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.

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