means.
Macross in America is a very unique and unusual situation: fans don't resort to piracy just because they won't be able to see the show for two years otherwise. (Let's call this “the Code Geass”.) They do so because they know that in the present situation, new Macross anime does not see release here. There is simply no point in waiting around.
This leads us into confusing territory. I have summed this up on the column before, but let's do it again. For American TV broadcast, Macross was combined with two other robot anime (Southern Cross and Mospeada were introduced as stories taking place at different times in the same universe), rewritten and edited, and aired under the title Robotech. This was done because Macross alone didn't have enough episodes for a proper TV run here.
The resulting product was a huge success. However, the side effect was that “Robotech” and “Macross” were two continuing and separate entities. The Robotech story was continued in novels, many original projects that never quite made it to completion, and even a recent original animated film. A Hollywood Robotech film has been in the works for years and, like many anime-related adaptations, may or may not surface. Obviously, Macross has gone on to be a long-running and successful franchise.
And this caused a problem. Macross and Robotech were incompatible. The Macross story that millions of American kids had watched, though largely intact from the original, didn't fit with the new series that Japan would go on to produce.
As for who owns what, the original rights-holder of Robotech (Harmony Gold) also claims rights to anything Macross in America. After all, it was Robotech that led to English-speakers caring about Macross in the first place, right? Japan doesn't acknowledge this claim, and Harmony Gold isn't backing up on it, so the situation is deadlocked.
Macross productions come and go in Japan, and they don't see release in America. We got Macross II and Macross Plus (I guess HG didn't notice?), and that was it. No Macross 7, no Macross Zero, definitely no Macross F.
At the end of the Satelight panel back at Otakon, a fan (dressed as Legend of the Galactic Heroes' Reinhard; that's another cult favorite sci-fi series that Americans didn't see legally) begged against hope for Macross F to be released here. He probably already knew what he was going to hear, but he had to ask. The response from the studio was vague, of course, and came down to “there are a lot of issues with Macross, and unfortunately it's completely out of our hands.”
But at that same panel Shoji Kawamori (on video), a man who certainly knows all this, smiled and told us to look forward to more Macross and more AKB0048 (which, for other reasons, is never, ever seeing legitimate release here). And the audience will, and they'll buy the merchandise like all the other fans do, too... everything but the DVDs, really. Which is obviously not so great for Satelight.
(There was a small gasp in the crowd when a fan held up his Macross F movie Blu-Ray during Hidetaka Tenjin's Q&A.)
I have a friend who grew up with Robotech. Rather, he was completely obsessed with it, and as a kid it led him to Macross and the rest of Japanese animation at large. Now, still a fan of both franchises, he says to me “I wish they'd just retire Robotech and let us all have Macross.” Of course, that's never happening.