Hard to explain, but I never imagined myself ever writing about this in my lifetime. And right now, it is as if an ever reliable star in the sky has suddenly burned out, changing the once reliable nightscape forever. When upon discovering the news of Carl Macek’s passing last night, the emotion passed through like a phantom. As if nothing was altogether different from the moment before, and yet the reaction came moments later upon it settling like the hull of a great ship hitting the ocean floor. One of the most revered and controversial figures in the history of fringe pop culture was in fact gone, and it meant a great deal more to me than I ever imagined it would. For me, it is hard to imagine a world without Macek, and the ever long trail of cultural high points he had provided my life with. Hard to imagine being as passionate about sequences of ink and paint on celluloid constructed by individuals from a faraway land without his torch to show us the possibilities.
Growing up a child of the 80s was rife with names that would shape the person I am at this moment, but it was Mr. Macek who made me peek beyond the veneer of cool that Japanimation provided, and revealed a human heart beating underneath. More than a mere commercial for model kits, his bold venture with Robotech remains the ultimate opiate of many in my own generation of anime fans. It is now part of the great history that the medium has seen, and stands as a great reminder of not merely nostalgia for toys & marketing, but for the widening of perception for many young ones in those days. His treatment of necessity of shows like Macross, Southern Cross, & Mospeada were a massive rarity, borne out of a great wish. One that saw many more potential admirers adventurous enough to step beyond the bounds of american comics & movies. Their treatment, and subsequent backlash I can now see as a natural consequence, but nevertheless a grand misconception that anyone in the states had done nearly as much to have this thrilling media introduced to scores of enthusiasts. His renditions of already classic characters in Japan rang true in this new manner, and bridged gaps that many couldn’t bridge with imported Kaijyu films, ala Gojira. What was once thought to be a mere beacon to sell toys, became a doorway into a culture before mired in post-war curiosity.
And on through the years, as the american anime industry inched closer to something resembling respectability, I saw shades of the future in Carl’s shrewd approach toward anime. Seeing tapes of Castle Of Cagliostro, as well as AKIRA: Production Report only available behind the counter at the local Comics Defense System (the only store in the Coachella Valley that sold them) was something of a light gleaming amongst the fog. In a time where dubbing was primitive at best, Streamline Pictures titles had instant appeal to both the hardcore, and the curious by treating the material with an unprecedented seriousness, and savvy. And it felt right that at least someone cared enough to make these a living reality. And to know that it took someone who was not only a fan, but an experienced name in media to shoulder the brunt of this was something of a gift and a curse.
And even as fans inevitably rallies against his mainstreaming methods, he remained unfazed, untouched by what many kept losing sight of. Many fans wouldn’t have been without Mr. Macek’s perception, or his dedication. Without that ever shining light, it is possible that many of us would still consider this thing to be a mere oddity, and not worth discussing. Over the years, I had seen him at conventions, and often succumbed to muttering his name in a less than positive context without truly consulting my own personal feelings on the matter. I am as succeptible as anyone else, it seems. But over the years, I have grown defiant in my affection for many of those classic Streamline titles. Many of them truly were magnificent, and deserve to be saved somewhere, in some format as a reminder of exactly where we’ve been, to remember where we need to be going with this. It takes a great deal to share your hobby with many people. It takes a little ego, a little gall. And yes, perhaps a little insanity to see things through to their ultimate potential. And it’s that very insanity that the anime medium needs more of today.
It’s hard to imagine a world without Mr. Macek. I guess I always imagined he’d be near. And I can’t imagine anything without that very spirit echoing into a vast future.