THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH 3 – COUNT DOWN

Ep.02

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…).

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2 thoughts on “THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH 3 – COUNT DOWN

  1. “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.”

    I think it’s relative to things like the Gatchaman or Bismarck dubs, where they bend over backwards to reassure us that it’s not REAL people who ACTUALLY DIE, but robots getting blasted or aliens getting “sent to the vapor zone”. The idea of a show that shows for-real people incontrovertibly dying was really new for broadcast animation in the 1980s.

    Like

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