*MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS*
This volume covers the second half of the under-appreciated "Robotech Masters" saga following the adventures of Dana Sterling and the Earth Robotech Defense Force after the SDF-3 departs to the the world of the Robotech Masters.
Most of what made the original Macross great (great characterization, drama, action, and storyline) was present to a slightly less (albeit still satisfying) degree in Robotech Masters. A common complaint leveled against the series is that the characterization is "poor" and that only a relatively few characters (i.e Dana Sterling) have any depth. The only merit that I can find to this statement is that a few members of the 15th ATAC Squadron were not as fleshed out as other characters. This may be true in a sense, but this is looking at the glass half-empty instead of half-full. The larger cast of good guys in Robotech Masters meant that a smaller fraction (though not necessarily smaller number) of these good guys could be given screentime as major characters. In retrospect, even Macross had several "underdeveloped" characters. For instance, a full half of the members of the SDF-1 bridge (Vanessa Leeds, Sammie Porter, and Kim Young) are relative unknowns, with the viewer barely learning anything more about them than their basic military duties. Furthermore, exempting major characters, most of the Skull Squadron remain little more than anonymous wingmen throughout the series. Although Masters did have its fair share of lesser-detailed minor characters, there were more than enough interesting relationships in the fleshed out cast of "good guys" from Dana Sterling, Bowie Grant, Marie Christal, Nova Satori, Rolf Emerson, Sean Phillips, Commander Leonard, Zor Prime (and so on) to prove that the criticism about a "lack of characterization" in Masters is simply false. One just needs to cite Bowie Grant's internal battles between his military duty and his love of the piano, or his lovesickness for an "enemy" character, Rolf Emerson's constant battle of wills with Leonard, or Nova Satori's inner conflicts between following orders and friendship, to see just how incorrect such complaints are.
Similarly, the "bad guys" are also well-fleshed out. Unlike much of the third season, (and like Macross), the viewer is not only treated to the thoughts, motivations, and plans of the good guys, but with nearly every episode, we are given direct insight into the plans, thoughts, motivations, and fears of the enemy from both the standpoint of the military leaders and of the civilians. The enemy army doesn't come across as just big and bad random mecha patrols that serve little function other than to serve as antagonists to destroy at the end of every episode, but like the Zentraedi, several characters stand out as having considerable depth on par with some of the protagonists. Furthermore, inspite of the stern demeanor displayed by the main triumvirate of Robotech Masters, it was refreshing to see considerable screentime devoted just to their discussing of battle plans on how to best proceed against the Southern Cross. Seeing the Robotech Masters out-think Southern Cross was especially suspenseful, especially when only the viewer knew what trouble the unwitting good guys were getting into. All this was a nice contrast to the relatively little characterization given to the Invid in the first half of season three. With that said, it is this reviewer's opinion that the overall level of characterization in Masters actually exceeds that of New Gen (although less than Macross).
I also disagree on a common complaint that Robotech Masters had the worst mecha out of the 3 series.... Despite what may be said about the transforming hover tanks, to each his own, but I didn't think that Invid "giant purple crab" mecha was very original either. I'd much rather be caught in an AJAX or a Bio-roid anyday.
One thing that Masters had, that the other two didn't was that the bad guys actually WON sometimes! Robotech Masters wasn't scared to make the good guys lose every now and then. Up until the last few weeks of the war, the Armies of the Southern Cross had actually fared pretty badly in the larger battles. Aside from small skirmishes won by Dana's group, the Robotech Masters really proved their technological superiority, particularly in the larger space battles.
As for the purported picture/audio issues from some of the previous reviews, unless these problems have since been remedied, I found no such issues after watching most of Masters twice through. All in all, this was an enjoyable solid entry to the Robotech saga, and in this reviewer's opinion was the second best in the series (after Macross). To counter some of the unexpectedly low ratings, this reviewer gives this 5 stars instead of 4.4.
Definitely get both this and Volume 4.