From Macross to Robotech
Robotech is a localization of three separate Japanese anime series, pieced together so there would be enough episodes for American television in the 1980s. The first part of Robotech, known as the Macross Saga, was adapted from Super Dimension Fortress Macross (Macross) and is largely the same as its source material. The most significant changes were the names and ethnicity of some characters and removal of what folks deemed to be excessive violence, drinking, and nudity (today, none of that stuff would be cut).
The Japanese characters, Hikaru Ichijyo and Misa Hayase, were made Americans (not through immigration and naturalization) and we wound up with Rick Hunter and Lisa Hayes. In terms of personality and action, Lisa and Misa is the same character.
A few years after the release of the TV series, Robotech was adapted into a novel series that expanded upon the story, adding a bit more depth.
By feats alone—
Lisa begins the series as a Lieutenant and the First Officer of the SDF-1, making her the second-in-command of the entire ship (the XO, if Robotech used American military designations). She gets promoted a number of times throughout the series. On more than one occasion, Lisa is responsible for saving the asses of thousands of people (e.g., the Daedalus Maneuver, and that time on Mars). By her feats alone, Lisa’s pretty impressive.
But, yeah, she’s kind of a stiff
A cold exterior is part of the job when you’re coordinating the activities of an entire squadron of Veritech fighters and dishing out orders to hundreds of soldiers. In exercising her duties as a Robotech Defense Force officer, Lisa’s discipline earns her a reputation of being rather robot-like.
Her treatment as a hard-edged superior officer is often a source of stress for Lisa, isolating her from all the other RDF personnel aside from her best friend, Claudia Grant, and Captain Gloval (who isn’t really into sharing). More important to the series, her reputation gets in the way of her growing feelings for Rick Hunter who sees her as an “old lady” (she’s 5 years his senior) and superior officer who constantly hassles him for being too awesome.
As the reader/audience, you’re privy to more of Lisa’s humanizing moments than the characters that surround her. Overtime, Lisa demonstrates her sympathy and compassion enough for the other characters to notice that she’s not so one-dimensional (so tempted to make a pun right now).
Team Lisa or Team Minmei
One of the primary plots in Robotech—setting aside the intergalactic war and humanity’s fight for survival—is the love triangle of Lisa, Rick, and Lynn Minmei. Though I watched the series more than a decade after its release in the United States, this was the definitive fictional love triangle of my youth.
Lynn Minmei is Rick’s first love interest in the series. Minmei is cute, close in age to Rick, has girl next door vibe, and becomes a frickin’ pop icon a few episodes into the series (she’s Taylor Swift). In contrast, Lisa is a no-nonsense military officer who’s always on Rick’s case.
As a thirteen-year-old watching the series on PBS (way after a reasonable bedtime), I thought Minmei was the much better choice. Many years later, I think I still have a slight preference for the pop star despite the series’ success in demonstrating Rick and Lisa’s compatibility (stemming from their shared duty-oriented outlook).
Still, though I’m a Minmei fan, I think Lisa is a more well-rounded character, showing us more depth than her teenage competitor.
Beyond the TV series—
After a failed attempt to create a television sequel called The Sentinels, a novel series by the same name was written and tied up just about every loose end. These novels tack on years of events, further developing many of the characters and making Minmei much more sympathetic, but perhaps a bit too somber. Though The Sentinels includes some pretty cool bits (e.g., the reason for the SDF-1’s fold generator’s disappearance), I think I’d rather just pretend it didn’t exist.