+ Ep.1


ICONIC SCENE: Bromance Part 1.


RELEASE DATE: August 25, 1994

1. So soon after Macross II (which apparently was successful, but I think a lot of that success was due to overseas sales rather than the Japanese market) Kawamori came back with an idea he had about a variable fighter competition. Apparently, this was not originally a Macross story, but became one in order to secure funding. Before this, he had been dead-set against doing sequels, and I’m not sure entirely what changed his mind, although I’d imagine that the realization that Macross sequels were going to be made with or without him had to have been a factor.

But whatever the reason, Kawamori finally took to the idea of sequels, and embraced it to the fullest. For the first and only time, there were plans for THREE different Macross installments, all due at the around the same time: Macross Plus, Macross Seven, and Macross: Final Outpost Earth. That last one, of course, was the made-in-Hollywood live action movie that never got off the ground, although designs were made for it and a script was written (a brief shot of which can be seen in a documentary, with Minmay talking to “Richie Pirelli,” who is probably meant to be the Hikaru stand-in). I’d love to read the whole thing, but with the screenwriter having passed away years ago, and his widow also being quite elderly, I have no clue how to contact her to see if I can track down a copy.

Anyway, we’re here to talk about Macross Plus. It began life as movie, but it was decided to make an OVA first in order to build buzz for the eventual film. It was co-directed by Shinichiro Watanabe, written by Keiko Nobumoto, and had music composed by Yoko Kanno, all three of whom later worked extensively on Cowboy Bebop. The main studio involved in production was Triangle Staff, perhaps best known for the Venus Wars movie and Serial Experiments Lain, and they brought a highly-detailed style to the work. Character designs were, for the first time, handled not by Mikimoto, but by the single-named Masayuki, who later worked on Evangelion, directing (among other things) Death and Rebirth, and the first half of The End of Evangelion. He had also previously done the amazing Thundercats opening, which was SO good that there was no way the show could ever live up to it.

So yeah, it’s a great team assembled here, and Kawamori really wanted to push the boundaries for anime, beginning to incorporate a lot of this “computer graphics” animation that had been making a stir. It’s used sparingly but effectively in Plus (and Seven), and was apparently enormously expensive. I’ve heard that Plus was the most expensive OVA produced at that time. I have no idea if it’s true or not, but I wouldn’t doubt it. It looks spectacular from start to finish, and is amazingly refreshing after the drabness of Macross II.

2. For me, I was more or less out of anime by ’94. I was still going to comic shops, but was much more interested in Sandman and Cerebus and trying to get everything Alan Moore had ever written. I was still getting some manga (damned if I can remember what, though). Most of the places I’d gone to get anime stuff were gone (RIP Model Works and Book Village). However, a new store called Comics Factory had opened near PCC (it’s still there, but not in the same location. A nail salon is in its old place) and they had anime VHS tapes for rental. Occasionally, I would rent stuff, but nothing had really grabbed me. Now, by this point, anime in the US had become a big enough thing that there were several companies licensing and releasing stuff (mostly films and OVAs, rather than TV shows) in the west. The amateur magazine Animag had folded, and most of its editorial staff had moved on to the much-more-official Animerica Magazine, which I bought because my all-time favorite manga, Area 88, was being serialized in the back (or, really, middle) of the issues. Anyway, it was there that I read about Macross Plus and Seven first. Seven sounded slightly interesting (it’d be nice to see Max and Milia again), but Plus seemed to be another of those “set decades in the future of the series you liked, so no one you care about will show up” sequels that I was sick of. And anyway, I hadn’t even finished watching Macross II and no longer considered myself a Macross fan.

(I was, however, buying the Robotech Perfect Collection tapes from Streamline, which featured two episodes of the original Japanese series that made up Robotech, followed by the same two episodes of Robotech. It was then that I realized that I simply couldn’t watch Robotech anymore. The voice cast was fine, but the need to fill seemingly every available second with narration and dialogue made me want to tear my hair out.)

Anyway, one day I walked into Comics Factory, and the owner asked me, “Have you seen Macross Plus yet?” (The English dub of Volume 1 had just come out the week previously.) I replied that I wasn’t interested in it. He said, “Look, it’s really cool. Rent it, and if you don’t like it, I’ll refund your money.” I took him up on the offer and rented it. The next day, I returned it. Not only did I not ask for the refund, but I bought a copy of it as well. I was a Macross fan again.

3. It’s interesting to compare the beginning to Macross II. That series was very “TV-like” in that it had opening and ending titles (and even a commerical-break eyecatch!) and kept the episodes to the standard 25 minutes of a broadcast show. Plus is much more cinematic, with the moody and a cappella song “Voices” playing over a scene of three teenagers testing a homemade prop-plane. It’s a quiet, serene, and lovely moment for characters whose lives, we’ll find out, are anything but.

Then the title comes up, and we switch to the only war scene in the series. And it’s clear immediately that Ichiro Itano is back, directing the battle. VF-11s swooping around, picking off Zentradi battle suits in an asteroid field. Its excellent stuff, the most exciting battle scene we’ve had since Do You Remember Love. We also get a quick sketch of our main character, Isamu Dyson, as a really excellent pilot who’s basically handling the entire battle by himself. Yes, he rescues two of his comrades, but in daredevil ways that probably had them wetting themselves.

And of special note is that the VF-11’s gunpod is equipped with a bayonet, of all things. Shades of the knife that the VF-25 will be equipped with…

Honestly, in these opening scenes, he comes across as a brilliant pilot, but an unlikable jerk. He’s hotheaded, arrogant, doesn’t follow orders, and doesn’t listen to anybody.

4. New Edwards Test Flight center is, of course, essentially Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California. It’s worth noting that Kawamori and Itano visited Southern California (Fullerton) while preparing to make this series, to take flying lessons at Air Combat USA, which bills itself “the ORIGINAL civilian dog fighting school in the world.” Among other things, they were allowed to sit in the back of a couple of trainers and have a mock dogfight. At one point, Itano blacked out. Now, this can be extremely dangerous… he could’ve even died, but as he was sitting on the tarmac, the producer told him to immediately draw what it looked like to have a blackout, before he forgot.

The biggest effect of this trip (which is felt through all of the Macross series to follow) is a better sense of what it feels like to actually be inside a fighter plane, pulling tremendous Gs. Do You Remember Love fairs better than the TV series in this regard, but in Plus, some of the maneuvers look genuinely painful.

Takumi Yamazaki, the voice actor for Isamu was hoping that he, too, would get to go up in a fighter so he could bring more realism to his role, but the producers were cheap and sent him to a roller coaster at the amusement park built around Tokyo Dome (then called “Big Egg City,” now called “Tokyo Dome City”). He quickly got used to the g-forces, though, over the many times he rode the coaster.

5. Ah, and then we get the YF-21 (AKA Omega One), which is really a thing of beauty. Of course, the special thing about it is that it’s controlled by thought (the “Brain Direct Imaging” (or BDI) system). And, refreshingly, it doesn’t look much like any Valkyrie we’ve seen before, its battroid mode having a much more Zentradi-type look to it. It’s also pretty clearly inspired (as is the plot) by the YF-22 and YF-23 competition that had taken place a few years earlier. As such, even now, with it’s “stealth-y” look, it seems less dated than, say, the VF-1 (or, especially, the Macross II Valks).

My favorite part of this scene, though, is the incredibly clear and efficient way they show that the YF-21is controlled by the pilot’s brain rather than just explaining it. I’m not sure if I really buy the wings changing shape, though.

6. We see the YF-19 briefly on a display. I’m sorry, that doesn’t count as a first appearance.

We hear about what a beast the YF-19 is, with a reputation for injuring or even killing its pilots. In this way, it reminds me of a plot thread from the original Macross series that was dropped when the show was reduced to 26 episodes: the “Devil Machine No. 2,” which was likewise meant to be a fighter that was being tested, and which was extremely dangerous, with all of its test pilots dying.

Oh, and there’s a problem with the official subtitles here, where the designer of the YF-19 is “Yang” Neumann, when really, it should be “Jan.” I don’t know if it was deliberate on the translator’s part, or if they didn’t realize that “Jan” (pronounced, of course, “yan”) is a completely normal Scandinavian or German name. I’m either underestimating the translator’s intelligence, or the translator is underestimating the audience’s. (EDIT: I just got word that actually, the “Yang” spelling was REQUESTED by the Japanese side of the production. No clue as to why, but I apologize for sniping at the poor translator when they had nothing to do with the choice.)

7. After more scenes showcasing what a contentious jerk Isamu is (and an interlude of Guld, unusually, losing his cool), we get Sharon Apple and Myung both introduced in quick succession.

Sharon, of course, predates Hatsune Miku (and Kyoko Date and Aimi Eguchi, Miku’s ancestors) by quite a few years, a fact that has escaped no one’s attention. Least of all the Macross staff, who even turned it into a joke during the Macross Crossover Live 30 a few years ago.

Eventually, of course, Isamu, Guld, and Myung (and Lucy) all meet up and there’s a big confrontation… the first of many.

The confrontation itself, and Myung’s role in it, is pretty weird. Myung seems somewhat scared of Guld, and confrontational with Isamu. Guld clearly loves Myung and hates Isamu. And Isamu seems kinda smug and hostile towards both Myung and Guld, or at least EXTREMELY jealous that Guld was hugging Myung. It’s not clear yet WHY all this makes no sense, and we have no clue that it’ll make even LESS sense soon enough. More on this topic later.

8. A few things: Marj (Sharon’s manager) is voiced by Sho Hayami, who of course also voices Max. Lucy is voiced by a young Megumi Hayashibara. And the city they’re in is totally modeled on San Francisco. Isamu and Lucy even hang out at Fisherman’s Wharf.

9. Okay, NOW we get to the good stuff, and the YF-21 shows what it can do. Highlights of course involve FLYING STRAIGHT INTO A CLASSIC ITANO CIRCUS OF MISSILES, but going so fast that they don’t detonate. You can also see just how outclassed the VF-11 is here; even with two boosters and tons of skill, Isamu is struggling to keep up. I’ve heard people who really like the VF-11 say that they’re dismayed with the cannon fodder role it was given in Macross Seven, but really, it doesn’t fare much better here, five years earlier in story time.

(Oh, and the bombers that launch the drones? Piloted by full-size Zentradi, according to Macross Chronicle.)

Eventually, of course, Guld loses concentration, has a flashback, and his mind-link with the YF-21 is severed. Now, the flashback confused me as the series continued, because the first time I saw it, it seemed clear to me that Guld was the aggressor, even though we later learn that he doesn’t think he was. Was that meant to be a twist? Or did everyone realize that it probably wasn’t Isamu who attacked Myung…?

And, in the end, it seems kind of amazing that Isamu can easily walk away (with just a band-aid on his cheek) from the crash his VF-11 went through. They’ll change that for the movie, and rightly so.

By the way, both the ending theme and the “Bulgarian Voices”-inspired “Next Episode Preview” songs are amazing, but you knew that already. Speaking of the next episode previews, I have no clue why, on the Japanese remastered box set, they were removed from the episodes themselves and placed on the bonus disc instead.

10. This episode in particular has a creepy, ominous vibe to it. The music helps, but a lot of it is the visuals, too. Unlike Macross II, this one is in no way trying to recapture the mood of the original. It’s got a much more serious tone, and seems aimed at the boys who saw the first Macross series when they were young children but who are now in their twenties.

It worked like a charm on me, that’s for sure…



+ Ep.0


STORY DATE: 1999-2045

RELEASE DATE: August 25, 1994

I’ll get to Plus in just a moment, but first, I want to talk about this, since it introduces us to the revamped Macross timeline. It was originally released on the laser disc (and VHS…? I’m not sure…) of Macross Plus Vol. 1, but wasn’t included on any of the western versions.

It’s short – a mere seventeen minutes – and is mostly narrated by the most “movie voice” English-speaking guy they could find. Anyway, it presents the major events of Macross so far and briefly sketches the main characters.

Of top interest for my purposes is the section, “A.D. 2031 – Space War I made into a movie: Do You Remember Love.” Now, this is, I believe, the first mention of this, although it also shows up in the timeline that comes with Macross 7 Trash. The idea, well-known at this point, is that the TV series is canonical, and the movie is ACTUALLY A MOVIE in the Macross universe. Now, there’s a question of whether THEIR Do You Remember Love is the same as OUR Do You Remember Love, and if it’s not, I guess that’s fine. But if it is, the idea doesn’t sit well with me and never has. There’s been a lot of talk of “propaganda films” in order to justify it, but if the TV series is “what happened,” then “the movie-within-the-movie” gets virtually nothing right, from uniforms to Valks to what actually happened. It’s WAY less accurate than even, say, Michael Bay’s “historical” efforts.

Moreover, if has the effect of shunting Do You Remember Love off into some “non-canonical” ghetto, which is a sad fate for a glorious film (in one Facebook Macross group I’m in, someone at one point said tersely, “I saw it. I reject it as non-canon” which, to me, shows that he was going about everything the wrong way).

I much prefer Kawamori’s take that they’re both equally valid, and later series bear that out, but taking plot and visual cues from both the series and the movie. Experience and enjoy both of them, I say, and don’t worry too much about which one “happened.” It’s not that big a deal, honestly.

Oh, and this is also where Macross II gets pushed into the “Parallel Story” box, but I talked about that last time.




ICONIC SCENE: Huh… never seen it do THAT before…

STORY DATE: After the events of Episodes 1 through 5.

RELEASE DATE: November 21, 1992

1. Now THIS episode doesn’t look very good, especially after the previous one. It’s not Star Pro level bad, but it’s notably worse than the previous episodes.

2. Syvlie rescues Hibiki and they go to start the Macross up. I had no idea that it could fly with only two crewmembers on board, but as we’ll see, that’s not the most stunning of surprises it has in store for us.

3. After it lifts off, they prepare to fire the main cannon, and it unfolds in the oddest way, more like the old Takatoku toy than anything we’ve seen previously. I guess it’s not really a problem, but after seeing the original TV series and the movie, I’d like to think we knew what the Macross looks like in virtually every position, and the limits of its capabilities. I guess it could’ve been refitted with new weapons sometime in the last eighty years, but… why? It’s pretty clear it was never meant to go into battle again.

4. It’s a little weird when Hibiki and Sylvie go in for their kiss while Ishtar is spying on them. Plus, Ishtar seems to think they mostly kissed because the “power of the Alus” is love. That makes as much sense as anything I suppose, since there really isn’t any chemistry between Hibiki and Sylvie. I’m pretty sure the bridge crew from the original series didn’t start making out with each other, though…

Oh, and I got confirmation, via someone who worked on the English version of Macross II back in the day, that yes, the Ship of the Alus IS the Macross. As in, the ACTUAL Macross. Make of that what you will…

5. And then the Macross gets destroyed. This seems to bother a number of fans, but I’m okay with it. Overall, this is such a cautious and timid sequel that it seems amazing that they’d go that far. I’m more confused by the fact that the bridge survives, and can fly on its own as some kind of escape ship.

6. Ingues starts annihilating everyone and everything, and Ishtar, standing on the same stage on the bridge that Minmay was on, sings “Mou Ichido – Love You” and that works because of course it does.

7. So yes, Feff switches sides and joins the Unified Forces against Ingues, and it’s all stunningly obvious that we’re watching a retread of Do You Remember Love.

8. After that, it kind of turns into Roman Holiday again, at least in a way, in that Ishtar has to go back with her people, and Hibiki gives her the photos that he took of her. It’s nowhere near as tense and emotional and flat-out brilliant as the end of Roman Holiday, but it’s okay, I guess. Either way, Hibiki’s got Sylvie and Ishtar’s got Feff, so I guess that’s that.

9. Except, this isn’t QUITE the end. In a rather unusual move (for Macross, at least), scriptwriter Sukehiro Tomita ended up writing five Macross II novels. The first two retell the series, and the next three tell a sequel of sorts, as Hibiki and Sylvie investigate a Chinese mafia group called “Black Panda” that is run by a man claiming to be Minmay’s grandson. I haven’t read these yet, but I plan to get around to them.

In the fifth book (published in late ’93), there’s an interesting afterward where Tomita says that the Macross II timeline is more-or-less getting scrapped in favor of Plus and Seven, and asks the readers to support those.

There’s also the US sequel, published by Viz, called “Macross II: The Micron Conspiracy.” I haven’t read that, either.

10. So yeah, an underwhelming finale to an underwhelming series. Again, it’s not bad, just kind of flat and lifeless. For this rewatch, I watched it in Japanese, where the voice cast is pretty good. Watching it in English would probably have given me a somewhat different impression. Maybe next time.

Anyway, as I hinted above, this managed to be the official Macross sequel for about a year and a half, but then was relegated to being an alternate universe sequel (or “parallel story,” as they put it) once Plus and Seven arrived on the scene. I can understand why Kawamori wouldn’t want to have to worry about trying to make sure the shows he was creating in ’94 would line up with this series which he for many years said he had never even seen.

However, an odd thing started happening later… while Macross Chronicle magazine (2008) has it in its own, “parallel story” timeline, the first issue of Macross Ace magazine (2009) places it in the same timeline as everything else. Then, in 2012, many of the thirtieth anniversary events also included it as happening in 2090, thirty-one years after Frontier. When the complete Macross-overview TV series “The Super Dimension Seminar” (frustratingly unavailable on DVD or BD), which was hosted by Sheryl, got to Macross II, Sheryl went “into the future” to discuss it, rather than into another universe. And finally, when we saw Kawamori give a talk at the “Macross the Museum” exhibit in Takarazuka, our friend Howard asked him point-blank about Macross II, and said that since virtually every Macross story (or VERSION of Macross story) was just as “canonical” as anything other one, of course Macross II was included along with everything else.

So there you have it. After being shunted off (and, in Japan at least, mostly forgotten about), it’s now back in the fold, just as much as anything else is. That doesn’t make any more (or less) watchable, though.




ICONIC SCENE: The best thing in Macross II, besides long-haired Ishtar.

STORY DATE: Oh, who knows, really?

RELEASE DATE: October 22, 1992

1. This episode was done by Masami Obari himself, which accounts for how different it looks from the other episodes (and also why it’s better).

The characters end up looking somewhat off-model from the classic Mikimoto style of the previous episodes, but that’s apparently how Obari wanted them.

2. So Ingues comes to the Earth sphere. Yawn. “Oh, no! Help! We’re doomed!” Yawn. The Mardook leaders look impressively freaky, though.

3. Hibiki has apparently become a guerilla journalist, interrupting reruns of Thunderbirds to bring us his footage. Even D-Boy from Tekkaman Blade is interested!



4. The top brass are idiots, which is kind of the idea. But they’re not shrewd idiots, like they were were in SDFM. Those guys had a genuine reason for refusing to allow the Macross back, and for thinking they could defeat the Zentradi with the might of the Grand Cannon alone. These guys are just overmatched and really don’t know what they’re doing.

I do love that everyone has floppy disks, though.

5. And FINALLY, we get the “Macross Cannon.” Four Zentradi battleships attached to something like a Macross body. I understand why they wanted to keep these secret until the end, but honestly, they should’ve brought them out at the beginning. Although it unfortunately doesn’t get to actually DO much before getting destroyed.

(Apparently, the Macross II RPG severely underestimated how massive these things were. And that’s just one of MANY errors the game reportedly contains.)

6. Nexx goes out in the Metal Siren. It still doesn’t impress me. What DOES impress me, though, is the Gigamesh, which seems to be able to rip Valkyries apart without breaking a sweat. It might possibly be the most powerful alien power-armor in all of Macross…?

7. As I said, thanks to Obari, this episode has more tension and excitement than the last four episodes combined. Really. It’s not Itano, but it’ll do in a pinch. It’s kinda too little, too late, since I’ve already lost patience with this series, but if I had gone ahead and watched this episode back in ’93, I might’ve had a better overall impression of the series then.

8. We also see some glimpses of the might of the year 2090 (or 2092)… the destroids, and the Gerwalkroid… Again, though, the designs don’t thrill me. They seem too much like just streamlined and simplified versions of things we’ve already seen.

9. Feff is kind of a badass now. He’s quite willing to kill his own men if they disagree with him. Admittedly, his advisor WAS just about to kill Ishtar…

10. So, yeah, this one’s mostly battle, very little character stuff. As such, it’s good. But, look… I get why someone who watched the first series would start pausing it, trying to go through frame-by-frame, wondering what a lot of these little in-jokes were, and really starting to wonder who made it and why (I mean, that’s what I did, right?). But even in this episode, I can’t imagine anyone here doing the same. Nothing is bad in this series, but nothing is really good, either. It’s all just okay. Kinda bland. But better than Episode 4, that’s for sure.




ICONIC SCENE: Feff is about to flat-out lie to Ishtar.

STORY DATE: …all the recent timelines place it in 2090…

RELEASE DATE: September 24, 1992

1. For some reason, whenever I get to this episode, I start feeling sleepy. That’s not an exaggeration, it actually happens. Admittedly, this is only the fourth time I’ve watched it, but yeah… always happens. The second time, right after I bought the DVD of “the movie,” I was genuinely having to force myself to stay awake during it. As I write this, it’s about one PM on a Sunday afternoon, and, even armed with my third mug of coffee, my eyelids are getting heavy.

Oh, and about that “movie”… as I think is pretty common knowledge, it isn’t a movie at all. There is no movie version of Macross II. It’s just the six episodes played back to back, with the credits and next episode previews cut. As such, it doesn’t really exist to me.

2. Hibiki’s been captured and is being tortured, although Feff lies to Ishtar and tells her that he was sent back to earth. I gotta wonder why Ishtar believes him… I mean, she knows the Mardook plan to conquer earth, right?

That said, Feff seems to have softened a bit now that Ishtar’s back. Last episode, he said he wanted to eliminate all life on earth ASAP. This time, he has a plan to brainwash Hibiki and send him back as a Mardook spy.

3. Sylvie rescues Hibiki (and I note that as per last episode, her Valk has yellow trim throughout this episode… the “Women’s Valkyrie,” according to Macross Chronicle), and they discover that the Mardook are using mind control on their Zentradi warriors. This SHOULD be a sublimely creepy moment, but it’s more just kind of an “oh, okay” reveal.

4. The language starts getting inconsistent here as well. When Ishtar and Lady Elenshe are talking, they speak in Japanese, even though there’s no reason for them to.

5. Meanwhile, Volf (who I guess is Feff’s superior…?) decides that Ishtar brought good ol’ culture contamination back with her, and wants to destroy the ship before it spreads. Feff starts fighting him. We haven’t really seen any contamination, except for Elenshe trying to convince Ishtar that the humans were lying to her, and to stop focusing on the “love song.” So yeah, Volf’s decision kinda comes out of nowhere.

6. Sylvie mentions her grandmother, who she says was Meltrandi. I’m assuming she means Milia, since her name in katakana is just “Jenius” with the last character removed (“Jiina” “Jiinasu”). Which brings up a point: In an interview in an early issue of Animerica (maybe even the first one…? I don’t remember), there was an interview with Mikimoto where he said that they weren’t allowed to use the original characters and mecha, or something to that effect, and I’ve heard that at least one original Macross character was meant to make a cameo, but that was scrapped. I have no idea about the ins and outs of this, but it does make me wonder if, somehow, they couldn’t use the name “Jenius” in the series. Although they use plenty of terms like “Macross,” “Valkyrie,” and “Minmay,” so I can’t see that it would truly be problem. I don’t know, but I do think that they’re strongly hinting that Sylvie is Milia’s granddaughter.

7. I guess this conversation is also where Hibiki and Sylvie start to fall in love, as Sylvie opens up to Hibiki for the first time, but it really doesn’t come across.

8. Ishtar starts singing (without lyrics, just like Minmay right after Max and Milia’s dogfight in Do You Remember Love) “Now, a Friend,” one of Wendy Ryder’s songs. Okay, NOW it’s clear that contamination is starting. And then we meet the Mardook emperor, Ingues, who decides to destroy them all.

9. Ingues’s ship destroys the ship that Ishtar was on, although she, Feff, Sylvie, and Hibiki escape. Elenshe isn’t so lucky.

10. So yeah, what is it about this episode? Sylvie and Hibiki’s escape should be tense and exciting, as should Feff turning against Volf. Certainly, a lot of it is the direction, which leeches the action scenes of any tension or excitement. It might also be the background designs, which are generally bland and featureless, even on board the Mardook ships, which should seem ominous, but just don’t. In addition, there’s several scenes of Ishtar and Elenshe just standing still (again, in an almost featureless room), just looking at each other, not even speaking. So yes, the episode feels like it was padded out to reach twenty-five-or-so minutes, and the scenes that should have real impact simply don’t. Overall, I think, the worst Macross II episode. But hey… at least I managed to stay awake.




ICONIC SCENE: Bridge Triangler (although we don’t know it yet).

STORY DATE: The second soundtrack’s liner notes place it in 2092…

RELEASE DATE: August 21, 1992

1. Okay, let’s step back a bit and talk mecha… Among old-school Macross fans in the west, Kouchi Ohata and Kazumi Fujita’s Valkyries for Macross II seem to be insanely popular, and I can’t quite figure out why. They seem a serious step back from even the VF-4. Back in the early ’90s, when I first looked at the designs, I found them rather dull: only differing from VF-1s cosmetically. Same transformation, just no longer looking like an F-14. Pretty generic. And heck, this was before Plus and Seven were even announced, both of which showed just how different Valkyries could be from the original.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate them or anything, I’m just not sure why fans go so crazy for them.

2. For some reason, this episode is extremely blue. It’s almost like someone put a colored filter over the camera. Apparently, this has been corrected for the blu-ray (isn’t it ironic? Don’cha think?), but I haven’t seen that yet.

3. The TV mentions “NUNS,” for, I guess, “New UN Spacy,” same as Frontier. And there’s the advertisement for the Moon Festival, which seems to have something to do with the idea that fighter pilots are celebrities in this world. That in itself is an interesting idea, but one that never gets developed, really. It’s just something you notice with a bit of surprise, and then just have to accept for the rest of the series.

4. The exterior of the Macross may look a lot different than it did the last time we saw it, but the interior is ALMOST the same, especially when they show Minmay’s stage area from the movie.

5. Look, I’ll be blunt. I’m not even halfway through this series, and IT’S BORING. I’m not sure what the problem is yet. Is it the script? Is it the direction? Either way, there is no “Wow Factor” here. This episode tries, with the Moon Festival, but doesn’t quite pull it off.

6. Oh wait, it’s Wendy Ryder, obviously named after Winona Ryder, who was kind of big at the time. Wendy’s songs are okay. But let’s (again) step back a bit and look at the music. It’s good. I like both soundtracks. But it weirds me out a bit about how both of them sound like Evangelion music. And yes, there’s a good reason for that… Same composer. Of course, Megazone Parts One and Two have the same composer as well, and that music sounds nothing like this.

7. Likewise, I’m weirded out by the idea that the staff decide that since the “Idol Boom” was over, so they wouldn’t have an idol singer main character, but they throw in an idol singer anyway. Sure, she’s not important, but she’s still there… And the Mardook want to capture her.

8. I know the Metal Siren is supposed to be amazing, but it doesn’t thrill me.

9. When people say that that the problem with this show is that the main character isn’t a military pilot, I don’t quite know what they mean. Hibiki flies twice in three episodes. Isn’t that enough?

10. I’m struggling to figure out why this is so uninteresting. The characters lack interest, the fight scenes lack tension… are those the reasons…? I’m not sure. But at this point, all I can say is that I don’t care about Sylvie, Wendy, Hibiki, or Ishtar.




ICONIC SCENE: “Rather abrupt!”

STORY DATE: 2089? 2090? 2092? Sources are inconsistent.

RELEASE DATE: June 21, 1992

1. Here’s where the show starts to go off the rails a bit. First, Hibiki brings Ishtar back, but hides that fact from even his closest friends. He’s keeping her a secret so he can get a big scoop. Second, Ishtar gets a haircut, in a scene that doesn’t really have anything to do with anything. Third, and this is the one that clinches it, there’s the scene at “Bocca della Verità,” the “Mouth of Truth,” which is a scene lifted directly from the 1953 Audrey Hepburn/Gregory Peck classic, Roman Holiday. Working backwards from that, suddenly everything makes sense. The haircut scene is also a big part that movie, and it becomes clear that Hibiki is a news reporter because Gregory Peck’s character, Joe Bradley, is a journalist, and Ishtar is essentially Princess Ann. Now, obviously, there’s a lot here (mostly involving space war) that wasn’t in Roman Holiday, but the basic outline is the same (up until the ending, which is… similar, sort of). Even the battle at the end of this episode is there, although it’s a big fist-fight rather than a giant robot attack.

Princess Ann and Ishtar wake up in a strange man’s home.

So what are we to make of this…? Certainly it’s unexpected (not QUITE as unexpected as an earlier Japanese homage to the film, 1964’s Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster). Adding the Mouth of Truth scene demonstrated, I’m pretty sure, that the creators WANTED us to pick up the reference, but you never see the connection get mentioned anywhere, not even in Macross Chronicle, which is otherwise chock-full of behind-the-scenes anecdotes. It’s definitely a bizarre choice, but in the end, I guess Macross II does add enough of its own to the mix that it stands apart from its source. A lot of people criticize the show for being too much like Do You Remember Love, and it’ll do that, too, but even the stuff fans might think of as unique to this series might not necessarily be so.

(Oh, and if you’ve never seen Roman Holiday, I highly recommend it. It’s a wonderful film, brilliantly written, directed, and performed. It’s smart, funny, sexy, and moving. One of the greatest movies ever made.)

Princess Ann and Ishtar get a haircut.

2. Now, we meet the OTHER great character in the show, who thankfully doesn’t get killed off immediately, but also doesn’t have a terribly large role: Mash. He’s a flamboyant hairdresser (at “Aesthetic Salon Mash”), who speaks like a woman, but apparently isn’t gay, although it’d be easy to assume he was. Every time we see him, he’s surrounded by fawning groupies. He also has, um, breasts.

He also seems to be great friends with Hibiki, even though he apparently keeps charging him for things, and Hibiki is deep in debt to him (which is another character trait lifted from Roman Holiday).

3. Hibiki holding Ishtar (in her sexy underwear) down in order to put the translator on her ear is a little creepy. I’ll skip over the implausibility of the translator itself, though, and instead point out the foam spray-can of water. You spritz out the foam and it becomes water in the glass… how does that even work…?

Oh, and I always forget how massive Ishtar’s breasts are. They get focused on A LOT in this episode. Let’s face it: there are plenty of things Mikimoto’s female designs are known for. Gigantic boobs usually isn’t one of them.

4. Ishtar makes the first mention of the “Ship of Alus” here. We’ll never really find out what that really means. Is it ACTUALLY the Macross, or just something similar to it from Mardook legends?

5. And then Hibiki is royally pissed to find out that Dennis’s battle footage has been cut to ribbons, censored by the government, which is what pushes Hibiki towards becoming a REAL news reporter. Now, government censorship was a minor theme throughout the first Macross series, and even got brought up in the movie. Here, it becomes a major theme, as the Unified Government hides the Mardook threat from the general public in a truly irresponsible way, endangering all the citizens, who have no idea that there’s a big space war in progress.

6. Ishtar ends up wandering away, and gets accosted by a punk who shoves his boom box in her face to play her his band. I realize that nothing here is terribly realistic, but honestly… no one would ever do something like this in real life. I mean, what does he do, just walk around forcing random strangers to listen to his band? Is he trying to pick her up, and if so, shouldn’t he be able to be a little smoother about it? Maybe he just wants to be like Basara, but has no idea how to do it well… (I do, however, like the effect when she starts getting bombarded by music from all directions, and there are rotoscoped images of musical instruments. It’s an interesting effect that we haven’t seen in Macross previously.)

7. As Ishtar wanders about the city, shocked by everything she sees, it becomes clear that the Mardook really aren’t terribly different from the Zentradi. Their lives seem to revolve around war, and positive emotions are strongly discouraged. Really, the only differences seem to be that they’re miclone-size and use music. It kind of reminds me of the sequels to Space Battleship Yamato, where the aliens were rarely appreciably different from the Gamilas, just with different skin color and a few idiosyncrasies thrown in here and there.

8. As most others have pointed out, Ishtar looks WAY better with long hair than with short, alas.

Joe Bradley and Hibiki pull a prank on Princess Ann and Ishtar.

9. “Culture Plaza” (so-called in the subs and on the signs, but actually “Kalchoon Plaza,” using the Zentradi word for “culture,” in the dialogue) is kind of a silly idea, but I guess I could see it actually being a real place. And it does inspire some of the later Macross series, which have their own replicas of pre-war landmarks. But if you had any doubt that Kawamroi was not involved in this show, the lack of the Golden Gate Bridge among the other landmarks should convince you.

And it all gets destroyed AGAIN when the Mardook attack.

This battle is really only notable for its lack of tension. I’m sure it’s aiming to be thrilling, but so little happens. Feff spends the climax pointing a handgun at Hibiki, and seem to give up much too easily.

10. So yeah… I dunno. Honestly, I think the realization that Macross II is a remake of a then-forty-year-old American film is the most interesting thing about this episode. Mash is great, Ishtar’s cute, but the battle, as I said, falls completely flat. The episode is merely adequate when it should be doing its damnedest to really wow us. I like the design of the city, though. It kinda reminds me of South Shinjuku, although I’m not sure if that plaza was there when this episode was made.




ICONIC SCENE: I’d watch a buddy cop flick starring Roy Focker and this guy.

STORY DATE: “80 years after Do You Remember Love.”

RELEASE DATE: May 21, 1992

1. So after 1987, it seemed like Macross was over. Kawamori said he wasn’t interested in doing a sequel, and that was pretty much that. In 1989, the TV series was finally released on video in Japan. In 1990, it was rebroadcast with a new, “SD” opening, and that seemed like the last hurrah.

No fear. With the bubble economy popping in the early ’90s, anime sponsors were less willing to put their funds into original productions and preferred instead to invest in “safer” projects, like sequels and remakes. As such, even without Kawamori on board, plans were made for a new Macross series, coinciding with the tenth anniversary of the TV series.

Deciding that what made Macross distinctive were the three pillars of “variable fighters,” “love triangles,” and “singing,” the staff, led by director Kenichi Yatagai (who had also co-directed Megazone Part III), and featuring returning character designer Mikimoto and returning scriptwriter Sukehiro Tomita, set to work.

For me, in 1992, I was pretty much out of anime. I was in college in Annapolis, Maryland, and discovered quickly that there wasn’t any Little Tokyo or Japantown close by to get my fix. Some of the comic shops in Baltimore or DC had some anime stuff, but it wasn’t anything like what we had in Los Angeles. Additonally, there wasn’t much coming out that I was interested in. TV anime skewed pretty kiddie at this point, and most of the OVA series that I’d followed had either ended or lost me through diminishing returns. Ironically, this was at the point where anime was really making a breakthrough stateside, as the first wave of dubbed or subtitled videos started appearing, not just in specialty shops, but at places like Tower and Blockbuster.

I think I found out about Macross II through Viz’s release of the manga, so a few months after the series had debuted in the U.S. I immediately realized that it wasn’t what I wanted, primarily because I had been getting the fanzine (?) Animag throughout the ’80s. Every issue had a rundown of OVA releases for that period, and one thing I had noted was the aforementioned sequel trend, with a rather odd wrinkle: plenty of series that got sequels (Gundam, Dunbine, Megazone, Gall Force… later, Orguss and Yamato…) decided to go a route where the sequel was set decades or even centuries after the original series. To me, it felt like a cheap ploy, a way of sidestepping the difficult question of “Well, what happened NEXT?” in favor of starting everything all over again with an entirely new cast in a somewhat similar world. Trading on the name rather than genuinely continuing the series, in other words. The fact that now Macross was having this same treatment done to it bothered me.

I ended up renting the first two volumes (so, episodes 1 through 4), and dutifully watching them. I wan’t impressed. I’m sure part of it was the dub, which isn’t quite “Clash of the Bionoids” terrible, but definitely isn’t good, either. But also, it simply wasn’t the Macross sequel that I wanted. I never got around to the third volume, and decided that that was it: I could no longer say that I was a Macross fan. I gave up. Completely.


2. It all starts promisingly enough. The opening is awesome, Masami Obari at his finest, with a really kick-ass song. Ishtar arrives, all is good, and then…

3. We discover that our hero is trying to catch Colonel Sanders in a sex scandal. Okay… not a deal-breaker. Weirdly, in the manga, the hotel is called the “Hotel Deculture,” which, unless “deculture” has a very different meaning eight decades later, is a completely nonsensical name.

3. Okay, here’s the problem. And maybe it’s just me, but by the time I saw this, I was on the mailing list for F.A.I.R. (Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting) and sensational news stories beating out actual important stories was commonplace, and, like any self-righteous college student, I knew it. Thus, Hibiki already rubbed me the wrong way. Are we meant to agree with him at first? That news is solely meant to entertain people? Or are we supposed to dislike him from the outset and slowly learn to like him? I’m still not sure.

Now, a lot of reviews of this that you find online, usually trying to analyze why it’s not all that good, will tell you that the fact that Hibiki is a journalist rather than a military pilot is one of the show’s biggest sins. I disagree. First, there’s a very specific reason for WHY he’s a journalist (which I’ll get into next episode), and second, it’s not so much (for me, at least) that he’s a news reporter, it’s that he’s a paparazzo. Everyone except news editors HATES paparazzi. Anyway…

We ALSO get to meet Dennis Lone, the shell-shocked, alcoholic war correspondent who teaches Hibiki about TRUE journalism. He’s the absolute best character in this whole show (especially in the English dub, with TONS of quotable lines) and it’s really too bad he dies in this episode.

A few years ago, I came across an image macro that stated, “I’d watch a buddy cop flick starring Roy Focker and Dennis Lone,” and I can’t agree more, even though there would probably be more whisky than crime-stopping.

3. Still, we get a bit of info left over from the first Macross TV series, that military censorship is at an all-time high.

Sylvie confronts Hibiki, and she’s cute when she’s mad.

4. The Macross has apparently been firing shots into the stratosphere for a few decades now. I’m not sure why. We’re just supposed to go with it.

5. The big battle here occurs in the orbit of Mars, which, honestly, makes it seem not so urgent. That’ll change.

6. We learn the Unification Forces have gotten complacent, relying on the Minmay Attack (i.e. playing a pop singer hologram for the hostiles), and that the last attack happened ten years previously.

7. Wait… this is an OVA. Why is there an eyecatch? There are no commercials on video…

8. So they launch the Minmay Attack, which, um, isn’t Minmay. Apparently, in an issue of B-Club magazine, they explained that a new “Minmay Attack” girl gets chosen every ten years. We never find out this one’s name, unfortunately. “Banana Moon of Love,” though, like all of the Macross II songs, is petty good.

9. The aliens have a music attack of their own! And it seems to be outclassing Earth’s. We also get a flashback to Sylvie and Exxegran in the hotel, which shows that it was completely innocent. Sylvie really WAS talking strategy. That doesn’t stop everyone from razzing her about it, though.

10. So Hibiki and Dennis get into the enemy ship and “rescue” Ishtar. Dennis gets killed, even though he can still fight while he’s drunk. Because, hey, the Valk is only a two seater, and if Ishtar is to come back, SOMEONE’S gotta give up their seat.

Honestly, it’s not a bad first episode. Things will start getting wonky next time, though.

SUPER DIMENSION FORTRESS MACROSS – Suggestions for Further Reading (and Listening)


I’d like to note that if you want more of the original Macross, there is more to be had, in a few books and albums, most of which (*ahem*) have been translated.

The albums aren’t terribly rewarding, unless you’re really starving for more, but the books are (mostly) great.

The books:

1. Dreaming Prelude ~ My Fair Minmay (by the Macross Scenario Staff): released during the end of the series, it’s probably my favorite, telling the story of what happens to Minmay that we didn’t see, from her birthday up until Hikaru, Misa, and the team escape from being Zentradi prisoners. It’s WAY more interesting than it sounds, mostly because it’s written by the same people who wrote the show, and manages to incorporate a lot of ideas that never made it into the series.

My Fair Minmay (Ver.4)

2. Misa Hayase – White Reminiscences (by Hiroshi Ohnogi): nominally a novella about Misa and Riber, it also gives a lot of backstory and information about the Unification Wars. And even Macross the First references it. And again, being written by one of the show’s writers, it feels completely authoritative.


3. Macross Perfect Memory: The “Outside Story” section has two short stories, one by series script editor Kenichi Matsuzaki (about Global as a sub captain during the Unification Wars) and one by Kawamori (and what happened in the two years between episodes 27 and 28). These aren’t QUITE as good as the other books (I find the sub story rather dull, and dislike the way Kawamori sets about cracking the love triangle back open) but there’s still some nice details, and at least they’re short.

Macross Outside Story

4. The novelization trilogy (by Toshiki Inoue): I started translating these a few years ago, and got about fifty pages into the first one, before I realized there wasn’t really anything special or interesting about them, except for the first chapter, which tells a bit about what happened before the first episode. They’re very thinly written, almost like the script of the show with just enough narration added to explain what’s going on. Minimalist novels, if you will. All the books are the same length, but Book One covers episodes 1 through 5, Book Two covers 6 through 13, and Book Three crams in everything else up to Episode 27. Ugh.

For me, the weirdest part about these is how they begin. In the mid-’90s, swept up by Macross fever, and thinking it was “almost perfect, but not quite,” I started planning a fanfic novel series that would harmonize the TV series and DYRL (three books), fill in the timeline between 2012 and 2040 (one book), and adapt Plus (one book) and Macross 7 (four books), making the later more “serious” and “realistic.” I had it mostly planned out and had even written some of it before I realized that it was mostly my ego talking (thinking I could swoop in and “fix” all the story problems I saw, like I’m goddamned Mighty Mouse or something), and that writing NINE novels based on Macross really wasn’t the most productive use of my writing time. But one of the parts that I had finished was the prologue, about the Macross crashing. Instead of just a dry narration, like in the series, I wanted to add a little something to it, and so wrote it from the point of view of Minmay, at five years old, in a sandbox in a playground, seeing a bright star in the sky which just got brighter and brighter…

At this point, I had no idea that actual novelizations of the series existed. It wasn’t until years later, when I was visiting Tokyo in 2007, that I happened across them at Nakano Broadway. Six months later or so, I started translating them, and discovered that first chapter involves the Macross crashing… witnessed by five-year-old Minmay… playing in a sandbox. Weird feeling…

Anyway, the author, unlike the other books here, has no real connection to the Macross staff, so I finally just settled on translating the beginning, and leaving the rest alone. Here’s the first chapter:

Before the Launch(v2)

5. The Do You Remember Love novelization (by Sukehiro Tomita): I, uh, haven’t read this one yet, although it’s high on my list. Looks interesting, though. And the fact that it’s written by the movie’s scriptwriter bodes well.

DYRL Chapter 1

The albums (all of which have scripts by Sukehiro Tomita):

1. Macross Vol. III – Miss DJ: not quite a drama album, but not quite a soundtrack, either, it purports to be an episode of Minmay’s radio show aboard the Macross. Again, like the books, it manages to fit some ideas in that had to be cut from the show, which is kinda cool, but also has a lot of stretches where very little of interest is happening. I dunno, maybe it’s not as excruciating if you’re not listening to it over and over trying to catch what they’re saying in order to translate it. The songs are nice, though, and the ads are pretty funny.

Miss DJ(v2)

2. Macross Vol. IV – Distantly Fading Memories: also not quite a drama album, this one focuses on Misa. I haven’t finished translating it yet (I’m about three-quarters of the way through) (UPDATE: AS OF JULY 10, I’M DONE), and the story is… okay, I guess. Nothing special. The real draw, I think, are the two new songs (sung by Misa!!) and the background piano music by Kentaro Haneda, composer for the show, which, maddeningly, is unavailable without the character chattering over it.

Macross Vol. IV – Distantly Fading Memories

3. Macross Vol. V – Rhapsody in Love/Macross Love: the first disc is new music (including a wonderful medley that was used for one of DYRL’s trailers), the second is just a dramatization of highlights from the series. Trying to cram everything into forty minutes leaves it rather incoherent as a narrative. Like the novels, I started translating it, but lost interest quickly. I might finish it one of these days.

Macross Vol. V – Macross Love

4. Snow Falling in the Galaxy: the first Macross Christmas album, based on the TV series, but released in 1985. It’s not very good, honestly. The songs are pretty cheesy, and the drama sections spin their wheels without going anywhere. The short story included in the liner notes, by Noboru Ishiguro, is fun, though.

The album: Snow Falling in the Galaxy(v2)

The short story: Macross White Christmas

So yeah, if, as I said before, Macross is a sundae, with the series as the ice cream, the movie as the hot fudge, and Flashback 2012 as the cherry, I guess these are the nuts and sprinkles: not really necessary for making a good sundae, but still tasty in their own right. Dig in!




ICONIC SCENE: Farewell, Minmay…

STORY DATE: September 2012

RELEASE DATE: June 21, 1987

1. So it’s 1987, and nearing the fifth anniversary of the Macross TV series. Shoji Kawamori decides he needs to learn how to edit video, and thus, this release is born. These days, it doesn’t really seem like much, I’m sure, since virtually anyone can make an AMV. At the time, it was pretty cool, though, and it’s heaps better than, say, the Mospeada music video collection, “Love Live Alive” or the earlier Macross Mech Graffiti, both of which mostly played scenes from the shows with little regard for how they fit the music. Flashback 2012 is definitely more MTV style, with lots of quick cuts timed to the songs.

But even in 1987, the anime landscape had changed from what it had been in 1982. The easy availability of VCRs had created a market for direct-to-video animation, which was where the “Anime Generation” showed off the best, with more personal projects that didn’t have to cater to toy companies and the like. And of course, many of these involved staff from Macross, although Studio Nue never created a show after 1983’s Super Dimension Century Orguss.

After Orguss ended, Tatsunoko attempted to turn the “Super Dimension” label into an ongoing thing, with 1984’s Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross, but when the toy sponsor for that show went bust, the funding vanished and the show was quickly wrapped up. The (again, highly unusual for anime) two PM slot that all the Super Dimension shows had run in was filled with a quiz show.

All of which has very little to do with Flashback 2012, really, although it has a lot to do with my experience with it. By 1987, I was a full-fledged anime nerd with a network of sources who I had met at cons and the local comic book shop (no longer Another World in Eagle Rock, but Book Village near Pasadena City College). I was still in the honeymoon stage where absolutely everything seemed awesome, and I was amassing a huge collection of OVAs and movies, and some scattered TV show episodes (it was nearly impossible to track down EVERY episode of a TV series at this point… remember, even Macross didn’t come out on home video, complete, until 1989). Anyway, one day one of my friends told me there was a new Macross, and I got really excited… until he told me it was only half an hour long. He hadn’t seen it himself, he was waiting to get a copy from HIS source, and then he would loan it to me. So we didn’t know yet that it was mostly a clip show. To me, 30 minutes REALLY didn’t seem long enough. Macross was a sprawling epic, and any follow-up needed to be at least as long as the original series.

A few weeks later, I saw it, and was initially disappointed, but thrilled at the same time. Everyone talks now about what a great send-off  Flashback is, but at the time, I thought it was primarily a prelude to a new series that would eventually come.

And of course, it wasn’t.

2. The new animation at the beginning and the end is stunning, easily equal to anything from Do You Remember Love, and with new designs that never get used again. I especially love the pull back from the concert at the beginning and seeing the Macross, with crowds just hanging out on the outside of it, applauding Minmay’s performance… Now THOSE are nosebleed seats…

3. As for the music videos, they lean far more on Do You Remember Love than they do on the TV series, and who can blame them? The movie just looks better. But even in the new animation, all of the visual style comes from the movie, which, back in ’87, convinced me that the movie was “canonical” (later, of course, I’d learn that that term meant nothing in Macross).

Of the videos, “Zero-G Love” is probably my favorite, just because it’s so clever and fast-paced and downright funny. The weirdest one is definitely “Cinderella,” with its images of handcuffs and clown doll spinning on top of a record. Is that supposed to be somehow symbolic of Minmay…? If so, I don’t quite get it.

4. It’s also interesting that the version of “Love Drifts Away” here is a different recording than the one used in the series. I think it’s also slightly better, with its ironic use of military-sounding snare drums. The ending duet of “Runner” is also new, although it sounds awful when the two voices are blended together. Thankfully, the version released on “Macross the Complete” a few years later just has Minmay singing that part solo.

5. And then we get to the good stuff. The new scenes showing the Megaroad-01 taking off. Everyone loves the Megaroad and VF-4 designs, and the characters look great as well. There’s a bit of confusion about whether Minmay is on the ship or not, but every source on the subject agrees that she is.

The VF-4 is especially sought-after and enigmatic. Hell, it was ten years before we even saw what the gerwalk and battroid modes looked like. It was also the final toy made by Yamato for they went under, and the news that Arcadia is going to reissue it was met with joy.

So yeah, they take off. And we’ll never see them again.