SUPER DIMENSION FORTRESS MACROSS
EPISODE 18: PINEAPPLE SALAD
ICONIC SCENE: Drunk again, Roy…?
STORY DATE: November 2009
BROADCAST DATE: February 20, 1983
1. I really admire the fake-out here (which started in the “next episode preview” last time). You think that the entire episode is really about Max and Milia, and then suddenly it’s not.
Also, this episode looks great, one of the best in the entire series. Thanks, Mikimoto and Itano!
2. Nurse Haruka here at the beginning is Mikimoto’s rendition of Seiko Matsuda. You’ll notice that her trademark “Seiko haircut” was also used for Mimsy in Orguss. Again, Mikimoto was a huge fan. (Me, I prefer Akina Nakamori, Seiko’s rival, who also gets a shout-out in this episode, as one of the buildings features a sign that says “N AKINA.”)
Additionally, Hikaru does seem to be changing, although, since the story is told from his perspective, we may not see it as much as the other characters do. A few episodes ago, Minmay told him he was nicer than when she first met him, and Misa here expresses some surprise that he knows how to say “thank you.” He’s definitely not the overconfident kid we saw back in Episode 1.
3. Claudia, of course, knows what’s going on inside Misa better than Misa herself does. Claudia is always frighteningly on top of things. It’s a little unusual, in a way… she almost seems like the “sassy-but-wise black woman” stock character, except that that character type doesn’t really exist in Japan. I think it’s more that she’s just a really good sempai for Misa, just as Focker is a really good sempai for Hikaru. Now, I’ve seen a number of people calling Focker a stereotype of the big, boisterous American, but honestly, I don’t see it. Just like in Star Trek, the cast may have names suggesting different countries of origin but they all kind of act American, I think everyone in Macross seems culturally Japanese.
4. Thank goodness we’ve got more variety now than just “My Boyfriend Is a Pilot”! Hikaru’s listening to “Zero-G Love” on his radio when his buddies come in. Focker, of course, gives him a plastic model of a Fokker, which is kind of a strange gift to give someone confined to a hospital bed. But where there’s a will, there’s a way, I guess, and Hikaru has apparently painted and built it by the end of the episode.
5. First time viewers might have realized that something was up when Claudia mentions “pineapple salad,” the title of the episode. And yet, I have to give the writers credit: the episode does not fly many “death flags” or otherwise make it obvious that Focker is (SPOILER ALERT) going to die here. He’s in the episode a lot, but not obtrusively so. Setting up a date is really the only clue I see.
But, if you really pay attention, you’ll notice that Focker has been in the series less and less, sometimes not even appearing. At first, he was in plenty of scenes, since he was the one who had to explain things to Hikaru (and us). But as Hikaru (and we) grow accustomed to the world of Macross, and as Hikaru gets his own responsibilities, Focker doesn’t show up as much.
And yet… it’s not like he isn’t needed in the story anymore… I mean, looking at it from a purely functional perspective, Focker’s role is pretty simple: when Hikaru gets down, Focker bumps him up, and when Hikaru gets too cocky, Focker brings him down. It’s all about keeping Hikaru level. (Additionally, he’s there to provide a view of what Hikaru (and kids like him) WISHES he could be, a cool, hard-drinking, fun-loving ladies man.) So, once he’s gone, you’d think Hikaru would’ve internalized the lessons Focker has taught him, but he really hasn’t. He still has the same hang-ups (or, rather, hang-up, singular: Minmay), the same mood swings. It still takes him a while to figure out how to handle everything on his own. Which seems pretty realistic, I guess. Once Focker’s gone, he still needs to find Focker’s “voice” inside himself. And listen to it.
6. MINMAY DOLLS!! One item that I’ve never been able to find (but really want to) is the old Minmay wind-up model kit. Although it seems to me that these days, they probably could make an actual, walking, singing Minmay doll.
(And yes, the name of the shop is “General Products,” Gainax’s old garage kit company, as well as being a spaceship parts manufacturer in Larry Nivan’s “Known Space” books.)
And I’d just like to point out that the bridge trio must be extremely desperate (or, more likely, extremely BORED) if the three spies seem like promising date material to them…
7. In Robotech circles, it seems to be received wisdom now that Kamujin is actually talking about Hikaru, not Max, when he talks about an ace aboard the Macross… but that seems rather overly literal to me (as does much Robotech speculation, especially when it’s about the size of the Macross. Sorry, guys, it’s 1,210 meters. the guy who created it said so). Yes, it’s all a big coincidence: Kamujin mentions an ace, Milia’s competitive streak gets going, she searches for whoever is flying best, focuses on Max, and the rest is history… but I don’t think she’s made an error here. And I’m pretty sure Kamujin knew EXACTLY who he was talking about. I mean, it’s not like Hikaru trumped him in their fight way back in Episode 8. They fought to a draw, and only Britai’s recall order saved them from resolution. Hikaru is no genius, and Kamujin’s not dumb. There have been PLENTY of battles that we haven’t seen… I’m sure Kamujin has seen Max in action (and probably lost quite a few men to him, as well).
Anyway, here begins one of the greatest rivalries in all of Macross, and the fact the it ends in the deeply disappointing Episode 25 needn’t concern us here. The duel between Max and Milia is early Itano at his absolute best. The sequence is pretty much flawless. The battle choreography is stunning, and there are tons of little details for those who go through it frame-by-frame to find (my favorites include a nudie poster on someone’s wall and a theatre playing “Godzilla vs. Gamera”). One of the most jaw-dropping scenes in the entire series, and one of the reasons why I scorn anyone who says that the show “hasn’t aged well” and needs a remake. Yes, the Star Pro episodes look awful, but I’ll swallow that and like it if you give me perfection like this occasionally.
8. Minmay said before that she was filming a movie… here we find out that it’s a kung-fu movie and that Kaifun is also in it. Interestingly, in “My Fair Minmay,” she suggested a kung-fu story, but no one was interested… And I *do* wonder if the director they talked to there is the director of this movie (if you’ve read the book (HINT!), you’ll know why)…
Anyway, Focker suggests that she visit Hikaru, and she does, showing that she’s not as self-absorbed as her detractors say. Although, it has to be said, she falls asleep pretty much immediately upon meeting with him, which she also did last time. Is her schedule really tough (two hours of sleep a night for weeks), or is Hikaru just really dull? YOU BE THE JUDGE.
9. And then, of course, Focker dies. The whole scene is really weird, with a number of unanswered questions: what did the repair crew see? Why did Focker not check in with the medics? Did he KNOW he was going to die? It’s all really unclear. But what’s done is done. He’s gone, and we won’t be seeing him again (until we do).
10. If you listen to the western fans who watched Robotech as kids, this was their loss of innocence, way before Optimus Prime was killed. Honestly, I think unconsciously, I saw it coming, since after every episode, I used to ride my bike around the block over and over and imagine what would happen next, but in my imaginings, only two characters ever got killed off: Roy and “Ben” (Kakizaki). (To bring myself down a peg, i.e. listen to my own “Focker-voice,” there was a great Robotech-Rewatch blog recently where the blogger’s nine-year-old daughter saw it coming, as well).
But still… Yeah, it’s shocking and unexpected. And a perfect end to a perfect episode.
(As a postscript: a week or two after this episode aired, one of my friends had a really amazing dream that I ended up drawing as a comic. He was watching a TV show called “ROY!” about how Claudia was trying to murder Roy. She hid knifes inside a pineapple, but it was the poisoned cocktail that ended up killing him. Then, Hikaru found Roy’s body, but didn’t want anyone to know that Roy had died in such a wimpy way, so he put the corpse into the Skull-1’s cockpit and launched it. That way, everyone would think he had died in battle. Looking back on it now, I think my friend must’ve had real issues with the way Roy left the series…)