SUPER DIMENSION FORTRESS MACROSS
EPISODE 15: CHINA TOWN
ICONIC SCENE: Chukagai
STORY DATE: November 2009
BROADCAST DATE: January 23, 1983
1. First-time viewers can be forgiven for thinking, “Well, they made it back… what are they going to do with the story now?” Oh Em Gee… you have no idea…
Oh, and one of the escort Valks for Global and Misa has a “hot chick” poster taped to his windshield, as well as the words “SEX” and “SEIKO” printed on his plane (you can see it more clearly on the AnimEigo remaster than you can on the Japanese DVD set, which is what I’m watching).
Seiko, of course, is not the watchmaker, but Seiko Matsuda, the massive ’80s idol (who remains kinda popular today, and is termed “the Eternal Idol,” despite some unfortunate face-lifts). Seriously, people, this is important. Haruhiko Mikimoto was a card-carrying member of Seiko’s fan club. References to her abound throughout the show.
Also, after the awful-looking Episode 13 and the clip show, it’s great to have another episode that really looks wonderful. Whenever Mikimoto and Itano work on the show themselves, they make it looks leaps and bounds better than anything else on TV at that time.
2. Maistroff returns from episode 13, finally named, and becoming the acting captain while Global is away. Just as the Pin-Point Barrier Girls at budget-rate Bridge Bunnies, Maistroff is pretty much a budget-rate Global, considering that he bumps his head on the door to the bridge in exactly the same way Global did, and pulls out a cigar, only to get told off by Shammy. He even says the same line in response, that he was just holding it in his mouth.
3. The party on the deck of the Daedalus is really, really odd. People with strange masks, firecrackers, a fortune teller, a cowboy riding a horse (???).
The scene with the three spies getting drunk seems like another “culture clash” bit of comedy… except it’s already been established that the Zentradi have alcohol. Maybe earth beer is better than the Zentradi variety…?
4. FINALLY! Minmay gets to use the Fanliner that she won in the Miss Macross Contest! (it STILL makes no sense to me what someone on board a spaceship would need with an airplane…).
Minmay’s manager debuts here as well, and is Mikimoto’s caricature of himself.
I’m not really sure how Minmay got permission to leave the ship… perhaps it’s because she’s the only one who owns a plane…? (Next, episode, they say that Global gave her special permission, but it still seems odd.) But I like the parallel structure here, as Global and Misa go off to one tense meeting, and Hikaru and Minmay go off to another. Ultimately, Minmay is the only one who gets what she wants. Everyone else leaves disappointed.
Hikaru’s disappointment starts early, as he is clearly looking forward to having Minmay all to himself for a few hours, and she promptly falls asleep (on the “Miss DJ album, Minmay claims that being able to fall asleep anywhere is one of her skills).
5. When Global and Misa arrive at Alaska Base, we see some VF-1As in the never-seen-elsewhere “Alaska Base” colors. Basically the same as Max’s or Kakizaki’s, but with green instead of the blue or brown that they have.
6. The “Grand Cannon” gets mentioned here for the first time, as a massive weapon based on the main cannon of the Macross, that somehow is powered by earth’s gravity. Like the Pin-Point Barrier, it makes no sense to me. In a particularly deft bit of scriptwriting, Misa’s ignorance of the project is used to explain to her (and us) what it is, and also used to show how her relationship with her father is pretty strictly professional, since he never told her about it.
For what it’s worth, while this is the only Grand Cannon that we see, there were four of them under construction. The first one in Alaska, a second in Australia (which was destroyed by Anti-Unification forces while it was still being built), a third in Africa, and a fourth on the Moon. Since the Alaskan one is still not completed at this point, I’m thinking maybe the other two weren’t finished by the time Bodolzaa’s main fleet arrived.
Global also mentions that during the Unification Wars, he helped Admiral Hayase raid an allied base to get extra rations. The gets developed further in “The Plundering Fleet,” one of the stories in the book Macross Perfect Memory. Although the actual plundering only takes place at the very end.
And then when they “meet” with High Command, it’s not even in person… the brass are all projected on huge monitors all around the room, for maximum intimidation. Right from the outset, it’s clear this discussion is not going to go well.
(As an aside, I note that the blonde guy with the widows-peak is voiced by Akira Kamiya.)
Anyway, between the talk with Minmay’s family and the pronouncements of High Command, the situation comes out: a cover-up, saying that the Macross and South Ataria Island were destroyed by Anti-Unification sympathizers, and everyone was killed. So no, the refugees cannot be allowed to return to earth, and the Macross has to go back out to space to lure the Zentradi away while earth prepares its attack. There’s also an implication that the Unified Government is not a free as it might seem, since the brass say that the military took control of the media after the Zentradi attack. This of course never gets developed, but it’s kinda creepy all the same.
Finally, there’s the letter from Misa’s dad to her saying he’ll pull strings to get her off the ship, which seems extraordinarily nasty. He really does think he’s sending the Macross off to its destruction, with 56,000 (and didn’t it used to be 70,000…?) civilians aboard.
7. Yokohama 2009 in Macross doesn’t EXACTLY look like Yokohama really did in 2009 (I’m guessing, at least. I didn’t get there until 2010). The park overlooking the harbor has that same basic layout, but I don’t remember the red and white picnic area or the really science fiction-y looking building on the edge of the park. There’s also no New Marine Tower, which Minmay says is as old as she is. So… construction would’ve finished in 1993. It’s 900 meters tall, nearly 300 meters taller than Tokyo Sky-Tree (which, you gotta admit, it kinda resembles). She mentions that when it was built, it was the world’s tallest structure, implying that it no longer is. In our world, it still would be, since even the Burj Khalifa is a mere 830 meters.
Chinatown looks much the same as it does in real life, although the signs are different (although presumably the same as they were in 1983).
And then we arrive at Min Sha Rou, Minmay’s family’s restaurant. According to “Misa Hayase: White Reminiscences,” it’s one of the larger restaurants on one of the main streets… which, author Hiroshi Ohnogi assures us, are not as good as the smaller restaurants that are tucked away in the allies. Now I’ve only been there twice, and never with anyone who knew the area really well, so I can’t confirm that, but I don’t doubt that he’s right.
8. When Minmay’s father objects to her going back to the Macross, he says it would be like being “imon butai.” The AnimEigo and ADV subs translate this as “comfort woman,” which is not the meaning at all, as Renato clarified on a recent Macross Speaker PodCast. The Imon Butai were actually hired musicians who performed for the troops during World War II. Minmay says the term is old fashioned, which was probably true even in 1983.
I have to admit, I’ve never really believed that Minmay’s parents would let her go back to the Macross. I mean, for the past nine months, they thought she was dead, and then she walks right back in… letting her leave again seems like it would be unthinkable, no matter WHO went with her…
9. IT’S KAIFUN!! Yes, the last major character to arrive in the show, and he immediately proves himself a jerk. A lot of times, an initially unsympathetic character will do a turnaround and become relatable (like many of the Zentradi characters), but nope, Kaifun just becomes worse and worse as the series progresses. I’ll talk about him more next time, but yeah… he’s a real piece of work.
10. Again, a nicely-written (mostly) episode, that looks great, marred only by Minmay’s parents (I think) letting her go back too easily, and the introduction of one of the most hateful Macross characters ever.
And yes, sending the Macross off as a decoy does seem to be a plot development cribbed from Gundam. But I do like that the crew of the Macross thought they were coming back to safety, only to find that even the Earth government isn’t on their side. At this point, they truly are alone.