Thursday, October 20, 2011

Robotech Ratios [UPDATED]

The new Robotech Complete Series box set is out, and I have three questions before I commit to buying all of Robotech again. I'm posting this because my friend and fellow Robotech fanatic Lisa has offered to help answer them for me!

For those who don't know, Robotech was remastered several years ago. On the plus side, this remastering corrected a problem the video releases has always had: the image ratio was finally fixed. More on this later. On the negative side, they changed all the sound effects, and changed the opening titles. Instead of having one title sequence for all 85 episodes mixing all the generations together, they gave them three separate title sequences focusing only on one generation. I didn't like that; I like the way that showing all three generations made it feel like one big story. I liked the change in sound effects even less. This version was then collected in one giant box set called the Protoculture Edition, which has become a kind of shorthand for referring to this version.

Now the impression I was getting from the convention appearances of the Robotech staff this year is that with this new edition, they were able to recover the original, separated audio tracks, and so were able to restore it the sound to the original versions yet still keep enhance it for 5.1. However the sticker on the box in this picture posted by Harmony Gold from NYCC says it's the Remastered Extended Edition. So do they mean it's been remastered for this edition (as they made it sound at the cons), or is it the same as the previously released Protoculture Edition?

So, here's my questions (and anyone can feel free to chime in and answer):
UPDATED: Lisa's gotten back to me with the answers, so I'm sharing them here in case anyone else cares.

(1) Does it have the original, multi-generational opening and closing title sequences?

Original titles

Remastered Titles
VERDICT: No. This edition has the Remastered, single-generation openings and closings.

(2) Does it have the original sound effects?
Here's a brief comparison from Episode 2, "Countdown"

VERDICT: No. This edition has the Remastered sound effects.

(3) Is the image in the correct ratio?
This is a tough one to explain. Some time after 1985 but before the Remastered Extended Edition, the show was tweaked. Some of the background music was altered for different scenes. However, something went wrong on the video side. The image was now zoomed in too close. It's still 4x3 (or 1.33:1), like a regular television image; it's just that the image has now been blown up, and parts are no longer able to be seen. I've put together a few examples below. Click on them to make 'em bigger.


VERDICT: Yes. This edition has the correct ratios (just like the Remastered Edition)

So all in all, this is the same as the Protoculture edition. It may be a Re-Remastered Protoculture Edition with some of the music restored to what it originally was in 1985, but it still has the same good points of having the correct ratio and added footage, and the same bad points of the changed sounds and openings. But on the plus side, that volume of bonus features sounds SWEET.

Thanks to Lisa for doing all the detective work to try to appease this cranky old fanboy!!

Friday, October 14, 2011

CBLDF Presents Liberty Annual 2011

Been feeling the itch to blog again.

I just got done reading this year's Comic Book Legal Defense Fund Presents Liberty Annual 2011. I always tried to make sure I was a member back when we ran Joy's Japanimation, because a lot of the cases where a retailer is being arrested for selling a comic book, it turns out to be a manga book. And these are always cases where the books are sold to adults. So being an anime and manga store, I always felt we were a prime target. I remember putting the CLBDF phone number in our rolodex-- I wrote on the bottom of the card, "Let's hope we never have to use it."

Since leaving the comic-selling industry, I've still made the occasional donation, usually at the urging of Peter David's blog. I bought More Fund Comics when it came out, but somehow never got around to Even More Fund Comics. It's still an important cause-- comic books are always a target because the public still views them as kids stuff, even though kids don't read comics anymore. (Seriously, according to a poll at Comic Book Resources, only 5.19% of comic book readers are under 17. The largest group was 30-40 year-olds. It's part of the reason that the comic book industry is shrinking-- there's been no new generation of readers since the 90's. But I digress.)

So I'll confess by saying I bought this comic because it has a new Grendel story in it by Matt Wagner. And yeah, it always feels good to know that I'm helping the CBLDF at the same time.

What I didn't expect was for it to possibly be one of the best anthologies I've ever read.

Seriously, there's not a bad story in the bunch. And while the main topic is of course about free speech, it covers such a range of related topics from Free Speech to Separation of Church and State to the "It Gets Better" campaign that it never gets dull. It actually felt downright inspirational.

For starters, I was pleasantly surprised to learn in Bob Shreck's introduction that he's bi too. Bob Shreck was art director for Comico, which means I always saw his name in the Robotech and Grendel comics back in the 80's, and from there he moved to Dark Horse (more Grendel for me) and Oni Comics (where I read various Kevin Smith comics). So his name is one that has always kept showing up in my comic reading history and that I've always associated with quality books. So as a bi guy, it makes me very happy that he's willing to casually out himself as part of this project. Hence the focus on the "It Gets Better" stories.

Extra points has to go to Carla Speed McNeil's piece "Dunce," which ties it all together very strongly, where she talks about the frustrations she's run into even trying to talk about her son who has Down's Syndrome, or Trisomy 21 as is apparently the new PC thing to call it. The problem is that terms used to describe people with learning problems immediately get turned into insults, so how can you talk about the problem when the words that weren't intended to be offensive now are? To me this is the comic that ties the entire book together, because it's shows how people being offended by words that have been twisted to bullying lead to both outside and self-censorship.

Another gem is J. Michael Straczynski & Kevin Sacco's "Separation of Church And State - The Best Friend the Church Ever Had!" where he explains that because the Founding Fathers specifically stated in the treaty of Tripoli that "the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion," it allowed for all denominations of Christianity to grow without the fears of conflict with each other such as the whole Catholic vs Protestant mess. We always hear about how Separation of Church and State has allowed all religions to practice here, but it never occurred to me that it also saved us from the infighting that Christianity has faced in the past in the UK. This piece should be required reading in schools.

I could go on and on, but really, you should just buy this comic and read it. Heck, I'd buy this as a monthly book. I'll certainly be buying every CBLDF Liberty Annual from now on, and that'll help give me that reminder to donate to the cause as well.

And incidentally, the CBLDF is currently handling a case where a guy entering Canada brought a hentai manga comic with him, and was arrested at customs and is now facing a prison term of up to one year. I can't imagine being jailed just because someone objected to what you were reading. The CBLDF is paying for his defense and they could use help. You can make a donation at It doesn't matter how small, every bit helps.