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Manga Entertainment UK continue the Robotech saga on 31st July 2006 with the first UK DVD release of Robotech: The New Generation. This 1985 series is given to us in its 2003 ‘Digitally Remastered’ form, with this first volume containing episodes 61 to 72 in the ongoing Mecha opus.

Robotech: New Generation - Volume 1

Feature


’So your teeth fall out. It’s better than having your head blown off.’

After the events of Robotech: The Masters, with the Masters defeated and the Earth in not much of a state to defend itself, an abundance of Protoculture (an organic power source) left over from the war alerts a distant alien race to a possible solution to their constant quest to force their evolution into a race of superior beings. Their taking of the Earth is swift and any resistance is crushed decisively.

Some fifteen years later and the human race has been subjugated, with many being used to farm the Protoculture for their new masters. The Invid are bio-mechanical beings and use the plentiful supplies of their favourite power source to fuel their ‘bodies’ and aid in the experimentations that they hope will lead them to their ultimate form. Progress has been made, but ever since Earth was invaded the other human colonies have been planning a way to take back their spiritual home.

The 21st Combat Squadron, Mars Division, heads to Earth in a surprise attack. Most of the members of the attacking force have never even been to Earth, and Lt. Cmdr. Scott Bernard is one of the plucky young men that resolve to send the Invid back to their home. Things do not go to plan.

Robotech: New Generation - Volume 1
The Invid repel the attack, destroying all but a single Alpha Fighter, which crash lands leaving a survivor with only one thing on his mind. Scott Bernard must find his way to the Invid’s Reflex Point and deal a final blow to their occupation of the Earth. Armed only with his Cyclone—a motorcycle that transforms into a formidable Mecha—Scott begins his arduous journey and hopes that he will find help along the way.

’I smell a rat and it’s got your boyfriend’s face.’

This first volume takes us through the first twelve episodes of Scott’s twenty-five episode mission:

61. The Invid Invasion
62. The Lost City
63. Lonely Soldier Boy
64. Survival
65. Curtain Call
66. Hard Time
67. Paper Hero
68. Eulogy
69. The Genesis Pit
70. Enter Marlene
71. The Secret Route
72. The Fortress

Along the way he finds that not all humans want to help—some even go out of their way to hinder his campaign—but it isn’t long before Scott has a group of rag-tag resistance fighters at his side. Lunk and Rook have had experience in the field, as has the mysterious Lancer, but Rand manages to hold his own in battle. Annie, on the other hand, spends most of her time falling for any man who talks to her. As they take the war to the Invid, they will encounter enemies from both worlds and discover some shocking secrets along the way.

Robotech: New Generation - Volume 1
’You guys sure are ugly. Now let’s see if you can fight!’

Being an ‘80s cartoon you can expect cheesy dialogue and a synthesiser-based soundtrack, and fans looking forward to those won’t be disappointed. Lancer’s alter-ego, Yellow Dancer, also gets to belt out some soft rock for that complete ‘80s experience. Story-wise, there is a good attempt at providing back-stories for our heroes and a nice progression in the narrative with the true threat and purpose of the Invid being steadily revealed. The animation itself isn’t bad, and there’s no doubt it will have benefited from a sprucing up twenty years after its first showing, but the quality is lacking when compared to some of today’s fare.

If there’s one negative feeling I have it is that the Mecha versus Invid battles don’t feel very epic, possibly due to them being Earth-based, but maybe because our small band can’t really have overwhelming masses of the alien invaders coming at them.

Video


Presented in its original full-frame ratio of 1.33:1, Robotech: New Generation looks pretty good for its age and the digital restoration shows off a nice palette with only minor moments of fading. There is a little bit of frame jitter here and there but overall it looks good on a decent sized TV.

There is a slight fuzziness to some of the images once you get the discs on a PC and take a closer look, but under normal viewing conditions there shouldn’t be any problems. However, if you’re looking for subtitles you’ll be disappointed.

Robotech: New Generation - Volume 1

Audio


The solitary Dolby Digital 5.1 track shows that it means business right from the start, exhibiting a good grasp of the directional capabilities of the format during the opening space battle. The elements of the original mono track have been remixed quite well, with vocals firmly locked to the centre speaker when the situation demands it and positional effects being placed accurately all around the soundstage. Even the subwoofer gets a proper feed, with explosions having a solid punch rather than the aimless rumbles that sometimes get thrown in just for the fun of it.

The soundtrack does suffer a little in the translation to the multi-channel track and the main theme can sound a bit muffled when used in the episodes, but overall this is a surprisingly good effort given the age of the source material.

Extras


To quote Douglas Adams, ‘Space is big. Really big’, and the thing about this really big space is that quite a lot of it is really, really empty. In that sense, space would be very much like the Extras sections on these discs, if they existed, which they don’t.

Robotech: New Generation - Volume 1

Overall


I can remember seeing Transformers at the time Robotech was doing the rounds, but never saw or heard of the latter until later on in life. This is my first foray into the Robotech world, and while not being the ‘robots in disguise’ action that I crave from my childhood this is still a solid effort that does a good job of telling a coherent story while doing enough to keep kids’ attention. This remastered and extended version even includes the pre and post-ad-break programme IDs, although I can’t vouch for any of the extensions included here.

The discs are about as barebones as you can get, barring the decent 5.1 remix, but the transfer itself comes across very well considering the age. Chapter points are situated so you can skip the start and end credits (both of which seem to last ages) but you still have to sit through the recap before you get to the meat of the current episode. This can make watching the mass of episodes in one lump a bit tiresome, but it is a minor niggle and the purists will be happy to have the full, unedited experience on DVD. Those same purists will no doubt cry over the omission of the original audio track, but the remix enhances the material in the main rather than hindering it like a lot of rejigs of mono tracks.

If this is your bag then this presentation appears to be on a par with the remastered US releases from 2004 and you will want to pick it up even given the dearth of extra material. The complete saga set released in the US in 2005 does contain the same remastered video and audio, and adds a comparative wealth of extras not available on the volume releases either side of the Atlantic, but the cost could prove to be outside the range of all but the avid fan. After this, September will see Manga complete the saga in the UK with the release of the second volume of Robotech: New Generation containing the final thirteen episodes of the Robotech.


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