Monday, 17 November 2014

Battletech: The Animated Series

Battletech: The Animated Series was a 1994 cartoon series created by Saban entertainment.

Consisting of a single series of 13 episodes (not including episode 5a, which was a clip show), the series tells the story of the 1st Somerset Strikers, a combined arms unit which fought in the early days of the Clan Invasion period.

Although foreknowledge of the Battletech universe is not required to watch the show, it does help as the show makes little to no attempt to explain much of the fictional universes background.


In the year 3050, Major Adam Steiner, an officer cadet training on the planet Tharkad, Is informed that his home planet of Somerset has been invaded and conquered by a mysterious enemy known as "Clan Jade Falcon". Within days of this news, other worlds in the Innersphere (the name given to the known planets colonised by mankind, all of which fall under the control of one of five noble houses) also report attacks by these mysterious invaders.
Major Steiner finds that his brother Andrew has been captured by the Jade Falcons, and decides to attempt to mount a rescue operation, however, being a low ranking officer, he lacks the authority required to rally a large military force from within House Steiners armed forces.
Starting with a few loyal colleagues, bolstered by his requisitioning of a space craft belonging to the rival house Kurita (which is eventually signed over to his command officially by a mutual defence agreement between the two noble houses) Major Steiner and his multi national strike team are given the task of intelligence gathering, as no one in the Innersphere has any idea about who the Clans are or what their capabilities may be, except that Clan Battlemech technology seems to be far superior to their own.

The series itself was not well received by Battletech fans, many citing that the show was poorly made and not keeping within the spirit of the war games universe, as numerous bits of artistic licence used to flesh the series out were in direct contradiction to established "in universe" canon.
The animation quality at the time of release was fairly average, as was the voice acting, however as the series has never really been fully officially released on video or DVD, whenever you encounter it now it will more than likely be in the form of low quality VHS rips, all of which suffer from poor video rendering and dodgy sound quality.
Storywise though, the series attempts to follow in the vein of other animated series' of the time, such as the renowned "Exo-Squad", by having a single series long story arc and dealing with much more mature themes than what is commonly associated with so called "Saturday morning cartoons".
People in the show are actually killed off (except for main characters of course), and both sides Battlemechs are shown to shoot lasers, machine guns and missiles at each other, buildings and fleeing unarmed humans without resorting to dialogue saying that they were using "stun lasers" or something along those lines.
Alas, although the final episode sets up a storyline for a second series, it never materialised due to the shows poor reception amongst viewers, and FASA, the then owners of the Battletech brand, received considerable negative feedback for their decision to "sell out" by allowing a cartoon to be made of the franchise (with an accompanying toy line to boot!).

In the years that followed, the series itself has actually entered into the Battletech canon, being described in a sourcebook dedicated to the 1st Somerset Strikers as being "a poorly made and inaccurate holovid detailing the campaign by the 1st Somerset Strikers to liberate Adam Steiners home world" , with the sourcebook itself containing game rules to use the legendary unit within the game and correcting the "inaccuracies" as depicted in the show.

The series is by no means the worst cartoon to have come out of the early/mid 1990s, but it isn't one of the best either, instead, it is a bit of a curiosity which may or may not appeal to fans of the Battletech/Mechwarrior series of tabletop and video games.

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