After decades of nebulous legal fights, Macross will finally be coming to the rest of the world!

“Giant robots” are one of anime’s most iconic, and culturally exportable, elements. Gundam and Evangelion enjoy massive popularity not just in their native Japan, but with anime fans around the world.

So it’s always been a sad sidenote that one of the greatest anime mecha franchises, Macross, hasn’t had any of its content released internationally for the past 26 years. This isn’t because the quality has dipped, though, or because of a lack of demand. It’s because of a decades-long legal fight over who controls the rights to the franchise, and in which territories. That dispute seems to have finally been settled, though, at least to the extent that the “immediate international distribution” of Macross is now allowed, as per a statement posted by Japanese rights holders Big West which says:

“This expansive agreement signed by [Big West and Harmony Gold] on March 1, 2021, ends two decades of disagreements and will allow Big West and Harmony Gold to chart a new path that will unlock the great potential of both the Macross and Robotech franchises worldwide. The landmark agreement immediately permits worldwide distribution of most of the Macross films and television sequels worldwide, and also confirms that Big West will not oppose the Japanese release of an anticipated upcoming live-action Robotech film. The agreement also recognizes Harmony Gold’s longstanding exclusive license with Tatsunoko for the use of the 41 Macross characters and mecha in the Robotech television series and related merchandise throughout the world excluding Japan. Moving forward, both parties will cooperate on distribution regarding future Macross and Robotech projects for the benefit of both franchises.”

▼ Macross Frontier is yet to be released in North America. Meanwhile in Japan its hero mecha, the VF-25 Messiah Valkyrie, has had this awesome replica since 2013.

The condensed version of the Macross licensing quagmire (or at least as condensed as it can be) is that back in the ‘80s, before anime hit it big overseas, Macross was licensed by Harmony Gold, a Los Angeles-based media and real estate company. Harmony Gold slapped Macross together with two other unrelated anime series to create a series it titled Robotech by heavily editing and stitching together their previously unconnected narratives. Harmony Gold purchased the international Macross distribution rights from Japan’s Tatsunoko Productions, but later legal cases in Japan determined that Tatsunoko only had authority to sell the international rights to the original 1982 Macross TV series, and had no claim to its Japanese domestic rights or the international rights to later installments in the Macross franchise, which were ruled to be the property of Japan’s Studio Nue and Big West.

So basically you had a situation where all of Macross clearly belonged to Studio Nue/Big West in Japan. At the same time, the original Macross, in altered form, belonged elsewhere to Harmony Gold, who also felt entitled to control the many Macross sequels and spinoffs elsewhere, but only by virtue of a deal they made with Tatsunoko, a company that had no control over said sequels and spinoffs. The end result is the odd duality of Macross going through a renaissance in Japan with sequel projects like the mature Macross Zero, the phenomenally popular Macross Frontier, and extra-pakced-with-idols Macross Delta, while in the west the franchise has lost almost any real-time relevance with anime fans and Robotech has become a pariah to many.

▼ The statement’s mention of “most of the Macross films and television sequels” suggests some might not make it out of Japan, but Macross F seems like a given.

The announcement of the agreement between Big West and Haromny Gold was accompanied by comments from Big West’s representative director Kaya Onishi, who said “I am happy that I can now help bring Macross to people all over the world on the 40th anniversary of the series. I would like to express my deepest gratitude to Harmony Gold Chairman, Frank Agrama for his courageous decision in this matter.” Agrama added “This is also an exciting moment for fans of Robotech and Macross worldwide. I thank my friend, Bigwest Representative Director, Kaya Onishi for her hard work to help us reach this long desired resolution that protects both of our franchises while building a better tomorrow for both our companies.”

The statement’s mention of an “anticipated upcoming live-action Robotech film” might need to be taken with a dose of skepticism, seeing as how rumors that one have been “coming soon” have been drifting about for several years with no concrete developments. On the other hand, with anime more popular globally than ever before, and Japanese rights holders more eager than ever to distribute their animation internationally, odds are Macross will be coming to English territories as soon as licensors can manage it.

Source: Macross official website via Anime News Network/Egan Loo
Photos © SoraNews24
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