Ask John: Is Carl Macek the Al Capone of Anime?

Question:
Is Carl Macek the Al Capone of anime? I’ve researched the Robotech series and found that our Robotech is nothing but a rip-off of three series: Superdimensional Fortress Macross, Mospeada, and Southern Cross. He basically threw all these shows in one big mixer and spit out Robotech. What gave him the right? How did he bully these three studios into allowing him to take their creations and basically rewrite their hard work into what he thought would be better?

Answer:
Times have changed, and there are now so many new anime fans that were not into anime fandom when Robotech was new, or in some cases were not even born when Robotech premiered, that much of fandom’s scorn of Carl Macek has been forgotten. Any anime fan that’s been a devoted follower of the genre for at least a decade will tell you that Carl Macek is the devil. In fact, there are even old fan produced parodies that vilify Carl Macek including one “classic” one that shows Mr. Macek as a pimp literally whoring out the Dirty Pair. At one time, Mr. Macek was unquestionably the most hated man in the anime community because of his total bastardization of Macross, Southern Cross and Mospeada to create Robotech; his similar atrocious editing of Captain Harlock and Queen Millennia; the outrageous failed attempt to turn Megazone 23 into the “Robotech movie” including having an alternate ending commissioned from AIC Studios specifically for the American version; his hideously dumbed-down English version of Royal Space Force; his hideous alterations to Lupin the 3rd including referring to Lupin as “The Wolf”; and the editing of Windaria including changes to the musical score and footage being removed- all in the face of his repeated insistence that Streamline Pictures did not make unnecessary or extreme changes to the anime it released.

To be fair, Carl Macek does deserve a tremendous amount of credit because without his efforts it’s very possible that the anime industry in both America and Japan would not exist as it does today. While Japanese animation was released in America before Carl Macek became involved with Harmony Gold and Streamline Pictures, it was Mr. Macek’s direct efforts that instigated the “anime invasion” of America. At the time, it may be said that he did what he needed to do, and at the time the field was so new and open that there were no precedents and only the voices of a few hundred die-hard anime fans across America to oppose Streamline’s “streamlining” of anime for mainstream American consumption. However, fans from that time still condemn Carl Macek for his resolute insistence during personal appearances and interviews that he was staunchly defending the cultural and artistic integrity of anime in America when the results of Streamline’s video output clearly show otherwise. Mr. Macek should be credited for producing a relatively solid American presentation of Akira (a dub which still today has a tremendous number of supporters) and a surprisingly praiseworthy English language version of My Neighbor Totoro, but his obvious disregard for the artistic authenticity of far, far more anime titles westernized by Streamline Pictures far outweighs these few bright spots.

When Streamline Pictures went out of business in the mid 1990s, Carl Macek left the anime translation industry and turned his skills toward other genre related work such as serving as a writer and consultant for the Heavy Metal 2000 animated movie. Since it’s now been so long since Mr. Macek has been away from direct involvement in the anime industry, his reputation among anime fans has largely been lost to time and attrition. But his impact and influence on the anime industry and the history of anime are undeniable and unforgettable, and to certain “old school” anime fans, Mr. Macek will always represent the best and worst aspects of the American anime industry.

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