A nice overview of the history and impact of Robotech in American pop culture.
When Robotech first aired in 1985, kids could tell it was massively different from He-Man, G.I. Joe, and even the Transformers cartoon. First of all, it looked different — it was many kids’ first exposure to anime (Joe and TF were animated in Japan, but for Western audiences — Macross was made for a Japanese audience, and thus its spiky air, large eyes, and other tropes were in full force). Second of all, unlike the other cartoons of the time, it told a single, ongoing story. There wasn’t an individual plot each episode, but the saga of Rick Hunter, who gets drawn into the Robotech war, fights against the Zentraedi, falls in love, alongside countless characters who had their own conflicts and struggles, day by day — you had to keep watching to know what was going on, and many kids loved watching a show that trusted them to remember what was happening the next day. And there were no obvious, hackneyed lessons learned at the end, either.
I never watched Robotech as a kid, but I saw the toys and read the comic books and Jack McKinney novels, and that was enough to fire my imagination. It wasn’t until high school, when I was exposed to anime (and realized that’s what Robotech was), that I finally got to watch a few episodes on VHS, and I wasn’t disappointed.
Even after all these years, Robotech — or Macross, if you please — is still a standard by which I judge anime (especially mecha anime).