During the Star Wars Resistance Season Two Sneak Peek panel at Celebration Chicago, the show’s lead director, Justin Ridge, mentioned that they had drawn influence for the show from anime (or ahnimay as he pronounced it), which is something that had been mentioned before and we’ve discussed in our coverage previously. However, when he did, he namechecked one show specifically: Robotech. I would imagine that there are not many people reading this who know or remember what Robotech is or how it at all relates to Resistance, but don’t worry. Let me begin with a quick synopsis of Robotech and then we’ll discuss the ways that the show influenced Resistance, a show almost forty years its junior. There are some similarities between it and Resistance, as well as a number of differences both subtle and obvious that keep Resistance from being a one-to-one translation or adaptation. And we will also see how Robotech might help inform us of what’s still to come with Resistance’s second season and beyond.
First, a history lesson and some context are important. In the mid-eighties, American media companies were starting to hit their stride in localizing media produced in Japan for Western audiences. One of those companies, Harmony Gold, wanted to license a space opera-style show to help capitalize on the success of franchises like Star Wars, but there wasn’t a single Japanese show meeting their criteria that had the number of episodes they needed to be able to license it for syndication in the United States (which is sixty-five for the curious). So, Harmony Gold decided their next-best option was to license three shows, edit them together into a single Frankenstein’s monster show, then distribute it collectively. This collected show is known as Robotech.
Despite the massive edits needed to cobble three shows together, Robotech is fairly honest to the original version of the show that forms its first thirty episodes or so — Super Dimension Fortress Macross — so I’ll just refer to it as Robotech from here on for simplicity’s sake. To wit and in brief: an alien spaceship the size of a city crashes on Earth, and we meet an ace stunt pilot named Rick Hunter who gets caught up in the efforts to repair and reverse-engineer the ship and its advanced technology, only for an escalating series of events and an attack by a different alien invasion force to lead to the ship, Rick, and a supporting cast of other pilots and hapless civilians being transported into the middle of space beyond Pluto. The show then follows Rick, the crew and their ship, the SDF-1, as they try to get home while defending themselves against the aliens that attack them.
I’ve talked before about the anime influences that Resistance has, most of which are borne out in the tone, or some of the characterization, or the animation style itself. The influence Robotech has on the show is different and unique in that it has informed a number of the plot points of Resistance’s first season: a former racer and stunt pilot pulled into the fighting in an effort to protect and save those he cares for; deception and spies are rife even as most of the citizens go about their daily lives; an unlikely spaceship launches uncontrolled somewhere into deep space serving as both a carrier for a squadron of pilots and a mobile city and home; the group winds up in search of a safe haven from an overwhelming enemy force. None of this to say Resistance is copying Robotech wholesale, far from it. There are important differences already that make the two shows very distinct from one another, beyond the forty-year jump in animation technology.
Robotech has, at its core, a massive and clumsy love triangle between Rick and two women: Minmei, a waitress/pop singer, and Lisa, his superior officer. This love triangle is not a subplot, it is a major part of the story that intersects and informs the other main plots of the show on a regular basis, often to their detriment. No such love triangle exists in Resistance; the small bits of affection from one character to the next are platonic, at least at this stage. Kaz might be friendly with Synara for instance, but she doesn’t seem interested in reciprocating, and he certainly isn’t pursuing her to the degree that Rick does to either of his girlfriends. The relationship between him, Synara and Tam may have developed into something like a romantic triangle, were this show interested in romance beyond the occasional clumsy flirting.
Resistance also moves much slower than Robotech does in terms of the macro plot, such as how long it takes their carrier ship/home to lift off. What took Resistance an entire season to build up to was accomplished by Robotech in its first four episodes. This is due to a major change in emphasis from the older show to the new one. Whereas Robotech is largely about the SDF-1 trying to get home to Earth, Resistance is about Kaz’s spying on the First Order and showing his growth as a person when put in a new situation and place. This allows the show to introduce and familiarize us with people beyond Kaz’s immediate circle as he gets to know them, people who will all be affected by the show’s events. Rather than a mostly faceless civilian mass as Robotech had, we know many people aboard the Colossus who are just living there and are not pilots or spies or soldiers, and we get to see how their lives change in a more effective way than just being told that things are different. Robotech already had Earth, a place the audience was familiar with, to compare things to, so they could just toss their characters straight into the deep end.
So the question then becomes: where did Robotech go from here, and what will Resistance do that follows or diverts from that path? As I noted above, Robotech has a single major goal in its initial story: return the SDF-1 to Earth. Resistance’s second season seems to have a goal similar to that: Kaz’s insistence that they go to D’Qar. We know from The Last Jedi that said planet will be abandoned soon, so depending on how long it takes them to reach the planet they may arrive too late to catch anything but the fading ion trails of the First Order fleet in pursuit of the Raddus, and Kaz’s pursuit of a safe haven may only put them in more danger. Robotech had its own similar twists and turns as the show went on, including some fairly drastic ones.
So, spoiler alert for an almost forty-year-old anime.
Toward the end of the Macross source material, the Zentradi aliens locate Earth and bomb it to almost complete annihilation. In Robotech, this leads to the second of the three anime series being spliced into the main story, giving the show a dramatic shift and massive time jump to move the plot forward around this event. By way of comparison, if and when it becomes clear that D’Qar is not the safe haven Kaz thinks it is, the Colossus’s crew will need to make a decision: continue to flee and find refuge somewhere beyond the First Order’s reach, or do whatever they can to muster a military force and fight back. Resistance very likely won’t follow its predecessor closely for too much longer, but there is still a lot of open space for them between their current timeline position and wherever The Rise of Skywalker winds up landing that gives them a lot of freedom to tell more of the story without having to cut/paste an entirely different series into their own to do it. What they do wind up doing will be entirely their own story, and that’s more exciting than anything else.