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Robotech: The Macross Saga - volume three

voice cast: Tony Oliver, Melanie MacQueen, and Rebecca Forstadt

director: Robert V. Barron

291 minutes (PG) 1985
Manga DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 4/10
reviewed by Aaron Callow
Robotech was one of the first anime series to make the transition from Japan without being cut to pieces by the censors. For many fans, it was the first anime they had seen that had not lost its edge in the translation from Japanese to English and for that reason some suggest it kick-started the genre's popularity internationally. Now, 20 years later, the series retains much of its original charm but compares unfavourably with more recent anime.

The two-disc series 3 DVD comprises episodes 25 to 36 of the first Robotech series, The Macross Saga. When a starship lands on an island in the South Pacific, the 'robotechnology' found on board gives Earth's inhabitants the means to explore space. But the Zentraedi - giant warlike aliens to whom the starship belongs - want it back, and so begins the Robotech wars, a galactic conflict spanning three generations.

Although the DVD is the last in the series, many of the episodes are disappointingly anticlimactic. Admittedly, there are some brutally graphic destruction sequences (not least of which is the immense Zentraedi armada that devastates every city on Earth in episode 27), but such moments are rare and short-lived. It is not until the closing episodes, with the development of a love triangle between mecha pilot, Rick Hunter (Tony Oliver), J-pop star, Lynn Minmei (Rebecca Forstadt), and the Admiral's daughter, Lisa Hayes (Melanie MacQueen), that the story becomes compelling and there is a lot of fluff to sit through beforehand.

The series is also afflicted by weaknesses common to most anime of its time. The animation is poor by modern standards and although the mechas look great, the characters do not. The Zentraedi in particular are unimaginatively designed and badly drawn. Furthermore, the voiceovers are consistently awkward, the English-language storyline often makes little sense, and the soundtrack is cheesy and dated. These shortcomings will be unlikely to deter hardened anime fans (if anything it's part of the appeal) but for viewers unfamiliar with the genre there are better series to investigate first.

Fans of epic anime space operas may enjoy the Robotech saga and those who have seen the first 24 episodes will no doubt want to see the series through to its conclusion. If so, they should prepare to endure an hour or so of tedium before the story finally picks up towards the end. Though it has a certain nostalgic appeal, Robotech series three has little else going for it and only ardent anime enthusiasts will want to watch all the way through to episode 36.
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