THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH 17 – KUNG-FU DANDY

Ep.16

SUPER DIMENSION FORTRESS MACROSS
EPISODE 16: KUNG-FU DANDY

ICONIC SCENE: Defensive moves…

STORY DATE: November 2009

SCENARIO TITLE: ANTI-WARRIOR

BROADCAST DATE: January 30, 1983

1. Just as the last major character enters the cast, the last major staff member enters the show, as well. This was the first episode written by Hiroshi Ohnogi, who was a college buddy of Kawamori’s and Mikimoto’s, so much so that they were a pretty inseparable trio during school.

As far as I can tell, it was about this time that Macross, in danger of being cancelled a couple of months previously, actually got an EXTENSION, which is nearly unheard of. While some anime series (mostly based off manga serialized in very mainstream magazines like Shonen Jump) are designed to run as long as they’re popular, most anime shows, of course, are designed as finite series. And then, if it’s popular enough, there might be a sequel. So yeah, pretty much all series are based on a “cour,” a more-or-less-three-month block of episodes (sometimes 12, sometimes 13). So Macross, initially planned as a 52-episode series (four cours) got whittled down to 39 episodes (three cours), and finally 26 (two). Then they got extended for ten more episodes. So, since they already had the story planned out to end at Episode 26, what do you do for ten more? We’ll get one answer to that next time, but the OTHER answer is, well, you bring in Hiroshi Ohnogi and assign him the task of figuring out what happens next. He’s not credited with the scripts of all the post-war episodes, but he did most of the heavy lifting on figuring out what the world would look like and what the conflicts and stories would be.

And he also wrote this episode. And later a few others. And the first story in My Fair Minmay. And Misa Hayase: White Reminiscences, his first novel. He’s worked on a ton of other series and movies (and novelizations of same), but for our purposes, it’s really only necessary to point out that he was the head scriptwriter for Orguss, and also wrote Macross Zero. And expressly didn’t work on Frontier.

Oh, and he also wrote a Doraemon movie, strangely enough.

2. And we knew it couldn’t last… this episode looks bad, thanks to a lot of Star Pro “assistance.” I’d be curious to know what Korean animation they worked on, to see if it looks appreciably better, but information seems scant, especially since I don’t know any Korean. For Japanese anime, they also worked on Heavy Metal L-Gaim, which also looks completely cheap and awful at times.

However… again, I think their goofy, off-model style actually WORKS during the scenes with the three spies, of which we get a famous (if implausible) one in this episode, where they break a window in front of a restaurant to get at the plastic food (luckily, I had been to L.A.’s Little Tokyo area and seen all the plastic food at restaurants, or else I would’ve found this scene mightily odd the first time I saw it). I say implausible, because I can’t imagine any business owner acting towards a group of vandals the way the woman does here. It’s played for laughs, but still…

The next scene also kinda works, thanks to Star Pro laziness (or time crunch… again, they probably got these jobs at no notice and with impossible deadlines, so I don’t want to be TOO hard on them) where we pan across the interior of Nyan Nyan. The restaurant is crowded with people, all talking and laughing, and none of them are colored in, they’re just a dark solid blue… except Hikaru, who’s sitting by himself, feeling sullen (as usual). The fact that he’s the only one in color seems to emphasize his isolation from everyone else. Of course, the moment is ruined a bit later, when the bridge crew and Max arrive, and they’re not colored in, either.

3. Okay… I’ve been putting this off, but it’s time to get into Kaifun, the character designed to be hated, and who was so good at it that even members of the staff absolutely despised him. He’s Minmay’s cousin-who’s-just-like-a-big-brother to her (first referenced during the Miss Macross Contest), and it’s pretty clear Minmay’s got a massive crush on him. The story makes a feint at hinting that they’re not blood relations by having Hikaru say, “Minmay’s cousin… I mean, her uncle’s son…” but that doesn’t quite follow, because that would mean her uncle is only related to Minmay by marriage, and yet his name is “Lynn,” too. I suppose it’s a common enough name, but they could have made it a little clearer.

Anyway, the other big things about him are that he’s a kung-fu master and a peace activist, which is kind of a clever combination, as it underscores a contradiction in his character. It’s the peace activism that rankles me (and I should point out that it’s specifically Cold War pacifism that I’m talking about. Post-Cold War pacifism is different in a lot of respects, just as Post-Cold War hawkishness is different). Now, a lot of this is my environment: I went to a very liberal high school where political engagement was strongly encouraged, and NO ONE, even the younger students, was as dumb about pacifism as Kaifun seems to be. There’s always moderation. If Soviet bombers are flying over your town, taking out your neighborhood, I don’t care WHAT your politics are, you want the closest Air Force base to get some F-15s in the air and take them out. Likewise, if a U.S. President (ANY U.S. President) said, “I’m gonna nuke Vancouver. No reason, I just want to,” I can’t imagine anyone supporting him. I can’t speak for the population of the world, of course, but everyone that *I* know realizes the difference between necessary action and pure military adventurism.

Kaifun doesn’t, and so comes across as a petulant child raging because his parents won’t let him eat all his Halloween candy in one sitting. None of the characters are especially deep or multifaceted, but Kaifun is a caricature, always giving the same reaction whatever the situation.

(Now of course, there ARE genuine pacifist ideas being formed on the ship, but they come from Misa and Global, and are much more practical, and based on the realization that there is simply no way that Macross – or the entire might of the Earth – could defeat the Zentradi by firepower alone.)

Oh, and he also looks (and sounds) like Riber, which throws Misa for a while. This is one of the weakest developments in the story, and thankfully, it gets dropped pretty quickly.

4. So Global has to break it to civilians that no one is allowed off the ship (temporarily, of course…), and does so by having some dude interrupt Minmay’s broadcast to flatly tell them so. A good judge of human psychology, he is not. Things get a little hot for our heroes for a bit, until Kaifun’s kung-fu prowess comes to the rescue (one bystander points out that Kaifun only used defensive moves… he must’ve missed the guy who Kaifun kicked in the face). One wonders if similar brawls started anywhere else around the city, and what happened to any soldiers who didn’t have a martial arts whiz around to help them out (of course, the whole sequence is a little silly… I’m sure even the Bridge Bunnies know enough self-defense to handle a roomful of angry noodle-slurpers). Another weird thing is that every other shot with background characters shows A LOT of soldiers in the restaurant, but suddenly, when the civilians get angry, our leads are apparently the only ones there. Did the others all know what the announcement was about, and slipped out when no one was looking…?

(It doesn’t help that, thanks again to Star Pro, Kaifun’s part of the brawl looks laughable. Now I have seen highly-trained martial artists who can give someone what looks like a light tap but which sends them sprawling with tremendous force, but that’s not effect of this scene…)

And the leader of the mob DOES have a point when he says he’s sick of the military lying to them. I mean, they HAVE been lying. A LOT.

5. And then it’s back to the Zentradi for the first time in two episodes. I’m SHOCKED, SHOCKED!! to see that Kamujin is disobeying orders and launching the front of his battleship (the front detaches to become a separate assault ship, a detail nice reproduced in the old Arii model kit) to attack the Macross. Again, Lap’Lamiz is simply unable to rein him in (and to be fair, even Britai wasn’t that good at it).

6. There’s an interesting scene here covering something that gets repeated nowhere else, as a base detects Kamujin’s craft arriving… and and the CO annoyed at the Macross for being such a burden. This seems very “Japanese Boss” of him. Anyway, yeah… no extra help is coming besides a few half-hearted SAMs.

5. Misa goes back to the bridge, but is so smitten with Kaifun that his extreme views actually seem reasonable to her. Again, very unconvincing, especially after reading “White Reminiscences” and realizing that she went through a similar thing with Riber years before, except his views made a lot more sense (except, maybe, his view that because women shouldn’t be combatants, since they, through the “miracle of childbirth” are meant to CREATE life, not take it. That caused a little bit of eye-rolling in this corner).

6. More Star Pro shenanigans… the Valks all using their head lasers against HALF A BATTLESHIP. Gee, that’s gonna do a lot of good…

Oh, and we also see the Gnerl (pronounced G-narl) fighter pods for, I think, the first time since Episode 1.

And Lap’Lamiz sends in Milia’s Queadluun-Rau team to stop Kamujin… and Milia shows that she’s not above some Kamujin-style insubordination herself.

7. Star Pro makes this battle extremely confusing. It’s really difficult to tell where everyone is in relation to each others, or who’s attacking who at any given time.

(If it sounds like I’m bringing up Star Pro a lot HERE, wait until Episode 25…)

8. Okay… I’ll grant it. The mistimed and thoroughly screwed up Daedalus Attack here is also pretty effective (as is the bit where a close-up of Misa’s eye fades into a shot of the setting sun), although a lot of that is due to the voice actors. It’s worth noting that this sequence contains (if I recall correctly) the ONLY Star Pro moments to show up in Flashback 2012, which generally shows off the snazzier animation. Although this scene is definitely not ALL Star Pro… some of the shots are too good for that.

9. So Hikaru gets shot down, ejects, and lands in the ocean. And his (second? Third?) white and red VF-1J is gone forever. Misa gets a time-out, and everything seems a little grim.

10. So yeah… the episode looks bad and focuses on the crappiest character in the whole series. The fact that he’s voiced by the late Hirotaka Suzuoki (famous for being Bright Noa in several Gundam series) just adds insult to injury. Other than that, it’s fine. For personal reasons, I’m fond of scriptwriter Ohnogi and think he debuted well here, so I’ll save any criticism of him for another time.

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