A version of this entry originally appeared as part of RDF Underground podcast #40.
In my last entry about Genesis Climber Mospeada, I focussed on all the minute ways the first episode differed from the pilot dub and the Robotech episode. Now that I’ve watched the rest of the series, I’d like to talk about some of the ways the shows differ in broader strokes.
Out of the three segments of Robotech, Mospeada is probably the one that was messed with the least. It wasn’t cut up into little pieces, zoomed in and airbrushed, and shuffled around as Southern Cross was, and it didn’t have chunks cut out of it to drop in footage from another series as Macross did. For the most part, you see the exact same thing on the screen in both Mospeada and Robotech: New Generation, barring odd cuts here and there for time, violence, or nudity constraints.
But the behind-the-screen themes are often somewhat different, as well as some of the treatments of the characters.
As originally conceived by its Japanese creators at Tatsunoko, Mospeada was to focus on an ensemble of seven characters who make up a small resistance group that journeys toward Reflex Point, each of whom has his own reasons for going. This was an intentional homage to the Akira Kurosawa film, The Seven Samurai, which involved a group of lone samurai with different agendas who banded together for a single task. The Seven Samurai would later be remade into one of the greatest western movies ever made—The Magnificent Seven—and many other Kurosawa samurai movies would form the basis for Spaghetti westerns that followed, such as Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name trilogy.
With this in mind, it is not surprising that Mospeada‘s creators chose to utilize so many elements from westerns throughout the show—including one track called “Sasurai” which sounds an awful lot like the theme to the old TV and radio show Gunsmoke. The influence is more obvious in some episodes than others—such as the way the showdown in episode three takes place at the “KO Corral,” or how the village where Jim Warston (rendered in ADV’s subtitles as “Jim Austin”), or Lunk, tries to find Alfred would be right at home in any Clint Eastwood man-with-no-name movie—but it’s there in even the little touches, too. Stick Bernard’s band of freedom fighters rides motorcycles, placing them close to nature in the same way as cowboys who rode horses. Jim Warston’s utility jeep stands in for a covered wagon. Even the Mospeada armor’s footsteps sound like spurs jingling, an effect that is mostly lost with the Robotech remastered edition’s new sound mix.
In Robotech, the Invid have come to Earth because this is the last remaining place in the universe where their food supply can be found. The idea of evolving themselves to adapt to live on Earth is more or less a side issue. But in Mospeada, the situation is quite different: evolution is the Inbit’s only goal, and the quest that drives them to journey from planet to planet. They invade world after world to study its life forms in depth in their quest to seek out the “perfect” form of life, or to become it themselves, and Earth is only the latest planet in their galaxy-spanning quest. This is what the “genesis climber” in the series title means—the Inbit seek to climb the ladder of evolution, going beyond their genesis to a new higher state of being.
In order to study Terran life in its peak condition, the Inbit don’t just create evolution laboratory pits, they actually clean up and purify the world with their superior life-based technology. They restore the ozone layer and natural levels of carbon dioxide, recreate plant and animal species lost to extinction, and destroy and neutralize all traces of nuclear power and nuclear weapons—here you see the Japanese preoccupation with environmentalism and the A-bomb that dates all the way back to the end of World War II. By the time they move on at the show’s end, Earth has been restored to a largely primeval state—leaving mankind, whose HBT fuel is much safer for the environment than old fossil fuels or nuclear energy, in possession of a much cleaner and healthier world.
Ask any Robotech fan who the “main character” of New Generation is, the way Rick Hunter is for Macross and Dana Sterling is for Robotech Masters. Odds are they’ll say Scott Bernard. But the funny thing is, according to the interviews in the booklet bundled with Mospeada, the Japanese seemed to see Ray—who we know as Rand—as being the main character. (Of course, it may simply be an error in the translation and they mean to say he is one of the main characters.) They refer to making him and Mint (Annie) cheerful types, to keep things from getting too depressing as the series progresses and the struggle for survival grows more severe.
What’s more, Ray—and others like him, who were born and raised in the thirty-three years the Inbit have occupied the planet—were born with a sort of natural telepathy, apparently due to exposure to Inbit telepathic fields from the time of conception. Although this is not made an explicit plot point in most of the series, it does explain how Ray is quick to intuit out the purpose of the Inbit genesis pit with the dinosaurs, how Mint is briefly possessed by the Inbit Refless by the campfire, the significance of Rand’s Viking fever dreams in the cave, and how nobody seems to get too suspicious when Aisha (Marlene) is affected by Inbit communications and deaths; Ray and the other native Earthers apparently take occasionally picking up Inbit mental communication signals for granted.
But now that we’ve covered differences behind the camera, let’s look at differences in front of the camera.
Most obviously, each episode of Mospeada is a couple of minutes longer than it was in Robotech. This is partly due to American TV having more commercials per hour than Japanese TV, and partly due to a need to cut some things for the somewhat more rigorous American broadcast standards.
But what exactly got cut? Not as much as you might think, and certainly almost nothing that changes the story in any significant way. The cuts are more often a nip and tuck of a few seconds here and there than they are lengthy deletions—and as a result, the differences usually won’t leap out at you on viewing Mospeada, especially if it’s been a while since you’ve seen the original Robotech.
The main things to go were long establishing shots, signs and banners (especially fractured English or references to the Japanese names of renamed characters), Japanese gestures such as the V-for-victory sign, characters making silly faces (often after getting hit on the head), bits of conversations that weren’t needed for the English script, flashbacks to footage we saw a short time before, parts of Yellow’s songs, nudity, and blood. A lot of these clips can be seen, unsubtitled and using the un-remastered footage, on Elements of Robotechnology (the extras bundled with the Legacy and Protoculture collections) disc 7.
Some of these clips were put back in for the “Remastered” edition of Robotech, but there were only so many they could add back. The decisions on what scenes to cut had been made before dialogue was recorded, and getting the original cast back in to do additional voiceovers was not an option—so if there wasn’t any English dialogue for a clip that involved speech, it didn’t make the cut. Thus, the only way to see all of these clips in their original context is to watch the Mospeada DVDs.
In interviews with Greg Snegoff and other writers for the original Robotech TV show, the writers talk about the dialogue for the original Japanese anime being sometimes almost comically bad, so they ended up having to throw it out entirely and rewrite the shows from the ground up. I have to admit that sometimes I can see what they mean, but only in rare instances, such as Jonathan Wolf turning traitor because he needed to stay alive long enough to “get his power back” to face the Inbit one last time. The funny thing is, though, comparing the episodes of Robotech to the subtitled episodes of Mospeada, the conversations still often end up being remarkably similar—probably about 90 to 95% faithful in most episodes, assuming the subtitles are correct. The differences are often in small details, as when Mint or Annie decides that Jim or Lunk is no longer the man of her dreams. In Mospeada, Mint says she thought Jim had a house, and she doesn’t want to marry a vagabond. In Robotech, Annie says she’s decided never to marry a soldier. And of course Protoculture is HBT, a hydrogen-based fuel that isn’t manufactured by the Inbit, but is tightly controlled by them because of its use in military hardware.
However, Robotech often adds dialogue where Mospeada doesn’t. This commonly happens with flashbacks, as when Rand realizes the Invid can sense protoculture reactions, or Lunk thinks back to when his friend died. Robotech has the characters talk over the flashback, explaining it, whereas Mospeada is content to let the footage do the explaining and have the dialogue before or afterward clarify it. Furthermore, Robotech‘s characters are a lot more talky in general—especially the Regess, who can be heard saying something practically every moment an Invid is on the screen. It may come as a surprise the first time you view Mospeada and hear absolute silence when the Inbit are flying around. Also, some conversations that incorporate long, thoughtful silences have no silence at all in the Robotech version.
Still, it’s hard to get too irritated at Robotech for adding all this extra speech given that it meant they could have the characters say whatever needed to be said without having to worry about matching lip flaps. Still, at least one scene was rendered eerily more effective by the lack of dialogue—the episode-ending footage of the Inbit surrounding Jonathan Wolf’s town after Wolf had been killed and could no longer buy its safety.
In regard to character treatments, most of the characters in Mospeada are fundamentally the same as they are in Robotech, even if their names are different; however, Mospeada deals with a couple of them very differently than Robotech did. For example, Mint is not just exuberant and love-struck like Annie; she’s also prone to babble nonsense words when excited or surprised. Series composition designer Yasuhiro Tomita calls these interjections “cries of the heart,” words that come from Mint’s soul without conveying any logical meaning. He says, “This means Mint’s words cannot be a means to communicate with other people. They are the words to express feelings of joy and anger straight from the heart.”
The other character who gets a surprisingly different treatment is Yellow Belmont, aka Lancer/Yellow Dancer.
We’ve all heard Cam Clarke’s portrayal of a slightly effeminate male voice, which doesn’t change much from when he’s being Lancer to when he’s being Yellow Dancer—and Michael Bradley’s not-feminine-at-all singing voice. It is hard to imagine either one of these voices fooling for a single moment anybody who wasn’t suffering from a severe case of heatstroke—especially since, as Robotech viewers, we’ve heard this voice before coming out of Max Sterling’s mouth.
Mospeada, on the other hand, uses a remarkably different treatment. After Stick tells Yellow Belmont he has no room in his party for another woman, Yellow says, still using the female voice that she has been using all through the episode, “Then I’ll become a man.”
Then she goes over to her jeep and strips, removes her makeup, and then turns around and reveals that “she” is really a man. Yellow then says, in a deep masculine voice, “I am Yellow Belmont. I am really a man. Let me go with you to the Inbit’s headquarters in North America.”
And Ray’s poor little heart is broken into a dozen pieces.
That’s right—Mospeada uses two different voice actors for Yellow—an actual female voice for his bishonen side, and a deep masculine voice for his male persona. It’s a startling portrayal, and one that I really wish Robotech had kept. Michael Bradley is a great singer, and Lancer’s songs are probably the best music Robotech has to offer, but still, the all-male Yellow Dancer in Robotech completely spoils what should be a shocking moment for the audience at the end of episode 3. We should have no idea that this hot lounge-singer is really a guy until he reveals his true nature—but Michael’s and Cam’s voices give it away right off the bat. And it makes the entire rest of the cast look like idiots that they couldn’t tell from his voice that he was a guy in drag.
Amusingly enough, Michael Bradley wasn’t told about Lancer’s dual nature when he was called upon to write and perform his music. In the Robotech 20th Anniversary Edition Soundtrack liner notes, Bradley writes:
If I recall correctly, [Lancer] was described as a kind of “Top Gun” jet pilot type of guy (not sure if that was very accurate). No one ever mentioned that he also wore a bra and pretended to be a woman when he was performing as a rock star. If I had known that, I probably would have sung the vocals a little more feminine (I was also an actor, after all) or, at the very least, I would have dressed as a woman in the studio. :o)
Aside from making for a better and more believable cover identity, this also allows Yellow to use his female voice for teasing the other members of the group, such as when he’s taking a shower with that pierced bucket and tells Jim Warston to stop peeking. It’s a much more believable portrayal than Robotech‘s.
All in all, watching Genesis Climber Mospeada is a pretty neat experience; it’s almost like getting to see Robotech for the first time all over again. And at only $25 at The Right Stuf dot com, Robotech fans have no excuse for not having it on their own DVD shelves.