SUPER DIMENSION FORTRESS MACROSS
EPISODE 29: LONELY SONG
ICONIC SCENE: Probably the most iconic image in the entire post-war segment of the story.
STORY DATE: October 2011
BROADCAST DATE: May 8, 1983
1. Okay, one big question I have: where exactly IS Macross City? Judging by Episode 27, you’d THINK that it was in Alaska, and I know that the Zentradi attack would’ve wreaked havoc with the climate, but this sure doesn’t SEEM like Alaska, especially not when we get to Macross Plus, and the environment is nominally back to normal. Macross Chronicle states unequivocally that it is indeed Alaska, so I guess we’ve got to go with that, but I’m not sure that the staff always remembers that that’s where it’s meant to be.
2. And Minmay gets confronted with the decline of her career, as she plays an exclusive restaurant and there are only about ten people in the audience. Which seems kind of prescient for a staff filled with idol-smitten fanboys… I’m gonna put this up as Ohnogi’s influence, since my impression is that he was above that sort of nonsense.
Looking at the models for Minmay, Seiko Matsuda and Akina Nakamori, neither of them ever had quite as steep a fall from grace as Minmay does. Seiko, who debuted in 1980, managed to hold on to the number one spot through the decade, and even embarked on an ill-fated attempt (the first of several) to break into the U.S. market, going to far as to record a duet with Donnie Wahlberg of New Kids on the Block. Her first American album, “Sound of My Heart,” by the way, is pretty awful. Her English singing is fine, but the songs simply aren’t very good. She tried twice more to get a career going in the U.S., and failed both times. She snagged a cameo in “Armageddon” (her only line: “I want to go SHOPPING!”), which is about as big as she’d get. In Japan, however, her star fell a bit, but not too much. These days, she’s regarded as “the Eternal Idol,” still comes out with albums every other year or so, and performs an annual, always sold-out, New Year’s Eve concert. About fifteen years ago, she got a pretty horrible face lift. She also tried to recreate her own success by pushing her daughter as an idol, but that didn’t make quite as much of a stir.
Akina, on the other hand, had a breakdown in ’89 and attempted suicide. She made a comeback a few years later, and had some success, but it was never really the same (one former fan who I’ve talked to said that she felt betrayed and disappointed by Akina, and never listened to her again after that). She still comes out with albums every few years, and performs occasionally. I’ve heard that she lives in Los Angeles now, but I’ve never run into her. I’ve also heard that she’s slightly crazy, so maybe I don’t want to.
But (and this is important), both of them have careers, which is more than most other idols from the ’80s can boast. Of the dozens of young hopefuls that debuted during the Idol Boom, only a handful are still singing professionally. Minmay’s slide into obscurity here really is the most common outcome, although it seems that leaving on the Megaroad revives her career, judging by the huge crowd she gets for her Farewell Concert in “Flashback 2012.” Or possibly it’s just due to getting rid of Kaifun as her manager. Seriously: he takes over, and her career plummets. He walks off, and suddenly, she’s big again. Another reason to hate the dude.
3. And now we get to the one of the most important developments in the series, as Exsedol’s research begins to indicate that humans and the Zentradi have a common ancestor in the Protoculture. Again, previously, the reigning theory seemed to be that the Zentradi made themselves into giants to more effectively wage war, and that isn’t discounted here, as it seems to be a clear warning of humanity will turn into. The next development will change that, though.
Again, I wonder how much of this was intended originally, and how much was created after the show had been extended? Explaining why humans and Zentradi are genetically identical seems a pretty massive loose end, and one that needs to be tied up.
Kawamori’s short story in Macross Perfect Memory, “The Lost Two Years” goes into MUCH more detail about Zentradi history and command structure (more, in fact, than it does about what happens during those lost two years), but we’d have to wait until Macross 7 for some vital pieces of the puzzle.
4. The Minmay scenes in this episode look especially horrid… thanks again, Star Pro!
5. And Minmay’s post-war story really begins here, as she goes back to the restaurant and begins feeling nostalgic for the old days, and confused about the future. Again, it seems like plenty of fans get angry at her from dragging Hikaru into her early mid-life crisis (she IS still only 18, after all…), and I can see that, but he really doesn’t put up much (any) resistance.
6. And I note that there’s STILL a patch of wall that hasn’t fully been repaired since Hikaru’s battroid smashed into Minmay’s room. I understand that it’s symbolic, but it makes no sense at all. Wouldn’t this be a completely different building…? (Indeed, there’s no reason why her old room would even be there…)
There are two flashbacks here… one to Minmay’s room getting crushed, and another to Hikaru delivering his medal to her as a birthday present. Weirdly, the Episode 2 flashback reuses old footage, but the birthday scene is newly-done, with everything in sepia tone. Again, being Star Pro, it looks notably worse than the analogous scene in Episode 8, despite being almost a shot-for-shot remake.
7. Okay… I realize that the story dates probably came later, and that, again, this is a Star Pro episode, but Macross Chronicle says this episode happens in October, while Loli’s datebook clearly says “May” (which is, of course the month episode was broadcast). And later, Kaifun’s watch says that it’s Sunday, May 8, which of course is the actual broadcast date. Coincidentally, May 8, 2011 was also a Sunday, so I guess it could be worse.
8. Okay, if you want to see what I’m talking about regarding Hikaru, look no further than this episode (although it only gets worse from here). While out jogging, he runs into Misa, and they start chatting. He mentions that he put her photos into his album, “but don’t take it the wrong way,” which is pretty blunt and not terribly nice. Then he sees Minmay, who runs away, and he starts CHASING AFTER HER. Again, as always, Minmay is NOT stringing him along, he’s doing it all himself. This is where he truly begins his transformation from “nice guy who’s got it bad for the wrong girl” to “total dick who isn’t fit to lick Misa’s shoes.”
9. And, on top of all of that, Kamujin’s back. Why he’s on earth is anyone’s guess, since the last time we saw him, he was getting ready to fold off to parts unknown to live out his life as a fugitive, but we need a bad guy, I guess, and he’s the only one left, really. Lap’Lamiz is with him, and even more ineffectual than before.
10. It’s not all bad… at least we get the resonant image of a Zentradi skeleton clutching a Minmay doll.
Also, this was the first episode that I ever saw in Japanese. Back in the mid-’80s, there were a variety of videotapes circulating around from people who had Japanese pen pals. These pen pals would tape all (or at least a lot) of the anime that aired that week, and mail them back to eager fans in the U.S. Since it was always a random assortment, the chance of getting an entire series was extremely low, and took a lot of networking and searching (my friend Luke, who passed away from cancer last fall, spent several years tracking down all fifty episodes of Zeta Gundam). Anyway, this episode was on one of the tapes that I got in late ’85 or early ’86, along with an episode of Fist of the North Star, Tobikage, Doraemon, and a few others. The opening kind of threw me for a loop, but it was gratifying to hear the original music and voices. Certainly, the exoticness of hearing it in its original language was a big part of the charm, but also, it just felt more authentic. I’ve mentioned before that while I loved Robotech, it seemed muffled, somehow. Seeing this episode confirmed it, even though I couldn’t understand a thing they were saying. So yeah… not a great episode, but an important one for me.