It was so ohb-viohs!

It’s funny how when you finally get an idea of how to proceed with a character, it doesn’t seem like that big of a block after all. I mean, of course that’s what happens. I can see a way forward for Cassie now. Of course, I also need to write it.

I don’t have too much more to say about Cassie today. Instead, I was thinking about the title I gave this post. It’s interesting that the first point of reference I go to when I have such a revelation is Captain Gloval from Robotech. (For those interested, here is a link that helps explain the title of this post. Be warned, you will have an ad before the video will play. And then you will have to stop it after about a second or two, unless you want to watch the entire episode. And I don’t blame you if you do. I now have to move back to the post proper, since this parenthetical is now longer than the post itself so far.)

People who did not experience a lot of mid-80s children’s television may not appreciate how much Robotech changed everything. Coming on the heels of the commercial onslaught of GI Joe and Transformers and Go Bots and all their ilk, Robotech was a refreshing change from the  – for lack of a better term – political correctness of those shows. I’m not sure why it became the norm that children couldn’t handle consequences, but there was a total lack of cause and effect in those shows. (GI Joe – Plane’s exploding? Everyone has a parachute! Transformers – Falling half a mile? The other car caught you on it’s roof, therefore you’re fine! Go Bots – Um. Okay, nobody really watched Go Bots.) Perhaps the worst part, there was nothing like a narrative flow to the shows. At the end of every episode, not only was everyone fine, but everything was back to normal. The bad guys were still unalterably bad, the good guys were still irreproachably good and both parties were hidden away in their apparently unfindable, yet shiny and obvious secret fortresses.

Robotech changed all of that. I remember bringing up Robotech with a group of students in college. We were all in the same writing class and the professor was running late. By chance most of us were men of about the same age, which also happened to correspond to the Robotech target audience. Each person that arrived at the table raved about the show. I recall one person walking up and asking what we were talking about and hearing him say, “You mean the first show not to insult kid’s intelligence.”

Robotech was a badly-dubbed, multi-generational, mind-bendingly complicated, very badly dubbed, Americanized version of a beloved Japanese Anime. It’s epic storyline and tremendously fast-paced action pulled me in, but the surprisingly complex characters and subplots kept me glued. Just the fact that they showed the consequences of war was a stunner. The ship is full of refugees and they aren’t just background; their needs for food, their frustrations and their political strife become a key part of the plot. Several main characters are killed and entire episodes are spent dealing with the consequences. The alien enemies start in the unalterably bad archetype and then – unbelievable to my 12 year old mine – they became something more complex, more nuanced. They are tasked with protecting the Earth and  – even though they win the fight – they don’t succeed.

Some people might say this is just an example of Japanese animation and that’s why it’s become such a dominant force these days. I would agree with them. But it was also the first time for me that I realized that stories could be something more than adventures. Robotech was one of those seminal moments in my life, when something clicked. I wanted to see more things like this, and didn’t have much time for the old drivel any longer. Robotech also changed the stories I made in my head and for that, I am very thankful.

I should probably also point out that it was my brother, Andy, who first spotted this show. He was home sick and was raving about this new show he’d seen to me when I got home. Turns out, he also has an eye for the good stuff.

You can watch the entire Macross Saga on YouTube these days. I would love to say that you can watch it and have the same experience I did. Heck, even I can barely get past the bad dubbing these days. And the pop songs. Oh, the songs.  It was a conjunction of events that made Robotech so important in my life. It was the timing as much as the show itself. Looked at critically, I think it still holds up, but I think it’s tough to enjoy right off the bat as an adult.

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