We're still livin'. Livin' in the eighties! We still fight! Fight in the eighties!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Translation Fight! Heat Sink the Mecha Song of Woe!

.<clears throat>

"Soldiers of warlords from deep space."

Okay, survey time!  Does the above cause you to:

A) Start humming and nodding and getting all kinds of glassy-eyed,

B) Quietly curse a certain name under your breath.  Or maybe even out loud, depending on how big your own head happens to be,

C) Start to chuckle and clicking, or

D) Roll your eyes, scratch your head and bounce over to a blog where someone's talking about shit you know.

For my part, I've always considered that original Harmony Gold Macross release as a kind of rorschach test for anime fans. Or did back then, because it's almost reached legendary status now.  Not "legendary" as in amazingly great or anything, but more in the sense that no one's actually SEEN it and still lives to tell the tale. Like the Loch Ness Monster or that auto engine that runs for 200 miles on a gallon of water that your uncle's friend says his brother invented back in 1965, everyone's heard the stories and lived with the eventual Robotech legacy (for better or worse), but hardly anyone's seen the damned video.

It was actually pretty good.

And it played a fair part in getting people over here interested in anime.  Certainly in San Antonio.

See, the video itself is so legendary as to elude my admittedly lousy kung fu websurfing ability.  So you'll have to settle for the Comico Comics adaptation, which was also pretty good.

Back in '83, anime fandom in San Antonio basically consisted of Ben Dunn and a few of his friends sitting around in his living room watching third gen (or worse) cartoons he'd begun to scrape together from wherever he could.  Most of the core group were gamers and comic book fans and this "anime" stuff was a logical extension of that, even if we couldn't understand what the hell was going on.  I was never a mecha (actually, we just called 'em "giant robots" back then) fan, but some of the others were.  The episode of Macross he got must've had been taped six or seven times before it got to us, 'cause it was almost unwatchable.  Of course, some of the guys ate it up.  Me, I could tell Irongear from Dougram (I mean, who couldn't? - the former was fucking HUGE), but that was about it.

At that time we had maybe four comic book shops in the entire city, as well as a few gaming shops.  We made the rounds of them all each week, between the five or six of us, always on the lookout for new crap the others might be interested in.  One day Steve Blake came running in with a copy of this new game he bought. A game with a bunch of giant robots.  A bunch of giant robots that he recognized from some of the anime we'd seen over at Ben's. The next few hours were spent over Brian Sutton's house - Brian-O was always the go-to guy when it came to giant robots (probably still is) - unwrapping the plastic toys from the Battledroids game and placing them on the map and basically trying to figure out why all these toys from different anime series got put together in the same game and what the hell "heat sinks" had to do with anything.

Yeah, FASA had to change the name because some Hollywood big shot sued over use of the word "droids." Like he owned the word or something.

So a few months pass and even I start getting into this "mecha" thing enough to maybe tell a destroid from a valkyrie.  Well, okay, one of them turns into something else and the other doesn't.  But I'm still lost when Brian and Steve start talking VF-1As and VF-1Js and whatever, so I don't feel like I've earned my geek merit badge in Macross obscura. But, still, I can pretty much hang. Plus, I get a job in an actual comic book store, which is way cooler.

Next to the slight discount on comics and first dibs on stock, one of the best perks of being in the biz back then was that I had access to the catalogues and order forms and such, so I had advance knowledge of what was coming out and when. Believe me, in a gang of nerds, this was a position of great power.  So, imagine the smile on my face when I was rummaging through our distributor's catalogue and came across the original solicitation for that Harmony Gold Macross video release. We'd not become an actual connected organization at that time and so didn't have the access to information that the larger anime groups had. So this basically came as a total shock to us all.

Great news, right?  Well, sorta.  The main problem with that HG release was that it was fucking expensive for a bunch of geeks without a whole lot of disposable income.  Hell, all we'd seen was raw Macross (and lousy copies at that), who knew what the adaptation job would be like for a video we couldn't return?  And, to make matters worse, my boss wasn't getting enough of a mark-up to give us a discount - so Steve, Brian and I divvied the cost between us, crossing our fingers that we'd all get enough use out of it to make it worthwhile.  Plus, it was just natural to make copies of everything back then.  Just the way things were.

Bottom line - the video did come in, was fairly lengthy (three whole episodes!) and pretty much thoroughly enjoyable, even for the cost.  Since we'd never seen any translations of the originals, "Rick Yamada" and "Lisa" Hayase were plenty good enough for us.  We'd just formed the C/FO-San Antonio and had our first formal meeting that month - with that Harmony Gold Macross video as the feature.  I think we had maybe 20 or so attendees, which was pretty darned good for something that started in Ben Dunn's living room. 

Yeah, I admit it. I still have one.

Like many other clubs, we generally got the whole "it's not in English, so I'm not bothering with it" excuse a lot back in those early days.  Mocking Carl Macek and Robotech became the cool thing to do as the '80s progressed, but I never really bought into that crap, mainly because I saw the effect that (even badly) translated anime had on us newbies back then. If it's good, the source material will generally win out.  Snickers over "Captain Warlock" talking like John Wayne in that Roger Corman GE999 film invariably led to questions about where this guy or that gal could find out more about the original.  Showing something like Warriors of the Wind led to requests for copies of Nausicaa. I know, I saw it happen time and time again.

I'd do a formal review of that Macross vid, if I had it. Hell, I dunno who finally ended up with it. Probably Brian Sutton. He's the one who loved singing along with that damned song.  If you run into him at a convention, tell him I told you to have him sing it for you. He'll love you for it. Trust me. I'm sure he still remembers the words...

In the spirit of full disclosure, these were actually kinda fun to do.

1 comment:

  1. Just a pile of rust was all I found on that isle when I discovered that ADV included this beast of nature as an extra on one of their many DVD releases of Robotech. I think I had someone rip it for me, but nowadays I think all that survives is the MP3 of the theme song. "Fortunately," Youtube has our backs.