I want to know, has HG ever even mentioned licensing Macross properties like Frontier or (God forbid) 7? Is their any interview or anything where Tommy mentions it?
Back when ADV Films had the rights to Robotech and the underlying Japanese source material, they actually sought to license Macross Zero. ADV went to Harmony Gold to try to get things all legally square, but suddenly Big West took the license off the market. I heard something to this effect from Tommy Yune back in the summer of 2006; here’s a panel report from SDCC in ‘07 that documents Yune telling this story to the crowd. The Macross Zero wikipedia article also cites an episode of Chris Meadows’s podcast Space Station Liberty from earlier that year where Yune talked about a potential Macross Zero deal with ADV.
Here’s why I kind of buy this story. TokyoPop solicited a release of Haruhiko Mikimoto’s Macross 7 Trash manga (here’s the press release, and here’s the page for it, complete with ISBN, on Amazon) back in 2004. It never saw print. Four years later, Toynami attempted to license the original 1/55 Valkyrie mold from Bandai to issue them with new, more TV-accurate head sculpts in the U.S. They were preorderable on Robotech.com that very summer. Here is the press release, complete with (now dead) preorder links. A year later it was reported on CollectionDX that the product was “on hiatus due to a licensing issue with Big West.” Both products were officially licensed in the U.S. by Harmony Gold. Neither came to market.
Point being, it seems clear that every time some poor fool with a head full of dreams goes to Japan to license Macross stuff they come back with little more than an emptier wallet and a broken heart. Harmony Gold, being a party to these failed projects, knows better than to even try.
I was pretty sure this thing wasn’t gonna go through, but despite that I was shocked when the email hit at noon CDT saying they were “suspending” the Kickstarter. I wonder who pulled the plug. Letting it go to the end would have been interesting from the standpoint that I’m sure a lot of folks, seeing how much ground it would have had to go, would have gladly gotten off the fence and chipped in. It would have really given us a good sense of the true size of the hardcore Robotech fan base (that doesn’t hate Harmony Gold) in 2014.
Maybe Harmony Gold doesn’t want to know that number. Maybe they, moreover, don’t want the rest of the world knowing that number. I can see Frank or Tommy pulling the plug to spare themselves any further embarrassment over this thing. It’s a bad look, going into the 30th anniversary being unable to raise even a third of what a licensee did a year ago. I’ve talked at length about why this probably wouldn’t and couldn’t make the same money as Palladium & Ninja Division’s Kickstarter.
I do wonder, if they’d managed to get Toynami and Palladium on-board from the get-go, if things would have gone differently. The best add-ons enhance the experience of THAT product; with a “cartoon” property, especially of the robotic variety, figures traditionally have done just that. I doubt that would have been the Kickstarter’s salvation, but it’s clear now that this thing needed all the help it could get. A lot of the add-ons really didn’t do that; moreover, too many of them were seriously unknown quantities. If you want me to be interested in an art book, show me more designs from the start. If you want me interested in a soundtrack, provide some context. A few minutes with Scott Glasgow and a chat maybe about the work he just did for Love Live Alive, perhaps? The clip with Cesar from Creavision was neat, but for anyone who was around for the Valkyrie Project debacle it was interesting viewing for the wrong reasons.
I dunno, I could backseat drive this thing all night long, but in the end I think they may have made the only smart move they could have made at this point: cut the P.R. losses early, regroup, and now figure out where to go from here. Whether or not that new direction includes Robotech Academy we’ll see, but honestly, I hope it does. I really can’t deal with too many more failed Robotech sequels …
It definitely has spindly fin-shouldered Evangelion arms and, kinda sorta, EVA-00’s head, but my first thought was “what is Transformers Prime Soundwave doing in Robotech?” Comparison pics abound out in the wild, but you can be sure I’ll have one up on Monday for what I guess will be the postmortem design round-up. For those unfamiliar, though, the Transformers Prime version of Soundwave is a robot with a similarly weird, thin, inhuman but humanoid look that also turns into what we now think of when we hear about military drones. Considering that Harmony Gold was just involved in a lawsuit with Hasbro last year, I see that design and think boy, guys, you’re treading on some thin ice there …
The Takeru and the earlier ship both somehow come off as both unfinished and overdone. Both designs could stand to be both a little cleaner, less cluttered, and a little more polished, with interesting shapes attached to them that don’t look like they were added with a copy & paste tool. I wonder if they ever had a life on paper; they look like the end result of someone spending a couple of long afternoons playing around with shapes on Lightwave until they had something they deemed “good ‘nuff.”
The comparison to a Gobots toy is kind of unfair to Gobots. One thing those toys were good at was moving mass around to turn a fairly clean vehicle into a robot, often to the detriment of the robot. That would be the opposite of what this thing does, which is basically hot glue some legs to the bottom of a stealth wing shape. Every Veritech design we’ve ever seen before finds a way of integrating all the necessary parts into both modes. If the designer of this mecha knew what he was doing, he’d have given this thing legs that blended neatly into the airframe, or at least looked like they belonged to the same machine. It really does look like someone took a model plane and the lower half of a Gundam model kit and just stuck ‘em together. Infuriatingly lazy.
Harmony Gold makes a great target. Like their contemporaries and successors — World Events Productions, Saban, Funimation, DIC — they’re a company that heavily localized Japanese animation for Western consumption, and thus got a lot of stick over the years for the “crimes” they inflicted upon the original Japanese animated programs. There’s an inclination from the outset to paint them as the bad guys for their efforts to sell Macross — in its artificially extended form as Robotech — in the States. As we moved from the late 1990s into the early 2000s they did little to shed that image by threatening U.S. anime retailers who imported Japanese Macross goods and, upon discovering that Big West was seeking to acquire a trademark on the name Macross in the U.S., filing for the trademark on the name Macross themselves in as many countries and on as many different kinds of products as they could think of. The fact that they then squandered a great deal of goodwill by creating a mediocre Robotech sequel, antagonizing some of their most hardcore fans on message boards like a pack of garden-variety trolls when called on that mediocrity, then firing the most passionate Robotech fan they had on staff just makes it all the easier to point the finger at them as the sole guilty party here. Give ‘em a long enough list of crimes, and suddenly you can blame them for everything that’s wrong. It helps that most folks just learning about this situation, and even a lot of folks who’ve been hanging around for a while, know nothing about who Big West is, what else they do, and what their role in the creation of Macross is. (Hint: it involves money, and pretty much only that.) When you’ve got a blank canvas, it’s pretty easy to paint it up as a hero. (Simplistic anime fan thinking: American company bad, Japanese company good.)
As much as I have little love for it, I think if a U.S. distributor went full court press on selling Macross Frontier to the U.S. market they’d genuinely make some money. (At least, if they managed to get it out within the next couple of years; it still looks current enough right now, but the clock is ticking. Then again, market it right and you might be able to make it evergreen — “Denied to U.S. fans for X number of years!!”) And while people talk about the expense of the music rights, Sentai Filmworks — the reanimated corpse of ADV Films — was able and willing to license both seasons of AKB0048, a sci-fi anime from Shoji Kawamori and his studio Satelight that’s all about a sci-fi-ed up version of an actual superstar Japanese idol group, AKB48. I can’t imagine the licensing on that show’s music was cheap, since I’m guessing it contains a lot of actual Japanese pop hits, and yet, like I said — they licensed two seasons, and I doubt it has anywhere near the potential return on investment of a Macross show. The music rights “problem” has a lovely ring of verisimilitude, but based on all these other anime shows that have wound up over here that are just as music-centric, I just don’t buy it.
Who’d want to license the post-Plus Macross shows? I could still see Funimation being interested in Frontier, though like I said above, with a new show in the planning stages I’m sure it’s looking less tempting by the month. On the other hand, I could definitely see Section 23/Sentai being way into the idea of licensing the whole stable of ‘em. These guys love long-running anime franchises. They licensed all of Gatchaman, including the modern reboot Gatchaman Crowds. They’ve happily snapped up modern Fist of the North Star and Golgo 13 shows. They thought licensing 1990s relic Ghost Sweeper Mikami was a good idea in 2010. I am absolutely positive that these are people who would happily give us a U.S. blu ray release of Macross 7 if they could conjure up a big enough sack of money to cut through all the red tape. Unfortunately, I have a bad feeling that a sack of money that large doesn’t actually exist in all the world. (Please, for the love of god, in the name of all that is holy, somebody prove me wrong on that count.)
Good news for anyone who’s been balking at the price of the AnimEigo and ADV Films Macross DVDs lately, assuming they don’t find some exciting way to screw up the subtitles. (I’ve seen firsthand how badly home video companies that don’t specialize in foreign material can screw up or at least do weird/off-putting stuff with subtitles.) Vol. 1 contains the first eighteen episodes and is out in late September — so not too far away. I’ve read from folks who’d know that it shouldn’t look bad even with nine episodes per disc, and the price is definitely right. I’d say it’s a good thing.
On the other hand, unless they’ve done some kind of restoration work on the original broadcast version of Robotech, if all you want is Robotech as it was from late ‘85 to 2001, the ADV Films discs are still bouncing around for pretty cheap. And given Tommy Yune’s cracks about some fans wanting it “with all the dirt and scratches,” which is a load of disingenuous shit — what we want is the original edit and sound effects — I’m thinking, no, the original version’s going to have no restoration work done, and this is going to be more or less identical to the ADV discs only packed a little tighter onto the discs.
First off, the Japanese blu ray for Macross Plus is totally out of print already. There’s plenty of incentive to go after the rights to release it on blu ray in English-speaking territories since trying to get your hands on the Japanese edition now is even more stupidly expensive than it was when it first came out.
Second, you’re not completely right about the dub. Because Manga’s dub for the fourth episode had a replacement music and sound effects track (made up of music from the first three episodes, though they did get “Information High” in there — probably off of the Sharon Apple single CD, I’d wager), Bandai eventually (in the early 2000s) commissioned their own English version of the last episode. Bryan Cranston was already on the sitcom Malcolm in the Middle by then, so he was replaced with David “Solid Snake” Hayter. Likewise, Richard Epcar (Guld) and Dan Woren (Yang) were replaced with dudes who sounded nothing like them. (The replacement actor for Yang sounded much closer to the goofy “nerd” voice the Japanese actor gave the character.) It’s reasonably watchable, if not great, but if you’re watching the series in sequence it totally undercuts the drama of seeing these characters’ conflict reach its peak. (Yes, I own the blu ray box. Yes, it’s very pretty. Yes, I was utterly baffled when I sat down to watch episode 4 and Cranston, Epcar, and Woren were suddenly missing. The not-so-great actress who plays Myung whose name I can’t remember? Still there, unsurprisingly. Wound up repurchasing the second DVD when I discovered this to my “horror.”) Point being, with the compromised English audio on the final episode of the Japanese blu ray, there is definitely room for a more complete English high definition version. I know I’d give it some thought.
Third, Harmony Gold does have a trademark on Macross in the U.K. Now, it doesn’t appear to extend as far as their trademarks in the U.S. — not to home video and television, so Manga U.K. might be in the clear there. But I wonder if, moreso than dealing with potential restrictions on the blu rays coming from Bandai Visual/Emotion, they don’t want to deal with the potential trouble that comes from the Big West-Harmony Gold/Tatsunoko tug of war when it comes to Macross rights outside of Japan. Given the limitations of the trademark in the U.K. it could be safe, or it could wind up opening a whole new can of worms. If I were them, yeah, I’d probably be sticking to Attack on Titan and Sword Art On-Line, too — and NOT for the reasons you cited.