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The Animatrix Network is an anime & manga fan club located in the Southwest suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. We usually meet on the third Saturday of each month (except when holidays or conventions coincide). The meetings are free and open to the public. Join us for a day filled with anime.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

2010 marks the 25th Anniversary of the groundbreaking anime series Robotech

(Source: Aneheim Anime Examiner by Carl Macek)
Before 1985 it is safe to say that only a select group of dedicated American fans were aware of the scope and diversity of Japanese animation (or as it is widely called today: anime).  But all that changed with the the syndicated distribution of the animated television series Robotech, an 85-episode multi-generational saga that almost single-handedly launched an intense interest in Japanese animation among a broad section of the American television viewing public.

Bear in mind that when Robotech was first launched the Internet was in its infancy, home video had reached into less than twenty percent of all American households, and most importantly, original syndicated animation for broadcast television was generally considered kid's programming only suitable as a means to sell toys - think He Man and the Masters of the Universe and Transformers.

At the time, syndicated animation was dominated by toy-centric programming and Robotech was originally conceived as one of these billboard-type programs developed and telecast to promote a line of toys - in this case a line of plastic model kits.  Drawing footage from three unrelated Japanese animated series, The Super Dimension Fortress Macros, The Super Dimension Calvary Southern Cross and Genesis Climber Mospeada, the team that was assembled to produce the series was inspired to create an original story that re-purposed the animation far beyond the expectations of the rights holders.   The result became one of the most talked about and most watched animated program of its generation.   Due to the nature of how the series was assembled, the story of Robotech was complex - much more so than typical animated programs that were geared for a younger audience.  Set in the future, the plot revolved around an alien science and technology reverse-engineered by humans after a massive spacecraft crash lands on an isolated, unpopulated island.  Through the course of the series' 85 serialized episodes, various wars are fought against alien invaders who have traveled vast distances to recover their mysterious energy source known as protoculture.

Robotech's success was due, in part, to the fact that the mature storytelling often found in Japanese animation was not watered-down for a younger audience by its team of writers and producers.  Therefore, the characters that populated Robotech faced life-and-death situations, exhibited real emotions, and mirrored much of the personal angst faced by the targeted age group.  In any given episode a main character might face death.  But in atypical fashion, some lived to fight another day, while others lost their lives in a blaze of glory.  In many ways Robotech could be seen as the animated equivalent Marvel Comics.

While most animated television series are forgettable, Robotech managed to touch a nerve and connect with the viewing public.  Over the last twenty-five years it has remained a high-water mark for both science fiction fans as well as animation fans.  Its influence has rippled throughout much of pop culture often inspiring  fans to seek out and embrace Japanese anime.  At one point Robotech became an object of controversy when a few hard-core anime fans rejected the show claiming that it was a perversion of the three original productions.  The heated debate has long since subsided.  There are still occasional rumblings from disgruntled fans, but for the most part Robotech has been able to take its place, worldwide, as a popular and viable classic, as strong today as it was when it first burst onto the scene back when Ronald Reagan was still president..

To illustrate this point, recently Warner Brothers,working with Toby Maguire's production company, have begun plans to transform Robotech into a live-action feature film project. What's more Robotech.com, a highly trafficked web destination, has recent added twitter and facebook links to take advantage of the popularity of social networks.  Add to this the fact that even after numerous home video permutations, Robotech is still one of the most viewed properties on Hulu.com.  So it's fair to say that the future looks bright for this surprisingly satisfying story on the eve of its silver anniversary.

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