THE GREAT SOUTHERN CROSS REWATCH 10 – OUTSIDER

SUPER DIMENSION CAVALRY SOUTHERN CROSS
EPISODE 10: OUTSIDER

ICONIC SCENE: The big plunge

BROADCAST DATE: June 24, 1984

1. We start off with an artfully-done montage. It’s late at night (and both of Glorie’s moons are full), and Jeanne is playing the piano, still lost in thoughts about Georges Sullivan from last episode, while Lana discovers the red Bioroid pilot, injured, and takes him to the military hospital.

There, Emerson says he wants the pilot examined secretly, without letting the higher-ups (especially Supreme Commander Leon, I’m guessing) know, since he doesn’t want this pilot to end up suspiciously dead like the last one they captured. And it flies in the face of his own lecture to Jeanne regarding that pilot.

2. On the Zor mothership, now back in space, the old men discuss with some of the other Zor (who all look like they’re in an ‘80s new wave band) about the transmitter in Seifreit’s head (Seifriet being of course the red Bioroid pilot).

3. Then we see a spaceship discovering the Zor motherships… but that’s a mystery for now…

4. Bowie’s moping about, still stuck on the girl he saw on the ship, and everyone teases him about it (or, in Adrzej’s case, tries to give him some “hard truths”), and he ends up running off.

Later on, Jeanne visits him in his room while he’s listening to a vinyl record, a detail that would’ve seemed somewhat dated even in 1984, but which feels markedly LESS dated here in 2021. She strums on his guitar a bit and tries to cheer him up, without much luck.

Charles, for his part, goes off to visit Marie in the hospital, but the nurse says she can’t have visitors yet… so he give HER the flowers he’d gotten for Marie, flirts with her a bit, and leaves. Marie, of course, hears all of this happening.

5. Speaking of people overhearing things, Leon has heard that Emerson’s keeping the captured Bioroid pilot. Emerson of course wants to find out all they can about the Zor from him, but in this case, Leon is probably right to be against that, since Seifriet is rigged with that transmitter. They should’ve kept the other pilot and killed Seifriet instead.

6. Back with the spaceship approaching Glorie, we discover that it’s from the Glorie colonists’ home world of Liberté, and they launch an attack on the Zor fleet from behind. They also contact Emerson, and the mood is clearly that now that reinforcements have come, Glorie is saved.

7. However, the Liberté ship’s opening space fighter attack seems to do no damage at all to the Zor, and then the Zor motherships fire back at the Liberté starship. It gets damaged enough that the crew has to evacuate. The empty ship rams into one of the Zor craft and (I think…? It’s unclear…) destroys it.

8. The captain of the Liberté ship, Captain George Lombar, talks to Leon and Emerson, and gives a statement from General Rinehart, Supreme Commander of the Liberté armed forces which in very polite and indirect language states unequivocally that Liberté will not send any more reinforcements to Glorie. They live or die on their own.

9. In his hospital bed, Seifriet has nightmare recollections of fire all around him. Shockingly (perhaps), in the flashback he’s wearing a Southern Cross Army uniform. Then he shouts something about “Aluce Base,” which was the station destroyed by the Zor right before Episode 1 started. Hmm…

10. Perhaps I was a little too pessimistic after the last episode, since this one was pretty good. The battle between the Liberté ship and the Zor is at least something NEW, not just for Southern Cross but for the Super Dimension Series as a whole. We never saw capital ships slug it out against each other in either Macross or Orguss. But again, with no reinforcements coming, there is no military solution against the Zor. The Southern Cross Army simply isn’t strong enough to counter them.

NUMBER OF SHOWER SCENES IN THE SHOW SO FAR: Still 4.

THE GREAT SOUTHERN CROSS REWATCH 9 – STARDUST

SUPER DIMENSION CAVALRY SOUTHERN CROSS
EPISODE 9: STARDUST

ICONIC SCENE: How romantic!

BROADCAST DATE: June 17, 1984

1. As we open, we find out the Zors’ plan, which is to turn all humans into “bio humans” without emotion to that they can coexist. And the trio of Zor elders are being just as self-righteous as they can be about it, saying that they’ve reached the pinnacle of evolution and so it’s their duty to drag other species up from the mud.

2. On Leon’s order (and despite Jeanne objections), the corpse of the captured Bioroid pilot is incinerated by lasers (don’t they have a normal cremation facility on Glorie?). Emerson is clearly chafing against Leon’s “shoot first, ask questions never” philosophy, but still lectures Jeanne against disregarding the chain of command.

3. Jeanne, pissed off, takes Bowie with her on a joyride (since, as she says, the brass doesn’t care about what she says or does anyway) and they end up at a place that says “PIANO & BAR” on the sign, but seems much more like a dance club. And this is apparently the “jazz café” where Bowie’s been playing… Anyway, Jeanne’s plan appears to be, simply, “get very drunk.”

4. A good-looking guy comes out to sing (Bowie will accompany him on piano), and a very tipsy Jeanne falls head over heels for him. Anyway, his name is Georges Sullivan, and he’s voiced by Banjo Ginga and sung by (in his first of many anime songs) Hironobu Kageyama, later of Dragon Ball Z’s “CHA-LA HEAD CHA-LA” and Jam Project fame. He ends up asking Jeanne out for a breakfast date the next day.

5. The Zor reach out and deliver a broadcast to the humans. We don’t hear Leon’s answer, but it’s obvious that he rejected their terms (which, admittedly, he was right to do — “We’re going to modify all of you to remove your emotions and then we can coexist together” isn’t the most inviting of options). The Zor decide to call another mothership down to rescue them.

6. We have a new commercial-break eyecatch with this episode: the previous one showed Jeanne, Marie, and Lana, this one shows some of the “Arming Doublet” armor suits, including Lana’s, which (if I recall correctly) she never wears with the helmet in the show itself.

The old eyecatch
The new eyecatch

7. Jeanne sneaks backstage to say goodbye to Georges, and discovers that he’s actually a technical specialist in the military, who’s planning on using her to get close to the Zor mothership. However, she also sees that he’s done a pretty thorough analysis of the energy grid of the Zor ship, and so (after a shower), she realizes that she might be able to use him to stop the mothership once and for all.

8. She meets with Georges and hears the whole story: his girlfriend was critically injured in a Bioroid attack and died soon afterwards, so he’s devoted himself to finding the weak point of the Zor mothership in order to get revenge. Jeanne takes all this in stride and invites him to go along with her into battle.

9. Quite a lot happens in the last few minutes of this episode. Georges falls out of Jeanne’s Spartas and is captured by a Bioroid, which then blows up, killing him. In that dogfight, Marie’s Logan is shot down, but Charles catches her plummeting craft, saving her life. Jeanne shoots the Zor motherships as they dock, but it fails to do much of anything. And as the motherships leave, they shoot a disabling beam at the red Bioroid, deciding they want to leave the pilot there to observe the humans. Why they’d want to leave behind their best pilot, though, is anyone’s guess.

10. I have to admit, it’s kind of daring for a show like this to build up a solution to the big problem (here, taking out the power source of the grounded Zor mothership), and then at the end of the episode, have it be used… only to be entirely ineffective. I mean, really, Georges died for nothing.

Theoretically, a battle against a seemingly invincible opponent SHOULD be the stuff of high drama, but both when I was watching it as a kid and as I’m watching it now, I find it more exhausting than engaging. And I’m not entirely sure why, but I think a lot of is that since the Episode 2 attack on the spaceport, it’s been glaringly obvious that the humans are not going to win through firepower, but all they seem to do is launch assault after assault at the Zor, losing dozens (AT LEAST) of soldiers with each one. And yes, Jeanne and her platoon are getting smarter about how to effectively fight the Zor, but it all seems to be moving much too slowly, and (thanks to Supreme Commander Leon) doesn’t have any effect on the overall military strategy. It’s like watching someone making the same mistake over and over again… eventually you lose patience.

NUMBER OF SHOWER SCENES IN THE SHOW SO FAR: Now 4, and this one features all-new art and animation!

THE GREAT SOUTHERN CROSS REWATCH 8 – METAL FIRE

SUPER DIMENSION CAVALRY SOUTHERN CROSS
EPISODE 8: METAL FIRE

ICONIC SCENE: Alien abduction!

BROADCAST DATE: June 10, 1984

1.Jeanne is having trouble coming to terms with what she saw inside the ship last time, unable to believe that the Zor are really aliens. And Bowie has fallen in love with the green-haired girl.

2. We actually get our first scene where the Zor talk to each other, and they make it clear that their intentions aren’t (or at least WEREN’T hostile), although there’s some ominous talk as they wonder if the humans “have discovered the truth about the Bioroids”…

3. We then go to the analysis of the captured Bioroid, and Louis figures out that the Bioroids are not controlled like usual robots, but rather have an artificial nervous system that connects to the pilot, making it essentially an extension of the pilot’s own body.

4. As they analyze the data further, Louis realize that high-impact weapons work best against the Bioroids, especially when aimed at the cockpit. Jeanne objects, saying that the pilots aren’t Zor, but are human. I’m not sure how she knows this, since she’s only seen one pilot, and the Zor that she has seen are identical to humans.

5. Emerson asks about the Bioroid pilot, who apparently was wounded when Jeanne captured him, and is undergoing medical treatment. Or at least, he WAS… because an officer comes in and informs everyone that the pilot died.

6. Emerson and Jeanne meet with Leon (who doesn’t recognize Jeanne, even though you’d think he would. She’s been at the forefront of every successful mission so far). The doctor who checked out the pilot says in so many words that he was a cyborg, modified to live in environments that normal humans couldn’t. Leon thinks that the “aliens” are just the descendants of space pirates, but Jeanne insists that there ARE aliens, and the pilots are humans modified by them. She gets removed from the meeting for her outburst.

7. As Jeanne meets up with the others, Louis has discovered something else: the Bioroid pilots are themselves being controlled in some way by Zor aboard the mothership. So they REALLY have no control over their own actions.

8. Emerson wants to negotiate, but Leon says that they must attack them all out. His reasoning is really dumb: because the Zor are technologically so superior, if they negotiate, the humans will be at a disadvantage. But he doesn’t seem to see that if they’re so technologically superior, the humans have no chance of beating them in a war.

9. Back with the Zor, they decide they need more Bioroid pilots, so, in another nightmarish scene, they send some Bioroids into the city to kidnap civilians to be modified into pilots. Jeanne’s instincts to not destroy the Bioroids seems somewhat misplaced here, as she prevents her team from rescuing some of the abducted citizens. You’d think even she would decide it’s better to kill the pilots then to let them swipe people right off the street. Anyway, a lot of people get taken, and the Bioroids escape back to the mothership.

10. All in all, a pretty disturbing episode in its implications, although I always find it endearing in these space war anime shows when humans show utter revulsion at the idea of killing other humans. It’s a really optimistic outlook for the future. Although Leon doesn’t really seem to care whether they’re human or not, he wants them all dead.

NUMBER OF SHOWER SCENES IN THE SHOW SO FAR: Still 3.

THE GREAT SOUTHERN CROSS REWATCH 7 – LABYRINTH

SUPER DIMENSION CAVALRY SOUTHERN CROSS
EPISODE 7: LABYRINTH

ICONIC SCENE: Southern Cross becomes an experimental film briefly.

BROADCAST DATE: May 27, 1984

1. As of this episode, this series is doomed to fail. It doesn’t matter how good each episode is, or if it manages to become extremely popular, from this point on, it’s over. Like a dead man walking, but for anime. So, I suppose, a dead anime airing…? Anyway, it’s done. It’s all over. And it has nothing to do with the series itself, but with a much larger issue that looms over it: on May 25, two days prior to this episode’s broadcast, Takatoku Toys, who had hit the jackpot with the Macross Battroid Valkyrie toy a year and a half before, gave up the ghost and went out of business. And with that, one of the biggest sponsors of the series was gone.

It’s not Southern Cross’s fault, of course. In fact, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Southern Cross suffered for Orguss’s mistakes, since the Orguss toy line hadn’t performed well and heavily contributed to their downfall. As had the failure of the Dorvack and Galvion toys. A sad end to a venerable company that had been around in some form or another since 1917.

And it should be obvious that however much we can enjoy these shows as stories and as artwork, the primary purpose of any ‘80s robot TV anime was to sell robot toys. With no toy robots forthcoming, it’s honestly amazing that Southern Cross managed to hang on as long as it did.

2. Back to the show itself, it goes right into it, no recap, no nothin’. The 15th enters the Zor mothership, and for the first time, we see a trio of old men standing around a mushroom-shaped control panel.

3. One guy who we’ve never seen before, “Simon,” gets his Spartas wrecked, and so Jeanne decides that he and another guy we’ve never seen, “Gerald,” should stay behind to guard the exit. That’s not at all ominous…

4. Everyone else goes in, and the inside of the ship seems to be a long series of halls with occasional forks. It’s also very clear that they’re being watched. One of Andrzej’s guys even gets abducted.

5. Jeanne, Bowie, and Louis all get trapped in one of the corridors, so Jeanne blows a hole in the wall and they leave their Spartases behind and go through it on foot. And they come across some kind of tank with a bunch of (apparently) human arms floating in it. It’s fairly grisly, honestly. And then Bowie presses the wrong (or right…?) panel and gets sucked through a portal.

6. He’s transported to another part of the ship, and he hears music, so he follows the sound. It doesn’t take too long before he surprises a woman with long green hair, who’s playing what looks like a harp made of lasers. She doesn’t say anything, but she seems okay with him, and then suddenly, the lights turn on and some soldiers enter, guns aimed at Bowie. He shoots them, and strangely seems to think he’s protecting the girl from them. I mean, he has to know that HE’S the intruder here, right…:?

7. One of them gets up and shoots the girl in the leg, but that doesn’t stop her, and she runs away. Bowie follows her into the hallway and sees another girl who looks exactly like her, just with hair that’s slightly more blue. He chases her, but she gets away, and then Jeanne and Louis find him. They enter an area that seems like a city, and notice that all the citizens seem to be triplets…

8. Everyone reunites, but it’s a trap, and they fall into a trash compacter, and yes, it’s very obviously an “homage” (to put it nicely) to Star Wars.

9. Finally, they head to the exit to escape, and see that Simon and Gerald are just lying on the floor, dead. It’s a fairly chilling scene. BUT, they capture a Bioroid on the way out, so that’s good.

10. Back when I first saw this episode as a kid, I found it legitimately terrifying. Someone about them poking about this bizarre alien ship, not knowing what was around the next corner, was really nerve-wracking. And yes, it’s a tense episode, easily the best of the series so far.

NUMBER OF SHOWER SCENES IN THE SHOW SO FAR: Still just 3.

THE GREAT SOUTHERN CROSS REWATCH 6 – PRELUDE

SUPER DIMENSION CAVALRY SOUTHERN CROSS
EPISODE 6: PRELUDE

ICONIC SCENE: A tropical parfait…

BROADCAST DATE:May 20, 1984

1. The Glorie forces get pounding away at the crashed Zor mothership, but its defenses are still strong enough that they’re still losing. Supreme Commander Leon is disgusted at Emerson for not having a better plan, although really, this whole situation is his own fault.

2. Jeanne pretends that she’s lost weight, so she decides to treat herself to some ice cream at a local café, where she runs into Lana, who’s enjoying a very girly-looking parfait. If Jeanne is the fun-loving ditz and Marie is the serious, non-nonsense ball-buster, Lana is still kind of a mystery. She also comes across as a serious ball-buster, but she also occasionally shows off a more girlish side. It’s generally played for comic effect, but the result is that it appears that she WANTS to be a carefree teenage girl, but doesn’t feel comfortable showing that side of herself, and instead projects humorless professionalism.

3. We also get a better glimpse of Bowie as the reluctant soldier. First, he spaces out a bit during the attack on the mothership, and then he gets nabbed by the military police for playing piano in a jazz bar when they’re all meant to be on standby.

4. Leon pressures Emerson to come up with some plan, ANY plan, and he finally suggests trying to capture one of the Zor, to at least find out if they’re aliens or not. The 15th gets volunteered for this. Emerson doesn’t want to go along with that, since it’s almost certainly a suicide mission, but he can’t really object.

5. Since she covered for him before, Bowie treats Jeanne to a tropical parfait at the coffee shop, and gets entranced with the flower that was added to it for decoration. She ends up pinning it to her uniform. She also tells Bowie to go off and play piano at the jazz café again, so he can go into battle the next day with no regrets.

6. On his way there, Bowie spies Charles trying to seduce a date by telling her (quite truthfully) that he m might die in combat tomorrow… Meanwhile, Louis is trying get attach a camera to his helmet, and Andrzej is sitting in the dark, brooding with a glass of whisky.

7. Jeanne goes in to talk to Andrzej, and puts the flower from her uniform into his drink. It doesn’t really cheer him up as much as she likely intended.

8. Lana marches in with Bowie, having detained him at the jazz café, and threatens to put him in the brig for three days. Jeanne, in order to protect him from the mission, agrees that he needs detention in order to learn his lesson.

9. However, the next day, Emerson pulls some strings and gets Bowie out, so he joins the operation after all. Then a hole is blown in the mothership’s hull, and the 15th enters…

10. The “episode before the big battle” is a common one in anime, and I think as long as you’ve got an interesting cast, they’re hard to screw up. Usually they go for big, dramatic emotions, but this episode is fairly light throughout. The only soldier who seems genuinely gloomy is Andrzej, and he doesn’t get a lot of dialogue here. I’m also intrigued how the second half of the episode is held together by the use of the tropical flower. Foreshadowing? Or just coincidence?

NUMBER OF SHOWER SCENES IN THE SHOW SO FAR: Well, it’s a bath here, but I think it counts, so 3.

THE GREAT SOUTHERN CROSS REWATCH 5 – TROUBLE CITY

SUPER DIMENSION CAVALRY SOUTHERN CROSS
EPISODE 5: TROUBLE CITY

ICONIC SCENE: The latest style!

BROADCAST DATE: May 13, 1984

1. So one of the Zor motherships is still hovering high over the city, but weirdly, things still seem to be fairly lively in the city itself. Heck, we even see Hikaru Ichijo walking around with Minmay!

2. The 15th goes out for a night on the town. Charles tries unsuccessfully to pick up a pretty young woman. Jeanne goes dress-shopping with Bowie in tow, and it’s strange how this scene seems deliberately modeled on the “Mr. Lingerie” scene from Macross Ep. 6.

3. That said, the focus quickly switches to Jeanne, who’s trying on an expensive dress that she fancies. Marie and her subordinate come in, and she is also taken with the dress. Then Lana comes in to chide Jeanne, and wouldn’t you just know it, but SHE likes the dress, too!

None of them can afford it right this moment, though…

4. Things overall aren’t terribly good, though. Apparently, the Zor have wiped out a military base (I’m guessing that the base struck first, but they don’t say, one way or another), killing most of the personnel and capturing the rest. We listen in on a meeting where the Prime Minister asks new character Supreme Commander Claude Leon what they should do. His response to say they need to destroy the Zor mothership that’s over the city. Emerson objects, but Leon is insistent.

5. The attack is launched, using the same fighters that were so ineffective against the mothership back in Episode 2. This time, even, the Zor have a new defense: some kind of beam web that catches and destroys missiles. And once again, the Glorie squadrons are almost entirely wiped out, without inflicting any damage of the Zor ship, and Emerson orders the few survivors to retreat.

6. HOWEVER, they have apparently captured a Bioroid, and are doing tests on it. Not only do they discover that the Bioroids themselves are partly organic, but that the pilots must be human or at least human-seeming.

7. Jeanne comes in after a shower (strangely, she’s drying her hair AFTER she’s put on her uniform) and is still obsessing about the dress. When Louie talks about how the Zor mothership could theoretically get taken down by upsetting its particle reactor “balance,” Jeanne leaps enthusiastically on the idea, since she could get an advance on her paycheck that would easily cover the cost of the dress.

8. So another attack is launched, and this time, the 15th’s Spartases are dropped onto the mothership. Fighting off Bioroids, they find and destroy the particle reactor, and the mothership slowly drops to the ground.

9. So Jeanne gets the dress, much to the chagrin of Marie and Lana… although she unknowingly rips it while riding away. Marie and Lana turn and smile at the camera, which may be the only time we see Lana look happy in the entire series.

10. So yes, a plot-heavy episode with big developments. We meet Claude Leon, who will be a major character going forward, we find out more about how the Bioroids work, and most of all, the mothership gets brought down, disabled but not destroyed. Things are moving quickly now.

NUMBER OF SHOWER SCENES IN THE SHOW SO FAR: Still 2, although again, we see Jeanne soon AFTER her shower.

THE GREAT SOUTHERN CROSS REWATCH 4 – HALF MOON

SUPER DIMENSION CAVALRY SOUTHERN CROSS
EPISODE 4: HALF MOON

ICONIC SCENE: The enemy pilot.

BROADCAST DATE: May 6, 1984

1. This episode gets off to a very quick start. At night, Jeanne and Bowie are on patrol, when they see unexpected searchlights in a supposedly deserted area. Going to check it out, they find a Zor mothership and a whole mess of Bioroids, including the red one. They spy on it for a bit, and see the red Bioroid’s cockpit open, and a purple-haired guy, apparently human, get out.

Unfortunately, he notices them.

2. They try to escape on their Flash Clapper hoverbikes, but it doesn’t go well. Jeanne finally turns around and charges the Bioroids, taking down one with her rifle (!?!), but Bowie gets captured.

3. Upon returning (with her arm in a sling), Jeanne talks directly to Commander Emerson, who refuses to attack… and we find out that Bowie is his son.

4. Jeanne gets an earful from both Emerson and, upon returning to barracks, Andrzej, but she already has a plan to take her platoon out and rescue Bowie. This is portrayed as a good decision in the show, but… is it? Once again, she’s breaking rules and disobeying direct orders. Once or twice is one thing, but this seems to be her most constant character trait.

5. When we see the Zor mothership again, we see that it’s next to three very oddly-shaped plateaus. This is not a coincidence.

Then we see the inside of the Zor ship, although we don’t see much yet, apart from a strange tripartite door. Bowie gets tossed into what looks like a storeroom, but there’s a triangular mesh skylight at the top. He climbs up to cut the mesh, but it’s electrified.

6. In the morning, Emerson calls for an attack on the Zor, not of course realizing that Jeanne’s platoon is already there. During the scramble, we see some interesting-looking robots. The show doesn’t go much into the autonomous robots that the military has, mostly because I presume they were designed for an earlier iteration of the show, before it became the less-stylized and more-grounded mecha show that made it to broadcast. But yeah, there are A LOT of different robot (and armor) designs that get glimpsed once or twice (or sometimes not at all), which adds a certain depth to the world, hinting at a much more diverse military than what parts get the main focus.

7. Jeanne’s platoon distracts the Bioroids while she approaches the mothership to rescue Bowie. As you might expect, she runs smack into the red Bioroid, and she and its pilot have a short glaring contest.

8. Then they have a brawl, and again, the robot action in this series is done very well, both in direction and in animation. Jeanne fires and hits (but doesn’t pierce) the Bioroid’s cockpit, which knocks it out long enough to rescue Bowie (in a very contrived development, Jeanne and the Bioroid are fighting right at the part of the mothership where Bowie is being held, and the mothership’s wall gets torn open, allowing him to get out).

Then the red Bioroid rises again, but the rest of the attack force arrives and it’s all big shoot out until a second Zor mothership arrives, delivering a blast that COULD have killed everyone, but deliberately didn’t. Once again, it’s made EXTREMELY clear that the Zor’s intentions are not necessarily warlike, and they will attack only when provoked.

9. And although Lana of the GMP threatens Jeanne with detention again, we’ve already seen Emerson being pleased that Jeanne once again disobeyed orders and rescued his son. Off the hook yet again.

10. And thus, the show begins to answer the question of who the Zor are, although it hasn’t revealed as much as we may THINK it has. The plot about Bowie getting captured is really more of an excuse to reveal the red Bioroid pilot and (subliminally, at least) the Zor doing SOMETHING near the three odd plateaus. So yes, the mysteries are fairly intriguing, and again, the robot action is this episode is top-notch.

NUMBER OF SHOWER SCENES IN THE SHOW SO FAR: Still only 2. A shower isn’t even MENTIONED in this episode.

THE GREAT SOUTHERN CROSS REWATCH 3 – STAR ANGEL

SUPER DIMENSION CAVALRY SOUTHERN CROSS
EPISODE 3: STAR ANGEL

ICONIC SCENE: Jeanne boards the shuttle.

BROADCAST DATE: April 29, 1984

1. This one starts off with a mission: someone has to take a shuttle into space, get past the Zor motherships, and send a transmission to Planet Liberté, explaining the situation, giving all the info they have on the Zor, and requesting reinforcements. Naturally, Jeanne volunteers, and elects to bring along Bowie and Andrzej.

2. There’s a strange bit where Bowie reports their Spartas units missing, but it turns out they’ve already been loaded on to the shuttle. I find this a little confusing, as from what we’ve seen so far, the Spartas is clearly a ground vehicle. I suppose the robot mode could be used in space, but it doesn’t seem like it’s been designed for that.

3. As they’re about to lift off, Jeanne starts flipping through a fashion magazine that she just bought, and Minmay makes a guest appearance in it. I also assume that the blonde woman on the left is from another series, but I don’t know what.

4. As soon as they take off, things go wrong. The other shuttle has engine problems and accelerates right into one of the Zor motherships, getting completely obliterated in the process. The Zor, naturally, take this as an attack, and move to retaliate. AGAIN, I want to point out that the Zor have no yet attacked without first being provoked.

5. Jeanne seems pretty shaken by the loss of the other shuttle. Is she beginning to learn to take things more seriously…?

Not immediately, at least, since she freezes up and Marie has to take combat command as well as piloting duty. She can’t even grab the control to the gun on her area of the ship until Marie comes over and gives her a slap.

I’m still not entirely sure if we’re meant to sympathize with her or not.

And there’s that filter again…

6. To avoid the attack from the mothership, Marie flies the shuttle right up to it. Once they get past it, Marie, and the attack starts up again, Marie goes EVA in her Logan to defend the shuttle from Bioroids.

7. It goes fairly well until the red Bioroid shows up again, and pins Marie down. Jeanne goes into another semi-trance, and then gets into her Spartas and goes out (as expected, in robot mode) to help out.

8. They get the transmission out, but then have to wait for a response, which seems… awfully fast? I guess they’ve got instant faster-than-light communications… anyway, a couple of minutes later, they DO get a response from Liberté, who promise aid.

9. Also, Jeanne manages to score another hit on the red Bioroid, although again, it’s not enough to take it out for good. Mission over, they all return to Glorie.

10. So I think the real point of this episode was to take Jeanne’s flakiness down a few pegs, and to get her and Marie working together instead of against each other, but the episode ends so quickly that it’s hard to tell if that latter goal has been reached. By which I mean, I’m not at all sure that Marie respects Jeanne at all, even after Jeanne goes EVA and saves her. I’m also not at all sure that the lessons of this episode are going to stick with Jeanne.

NUMBER OF SHOWER SCENES IN THE SHOW SO FAR: Still 2. Although Jeanne is late for the shuttle launch, and says it’s because she had to wash her hair.

THE GREAT SOUTHERN CROSS REWATCH 2 – MAKE-UP

SUPER DIMENSION CAVALRY SOUTHERN CROSS
EPISODE 2: MAKE-UP

ICONIC SCENE: What’s up, Doc?

BROADCAST DATE: April 22, 1984

1. Okay, it’s been over two years since I’ve done anything with this rewatch (and here’s a link to the sole previous post in the series). I didn’t mean to take so long away from it, and I’ve tried at numerous points over the past year or so to start it up again, but there’s one big problem that keeps butting me in the head and keeping me from continuing: Southern Cross is an exceptionally difficult series to research online.

Not, as you might expect, because there’s so little information about it, but for a different, highly unusual reason: there’s a lot, but it all comes from a single fan source, and I’m not entirely certain that that fan is reliable, mostly because they also mix in Robotech information, and don’t always distinguish which is which. So when the show itself clashes with, say, Japanese Wikipedia, I’m going to go with the show itself. As such, many tantalizing tidbits of background information simply aren’t going to make it into these rewatch posts, because I can’t verify them. Anyway, on we go…

2. An announcer reveals that the aliens are called the Zor, and are from the planet Zor in the Eridanus Constellation (which itself, I note, numbers dozens of stars, the closest being 10 light years from Earth, and the furthest being about 1800). The Zor have also destroyed all the satellites around Glorie, meaning all contact with Liberté is lost.

A fun cross-reference is in these early scenes, as we see soldiers stationed around the city: written on a building are the words “Tell me why L GIM.” The Sunrise series “Heavy Metal L-Gaim” was of course in production at the same time as Southern Cross (having debuted about three months earlier) and had some of the same staff. L-Gaim would also return the favor, as Jeanne shows up on a screen at one point.

3. The brass are discussing an all-out attack on the closest Zor mothership in order to draw them out and learn for about them. Marie and Jeanne are both there, and even though both of them will be involved in the assault, it seems kind of a high-level council for them to sitting in on.

4. Marie teases Jeanne about being placed in guard duty rather than on the vanguard of the attack, and Jeanne gets so mad that she drops the fashion magazine she was surreptitiously looking at during the briefing. Again, I think this is meant to make Jeanne relatable, but it really just makes her look irresponsible.

5. Another strange thing in Southern Cross is the way that they’ll often cover part of the screen with a colored filter. It’s something I’ve seen elsewhere done for dramatic effect (usually to emphasize characters’ eyes), but Southern Cross uses it A LOT, and apparently randomly. I really don’t know why.

6. Hinting more than the Zor’s intentions aren’t necessarily hostile, even with the Air Force fighters getting close to the mothership, they don’t fire until the humans attack first. THEN they shoot back, and launch a landing craft. Pretty soon, the entire air force squadron is completely wiped out, and then the landing craft releases its Bioroids.

7. After that, the episode is primarily battle scenes, and it’s an extremely one-sided battle, with Bioroids finishing off the next fighter squadron about to take off, and then demolishing the spaceport. Marie’s squadron (who fly the rather dorky-looking Logan fighters) comes in, but they get wiped out, too. Marie’s about to get shot point blank by the red Bioroid, but then…

8. Jeanne’s platoon comes roaring in, and actually give the Bioroids more of a challenge. It turns into a one-on-one duel between Jeanne and the red Bioroid, and she actually scores a few hits on it. Then, like last episode, she targets the landing craft. She doesn’t bring it down, but all the Bioroids clamber back into it and retreat.

9. So, although she led her platoon to leave their post without orders, she did intercept and repel the Bioroids, so (after a shower) she gets promoted. She shows up for her promotion ceremony late and in her Spartas, which transforms, and then has bunny ears pop out of its head. Which is… odd? I’ve heard some people say that it’s because the ATAC crest has a design on it that looks somewhat like a rabbit’s head, but that seems like kind of a reach. I think it’s again just a display of her irreverence.

The red bit in the middle.

10. So yeah, the effect of this episode is pretty darn brutal. It’s clear that the humans are completely outmatched by the Zor. At this point, it still seems like war may be avoidable, since (again) the Zor didn’t fire until fired upon, and they limited their attack to the military spaceport. And once again, we see that Jeanne, for all of her flightiness, is still very good in battle.

NUMBER OF SHOWER SCENES IN THE SHOW SO FAR: 2

A Beginner’s Guide to Macross

Recently, the international anime community has been buzzing a bit about Macross and Robotech (which is partially an adaptation of the first Macross series), and how the companies that own them (the Japanese company Big West and the American company Harmony Gold, respectively) have worked out a deal that appears to clear aside the legal issues that have dogged both series for a couple of decades now.

Most of the articles I’ve seen about the announcement have focused more on the Robotech side of things, so I thought it would be worthwhile to write an introduction to Macross, since I think that that’s the series that can present more pitfalls for the uninitiated viewer. The various series and movies that make up the Macross franchise are not as tangled and confusing as, say, Gundam, but there’s enough of them that it can be daunting, so this is meant to cut through the confusion, and present all the series as clearly as possible.

We still don’t know what the agreement between Big West and Harmony Gold entails, exactly, nor what Big West will do. They say that they CAN release most of Macross worldwide now, but whether they will (or if they do, when) is still an open question.

As for viewing order, I strongly recommend production order. Each series builds on the previous one, and there will always be some spoilers for earlier shows.. That said, each series is essentially its own thing, and can be enjoyed on its own. (And speaking of spoilers, A WARNING: most of this posts in this blog are meant for people who have already watched the shows. If you’re a beginner, you should avoid the rest of this blog for now.)

Also, each Macross series has its own tone, themes, and focus. So if you try one and find that it’s not your thing, try another one. Likewise, if you find that you really like one of the series, that’s no guarantee that you’ll like them all.

Finally, most Macross shows have inspired theatrical movie retellings, which often contradict the events of the series. Some fans get caught up in questions of which one is “canon,” but I’d advise against that. “Canon” is Macross is extremely fluid… it’s not much on the creators’ minds, and it doesn’t have to be on yours. The movies are always meant as a compliment to the series, not as competition, which is why I’ve listed them together.

Still with me? Okay, let’s get into it — you’ll see Macross variously get described as a mecha anime, an idol anime, or a love story, and it’s all of those, to one degree or another. But most of all, I think of it as a space opera in the grand old tradition: traveling through space, exploring new worlds, meeting new alien races (some hostile, some not), all of this is central to (nearly) every Macross series. Over the decades, it has become a true multi-generational epic, not just for the characters, but for the audience as well. I know several people who got into newer Macross series because their parents liked the older ones, and I don’t see that stopping any time soon.

But for starters, let’s go back nearly forty years to where it began…

SUPER DIMENSION FORTRESS MACROSS


(36-Episode TV series (1982-83), a movie (1984), and a music video OVA (1987))
In the far future year of 1999, an alien battleship crashes on earth, with no survivors on board. Over the next ten years, humanity repairs the ship, but then the aliens who shot it down come looking for it…

This series is extremely important in the history of anime, a true classic, and it remains a wild, fast-moving ride. No “monsters of the week,” no formula episodes, even the two recap episodes push the plot forward.

It’s VERY ‘80s in its designs and its story, as well as in its inclusion of a teen idol singer as a main character (since Japan was going through its first “idol boom” at the time). The show was aired on Sundays at 2:00 PM, a time slot when the entire family could be watching it (and which had never been used for anime before), and thus tried to make it broadly appealing for everyone. The young kids could groove on the robot and fighter plane action, older kids and adults could enjoy the pop music and the soap opera style love story. It’s lighter and more comedic than a lot of robot anime of its day, like Mobile Suit Gundam, but it does get pretty serious at times.

The biggest flaw of the series is its inconsistent animation. The good scenes look REALLY good, but getting that quality meant that they had to farm out some episodes at the last minute to another animation studio, and those episodes are among the ugliest you’ll ever see. That was addressed in the 1984 movie, Do You Remember Love, a completely reworked retelling and expansion of the series that is one of the most beautiful anime films ever made.

Then, for the series’ fifth anniversary, a music video compilation OVA, Flashback 2012, was released. It’s mostly clips from the show and the movie, but also features some gorgeous new animation that provides an epilogue to the series and its characters (and as such, it’s a terrible place to start).

AVAILBILITY: the TV series WAS streaming on Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Tubi, but has since been removed from all of them. It’s the one Macross series that’s still being handled by US company Harmony Gold, and is probably included in their recent deal with Funimation, so I expect it’ll appear on their streaming service sooner or later. It’s also on out-of-print DVD sets from AnimEigo (released in 2000, subtitled only) and AD Vision (2006, which also includes a pretty bad English dub. Go with the subs). Do You Remember Love has some thorny rights issues that may prevent it from being released anytime soon, which is a tragedy. No official DVD or blu-ray releases of it have subtitles. There’s also a legendarily bad English dub that will probably never be released officially ever again. Flashback 2012 is, as of this writing, temporarily on YouTube, on the official Macross Channel. It doesn’t have subs, but it doesn’t really need them. And again, it’s a TERRIBLE place to start, if you’ve never seen Macross before.

SUPER DIMENSION FORTRESS MACROSS II ~LOVERS AGAIN~


(6-episode OVA (1992))
80 years after Do You Remember Love, a new alien threat attacks, and they’re impervious to earth’s tried-and-true defenses…

The only sequel to be done without the involvement of Macross creator and main mecha designer Shoji Kawamori, this was seen as underwhelming when it premiered, but it does have its own fervent fan base. To its credit, it’s got great character designs, lots of space battles with huge capital ships, and some wonderful Masami Obari mecha animation, as well as excellent music by future Evangelion composer Shiro Sagisu, but the plot is a little thin.

AVAILABILITY: For the US market, the six episodes of the OVA were combined into a nearly three-hour “movie.” Nothing is cut, except the opening and ending credits for each episode. As of this writing, it’s available on Amazon Prime. The English dub is bad, but kind of hilarious, too.

MACROSS PLUS


(4-episode OVA (1994-1995) and a movie (1995)
Three old former friends find themselves gathered together during a competition to decide on the next mass-produced variable fighter… with tragic consequences.

This OVA series was aimed at the people who loved the first series when they were kids and who were now in their twenties. As such, the story is darker, with more mature themes. One of the most expensive OVAs ever made, it was a failure in Japan, but the beautiful animation, solid English dub (starring a not-yet-famous Bryan Cranston as the protagonist), excellent music by then-unknown composer Yoko Kanno, and some of THE best mecha action ever shown on screen made it extremely popular among American anime fans of the time. Much of the staff, including director Shinichiro Watanabe, screenwriter Keiko Nobumoto, and composer Kanno, went on a few years later to create the famous series Cowboy Bebop.

The movie, a slightly different retelling, mostly features animation recycled from the series, but has some new scenes, including a much-ampflied (and clearer) ending.

AVAILIBILITY: Well, it USED to be on Amazon and in the iTunes Store, but I can’t find it there anymore. Old DVDs shouldn’t be hard to find, but they’re just dumps of the VHS tapes, and so the picture doesn’t look great. Only the OVA series has been dubbed, though. The movie was only ever released subtitled. The gorgeous (but expensive) Japanese blu-ray set includes the English dub for the OVA and passable subs for the movie.

MACROSS 7


(49-episode TV series (1994-95), twelve short films, a half-hour movie, a two-part OVA (all 1995), and an “unaired episode” (1996)

Traveling near the Galactic Center, the Macross 7 emigration fleet encounter a mysterious enemy…

Easily one of the most popular Macross series inside Japan, this also used to be (?) one of the most divisive series outside of it. It’s the most direct sequel to the original series, tying up some loose ends and answering some of the most-asked questions about it. But also, since it was designed to air on Sunday morning TV (which is like what Saturday morning used to be for American TV), it’s made for a younger audience than any other Macross series. As such, it’s a lot lighter and more comedic than any other installment in the franchise, although (like the original) it’s not afraid to get serious when the story requires it.

With the “idol boom” having ended a decade prior, the music here is provided by the fictional rock band Fire Bomber, who are just as mid-‘90s as the music for the original was early-‘80s.

But about that divisiveness… fans who watched the original series as Robotech when they were kids often hate this show. Younger fans (and by “younger,” here in 2021, I mean “forty years old and under”), by contrast, tend to love it. One of the most interesting things I’ve seen over my twenty years as an online Macross fan is the rehabilitation of Macross 7, from something that “everybody knows is garbage” to one of the most beloved anime series of the ‘90s.

The big problems are the pedestrian animation, the sometimes formulaic plotting (but that’s really a “feature,” not a “bug”), and most of all, the show’s length. There’s an astonishing amount of Macross 7 material; along with the already-long TV series, there are the short films that were initially added to the retail laser discs and VHS tapes (some are essential, some are a waste of time), a short movie, The Galaxy Is Calling Me, that ran as a double feature with the Macross Plus movie, and an OVA called “Macross 7 Encore” containing two thematically-linked episodes. These are all set during the TV series (although exactly WHERE is an open question), but are probably best watched afterwards.

AVAILABILITY: Well, this one has never been picked up for international distribution, although no one’s quite sure why. A persistent rumor states that steep music licensing fees are to blame, but there doesn’t seem to be any truth to that. The whole series has been adequately fansubbed, but I’d love to see an official release someday.

MACROSS DYNAMITE 7


(4-episode OVA (1997-98))

Further adventures of the band Fire Bomber as they discover a breed of massive Space Whales and their ties to an alien world…

Made for the 15th Anniversary of Macross, this the only direct sequel in all of Macross, a “one-year-later” follow-up to the Macross 7 TV series. Beautifully animated, it carries on the sense of adventure and fun from that series (although one plot line is especially ill-considered, and should’ve been left out) and features some of the best Macross 7 music there is. That said, its brevity and the low stakes of the story might leave some viewers unsatisfied. And it’s not really recommended until you’ve finished watching all the previous Macross 7 material.

AVAILABILITY: Like Macross 7, it’s never been released outside of Japan.

MACROSS ZERO


(5-episode OVA (2002-04))

A year before the events of the first Macross series, two opposing factions discover an artifact of possibly alien origin near a peaceful island…

This OVA, the first to use CGI for all the mecha, was (like Macross Plus) aimed squarely at the now-thirty-ish fans who watched the 1982 series when they were kids, going so far as to bring back fan-favorite character Roy Focker. The music and the love triangle aspects were downplayed here in favor of a gritty war story…

…and it totally flopped, nearly killing off the Macross brand for good.

These days, it tends to be prized by those fans who watch Macross for the fighter plane and robot action (which is EXCELLENT here) and like the more somber tone of the series. For people who prefer the lighter Macross installments, Zero can be kind of a bummer, but there’s no denying the beauty of the lush island backdrop.

Also, although it’s often called a prequel to the original series, it does assume that you’ve already seen it, and is more of a side story than a genuine prequel. It doesn’t set up any of the situations we see in the 1982 series, but instead is quite directly related to the following series, Macross Frontier.

AVAILABILITY: This was at the point when the lawsuits over Macross were being prepared, so although there were rumors that it was going to be released internationally, rumors are probably all they were. At this point, the US company Harmony Gold started trademarking the name “Macross” and everything associated with it, effectively blocking Macross shows from being released outside of Japan. It has been fansubbed, but not very well.

MACROSS FRONTIER


(25-episode TV series (2007-08), two movies (2009 and 2011), a music video OVA (2010), as well as several live concert videos, and an upcoming short film)

Traveling through deep space, the Macross 25 fleet is attacked by by the most bizarre, inhuman alien species yet discovered…

After the failure of Macross Zero, the creators knew they really had to make the next series a big hit, and they succeeded beyond their wildest expectations. With excellent music by returning (and now-famous) composer Yoko Kanno, great mecha action, and a love triangle that had passionately-argued flame wars erupting all across the fandom, Macross Frontier was well-loved by nearly everyone, has eclipsed even the original series in popularity, and even kicked off the “Anime Song Boom” that continues to this day.

Created as a celebration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of Macross, it was a late-night show (Thursdays at 1:25 AM), and thus aimed primarily at college-age women), but it also includes self-conscious homages and references to every previous Macross series (some quite obvious, others quite subtle) that even drew in the old fans who had, five years earlier, turned up their noses at Zero.

The music became extremely popular, with every single released for the series hitting the Top Ten in Japan, but also the two pop idols in the show (Japan was experiencing a resurgence in pop idols at the time), Sheryl and Ranka, became famous in their own right, and have devoted followers of all sexes and ages even now, almost fifteen years later.

After the series came the inevitable movie retellings. The first movie, The False Songstress, is partially recycled footage and partially new animation. The second movie, The Wings of Farewell, was all new animation and led to a shockingly different conclusion than the series. Between the movies, a fun-but-inessential music video collection, Nyan-Kuri, was made.

And if you want to see the Frontier fandom at its most ecstatic, there are two live concert videos of the singers performing with Yoko Kanno to sold-out crowds at Budokan. And the upcoming short film will be playing in theaters (in Japan) with the next Delta movie.

AVAILABILITY: With the Macross blockade in full effect by this point, there was no chance that Frontier would ever get an international release, which is a tragedy because it probably would’ve taken the world by storm. In an audacious move, however, English subtitles were added to one of the Japanese blu-ray sets of the movies (but not the series). The series itself has been fansubbed by many groups, with varying degrees of competency.

MACROSS FB7


(Feature-length OVA (2012))

The Macross Frontier cast starts finding clues that might help them unravel the mystery of what happened to the Macross 7 fleet, nearly a decade earlier…

I’m really only giving this its own entry because I’m not sure whether to place it with Macross 7 or Macross Frontier. For the first-ever animated crossover between Macross series, it’s surprisingly weak, more of a showcase for the newly remastered Macross 7 blu-ray set than an interesting story in its own right. However, the music video at the end, featuring Sheryl and Ranka singing a medley with Fire Bomber, is pretty great.

AVAILABILITY: Ha! As if!

MACROSS DELTA


(26-episode TV series (2015-16), nine short films (2016), one movie (2018) with another coming soon, and several live concert videos)

In Macross, music usually saves the day, but what happens when an enemy who CAN’T be swayed by singing attacks…?

And, finally, we reach the present era of Macross. Delta switches up the formula A LOT (especially as opposed to the “back-to-basics” approach of Frontier), which a lot of people responded to, and a lot of people didn’t. In Japan, it’s definitely been a hit, but it really exposed a huge generation gap internationally: younger fans (by which, again, I mean “forty and under”) generally seemed to like it (especially the target audience, which, like Frontier, was college-aged women), whereas for older fans it seems often to have replaced Macross 7 as the series they despise the most. The requisite Macross love triangle is barely there, and most of the combat scenes are aerial dogfights rather than robot battles.

Much of the focus is instead as much on the idol group/tactical sound unit called “Walküre” as it is on the combat pilots in Delta Flight. It also has a very large cast, which leads to some fan-favorite characters getting the short straw, development-wise.

But the characters are appealing, the music (by Saeko Suzuki, Mina Kubota, and the group TOMISIRO) is excellent (yielding more Top Ten hits, and several sold-out concerts at the massive Yokohama Arena), and the world-building across several different planets is the best ever in Macross. There’s also a kinda/sorta pandemic that’s a major plot point in the series, which I think gives the show an added resonance that wasn’t there in 2016.

The movie is a retelling of the entire series, with a fair amount of new animation. The next movie (due out, last I heard, sometime this year, but of course COVID-19 makes such things unpredictable) will be an all-new sequel.

AVAILABILITY: In an effort to get around the Harmony Gold blockade of Macross, the Japanese DVD and blu-ray releases came with excellent English subtitles, far better than the (awful) fansubs that were done while the show was airing. Unfortunately, the subtitles don’t cover the comedic short films included with each volume.

So that’s it, at least for animated projects. This turned out much longer than I would’ve liked, but I hope it’s clear and helpful., and encourages you to check Macross out as it finally returns to the international stage!