DAY TWO: Boobytrap

(10) What more is there to say about "Boobytrap," the first half hour episode of the ROBOTECH television series? Any long-time ROBOTECH fan has surely watched it dozens of times at least, maybe even read the three separate comic book adaptations and the chapters of McKinney's novel GENESIS that adapted it, watched it in the original Japanese with subtitles, maybe watched the "faithful" ADV Films English version, played the video game stages based on the episode (in ROBOTECH: BATTLECRY, Sega's MACROSS game for the PS2, and Banpresto's SUPER ROBOT WARS ALPHA tactical strategy game), and who knows, maybe listened to the Book And Cassette as a kid. Am I missing a version or adaptation? Maybe one, but I doubt it.

(9) It's still one of the most brilliant opening episodes of a TV series I've ever seen. It does a slam-bang job introducing most of the show's large cast with scenes that perfectly encapsulate who they are when we first meet them, making them all more or less relatable but with definite room for growth. There's really not a bad egg in the lot (okay, so Russo's kind of a scumbag, but we won't see much of him again, unless you go and read the novels), but they're not perfect either. Zeroing in on two of our leads in particular, Rick is too cocky for his own damn good when we first meet him (the next week or so of episodes does a lot to fix that) and Lisa is a goody-goody career-minded stiff (that, on the other hand, doesn't change TOO much over the course of all thirty-six episodes, to be honest).

Rick also starts off as ... well, not exactly pacifistic, but certainly idealistic. He bitterly cuts Roy off when he's boasting of his kill score during the war, "You're PROUD of being a killer!" I've always found it interesting that eighty-some episodes later you've got General Reinhardt telling Sparks that ADMIRAL Rick Hunter has authorized the use of the Neutron-S missiles to WIPE OFF ALL LIFE ON EARTH to remove the scourge of the Invid from the planet's surface. Shame that this is somewhat undermined by THE SHADOW CHRONICLES, where Rick turns right around and goes, "NO, NO, DO NOT USE THE NEUTRON-S MISSILES, THEY WILL BACKFIRE, IT'S A TRAP!" But then, that's one of the least of that movie's sins ...

(8) 2009 is no longer the future. That makes me a little sad inside. Even so, we still don't have those cool/annoying roving vending machines! That's still a ways off, right?

(7) To this day I will swear up and down that this and "Countdown" are the most beautifully drawn and well-animated episodes of ROBOTECH. "Force of Arms" may have individual sequences that top what's seen here, but it doesn't have the consistency of the first two episodes. The Studio Nue boys gave it their all in these first two shows; the next time the MACROSS cast and their brilliant war machines would look this good would be in the theatrical effort MACROSS: DO YOU REMEMBER LOVE. Lots of nice shading and sheen on the machinery, lots of detail in the background paintings, and the character designs have a lot of subtle touches here that hew more closely than usual to character designer Haruhiko Mikimoto's art style. All the people in the background will never look this fully realized again, either.

(6) Already the ROBOTECH writing team starts dropping in references to the larger story they're building beyond the confines of MACROSS. Exedore's line, "Surely the Robotech Masters --" and then Breetai's exclamation of, "That's Zor's battle fortress, but what's happened to it?" refer to things viewers won't have any clue about for weeks if ROBOTECH's being aired daily, half a year if it's being aired weekly. I've always kind of wondered what Exedore was going to say there before he was interrupted. After all, the relationship between the Zentraedi and the Robotech Masters isn't particularly clear in the TV series; the Masters seem to have them on an awfully long leash for clone-slaves. Given the sorry state of the Masters' empire by the time of the TV series, I guess that shouldn't be too surprising.

One of those errors that still bugs me to this day from an utterly pedantic fan point of view is that Breetai remarks that "Mere Micronians couldn't possibly have captured a Robotech ship!" before he finds out in "Transformation" that his new foes are, in fact, Micronians. Though given the way the Masters throw around the term "Micronian" in the MASTERS era perhaps Breetai is using a different meaning of the word.

Notice that almost every time you see Breetai from behind, and sometimes from the side, his shirt's the same brown color as his tunic. This is an error that isn't confined to this episode, either. One of the handful of flaws in these early jewels.

Also, you know that scene where he scoffs that, "Those idiots behave as though they don't even know how to use their own weapons!"? I own the original art of Breetai and Exedore from that scene. It's got some minor paint loss on it, but it's still a prized possession. Breetai and Exedore are awesome; depending on the day, Breetai is either my most or second most favorite MACROSS character. (Roy Fokker is his only real competition.)

(5) The first time I watched this -- well, the first time after the original airing in the mid-80's, when I was too young to remember clearly, and probably wasn't paying that good of attention anyway because ROBOTECH was aired way too early for me to be clear-headed in our market (6:00 a.m.) -- I remember thinking when Gloval starts laughing like a madman after the main gun fires that, "Oh god, he's lost it and he's going to, I don't know, steal the ship or something." Every time I watch it, I imagine for a split second what THAT show would be like, with the SDF-1 on the run. Now that I think about it, it'd be kind of like the situation in "Bursting Point," wouldn't it?

(4) When I was a teenager I actually spent a great deal of time reediting the ROBOTECH TV series in the style of the 100-minute FHE collection tapes, usually to the scene selection of the novels, and sometimes with bits of the original Japanese programs where I liked the musical cues better. (I had a few of the ROBOTECH PERFECT COLLECTION tapes on hand, including the first volume of MACROSS.) One bit I always liked, which was later reinstated in the ROBOTECH REMASTERED version of "Boobytrap" (you know, the one you'll see if you watch ROBOTECH on Hulu or YouTube or iTunes or whatever), was when Rick's Veritech starts spiraling out of control and he flashes back to a sepia-toned scene of him and Fokker, a handful of years younger, flying biplanes -- Fokker in the lead, of course. I seem to recall that being a scene I never could properly reinsert because I couldn't do a good transition with the music; in REMASTERED they do a fade, but I just had two VCRs hooked up together, and in the original ROBOTECH cut it's one consistent piece of music right through Rick spinning and then the Veritech spinning.

That and the shot of Minmei's rear end, showing what Roy's leering at when Rick remarks, "Well, I see you're still a big ladies' man," are probably the two biggest cuts from the original MACROSS episode, and REMASTERED actually restores both of them. (Of course, it also completely screws up all the sound effects and obliterates the unified feel of the series by separating out the opening sequences, which is why I still prefer the fuzzy old 2001 ADV discs -- but that's a rant for another time.)

(3) I realize the SDF-1 is huge, but when you watch the first couple of episodes and see how sprawling Macross City is, it's difficult to see how they managed to cram the whole blasted city into a large storage compartment in the lower decks of the ship come "The Long Wait." On the one hand, you have to assume it's a grossly downsized version of the city, but on the other hand Minmei's aunt and uncle's Chinese restaurant is preserved perfectly, and it's not like they're the most special people in town. Also, you can't say that they only restored buildings that weren't soundly trashed in the attack, because Rick's Battloid does a number on their building in the next episode and when we next see it in "Transformation" it's completely restored.

Obviously it's anime magic and we just shouldn't think about it too hard. Of course, some nerd somewhere probably HAS given it that level of thought and probably has a diagram to explain it to us. That person needs another hobby. (Says the man who has committed himself to yammering on about ROBOTECH every day for the next year.)

(2) It's still funny that Rick's immediate, off-the-cuff objection in being ordered to take off in the Veritech isn't that he's a civilian and that this is just a giant mix-up, it's that the runway has been trashed so he CAN'T take off. Then again, he was probably just fishing for an excuse so he wouldn't HAVE to explain himself to the severe-looking, angry woman shouting at him on his monitor.

Also: this is probably, in the history of robot anime, the most sensible take on the whole "ordinary kid accidentally winds up in giant robot" schtick. His buddy wants him to try out the military's new fighter plane, he winds up taking a nap when his buddy is called away on business, and then he's accidentally pressed into battle only to find out, HOLY CRAP, THIS IS NOT JUST A PLANE, IT IS ALSO A ROBOT.

Which reminds me, the version of the MACROSS opening sequence that aired during the original premiere of "Boobytrap" (cut together with "Countdown") DID NOT feature any Battloids, nor was Hikaru/Rick shown in his flightsuit. Watch the shows that Shoji Kawamori was attached to in the years that followed and you'll see a similar pattern of keeping things a surprise during the premiere; the first episode of THE VISION OF ESCAFLOWNE, for instance, aired without an opening sequence to spoil anything, while the cut of the opening sequence that aired on the first episode of MACROSS 7 is edited in such a way to preserve the surprise that the pacifistic lead singer of Fire Bomber flies around in a custom VF-19 to sing at the enemy. (On the extreme opposite end of the spectrum we have shows like GUNDAM SEED DESTINY, which telegraphed plot points in its various opening sequences that wouldn't come into play for months on end, and would wind up being far less impressively staged than they were in the opening sequence.)

(1) When you watch the three shows it's obvious that MACROSS was going to be the first. It's the one Harmony Gold wanted out there to begin with, it's the real hit (and lasting classic) of the three shows that make up ROBOTECH, it has the best toys and models, and from a timeline and technology standpoint it's obviously the earliest. One of the things I most love about "Boobytrap" and "Countdown" that doesn't hold true for the first episodes of SOUTHERN CROSS and MOSPEADA is the sense of awe the show treats the technology with. Take any shot of the SDF-1 in the first episode, or the initial shots of the Zentraedi battleships, or the shots of the Battloid at the tail end of the show. There's a real sense of majesty about them. It's brilliantly staged and directed, with a real sense of love for the designs Shoji Kawamori and Kazutaka Miyatake conjured up for the series. By SOUTHERN CROSS and MOSPEADA the mecha are just part of everyday life, and are treated as such; what's the next time a piece of Robotechnology has anyone truly awed after "Countdown," the introduction of the AGACs in "Triumvirate"? Rand seeing a Cyclone in action for the first time in "The Invid Invasion"? The latter is at least in the ballpark of what I'm talking about; the staging and action do sell the Cyclone as something awesome.

But neither SOUTHERN CROSS nor MOSPEADA ever goes so far as to treat EVERYTHING as new and exciting and awesome, which MACROSS does starting with the final scene of "Boobytrap" and going into the next episode -- which I'll be yammering on about tomorrow.

"Don't miss the incredible action and suspense of 'Countdown,' the next thrilling chapter in the saga of Robotech!"


Have you ever watched the version of MACROSS this was attached to? It's the one that was advertised on the back of Comico's MACROSS #1 comic book, way back in '84. ADV tossed in the first of, IIRC, three episodes Harmony Gold completed for this version before they committed to ROBOTECH in the second ROBOTECH MASTERS LEGACY COLLECTION box set, and I only ever sat down and watched it (or rather, half-listened to it) back then. My recollection is that besides being less edited than ROBOTECH having some different names for some of the main characters, the key difference between it and ROBOTECH was that the cast didn't seem quite as assured, and consequently sounded a little more wooden than they did in ROBOTECH. Not as wooden as, say, the cast of ADV Films' MACROSS dub, which I just watched about three minutes of on YouTube and couldn't stomach any more of, or the CLASH OF THE BIONOIDS cast, but not quite at the level they reached when they did ROBOTECH. Really, this opening theme is the most interesting thing about that dub. It's nowhere near as interesting as, say, the MOSPEADA pilot that features Dan Woren as Scott Bernard (the premiere bonus goodie on the first NEW GENERATION LEGACY COLLECTION box set).

Honestly, while the music isn't so hot on this theme, it's no less cheesy than the Japanese theme. It does a pretty good job echoing the spirit of the original, if you ask me.

(Oh, and another thing that bugs me about the ADV MACROSS dub, besides the wooden acting? Everyone pronounces Macross almost like, "M'cross." After years of hearing it pronounced the way it is in ROBOTECH, that REALLY grates on my nerves. Fingernails on a chalkboard, sandpaper across my skin. *shudder*)

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  • I saw "Boobytrap" for the first time when it aired on TV in the mid-80's. And the scene where Rick's Veritech transforms into Battloid mode was pretty amazing. I was likely already hooked on "Robotech" before that. But after that, I was done. I couldn't wait for the next episode. Looking back, I think this very human element of "Robotech" is what really stuck with me through the years. I had been a fan of "Transformers," and had certainly seen other Americanized animes that featured human-piloted mecha/robots. But the "Macross" take on Veritechs in relation to their pilots was something more. You make a good point about how the Veritechs are presented with a certain sense of awe that the mecha of the other two series don't really get. I wonder if some of that is because the original "Macross"-era Veritechs are based in part on the design of an F-14 - something that actually exists in reality. Hovertanks, Alpha/Beta fighters and even Cyclones don't really have any real-world counterparts.

    Anyway, I've typed enough here already. Looking forward to your upcoming blog entries.

    By Blogger Shawn, at 02 July, 2010 13:34  

  • The thing is, across the first two episodes the sense of awe is pervasive; it extends to EVERYTHING. As I said in talking about "Countdown," even the Battlepods get it in their first outing, and I have to believe it's got to do with a mix of the not-too-distant-future setting (which is now yesterday and today, years within the lifetimes of the original audience and creative team) and the sheer enthusiasm of the original creators. MOSPEADA always struck me as a cash grab by committee, not particularly ambitious and more intererested in selling its MACROSS-alike toys than anything else, while SOUTHERN CROSS, well, I think that's more a product of setting than anything else. It's the farther future, this is common stuff by then, it's all old hat. (And ROBOTECH muddies things further by botching the alien reveal for its own storytelling purposes.)

    I think I hit upon why ROBOTECH ultimately hit ME the way it did while writing up "The Long Wait," and I wonder if it's why it hit so many other folks the way it did, too -- it came off as an addictive cocktail of TRANSFORMERS, STAR WARS, and comic book-style soap opera. It hit the sweet spot between the three and thus was like catnip to certain impressionable young minds. Especially someone like me, who really, really liked STAR WARS and really any of those cool Japanese-style toy robots.

    By Blogger Captain JLS, at 05 July, 2010 00:19  

  • So I take it your watching the original version and not the remastered versions?

    And yeah, I don't get what was up with ADV pronouncing it Mah-CROSS either. Maybe Harmony Gold insisted it must be different from the Robotech pronunciation, like they decreed all Japanese subtitled spellings had to be different? But it just struck me as rediculous.

    First off, as you said, every Macross thing ever made has pronounced it MAC-cross; and secondly, the Japansese almost always put the emphasis on the first syllable. GUN-dam, OR-guss, MAC-cross. I saw the ADV preview with it being pronounced mah-CROSS and decided I didn't need to buy it for the (literally) 9th time.

    By Blogger Fer, at 06 July, 2010 11:27  

  • Re: Macross inside the SDF-1 - Sadly, I am that man. I even argued this once on just for the fun of it, and I can say that fitting Macross City in the SDF-1 can’t be done. The given dimensions of the SDF-1 are just too small for a city of 50-70 thousand to fit inside in the manner that is shown in the TV series. Even if one were to assume that the reflex furnaces, weapons systems, production factories and mecha bays took up zero volume and every cubic inch space was used for residential space. The SDF-1 is just too small. Of course, my solution would be to simply use this as indisputable evidence that the dimensions should be increased accordingly. But I digress...

    Its great to see your blog back up and I look forward to reading more! Good call on the quality of the animation in this episode. It is probably why I have re-watched it so many times. Oddly, I rarely watch Countdown, but I may have to give it another look.

    By Blogger Niff, at 06 July, 2010 18:00  

  • Fer:

    Yeah, green 80's video effects all the way. For the record, I'm watching the ADV DVD versions which have been ripped and converted for my iPad, served off my iPad into a window on iTunes while I screengrab it and write the posts on my Mac Mini. (I'd do the whole thing on my iPad, but it's still less than ideal for all the screengrabbing and such. Though I did write the beginning of my "Boobytrap" post on my iPad while sitting at a bar waiting for some friends ...)


    Yeah, "Boobytrap" and "Countdown" are two peas in a pod. Back when I first saw them -- that I can remember, at any rate, in 1993 on the first of FHE's 100-minute edited ROBOTECH tapes -- I could never tell where one stopped and the other started. Every other episode it's obvious, the animation quality and art style change and there's a clear break in the story. But "Boobytrap" and "Countdown" are paced out like a one-hour event -- which is actually how they first aired in Japan, though that wasn't the original intention -- and appear for all the world to have been made by an entirely consistent crew. I have to wonder, if they'd aired over two weeks, would there have been a knock-on effect on the rest of the series? Would it have had a more consistent look and a quality to the animation? Hmm. That's what this whole year's gonna be full of, isn't it, questions without good answers ...

    By Blogger Captain JLS, at 07 July, 2010 02:32  

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