3.27.2014

MACROSS STORY TIME - JETLIAR


I woke up yesterday to the news that MACROSS, my favorite animated franchise, is launching a new television series. No details have been revealed at this point, but just knowing new material is in the works ignited a fire in me that I haven't felt in a long time. Or perhaps that triple espresso this morning was a bad idea. Regardless, I'm pumped and wanting to channel that energy into the very first Macross Story Time article on this site. Get comfortable, my friends, because we're going way back. Back to when this whole thing started. Back to when I was lied to as a child.


LIES. ALL LIES.
I suppose my obsession with Macross can be traced back to early childhood, long before terms like "UN Spacy," "Protoculture" and "Itano Circus" were part of my vocabulary. I, like many of my peers, was a product of the early 1980s - obsessed with science fiction, sugary cereals, toys and the cartoons that served as 30 minute brainwashing tools to encourage amassing large armies of product. My immediate family moved around a lot, so the only consistency in my life at the time was the crew of plastic and metal "friends" that traveled with me. In 1984, it would have been unusual to spot young Daniel without a favorite Transformer constantly in hand -- an incredible aircraft that converted into a sleek robot named Jetfire. The toy was a huge and hefty armored brick, and I nearly had scars from all the times my little hands were caught by the spring-loaded, snapping metal landing gears, but damn if I didn't adore that toy like some kids loved their pets. I had no idea there was such a thing as a "Gerwalk" mode. To me, Jetfire was the ultimate Transformer. And he was a badass.

STILL SASSY AFTER ALL THESE YEARS.

I was protective of this character -- or, rather, the version I had built up in my head. I remember the confusion that took over when this imitation jet douche, Skyfire, appeared in the Transformers cartoon, not at all resembling the "ultimate" Autobot I had staged wars with daily. They both sported white and red with big boosters, but that was where the similarities ended. I guess he was my Malgus at the time (WHO IS THIS GUY??). Now, I was used to my toys not quite looking like their cartoon counterpart. Bumblebee, for instance, had a different face from toy to show, but this was a more radical change. "Why couldn't they draw Jetfire correctly?" And why did they change his name? This was heavy stuff in 1984, let me tell you. "Skyfire" became a completely different character in my personal kid canon, a Jetfire wannabe who, when not serving as the Autobots' personal taxi service, would sit around in glaciers all day having an identity crisis. What a bitch.

WHO THE HELL IS THIS GUY?
Around that same time, I remember also mocking the upstart ROBOTECH toys and commercials that began to appear in my little world as being "knockoffs" of the "real thing" (i.e. Transformers). Hey, cut me some slack! I was only 6! Then again, in the years since, I've come to continue to view Robotech in a similar light, ever since I was exposed to the "REAL-real thing" -- Macross.

Around 11 years old, my best friend at the time and I began trading VHS tapes with some penpals we met on the Prodigy boards. We were internet savvy before the internet was the internet. Did we use it for porn? Well, yeah. But more importantly, we were exposed to Akira, Bubblegum Crisis, Gunbuster, Project A-Ko, Laputa, etc. My young life revolved around staying up late watching fuzzy, flickering, 10th generation tapes with nearly-impossible-to-read fansubs of foreign cartoons in a language I didn't understand. And porn. But that's when I really caught the anime bug. That's also when Robotech came back into my life.

Obsessed with robots, big-eyed girls and visuals of insane missile swarms, my friend and I had found a dusty set of tapes at the local comic book store, a six volume edited version of Robotech: The Macross Saga put out by F.H.E. Now, keep in mind, these were edited versions of an ALREADY edited show, taking six or so episodes and bastardizing them into mini-movie length bits, chopping up "non-essential" (read: character development) parts in the process. The quality of the tapes was questionable at best. Regardless of all this, we were amazed just to find these tapes -- this was no small feat, considering there was no widespread anime at retail back then, especially in a nowhere place like Bumfuck, Connecticut. I vaguely recalled the show, remembering my utter refusal to take it seriously at age 6 (after all, ALL convertible robot shows were rip-offs of Transformers to my surprisingly judgmental kid mind. GoBots, Robotech...it was all the same crap). A few minutes into the first episode, I came to the realization that I had been duped this whole time--HASBRO had ripped off THIS show. "Jetfire," my main homie, the dude cooler than Boba Fett in my collection, was not even a sentient being. IT was a war machine in a compelling space soap opera...piloted by guys with seriously big hair! That evening, I pulled ol' Jetfire off the shelf and discovered he could form that "odd" half-plane/half-robot mode as well. What the SHIT. I had been lied to! This was a fucking crime. Surely I could sue for damages?! My life was a lie. Hold me.

IS THAT DUDE IN JETFIRE? WHAT THE SHIT.
From that day forward, Jetfire was dead. In his place was an "incorrectly colored" VF-1S Veritech fighter. My copy was even from the initial run of Hasbro figures - he actually had UN Spacy logos on the wings, confirming once and for all that I was duped. I vowed to one day "right this wrong" and collect any "Veritechs" in "proper colors" I could get my hands on. I would have given anything to have a TRUE Skull One. That was ROY FUCKING FOCKER'S PLANE. But I was 11. And poor. And lived in Bumfuck, CT. Damn it.

A few months later, I devoured everything and anything Robotech, reading novels and comics, wearing out vhs tapes, etc. During all that tape trading, two things popped into my life that would change me forever - a fansubbed copy of a movie entitled Macross: Do You Remember Love? and an extra something to pad out space on a vhs called Macross: Flashback 2012. That copy of DYRL? was a travesty, not in content but in presentation. You could get nauseous just trying to make out what was happening on this 15th generation tape. The boobs on the scrambled Cinemax on cable tv after midnight were easier to spot. But what I could make out really gripped me. Rick Hunter was really a dude named Hikaru Ichijo and Max had a super deep voice. Roy got really drunk. And Minmay could...ACTUALLY sing? The Robotech version was nails on a chalkboard whenever that bitch opened her twatty mouth. This was a revelation. I actually believed a song could save the universe (remember - I was 11. And I still believe Stan Bush's The Touch could very well fend off a conquering alien race. Don't even try to debate this). DYRL? became my favorite animated movie of all time. It still is, after buying nearly every copy released, despite patent trolls and... I want to stay positive, so I won't bring up the ultimate nemesis of the Macross fandom in this article. Grrr...


I LOVE YOU SO.
Years went by. I was still stuck in the bowels of Connecticut, ExoSquad-labeled Robotech toys came out (???) around high school, and I promptly snatched most of them up (enemy mecha! woot!)...except, what should have been the prize of that collection turned out to be a crappy, non-transforming Fisher Price Veritech. Yeah. Okay. PASS. By that time, I had also become an enormous fan of Macross Plus (getting this show on our shores was a blessing and SHOULD have been the launching point for a full Macross invasion, but... those fucking patent trolls and...I said I wouldn't go there). I also owned a hilarious copy of the wacky DYRL? dub entitled Clash of the Bionoids, couldn't quite figure out why Macross 2 seemed so...out of whack when compared to the other shows and heard rumors of a Macross 7 in Japan, with robots piloted by guitars. What the fuck? The Macross I had viewed really confused me at first, because I couldn't quite figure out where the Robotech Masters and Invid fit into the whole thing. I did some research and discovered Macross was/is an entirely separate entity, and Robotech was really a clusterfuck of three COMPLETELY UNRELATED SHOWS cobbled together. This was a world changing event. Now I had TWO things to hunt for--the original, unedited Japanese SDF Macross series AND that Skull One perfect VALKYRIE toy ("Veritech" at that point, was a term I tossed aside, preferring the original "Valkyrie" from Macross). I had been lied to TWICE now (from a certain point of view). Jetfire had now evolved like a damn Pokemon from a Transformer to a Robotech Veritech Fighter to a Macross VF-1S Valkyrie. That fucking guy. Jetfire, you tricky bird.

Fast forward to 2001 and the end of college. I had slipped out of anime fandom for a few years and temporarily forgot all about my attempts to find the perfect Valkyrie toy. In a random fit of nostalgia, I checked out a link from IGN to Robotech.com...and saw an ad for Animeigo where the HOLY GRAIL was up for PREORDER before my very eyes--MACROSS! ORIGINAL JAPANESE!! SUBTITLED!!! ....For $250?! That was a LOT of money for a DVD set and a poor college kid. Ignoring that guilty/nagging feeling, I bought it anyway, even though I DIDN'T EVEN OWN A DVD PLAYER. This was MACROSS--the "real thing." Finally! I didn't care who I'd need to sleep with to get it.
GRAIL #1

After falling in love with my 9 disc boxset (cheers to my roomate and his Playstation 2!), I truly fell in love with Macross and its huge cast of unforgettable characters all over again. You folks who claim Robotech: The Macross Saga varies little from the original are straight-up fooling yourselves. SDF Macross is a darker, more mature ride, and I have zero use for Robotech in this day and age, especially with how the company that owns it goes to busin-- I swore I wouldn't go there. I'll take a good "Kyun Kyun" over a "Stage Fright" ANY DAY. Anyway, I soon began scouring the web, trying to find sites where I could openly discuss the original series. I wanted to talk about this crazy show from 1983 that had been such a force in my life. That's when I found MacrossWorld, Yamato toys and their SERIES of Holy Grails.

DON'T EVER BUY THIS. SERIOUSLY.
The prices scared me at first. I was fresh out of college, looking for a job, and couldn't imagine spending over $40 for a TOY (this is what also kept me at bay from the Toynami "Masterpiece" Veritechs), so I simply drooled at all of MacrossWorld's pictures for a long while, thinking, "must be nice." The Bandai "chunky monkey" reissues of the original Takatoku valks were out, and I finally had my chance to get the Skull One I always wanted ...but I couldn't pull the trigger! As an "adult" collector, I found myself more into accuracy vs. nostalgia. I knew now there were better things out there. But the Yamato 1/60 (v1) seemed overpriced! Argh! But then luck struck.

I finally landed that Junior Art Director job I'd applied to six months prior, started making real(ish) money (finally got that dvd player), and eBay proved to be my best friend (this is questionable) one night when I noticed a 1/60 VF-1A DYRL Max valk going for a cheap price (like $20 or so). I sat there for a good hour at 3am on a work night, making sure I won that auction. I almost got sniped, but in the end, I won the thing for $35. I immediately fell in love with the sculpt and anime-accurate look of all three modes... but the diecast removable legs straight-up ruined the toy. But by the time I had Max, he was already old news, and much greater things were on the horizon.

That's where the addiction began to emerge, as my dumb ass had little sense and a little bit of dispensable income, coupled with a dangerously rekindled love for the Macross universe. I finally got a chance to see Macross 7, thanks to the Internet (loved it! Valks and Rock 'n Roll!) and picked up Yamato valks left and right, still longing for that elusive "perfect" Skull One toy at last.

My renewed Macross love emerged around the same time I met my true love and best friend. My incredible wife (then girlfriend) surprised me with a (very expensive at the time) Yamato 1/48 Roy Focker Valkyrie for my birthday. THIS was it - the perfect Skull One I had wanted all those years ago! This was "Jetfire" in his TRUE colors. Grail accomplished. After the 1/48 series, Yamato churned out an all new 1/60 V2 design, which blew away all previous toys. After Yamato went under, Arcadia picked up the slack and is now pumping out more of this classic design. I've picked up more variants and versions than I care to admit, but there's still no replacing that one VF-1S Focker 1/48. I don't think Tina quite understands to this day just how much that gift meant to me. Ol' Jetfireveritechvf-1svalkyrie and I go way back. And Skyfire's still a sissy.

GRAIL #2

I still have that old Transformers Jetfire toy. He's missing most of his armor and is yellowed to all hell, thanks to a basic lack of understanding of how UV light reacts to plastic as a kid. He's also faced the unapologetic force of Mother Nature when Hurricane Irene submerged him in over 10 FEET of ocean water. Ol' Jetfire looks like hell, and now carries some rust in those joints, but he means so much to me. That old bird is a starting point for a big part of my nerdy life. I could never get rid of him. Even if he IS a liar.

LIVING A LIE.
 
So, yeah. New Macross is coming. New Valkyries. New characters. New songs. KYUN KYUN, MOTHERFUCKERS. Let's do this.





7 comments:

  1. water is coming from my face...beautiful man. Just beautiful.

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  2. That was an awesome recount dude; an excellent story filled with ups & downs, trials & tribulations - all whilst exercising superb restraint in the face of those whom shall not be named. ;)

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  3. Hell yeah, new Macross series!

    Three shows ran my 8 year old world Robotech, Voltron, and Transformers. We have pretty similar Macross stories (is that a pun?). As a kid I loved season 1 of Robotech. I always wanted Robotech toys, but sadly we were dirt poor. One day Grandma (who wasn't dirt poor) asked me "what's that toy you keep asking for?". I said "a Robotech ship". She replied with "let's go get it"! The heavens had just opened! Finally I would have the one toy I wanted over all others a Veritech Fighter would be mine. At this point I should probably point out that I did not know that the Matchbox Veritech fighters did not transform! 30 minutes later we arrived at Target and make a bee line to the toys. I point to the Veritech Fighter, and say "that's it". She takes it off the shelf looks at it and what happens next will be with me until the day I die. She pauses and says "Oh my that's expensive, how about we get this one instead". "This one" was the SD/Chibbi red Miriya Veritech! You have never felt disappointment like this! I was grateful for anything so I swallowed my disappointment and left with my new chubby little Miriya Veritech.

    A few years later we discovered the greatest thing to ever come to Milwaukee, Bucky's Super Video (R.I.P.)! Bucky's had Anime before the name Anime was coined! In Bucky's there was this movie called Clash of the Bionoids! I didn't know shit about Bionoids (who does?), but I damn sure knew the dat SDF-1 on the cover! I remember feeling conflicted after watching it, almost depressed as the ending implied Rick who was now called Hikaru had died. A few years later Bucky's got Do You Remember Love, suddenly everything wrong in Robotech finally made sense, it was all bullshit! A few years later I got a Hong Kong KO Macross DVD set from eBay, and it was Macross, Hikaru, and Vakyries from then on.

    As fate would have it, I ended up getting a Toynami Miriya Veritech as my first "real" Valkyrie since Roy & Rick were sold out. About a dozen various figures later, I'm very happy with my Macross story.

    Thanks for the great read, it really brought back the memories.

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  4. Heck yeah! Macross Story Time! Great article, I can't wait for the new Macross series!

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