THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH 11 – BLIND GAME

Ep.10

SUPER DIMENSION FORTRESS MACROSS
EPISODE 10: BLIND GAME

ICONIC SCENE: Wrasslin’.

STORY DATE: October 2009

SCENARIO TITLE: PRISONER No.1

BROADCAST DATE: December 12, 1982

1. And, the animation quality drops again… More Star Pro. It doesn’t look terrible, most of the time, just passable.

2. So the Macross finally gets through to High Command, who figure that if the Zentradi haven’t destroyed the Macross yet, then they’re not as strong as Global suggests they are. And thus, the notion that the earth government doesn’t have the Macross’s back begins to make itself felt. This thread of course will become dominant once the Macross returns to earth, and will eventually turn Global into a traitor.

And of course, the Zentradi use the transmissions to somehow study and learn the miclone’s language and send a command to surrender. No, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but it’s kind of amazing when you realize that this is the first communication even ATTEMPTED between the two sides… and it comes from the warlike Zentradi, rather than the peace-loving humans.

3. I like the scene where Hikaru wants to go back to the ship because Kakizaki’s Valk is damaged. It shows that he is growing into his role as a team leader, and while he and Misa still don’t like each other very much, he’s not exactly frightened of her anymore.

4. Kamujin’s execution of Exsedol’s plan to fire a warning shot at the Macross involves and “old-timer,” who’s set to retire soon… which begs the question, what HAPPENS to Zentradi who reach retirement age? Nothing good, I’m sure…

Also, speaking of Zentradi and aging, this episode is peppered with Zentradi words for different time units. Mikra, Mil… Its not always easy to tell what their nearest earth equivalent would be, though.

5. The scene with Hikaru and Bridge Bunnies is also fun, as they tease him a little about his date, although I note that Hikaru’s wearing the same blue shirt and white sweater that he always wears, and the Bridge Bunnies are wearing the same outfits they wore in episode 6.

In case you start to feel like Minmay is neglecting Hikaru, her side of the story, from “My Fair Minmay,” is pretty illuminating. It tells the story from her perspective, and she’s not having fun: being bustled from place to place, person to person, all of whom view her as a commodity to be exploited or a way for them to get rich. She really DOESN’T have time to see anyone, really. Plus, there’s a bit where her manager tells Hikaru to just go away, because his presence is getting in the way of the stardom machine. And no doubt this is how idols were (and are) often treated… the record company owns them, and they must do its bidding. Life? Who needs a life…?

6. Right after the commercial break, one of the screens shows “Star Trek,” one of the earliest-ever computer games, written in BASIC. When I was a child, we had the Atari 2600 version, “Stellar Track,” which I found boring, but which my Mom really liked.

7. There’s kind of a grisly scene when Global tells Vanessa to contact the radar control room. She says the lines seem to be down, since there’s no response, as we are viewing a completely demolished room with an almost-certainly dead guy slumped in a chair.

8. Misa’s Cat’s Eye pilot is listed on the plane’s cockpit as “S/SGT H.IWATA,” i.e. Hiroshi Iwata, the show’s producer. He showed up as Hiromi Rockfield in the Miss Macross Contest, as well.

This is one of the better-looking scenes in the episode, and apparently what looks like the biggest goof, missiles attached to the tail fins on Max’s Valk, was actually added deliberately by Itano because Max fired too many missiles in the ensuing battle. I mean, he takes out a recon scout, which even Hikaru’s Armored Valk could barely do last episode.

9. And then of course we get the hand-to-hand brawl between Britai and the Valks, confirming him to be a total badass WHO CAN EVEN SURVIVE (briefly) IN A VACUUM. Pity that the animation is kinda lackluster, and there are a few big mistakes, notably mixing up Max and Kakizaki’s color schemes.

10. This is the first episode to end on a really massive cliffhanger, and the fact that it aired on Friday when I first saw it shouldn’t be underestimated. Waiting through the weekend to get to the next episode wasn’t easy, as I recall.

There are a few episodes that sneak up on you, where what SEEMS to be the A-plot actually isn’t, and what does happen is pretty surprising. The biggest fake-out is yet to come, but this is close. It looks like it’s all going to be, as the title indicates, a “blind game,” as the Macross and the Zentradi hunt around for each other with no radar… but then it turns into everyone getting captured, which is unexpected, even though it was foreshadowed early in the episode with Exsedol saying he wanted to obtain some “samples.” Again, it’s too bad the episode doesn’t look a little better.

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THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH 10 – MISS MACROSS

Ep.09

SUPER DIMENSION FORTRESS MACROSS
EPISODE 9: MISS MACROSS

ICONIC SCENE: Was there ever any doubt…?

STORY DATE: October 2009

BROADCAST DATE: December 5, 1982

1. First shot we get is of the unmanned Ghost fighters. This is the last easily visible time they will appear. Later on, there’s one more scene with them, but you have to go through frame-by-frame to see them.

Then, Hikaru and Minmay meet up in “Coffee & Tea VARIATION,” the cafe making its debut here. One of the things I like about the series is places like Variation cropping up every few episodes… it makes it feel like a real town. Also, Variation itself looks like a really nice place. So did Escarp.

I also note that Minmay is wearing her school uniform again, but it has a completely different color palette than it did the last time we saw it. And then in the next scene, it’s back to the first version.

Then Hikaru notices the artificial sky, which (rightly or wrongly) I always thought was stuck in there to make things easier for the animators.

(Also… why does every cafe in this show play an instrumental rendition of “My Beautiful Place” as their background music? I don’t think the song’s even been written yet…)

And Minmay orders Irish coffee, which Mari Iijima apparently didn’t know had alcohol it in when they recorded this scene.

2. And then we hear about Jamis Merin, the Hollywood star who ended up aboard the Macross. She plays a much bigger role as the main villain of “My Fair Minmay” than she does in the series. Heck, there we even find out that she has a current hit song, called “Hibiscus Lady.” Her apparent granddaughter or something will end up gaining vengeance for her loss today.

3. The editing here is a real tour de force: short snippets of conversations, constantly cutting back to the promo for the Miss Macross Contest (with that weird Dixieland Jazz music). It really gets across how dominant this news is to everyone aboard.

4. The Zentradi (somehow…) pick up the transmissions and send out a recon unit… and thus we meet Warera, Loli, and Conda, the crew of that unit, who will turn out to be some of the most pivotal figures in Zentradi history. It’s interesting that while later, their reactions to earth culture are played mostly for laughs and they become comedic figures, here, there’s virtually none of that. They’re serious, competent, and a real threat to Hikaru. (It also affords us our second glimpse of the Quel-Quallie Bug-Eye Theatre-Scout.) They also are the first to reveal to us that Zentradi are segregated by gender, and don’t really “get” bikinis.

Oh, and their codename is “Aoi Kaze,” i.e. “Blue Wind,” which is also the title of episode 13. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t “blue wind” when you fart on a lit match and the fire turns blue…? Not that I’ve ever done it or seen it done, but that was the talk on the schoolyard…

5. According to “My Fair Minmay” (sorry, you’ll be reading those words a lot for the next few episodes), the Great MBS Hall is located in the central section of the Macross. The city is apparently spread out in three sections, the other two being in the legs. Also, in the book, the Miss Macross Contest plays out a little differently. There’s a somewhat more humiliating talk that Minmay has with the judges, and at the end, Minmay and Jamis are virtually tied… until three last minute votes come in. It’s also made plain that Roy’s suspicion is right, and Jamis has indeed fixed the outcome… as much as she could (not enough). And some of the other contestants are shown to be horrible, horrible people.

(And in one of those embarrassing, pedantic moments, I counted the number of girls on stage. the announcer says it’s 28, but it’s really 31. I don’t have OCD. Honest.)

Most of the girls’ names are, of course, puns on the names of the staff and cast. Entry #4, for example, is “Shoh Blackstone.” “Sho” is another reading for name “Noboru,” and “Blackstone” is “Ishiguro” in English. Of course, that name will later be used as the director of “Shao Pai Long.” Entry #13, Hiromi Rockfield is a pun on Macross’s producer, Hiroshi Iwata. I think my favorite, though, shows up in “My Fair Minmay”: “Mika Dora.”

It’s nice to see Yot-chan and his parents in the crowd, as well. They’ll all show up once or twice more (before he becomes the Ramen King of the Galaxy).

6. I never understood why the prize for the Miss Macross Contest was a prop plane. They’re on a spaceship that’s out near Mars. Where is ANYONE going to fly it?

(And yes, “Ikki Takemi,” the designer, is a kanji anagram for “Kazutaka Miyatake.”)

Immediately afterwards, we get the first mention of Global’s rank: he’s a “junsho” (commodore), although the words on the screen say “CAPTEN.”

7. Minmay at one point mentions “a cousin who’s just like a big brother.” Ominous words…

8. Awww, yee-aah… The Armored Valkyrie, totally underused, but beloved by all. Don’t look for it again ever in the series, but it shows up for a few seconds in the movie, and you’ve probably already bought a toy or model kit of it.

(Speaking of which… I love the ad for General Products, “the store that kinda has a lot”!)

9. And of course, Minmay wins. Say goodbye to her, Hikaru… she’s going, she’s going, she’s gone. I love Jamis, preparing for victory, only to fall short.

10. Okay, for me, at least, this is the most “Macross” episode we’ve had so far. First, it’s got the A-Team working on it, since Mikimoto obviously did the character work and Itano just as obviously did the mecha scenes. Moreover, it really nails that Macross sweet spot, somewhere between cute girls, mecha combat, and personal drama.

Unfortunately, it also seals the fate for any Hikaru/Minmay shippers (at least for a while). It’s not for no reason that Hikaru has to keep switching back from the beauty contest to Hayase’s huge face.

THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH 9 – LONGEST BIRTHDAY

Ep.08

SUPER DIMENSION FORTRESS MACROSS
EPISODE 8: LONGEST BIRTHDAY

ICONIC SCENE: Hikaru’s priorities.

STORY DATE: October 10, 2009

BROADCAST DATE: November 28, 1982

1. Okay, the title here is a play on the title of the WWII film, “The Longest Day.”

2. If there’s any rhyme or reason to the colors of people’s uniforms in Macross, I can’t find it. I think we’ve seen over a dozen variants at this point, and none of them seem to signify anything.

3. So, based on his rescue of Misa last week, Hikaru gets promoted and gets a couple of subordinates, Max and Kakizaki. Both of them are way more interesting than Hikaru is, and one of them will have a long and storied career in the Macross universe. The other won’t.

Max, as his surname suggests, is the genius pilot who’s probably better than any other pilot aboard the Macross. Kakizaki is what they call a “mood-maker,” someone who you might not really like all that much, but who knows how to party and how to encourage others to party as well. He’s also based on a real person, Kazuyoshi Kakizaki, who was a well-known fan in SF circles, and famous for his huge appetite. It’s worth noting that in Macross, Kakizaki’s father is named “Kazuyoshi” in the preproduction for Episode 20 (it gets changed to “Kenichi,” in the final episode).

I suppose having any character based on you might be considered flattery, but… this character…? I wonder if the real Mr. Kakizaki was pleased or not.

(Oh, and as a kid, I remember being VERY surprised by Max’s blue hair (I thought of it as more green, anyway… kinda still do…), since we see him and Kakizaki on the black and white screen before they enter. I’d get used to it soon enough, but hey, Star Blazers and Battle of the Planets never had anyone with odd hair colors that who wasn’t an alien…)

4. I like the bit where Hikaru is taking Max and Kakizaki to Minmay’s birthday party, and Kakizaki thinks they’re going to a hostess club. I guess it’s not THAT surprising that the city on the Macross has a nightlife area… according to “My Fair Minmay,” they even have a full-on red light district. I’d imagine that this street with all the hostess bars is on the outskirts of that…

And then, just as Kakizaki says that he can’t wait to get into battle, a couple of emergency vehicles carrying some former destroids roar past. Rather fittingly, considering their role as “the guys that get shot up all the time,” this is our first glimpse of the final two destroid models we’ll see in the show, the Defender and the Phalanx. We see the Defender in action later in the episode, but the Phalanx won’t show up again for a long while.

5. Minmay WOULD look great in the lavender Chinese dress if she just weren’t drawn so poorly in this episode (thanks, Star Pro!)… Oh well, it’ll look GREAT next episode.

Also, gotta admire Max’s smooth approach. Sho Hayami (credited under his real name, Yasushi Ohama, until episode 12) really sells the part, making it clear that although he’s being extremely polite, formal even, there’s a motive there.

He’s an interesting choice to play this character, since his deep, commanding voice usually gets him cast as villains. Even in Macross Plus.

By the way, “My Fair Minmay” starts the morning of this episode, and continues through episode 12, focusing on Minmay’s first days of stardom. It’s a fun book, with five stories in TV script format, each written by a different member of the writing staff, but all linked together. It’s full of little details that didn’t make it into the series (did YOU know that some of the giant pipes aboard the ship were converted into a subway system?). But while it definitely has the same “tone” as the show does, it’s a lot seedier, featuring everything from Jamis Merin sleeping with her manager to get her way, to a lecherous producer getting Minmay super-drunk, to the behind the scenes machinations that make Minmay’s instant fame possible. It’s great stuff, and I’ll be talking about it more later. For now, I just want to mention that at some point at the birthday party here, Max actually asked Minmay out, and she said yes. But then completely forgot about it and stood him up. (Minmay gets asked out A LOT, apparently.)

6. If there’s any advantage to Kamujin’s Glaug (which is NOT pronounced like it looks… the second G is soft, so it’s more like “Glahj”) having two identical viewscreens, I’m unable to grasp it.

7. Of course Max and Kakizaki’s Valks also get custom paintjobs, so we can tell them apart. They’re both mostly white, but Max’s has a lot of blue, and Kakzaki’s has a lot of brown (showing us immediately that no matter how overconfident Kakizaki is and underconfident Max is, the latter is WAY more special).

8. I wonder… Kamujin’s Glaug gets its arm blown off by Hikaru in this episode, and yet it’s been repaired the next time we see it… if the Zentradi don’t know how to fix things, how did that happen? Did he just get a new one?

And then, just as the battle’s going pretty well for Kamujin, Britai tells him to retreat. I like the colorful, bright beam they use, under the reasonable assumption that if they don’t give Kamujin something visually distinct, he could just claim that his comm system was damaged.

9. And then, the climax, in which Hikaru makes it abundantly clear to the audience, if not to himself or Minmay, that’s he really is doing this all for her. I’m a little surprised that she’d be so pleased with a present of a medal of valor… I never pegged her as a collector of militaria…

Usually when the show gets symbolic like this, it’s about the military driving Hikaru AWAY from Minmay… this is one of the few times (or the only time…?) where it brings them together.

10. You’d think an episode about Minmay’s birthday would be all about her, but really, she barely figures into the story, except at the end (and that’s more about Hikaru than it is about Minmay). As a kid, I was honestly horrified when he gave Minmay the medal… what if he needed it for a ceremony or something? (It also didn’t help that Robotech Minmei obviously has no idea what it is, and seems to think it’s some new kind of jewelry… neither does the Robotech Narrator make it clear that Hikaru doesn’t care about the medal one bit, as the Macross narrator does.)

But yeah, really… their balcony scene is one of the last few tender moments the two will share for a long time to come. From this point on, they’ll drift further and further apart.

THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH 8 – BYE-BYE MARS

Ep.07

SUPER DIMENSION FORTRESS MACROSS
EPISODE 7: BYE-BYE MARS

ICONIC SCENE: Misa and her stupid death wish.

STORY DATE: Early October, 2009

SCENARIO TITLE: MARS

BROADCAST DATE: November 21, 1982

1. I mentioned before the embarrassment of riches we get in this show regarding the humans’ ships and mecha (as well as PLENTY of custom Valk paintjobs), but we also get a huge variety of Zentradi ships as well. At the beginning of this episode, we get the Quel-Quallie Bug-Eye Theatre Scout, which, as a kid, I got the model kit for, without remembering it from the show.

Later on the episode, we also get the debut of the Cat’s-Eye recon plane.

2. And we also get our newest Zentradi character, Kamujin Kravshera (and also his second-in-command, or advisor, or henchman, or SOMETHING, Oigur), and he’s pretty much a hot-headed thug. Lacking the professionalism of Britai and Exsedol, his role will basically be to get in the way all the time and cause the Macross to slip away from the main Zentradi forces. Later on down the line, he’ll turn into our main villain, but I’ll get to that in due course.

Also, in this scene, Britai refers to Mars as the seventh planet of the solar system, lending credence to the idea from last time that they’re counting from the outside, and that there’s a tenth planet we know nothing about.

3. When Hikaru meets up with Minmay, we hear Misa deliver a completely false account of the most recent Zentradi attack to the populace of the city. This idea isn’t developed much in the series, but during preproduction (and in “My Fair Minmay”) the role of the military towards the civilians isn’t necessarily benign. They lie to them, they manipulate public opinion, they spy on them, they devise ways (like Minmay’s stardom) to distract them… it’s kind of awful, really. And although this is the closest they come to getting directly implicated, it’s obvious that Global and Misa, at least, are in on the operations. Again, nothing is made of this in the show itself, but it’s a little problematic twist that is worth keeping in mind.

Oh, and Minmay’s wearing a school uniform. According to “My Fair Minmay” (which often doesn’t seem to remember that the city aboard the Macross is NOT the size of Tokyo, and only has 70,000 civilians on board), she goes to St. Valencia’s School for Girls, one of many high schools aboard the ship.

4. The cafe they go to (“Estcarp,” apparently) looks really rather nice and upscale. Of course, it’ll soon get replaced by “Variation” as the place our characters hang out when they want a cup of tea. And we get to place the date since Minmay’s birthday invitation says “October Tenth” on it, and Hikaru mentions that that’s the following week. For some reason, in the novelization of the series, Minmay birthday is given as January 28, but as it’s written by an outside writer (unlike the Minmay and Misa books, which were written by the show’s staff), I think it’s pretty easy to ignore.

Hikaru thinks he’s kinda special for getting a birthday invitation, but he’ll soon be disabused of that notion when he finds that pretty much EVERYONE has been invited.

5. As the Macross gets transmissions from Mars Base Salla, there’s what is obviously a fragment of of a poem on the screen: “If mice could swim they would float with the tide / And play with the fish down by the seaside. / The cats on the shore would quickly agree…” I always wondered what the fourth line was… I was betting on something like, “There’s lots of fun to be had by the sea.”

shot0030

Now, Egan Loo’s liner notes with the AnimEigo Macross set, otherwise pretty exhaustive, have nothing about where this came from. A few years ago, I became rather obsessed with it, and asked Renato about it, who said, “Well, there’s an ISBN there… you could always look it up.” Feeling stupid, I checked it, and found… nothing. Renato, on the other hand, found the book and sent me the link. See, the problem is that on screen, it says “ISBN0 905478 509,” and I had missed that first zero. Anyway, it turned up a children’s book called “If Mice Could Fly,” by John Cameron. I finally ordered it (used, since it’s long out of print) a few months ago. Mine is the US version (the ISBN and publishing information on screen refer to the UK version), and well-handled from its days in the Houston public library.

Now, I consider this to be THE most obscure Macross-related item in the world, in that not only did it seem like no one else had it, but it wasn’t even on anyone else’s radar (except Renato’s). So it is with great pride that I can announce that the fourth line of poem is something no one could ever guess: “It would be very nice to have mermouse for tea” (since, you see, the mice in the accompanying illustration have fish tails, like mermaids).

Now, how did lines from this uncelebrated picture book end up in Macross? I really don’t know, but I guess it was just sitting around in Artland (or whichever studio animated this sequence). Maybe someone picked it up on a trip to the UK because they liked the pictures? Maybe they were using it for a reference for something? I have no idea.

(Oh, and it’s interesting to note that the lines ended up in the Robotech novel covering this scene, although the punctuation gets messed up. I get the feeling that the authors of the novel never checked that ISBN and thus never realized that this was from a real, copyrighted book, and they should probably, y’know, get PERMISSION to quote from it… Whatever. Neither John Cameron nor his publisher ever seems to have made a fuss about it, so they probably never even knew.)

6. The tragedy of Mars Base Salla is sketched out briefly by Global here, and receives much fuller treatment in the 1984 novella “Misa Hayase: White Reminiscences” by Hiroshi Ohnogi (who hadn’t joined the writing staff as of this episode, but soon would). The first half of the book is mostly about Riber and Misa, with the best chapter consisting of the letters they wrote to each other while he was stationed on the Mars base. Anyway, the staff of the base was recalled to earth to fight in the escalating Unification Wars, and their ships were attacked by a space destroyer than had been hijacked by Anti-Unification forces. That space destroyer was then destroyed in turn by another ship commanded by Global, who blames himself for not arriving in time to save the Mars base crew. It’s possible to read that into the meaningful looks she and Global give each other when she’s pleading to be allowed to explore the base.

Misa’s flashback to her last meeting with Riber is also in the book, with dialogue being nearly word-for-word the same, but the location changed. Instead of happening at a nice house by the lake (the Hayase’s residence, I’m assuming), it happens in Shinjuku Park on an unbearably hot and muggy summer day. One revelation that holds true for the show, though (probably), is that there is no real “relationship” between Riber and Misa (he’s a few years older, and still views her as a child), although she’s pretty madly in love with him as only a shy fourteen-year-old with self-esteem issues can be.

7. It’s worth noting that according to the solar system map at space.jpl.nasa.gov, heading home from Pluto, the Macross probably would not have encountered Saturn or Mars (at least, as far as I can tell… it’s a little hard to read), although Global does say that they’re being pushed off-course by the Zentradi attacks.

8. At some point in the preceding months, the Macross switched back to cruiser mode (and for some reason, upon landing, has the carriers facing forward instead of the usual backward… although that doesn’t remain consistent throughout the episode). And, when they try to lift off, they’re using the gravity control system that failed so spectacularly in episode 2. I guess they figured out what the problem was…?

9. Then of course, Misa gets trapped aboard the base, conveniently right in front of Riber’s room. She goes in and flips through one of his books (based on a letter in the Misa novella, I’m hoping it’s “Shubie Borts – His Life of Bleach and Isolation”). And then she just… gives up. Even when Hikaru comes in to rescue her, she doesn’t want to be rescued. Unlike Minmay’s brief flirtation with suicide, this one WILL come back. As will Hikaru’s penchant for rescuing Misa, which will become the basic pattern for their relationship for a while.

Another thing that will come back is Kamujin… unfortunately for Britai.

10. So Misa gets her turn in the spotlight, and again, astute first-time viewers might note that she’s already beginning to replace Minmay as our heroine. The art and animation is this episode is generally above-average, too, with one of my favorite short battle clips debuting, where Hikaru’s battroid flies into an explosion, and comes out a gerwalk. I think it’s one of the staff’s favorites, as well, since it’ll show up again many times over the course of the series. The voice of Gundam’s Captain Bright, Hirotaka Suzuoki, also makes his debut here, as Riber, although he’s much more infamous for an upcoming character.

THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH 7 – DAEDALUS ATTACK

Ep.06.png

SUPER DIMENSION FORTRESS MACROSS
EPISODE 6: DAEDALUS ATTACK

ICONIC SCENE: Oh hai!

STORY DATE: April 2009… which seems too early to me, but the Narrator does come out and say that two months have passed since the launch.

BROADCAST DATE: November 14, 1982

1. So I’ve been saying for a while now that all the pieces for the set-up are being slotted into place, and here is where it finally pays off: the creators wanted a battleship with a city inside it that turns into A HUGE FREAKIN’ ROBOT THAT PUNCHES SPACESHIPS WITH A CARRIER. And if they had introduced it that way right off the bat, everyone would’ve balked, I’m sure. But the process of building to that point is so slow and organic that it’s impossible to see coming. Once the realization on what this thing is hits, I think the only possible reaction is delighted laughter.

2. We get Hikaru’s training montage here, which at one point features him in a brown VF-1J. This is the second time (of only three) we’ll see one of those in the series. Then we get the shopping trip with Minmay. The bag he’s carrying says “NWA,” which, as you can imagine, led to dozens of “Straight Outta Macross” image macros last summer.

I also note that Minmay is wearing an outfit we’ve never seen before and will never see again, and that the clothes in the store they walk into generally look pretty attractive. (Let’s not ask where the clothes are coming from, or the show will unravel before our eyes.) Mikimoto said that in order to get ideas for the women’s fashion in the show, he would go to the Shibuya area of Tokyo (which has a lot of women’s clothing shops, and is generally younger and hipper and less expensive than, say, Ginza) and take photos of smartly-dressed college girls walking by. He also noted that were he to do that these days, he’d probably get arrested for it.

Also, I have to admit that as an adolescent, this scene (and the “Mr. Lingerie” followup later in the episode) made me squirm with embarrassment SO much that I could barely watch it. I really felt for the poor guy.

3. The nameless science officer shows up for the second and last time, this week coming up with the idea of using the distortion of space-time created by disappearance of the fold system to create the Pin-Point Barrier. No, it doesn’t make sense to me, either.

It’s worth noting that this guy is SO unimportant that in Mikimoto’s “Macross the First” manga, he gets replaced with a tall blonde with fishnets named “Gina Baltrow.” No, I’m not making that up.

4. When we cut to the Zentradi, we have the same problem we had last episode. While a couple of weeks passed between episodes 4 and 5, and about a month between 5 and 6, every time we catch up with Britai and Exsedol, they’re still discussing the developments from the previous episode as though they had happened just a few hours ago. If they’re still pondering why the Macross went through its transformation over a month after it happened, something tells me that they’re not using their time as effectively as they could.

A weird bit happens when they describe Saturn as the FIFTH planet of the solar system. I’ve heard it’s because they’re counting from the outside in, and there’s a yet-undiscovered-by-humans tenth planet, but that seems like a lot of explanation necessary for such a throw-away line. I guess you could say it’s like the occasional use of Zentradi words (like “taarm” in episode 1), but the meanings of those are usually clear from context, while this totally isn’t. Later, though, he refers to it as the sixth planet, so who knows what the hell the writing staff was thinking?

Also, Exsedol mentions that traveling in “Storm-Attacker Construction” (as the robot form is called, according to the old model kits) will greatly limit the Macross’s speed. This is the only reference left of one of the original concepts for the series: that in cruiser mode, the Macross’s engines would work, but the main cannon wouldn’t, and in Storm Attacker mode, the cannon could fire but the engines wouldn’t work.

5. Again, the “Mr. Lingerie” scene was INTENSELY uncomfortable for me as a kid, to the point where I almost couldn’t watch it. Now I just think it’s kinda funny.

6. Hikaru’s date with Minmay is a good example of how it’s possible (as I said in episode 4) to read depth into the characters that may or may not be there. On the one hand, there’s Hikaru’s view of the situation: that he’s going off to battle and might possibly die, and Minmay is being really insensitive and naive about it. On the other hand, it may be that Minmay has a clearer grasp of how good a pilot he is than he does, and is trying to boost his confidence. But see what I mean about all that bravado from episode 1? It’s gone. Completely.

7. And here it is, folks… the Pin-Point Barrier. In practice it works pretty well (enough that they keep it around… by 2040, even Valks will be equipped with the system), but it sure SEEMS puny and ineffective. We also meet the Pin-Point Barrier Girls (or “PPVG,” as they’re called in some of the books… that “B” versus “V” problem…), who are kind of a budget-rate bridge trio. Their names are Pocky (the one with the perm), Panapp (the one with long hair), and Mei (the one with shoulder-length hair), which are different kinds of snacks. Now, I’ve had Panapp, and EVERYONE’S had Pocky (man, that sounds dirty, doesn’t it?), but Mei has been out of production for a long time. Again, Pocky is basically a chocolate covered bread stick (although there are many other flavors as well), and Panapp is vanilla ice cream with fruit-flavored syrup. Mei turned out to be kinda of a mystery, though. After a bunch of research (i.e. Googling to no avail, asking a few different friends who had no idea, and finally giving up and asking Japanese superfan Yui Yuasa), it turns out that Mei is actually “Mei Balance,” an old type of ice cream. I showed the pic of the package to one of my other friends that I’d asked, and she replied, “Never heard of it.”

Gotta love the PPVG’s track balls, though. I’m sure everyone thought of playing Missile Command while watching this.

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8. Some of the Saturn battle animation is really well-done. Even stuff that might possibly have been designed to cut costs, like going into the shadow zone, is effective. A few points regarding Hikaru here: first, he gets the third Valkyrie we’ve seen him in, this time his personalized white one with red trim. The show gives no reason why he gets a custom paintjob. Second, his designation as “Skull 23” should get conspiracy-theory fans’ blood pumping (have you seen the fnords?). Third, Misa’s really razzing him, and she’s totally right. He’s being an idiot, and is rude about it, to boot. Fourth, his confrontation with the scared Zentradi soldier is excellently pulled off, even though he doesn’t ultimately make the hard choice he should’ve had to. It’s a nice counterpoint to episode 2, where the Zentradi soldier was a terrifying giant, and yet this one is just some poor terrified dude. Remember, Hikaru, they’re more scared of you than you are of them…

9. In accordance with the seeming Rule of Macross, that everything on the ship only works once, they can’t fire the main cannon because the pinpoint barrier is interfering with it somehow. So Misa comes up with the Daedalus Attack, with allows us to see the Destroid Tomahawk for the first time (and WAY more Monsters than should exist at this point). The Phalanx won’t show up for a while, but we’ll see the Defender soon.

Shammy’s line that she’s really becoming a fan of Misa’s is also the only remnant of their relationship as written during preproduction, where Shammy had a huge girl-crush on Misa. The three Bridge Bunnies were also supposed to really hate Kakizaki, but not much of that ended up in the show, either.

But back to the malfunctioning cannon… In the interview with series director Noboru Ishiguro that’s an Easter Egg on the ADV set, he talks about how he thought the bad luck the Macross had was all due to Global’s bad karma. It’s funny, because watching the show, he seems like a pretty amazing skipper, but the staff always seems to view him as mostly a dirty old man… much like Ishiguro himself, I guess. Indeed, at the 2015 Macross World Convention, Run Sasaki (who played Vanessa in Macross and Mimsy in Orguss) was talking about Ishiguro and his penchant for telling lewd stories in mixed company. Finally, one of the actresses asked him WHY he was always talking about sex, and he said it was just to see everyone’s reactions. I think you can get a small taste of this on the (almost certainly unscripted) conversation between Minmay and the director of Shao Pai Long (played by Ishiguro) that appears on Miss DJ… but more about that later.

10. So it seems to have taken forever, but finally, all the set-up is done. The Macross is complete bad-ass punching giant robot that still somehow never works right, the city inside it has shops and restaurants, and Hikaru has become a Valkyrie pilot. Again, though, I can’t stress enough how terrible the “Mr. Lingerie” scene was for me as a kid… did anyone else feel that way, or am I just weird?

THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH 6 – TRANSFORMATION

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SUPER DIMENSION FORTRESS MACROSS
EPISODE 5: TRANSFORMATION

ICONIC SCENE: FIRE!!

STORY DATE: March 2009

BROADCAST DATE: November 7, 1982

1. At the beginning of the episode, we see a Destroid Spartan and a Destroid Monster for the first time as they’re being hauled past. The city itself still looks pretty crappy and crowded. According to “My Fair Minmay,” the area with the restaurant is the Macross’s left “leg.”

2. And here it begins… the legend of the Super Dimension Chinese Restaurant Nyan Nyan, later (under the management of little Yot-chan, who takes over the restaurant from Minmay’s Aunt and Uncle) to become a galaxy-wide chain, help launch the career of Ranka Lee, and become a meme that presumably drew thousands of viewers to check out Macross Frontier. Additionally, every time there’s some kind of Macross event in Tokyo, some nearby ramen shop will usually (briefly) get transformed into a Macross-themed Nyan Nyan restaurant. Having eaten at several, I think they’re good, if a little pricey. Not a patch on Ramen Jiro or Taishoken, though.

3. I suppose I can forgive Hikaru for being mopey that Minmay’s not gonna hop into his bed anytime soon, but not for hanging onto it for the next THREE YEARS. Minmay gets a lot of flack in (western) fandom for being some kind of cock-tease, but I honestly don’t see it. I’ll get into that later, but for now, let me just point out that she’s never less than straight with him here, and if he actually SAID SOMETHING to her about it, she’d probably be straighter still.

4. The nameless science officer appears here, figuring out the modular transformation. Big whoop.

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5. A fair amount of info gets dropped on us right before the commercial break: first, we see the Prometheus attached to the Macross and learn that, yes, the Valkyries can fly in space. Then we switch back to the Zentradi forces (who still seem to be hanging around earth for some reason… what have they been DOING for the past few weeks…?) who learn that their enemy are “miclones,” and that there’s an old Zentradi directive not to fool with the planets of the miclones.

Now, “miclone” itself is one of those untranslatable Japanese puns, using the common “L/R” thing. It’s meant to be, of course, a contraction of “micro-clones,” although I’m guessing there’s no way the audience would’ve known that yet.

Oh, and the footage Britai and Exsedol watch of the attack on South Ataria Island finally shows all the carnage we would’ve expected from episode 2. Nevertheless, I’m not budging. This is still a lighter show than Gundam.

6. For the first and only time in the show, we see Minmay’s name spelled “Minmei.” It doesn’t really matter, I guess… neither version is a correct transliteration of the Chinese name “明美”: that would be Míngměi.

7. In Minmay’s room, there’s still a patch of ceiling that hasn’t been fully repaired from when Hikaru smashed into it in episode 2. Why not? I mean, the whole building, more or less, needed to be reconstructed… We also see the letter (addressed to “Miss Lynn Minmay”) that she went back for. It’s all in English, and pretty much completely correct English, at that. Which is kind of amazing for an anime from 1982.

8. The animation for this episode is kind of hit and miss (NOT Star Pro’s doing, this time)… some parts are excellent, some parts are awful. But the launching of the Valkyries into battle looks as good as anything in the show. We also briefly get to see the dark blue Valks of the Cavaliers squadron, who wouldn’t get that name for about thirty years, until Yamato finally made a toy of it.

9. Unfortunately, one of the crappier parts is the main cannon firing (although the Regulds that it destroys are animated VERY well), but yeah… they wait until the very last second of the episode to reveal that the Macross now looks humanoid. Yet  another piece of the puzzle slotted in… only one more to go…

Oh, and the destruction of the city during the transformation is also pretty brutal, it must be said.

And also, Hikaru decides to join the military instead of being a jerk to everyone. While I applaud his decision, it’s hard to get behind the strong-arm tactics employed by Focker and Minmay to get him there (and I’m imagining that during their little chat that happened offscreen this episode, perhaps Focker told Minmay, “Hey, if you could nudge him a bit towards joining up, that’d be great”). Let’s face it… it’s the best option for him, unless he just wants to wash dishes in Nyan-Nyan all day. And hey, he’s our hero… he NEEDS to be a pilot (or a journalist, but more about that MUCH later).

10. As I said before, the first Macross-related thing I ever watched was “Codename: Robotech,” which spoils the transformation within minutes, so it wasn’t really as surprising here as it was meant to be, but it’s still an awesome moment, marred only by the B-team doing the artwork.

In a lot of ways, I think the early decision to truncate the series from 39 episodes to 26 was a good one, in that the show really doesn’t have time to spin its wheels much. There’s a TON of development crammed into this episode, and it feels quite natural and organic. It’s tough for the first-broadcast viewers, because if you miss an episode, you’re basically screwed, but it’s great for marathoning the series (cf. Escaflowne).

THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH 5 – LYNN MINMAY

Ep.04SUPER DIMENSION FORTRESS MACROSS
EPISODE 4: LYNN MINMAY

ICONIC SCENE: “Sashimi!”

STORY DATE: February 7, 2009~February 19, 2009

BROADCAST DATE: October 31, 1982

1. The immediately obvious thing about this episode is that there are no mecha battles in it. It’s all purely personal drama. Even in a series like this, where the staff insisted that they didn’t want to make just another giant robot show, this doesn’t happen often.

2. This is the first episode whose script is not credited to the script editor, Kenichi Matsuzaki, but to the show’s director, Noboru Ishiguro. It’s also the only one so credited. Now, it’s my understanding, based on the introduction to “My Fair Minmay,” that the actual scripts used for broadcast were collaborative, the process being much the same as it is in the US. The creators hash out all the plots, each of the writers writes a few scripts, and then all the writers get together and go over each script, adding or changing things, so the work of the original scriptwriter gets significantly altered and “credit” is not always easy to assign. In THIS case, I think Ishiguro had a big hand in this, because apparently, the younger writers thought that being trapped in some remote part of the ship with a cute girl would be fun, whereas Ishiguro insisted that AT FIRST it would be fun, until food started running out and desperation began to set in… Compare with the analogous scene in “Do You Remember Love,” where there’s no point in which pure survival becomes an issue, and that scenario is probably what the other writers wanted. Thus, rightly or wrongly, I think of this as the “Ishiguro version” and the movie events as the “Kawamori version.”

3. The art is back on model, thank goodness… So, um, I said before that the pieces were slotting into place… two pieces actually get fitted here. At the beginning, we’ve got the Daedalus and Prometheus being attached instead of the ARMD platforms, and at the end, we find that the city has been rebuilt inside the ship.

4. Minmay’s misunderstanding of what a “compass” is seems pretty silly… but again, neither of our two leads seems very bright so far.

5. Also interesting (which will be explained MUCH later) is the huge airlock (clearly meant for Zentradi-size people), plus a little staircase (meant for miclones.)

6. Every time I watch this episode, it makes me want coffee. Which is a problem, since I usually watch this stuff in the evening.

7. As Hikaru and Minmay are creating the shower, I like the little detail of Minmay taking off her heels. Clearly, she’s tough enough to walk for days through the hull in them, but busting a pipe, y’know, takes EFFORT. As far as the shower goes, Minmay’s butt is cute. According to “My Fair Minmay,” one of the Miss Macross judges calls it her “charm point,” and it’s hard to disagree.

8. So Hikaru gets the tuna (Tuna = “maguro,” which is close to Macross (“Makurosu”) and don’t think that this has escaped anyone on the staff’s attention…), kinda. Like the booster scenes last episode, there are some nods to scientific realism, but not quite enough to pull the scene off. And… since Hikaru was UNDER the tuna, I’m not sure how his suit got caught on its teeth…

As I kid, I had taped this episode off of TV (I didn’t have all of them, but I had probably about a third of the series), and I always tried to hold my breath along with Hikaru. At that time, I couldn’t do it. Now, even after twenty years of smoking, I can do it quite easily. Of course, I’m not exerting myself as much as he is, so I guess it’s not a fair comparison.

9. Minmay sings here for the first time, with Mari Iijima’s original song, “Cinderella” (which, I think, at least, sounds better a cappella than in the discordant version Mari recorded for her second album, “Blanche”). And then we get the wedding scene, because Minmay’s a traditional kinda gal, followed by her falling into craziness (even Hikaru is surprised).

I admit, I’ve never found either Minmay’s yearning to be a bride or her sudden flip-out to be especially convincing. I’m not sure the characters have much psychological depth (although one definitely can read a surprising amount into them), but neither of these details seem to square with her actions and decisions in later episodes. Maybe that’s part of the point, but if so, it’s never developed in any way.

And their long-expected kiss is interrupted by a falling warhead, in a bit of symbolism that will get revived in a different way later, in the dream episode. Anyway, Hikaru, you moved too slow. You snooze, you lose, and you won’t get another chance for YEARS.

10. So, yeah… no mecha battles, but no real complaints. I was somewhat impatient with this episode as a kid because there was no mecha, but now I think it’s a classic (despite the weird revelations about Minmay that don’t make much sense), and is necessary for the story. And the reveal of the city at the end is a great pay-off.

I remember, years later, showing the series to a friend of mine… she complained sarcastically about the Next Episode preview teaser from this episode, where the narrator dramatically intones, “Lynn Minmay: what kind of girl is she?” My friend retorted,”Yeah, that’s the big question, huh?” Well, for Hikaru, it kind of is, although, um, I’m not sure anyone in the audience agrees with him.

THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH 4 – SPACE FOLD

Ep.03SUPER DIMENSION FORTRESS MACROSS
EPISODE 3: SPACE FOLD

ICONIC SCENE: “Old lady…!?”

STORY DATE: February 7, 2009

SCENARIO TITLE: Tonda Macross (“The Flying Macross”)
(Some of the episodes had different titles initially, which were changed during production. These are printed at the end of Macross Perfect Memory. When they come up, I’ll put them here. There aren’t many of them.)

BROADCAST DATE: October 17, 1982

1. And we get the first of several episodes animated (at least in part) by the Korean studio, “Star Pro,” and it looks awful. Mistakes, off-model characters, shoddy backgrounds and animation… it’s all here. Now, when the show looks awful, it’s not ALWAYS Star Pro’s fault, but it usually is.

And to be fair to them, they probably had to do all of this at very little notice with impossible deadlines.

But yeah, some of my “favorites” here include the Daedalus and Prometheus floating in space instead of the ARMD platforms, Focker’s VF-1S morphing into a VF-1A (and Hikaru’s cockpit morphing into a gunpod… WHICH GETS FIRED), and the absolutely ridiculous looking facial expressions during the “old lady” scene (which the main staff would redo when it came time for a flashback).

2. The little manipulator arms that the Valks have in the last episode and here are pretty cool. Odd that they never capitalized on them ever again, in ANY Macross story. Also, I note that in the scene where Focker is running away from the battle pods, the destroyed buildings in the background look much more “futuristic” than what we saw of the city in the previous episodes. They look more like something out of, say, Yamato than the relatively 1982-looking buildings we saw before. I especially note some tall, thin tower shaped like a giant martini glass which really obviously wasn’t there in episode 1, as well as some tall white building that looks like it could be Hogwarts. Weird. Probably left-over background from some Korean anime…

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3. One of the nice things about the Zentradi leaders here is that they’re not stupid. Exsedol notes immediately the Macross could fold away. Although I’m not sure how Britai’s plan to destroy the rest of the space fleet is meant to prevent that from happening.

4. It’s interesting to note how Hikaru’s “hero’s journey” is going… and it’s going about as well as the launch of the Macross did. I’ll confess I’ve always found Hikaru to be a rather bland (but relatable) protagonist… but when we first meet him in Episode 1, he’s super-cocky, and not without reason, considering he outflies the Angel Birds, who are presumably an aerobatics team on par with the Blue Angels or the Thunderbirds (natch). That cockiness begins to dribble away when he finds himself in actual combat, and vanishes completely during Episode 2. Here, when he proposes taking Minmay back from what must be an EXTREMELY high altitude, we see some of that bravado come back. Enjoy it while you can… it’ll vanish completely from his personality in an episode or two.

5. Also, getting back to Macross being one of the most important first fruits of the “Anime Generation” (if not THE most important), when Hikaru says to Minmay, “Can’t you even put on a helmet properly?” the word he uses for “you” is the rather unusual word, “otaku.” And yes, this has been pinpointed as the first-ever use of the word in an anime. Now, I’ve heard differing stories about this: that either fans of the show thought the use of term was so strange that they started repeating it, eventually leading to them being labelled as “otaku,” or that the writers, being somewhat unsocial SF geeks themselves, used the term, thinking it was how “normal” people would address each other, and put it into the script. Either way, the use of the term in geek circles seems to originate with the Macross staff in one way or another, although they certainly didn’t give it its current meaning.

6. I’ve never quite understood if the fold system was meant to spread so wide a net, or if that was a malfunction. Certainly, the Zentradi ships don’t seem to fold in that way, although Britai and Exsedol are both shocked that the Macross would attempt to fold so close to the surface. And the fold system IS malfunctioning, or else it wouldn’t have sent them so far from their intended destination, nor would it have vanished upon arrival.

Considering that nothing on the ship seems to be working like it’s supposed to, I wonder if this is another failsafe programmed into the ship (like the booby trap). That even if someone found an abandoned SDF, they wouldn’t be able to use it. I guess it’s either that or that the systems were damaged and humans were really bad at repairing them. Either possibility seems plausible.

7. Incidentally, we see the city get thoroughly demolished in the fold… streets cracking up, buildings crumbling… which begs the question of how they were able to rebuild the city later.

8. The comedy of errors that is the set-up for the series isn’t QUITE complete, but mostly so. At least, the central dilemma is created. The Macross has an alien battle fleet after it, and has to fly back to earth from Pluto. When I first saw the series, I expected that to take up the entire series (I had seen Star Blazers several years before, and thus had some kind of idea of what to expect), so I was surprised that they got back so quickly. The rest of the set-up has to do with the Macross itself, and will take place over the course of the next three episodes, but all of the ingredients, so to speak, are already present.

9. And of course, we’ve got the IMPORTANT meeting between Hikaru and Misa, as he calls her an “old lady,” and her first impression of him as a goof-off loser is cemented. Perhaps some early viewers were astute enough to realize that this was the REAL love story of the series, but I kinda doubt it. Still, in retrospect, it makes sense. In Episode 2, Hikaru and Minmay are quite blatantly attracted to each other (him more than her), and Hikaru and Misa hate each other (her more than him). It wouldn’t be a terribly dramatic story if it just followed that trajectory with no upsets or reversals, would it? Of course, early viewers would be forgiven for not guessing that there would be a love story in it at all… this IS, after all, Studio Nue, masters of hard SF… which isn’t usually given to outbursts of emotion.

10. So yes, a good episode that would’ve been easily the equal of the previous two had it not looked so rushed. I suppose one could make a rather metafictional case for it, that as the blunders and mishaps on the ship continue, the animation itself gets filled with analogous mishaps and blunders, that’s being a little TOO cute, I think… What strikes me most about this episode is how dramatic and compelling I found it as a boy, and how humorous I find it now (I was going to say, “darkly humorous,” but honestly, I don’t find it all that dark. The destruction of the city isn’t played for laughs, but it never seems that serious, especially since we see that all the characters we’ve met are perfectly fine and uninjured). Again, all of the pieces are being neatly slotted into place, episode by episode.

THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH 3 – COUNT DOWN

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SUPER DIMENSION FORTRESS MACROSS
EPISODE 2: COUNT DOWN

ICONIC SCENE: YAAAAAA!!!

STORY DATE: February 7, 2009

BROADCAST DATE: October 3, 1982

1. Again, this episode looks great. If the series hadn’t been pushed forward, maybe all of them would look this good…? Nah, probably not. For one thing, episode 3 aired two weeks after the “Macross Speical” (which is when it would’ve aired even if they hadn’t combined the first two episodes). For another, the staff (especially Itano) were perfectionists… which often creates a worse product than a “good enough” staff would (we’ll get to Macross Seven soon enough…).

2. Okay, the relationship between Minmay and Yot-chan is kind of bizarre. He’s supposed to be her “friend,” despite the fact that she’s fifteen and he’s, like, nine. I have no idea what they could relate about, except the usual bored babysitter stuff. Still… he ends up buying the Nyan-Nyan restaurant from Minmay’s Aunt and Uncle, and turning it into a galaxy-wide franchise (becoming a billionaire in the process), so I can’t chide him TOO much…

3. I love how the Politician guy (finally named nearly 30 years later in Macross the First, as Hiram Guent) comes striding onto the bridge as if he owns the place, and smoking a cigar (and yet Shammy doesn’t get on HIS case about it…). Now, maybe he does own it, but we’ll never see him again (I assume he got killed during the fold). But he suggests using the Macross as a decoy for the aliens… Get used to that idea, Global…

4. Hikaru and Minmay have a nice “meet cute” moment (and display no intelligence at all between them)… until he smashes into her bedroom. I’m kind of amazed that she forgives him after that (although according to “Miss DJ,” she doesn’t).

5. I love the anti-gravity devices pulling out of the ship and flying off into the atmosphere by themselves. The idea that this is a comedy of errors cements itself quickly. I know the operating principle of the Macross is that most equipment they use only works once, but this doesn’t even make it that far…

6. According to Miyatake, designer of the Battle Pods, the “chicken-legged” gerwalk mode came before the AT-ST. And seeing The Empire Strikes Back when it came out only made them realize that they had to hurry. Considering that “Genocidas” was all gerwalks, I believe them. It kind of echoes (to me) the Velvet Underground (my favorite band ever), before they made their first album, hearing the early Who singles and realizing that someone else had also discovered feedback and they needed to get recording, quick.

7. And here we also get introduced to the idea that the Zentradi want to CAPTURE the Macross, not destroy it… which, let’s face it, is the ONLY reason the ship manages to survive. It’s made abundantly clear, even this early, that if the Zentradi had planned to destroy the ship, they could do so quite easily. Kamujin’s later attempts to disobey orders and get rid of the Macross once and for all might not be so misguided, since this one decision on Britai’s part is eventually what causes the defeat of an entire Zentradi fleet. Of course, it also SAVES the Zentradi (including Britai) who embrace culture, but there’s a lot of hell to go through before they get there.

Speaking of hell… The Zentradi attack here (both the bombardment and the ground attack) wipes out a large portion of the city. Presumably hundreds if not thousands of civilians were killed, but you’d never know it from watching the show. Compare to the first episode of Gundam, with main characters’ families getting killed, bodies flying in explosions, and you’ll see what I mean when I say that Macross, for all it’s wanton devastation, is a much “lighter” series.  In western fandom, there seems to be a persistent notion that the original Macross series, unlike many of its sequels, is really gritty and hardcore, but that’s simply not borne out by actually watching the show.

8. The real tour de force scene of this episode (narrowly beating out some portions of the ground battle) is the wildly-implausible but visually-stunning mid-air rescue of Minmay. Again, like the transformation in episode 1, it’s really obvious that a lot of time, care, and hard work went into making the sequence look as good as possible. Considering how it’s ANOTHER persistent notion that SDFM looks terrible (or “hasn’t aged well,” to use the more polite version), I think it’s good to occasionally sit down and really WATCH some of these fantastic scenes.

Interestingly, one of the This Is Animation Special books shows the storyboards done by Itano and Mikimoto. Itano’s has Minmay wearing a much shorter skirt, so that we can see her panties as she falls. It’s probably for the best that that detail didn’t make it into the episode…

(Also, is it just me, or do Minmay’s aunt and uncle show criminal negligence in letting her go back into the war zone just to get a letter…? And she doesn’t even say what it is that she wants, just “I forgot something.” Jeez, guys… if this is how you think you go about raising a kid, it’s no wonder Kaifun is so screwed up.)

9. And here we get the reveal that the Zentradi are giants. As a rationale for why the Earth force need battroids, it’s pretty flimsy, but it makes for a good reveal. The fact that they look like humans (a fact hidden even from Focker) will take us to some interesting places down the road…

10. So, I said last episode, I started with Codename: Robotech and started watching the series proper the following Monday. I was hooked immediately, but it bothered me that they weren’t calling the show “Macross.” And it would be number of weeks before I realized just how much had been changed from the original. My first exposure to the Macross series proper was a few months later, when I got a videotape of a bunch of random anime taped off of Japanese TV that had episode 29 on it (along with a filler episode of Hokuto no Ken, the first episode of Zeta Gundam, an episode of Doraemon, Tobikage, and probably something else that I’ve forgotten. I wanna say Dirty Pair, but I’m no longer sure). Anyway, I liked the music better, although the theme song was hard to love at first. And there was something about hearing it with the original Japanese audio that just felt RIGHT…

In the early ’90s, I started getting the Robotech Perfect Collection VHS tapes (which had two episodes of Robotech each, preceded by the same two episodes in Japanese). I found quickly that I simply couldn’t watch Robotech after seeing the originals. The looping music cues, the seeming need to fill every available second with dialogue… it just grated on my nerves. I thanked Robotech for introducing me to the series, and then we amicably parted ways (for the time being…).

THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH 2 – BOOBY TRAP

Ep.01

SUPER DIMENSION FORTRESS MACROSS
EPISODE 1: BOOBY TRAP

ICONIC SCENE: A battroid, resting.

STORY DATE: July 1, 1999~February 7, 2009

BROADCAST DATE: October 3, 1982

Look, I assume y’all have already seen this before, so I’ll forget the summary. Watch along with me…

1. The first thing we see is the giant spaceship spreading destruction as it falls to the earth. I didn’t realize until a few years ago that the skyscrapers we see destroyed are in Shinjuku (the Sompo Japan Nipponkoa building on the far left clinches it), the big center for business and finance in Tokyo. I’ll assume this is Ichiro Itano’s first “F*ck the Man!” moment (cf. Megazone Part II).

2. According to a couple of sources (the Macross novelization and one of the stories in Macross Perfect Memory), the Macross hit our atmosphere at a shallow angle, and took a week of orbiting the globe several times to finally crash. You’d never know that watching this.

3. It’s kind of disappointing (as Robotech commentator Captain JLS has said) that none of this is the future anymore. The Macross crashed on July 1, 1999 (in deliberate accordance with Nostradamus), and the main story takes place from 2009~2012. As of Macross Zero (released in 2002), it became clear that the creators weren’t budging in their time frame, and viewed this as alternate history, but I remember calculating how old I’d be when the Macross crashed, and I’ve had a moment of silence for each milestone from the show that passes us by.

Oh well, we have iPhones, and they don’t. And we didn’t nearly get wiped out a few years ago. I guess I’ll take our future.

4. As Captain JLS has ALSO said, this is virtually a perfect first episode. Everyone’s character is delineated in a way that seems logical and makes sense, the animation is (almost) uniformly excellent, and the sense of grandeur with the mecha is (strangely) unusual. The staff really wants us to SEE these ships and planes (even the Mistral and the Lancer II, which show up here and nowhere else).  Heck, they even redesigned soda cans, because why not? It’s the far-flung future year of 2009, after all! Although I don’t understand how Yot-chan is clapping over his huge head. Or the huge coincidence of aliens attacking on the same day the restoration of the alien space ship is complete.

5. The Macross main cannon’s ability to change direction is pretty cool… and completely unexplored in later episodes. Oh, and this is also the only time we’ll ever see the cannon firing when the ship’s in Cruiser Mode (apart from the opening).

6. I note that Focker says to himself that it’s been two years since the last war. This of course flies in the face of Macross Zero, and I’m not surprised that that line was cut from Mikimoto’s much-later manga adaptation, “Macross the First.”

7. We see the unmanned Ghost fighters launch here, for only three times in the entire series. Heck, we wouldn’t even know they were unmanned if secondary sources hadn’t told us… they’ll play an important role MUCH later.

8. Why does Misa advise Hikaru into turning into a battroid in mid-air? That seems like a bad idea…

9. Good stuff for those with a pause button as the battroid crashes to earth, destroying Anime Friend, Artland, and Studio Nue… well, I guess that would explain the poorer-looking episodes… Oh, and Hikaru kills a guy onscreen when he stops.

10. So… Let’s talk about me, shall we? I first stumbled over Macross in a 1984 issue of Starlog bought for me by my Mom (with the reversible Ghostbusters/Splash poster. I initially put up the Ghostbusters side, but as my adolescence continued, I flipped it), with the ad for the pre-Robotech Macross videotape. I didn’t get that until a year or so later, but it put the name on my personal map. Then, that December, the LA Times magazine had an article about Japanese robot toys and their connection to anime, which spent a large amount of time on Macross. My interest was definitely piqued.

By this point, I’d been getting Revell’s Robotech model kits, so the word “Robotech” was also one well-known to me. In early 1985, a friend informed me that there was something coming up on TV called “Codename: Robotech,” so we made plans, and he came over to my house to watch it. To those of you who HAVEN’T seen it, it’s an awful introduction to the series, basically an extended “Global’s Report.” All I really remember about it is that I was out in the kitchen making making ice-cream cookie sandwiches for us when the show started. I was walking back into the TV room when my friend (John) exclaimed, “That big spaceship turned into a robot!” I, cynical even then, retorted, “I bet everything turns into a robot in this show.”

I sat down, handed him his ice cream sandwich, took a few bites from mine, and then noticed the Valkyries from the LA Times article. I shouted, “Oh my God, this is Macross!” and a love story instantly blossomed.

Later, I found the pre-Robotech Macross VHS tape that had initially got me interested, and there was still stuff cut out of it… Namely, the biplane scene. To this day, I have no idea why. Oh… and it convinced me for a few months (until my katakana got stronger) that “Gerwalk” was pronounced with a soft G. Thankfully, I learned better quickly.

More about that later.