SUPER DIMENSION FORTRESS MACROSS
DO YOU REMEMBER LOVE?
ICONIC SCENE: The chauvinist meets the tightass.
STORY DATE: July to September, 2009, or 2031, if you wish.
RELEASE DATE: July 21, 1984
1. As I said for Episode 27 (and will say again at some point or another), where to begin…? Okay, again, if the Macross TV series was the “Anime Generation” flexing its muscles, this is where they showed their strength.
It helps that Japan was in the middle of its bubble economy in 1984, with millions of yen to burn, but it also helps that the staff here wanted to make up for those Star Pro episodes and make something really stunning.
And they succeeded. 1984 is considered, by most Japanese fans, to be the “Golden Year” for anime, and they name three movies as the pinnacle: Nausicäa of the Valley of Wind (Miyazaki), Urusei Yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer (Oshii) and THIS film (Ishiguro and Kawamori).
So yes, as far as anime is concerned, this is one of the all-time greatest ever. The Anime Generation doing what it does best: making anime that soars. And by hell, does this movie soar.
2. So they decided on a remake of the show. As far as I can tell, this is the first remake of a show that uses all new animation to tell the story. I might be wrong there. But remake it, they did, although it’s a really wonky remake. It’s ALMOST like a sequel, but not quite. While trying to figure it out as a kid, I hit upon the idea that the DESIGNS were a sequel, but the story wasn’t. And that seems to fit. Everyone’s a few years older and the technology is a few years advanced, even though the story is a retelling, and characters that shouldn’t be alive a few years later suddenly are.
Oh, and the Zentradi get ENTIRELY redesigned. I’ll get into this later, but I totally didn’t recognize them at first.
3. Personal history here: I found out about this movie in Summer of ’85. There was a hobby shop in town, called “The Model Works,” right near Pasadena City College, that carried A LOT of Japanese robot kits (mostly Macross, Southern Cross, and Mospeada, since those sold the best). At that time, the models were cheap, three or four bucks each, and I got a ton of them (and built them all. Badly). One time, I walked in and saw a 1/100 “Hikaru Special” VF-1A. It had FAST packs, but more to the point, it looked like Skull One, except with red instead of yellow. There was a logo on it, saying “MACROSS ’84 SUMMER.” I was excited and confused, and asked the guy who worked there what it was. He said he didn’t really know.
Now, one thing to remember is that in Los Angeles at this point, anime stuff wasn’t terribly hard to find, it was just expensive. At this time, my go-to comics shop was “Another World” in Eagle Rock (although truthfully, I didn’t really get into comics until a few years later. I got Transformers and Robotech comics for a little while, but didn’t keep up with them for very long. It wasn’t until Viz and Eclipse started putting out manga that I truly got interested). It was a real old-fashioned comics store, dingy and uninviting, complete with rude-as-shit employees (including the owner’s wife, who was intensely scary). Anyway, after Robotech came out, and it became an open secret that if people liked THAT, there was tons more in Japan, they started getting a small selection of anime goods. I got the Macross postcard set there, and the Character Portfolio, and Macross Love Story, and ALMOST bought My Fair Minmay, until I realized that it was mostly text, and so I wouldn’t be able to read it anyway.
Anyway, one time, they had the Do You Remember Love film comics. I couldn’t afford both volumes, but I got the first one, saved my allowance, and got the second one a few weeks later. I was fascinated. What the hell WAS this movie? A sequel? Everything looked much more advanced than in the TV show… but then, what were Roy and Kakizaki doing there? I had learned how to read katakana and hiragana by this point, but still didn’t know any Japanese. So I could READ it, but not understand it. It was a few months before I got the actual movie, which made things much clearer overall, and over next year or two, I had bits of the story that were confusing explained to me by others, but I didn’t see the Kiseki subtitled version or the infamous English dub until many years later. And I didn’t see a truly GOOD subtitled version until I made my own, a few years ago.
4. So enough about me, let’s get to the movie itself. As I said, it’s a remake of sorts, but one that assumes you’ve seen (and loved) the TV series. Sometimes similar things happen, but usually in a completely different way. The word “re-imagining” didn’t exist yet (and still strikes me as more of a marketing term than anything else), but it kinda fits here: this is Macross rebuilt from the ground up.
And yet… it seems like there’s a good portion of the foundation missing. The film starts in medias res, with very little explanation of what the hell is happening or why. Characters like Max and Kakizaki are given cameos, even if Max and Milia are given the best dogfight in the film. I’ve heard varying reports over the years, but I can’t see how anyone going into the movie cold without having seen the TV series will really “get” what’s going on.
This is not meant as a criticism of the movie. The way I usually describe it is that Macross like a sundae. The TV series is the ice cream, this movie is the hot fudge, and Flashback 2012 is the cherry on top. Many have tried to pit the TV series and movie against each other, but that’s missing the point. OF COURSE the movie is going to win visually, and OF COURSE the TV series is going to win for story. But I don’t think they’re meant to be competing. The movie is part of the same series, giving a different aspect to the story and augmenting it, not replacing it. It’s as if the staff is saying, “You liked that? Well, here’s some more, with a little twist.”
(Additonally, you could make the same criticism of, say, “Nausicaa” or “Akira,” that the movies lack the depth and breadth of the manga. My response would be the same: the movies are meant to be viewed IN ADDITION to the manga, not as a replacement for them.)
5. As I said, visually, this movie is stunning, eye candy in the best sense of the term. It’s a little perplexing, though, that the visuals are so dark. The recent blu-ray lightens things up considerably, and is perhaps the preferable version for truly SEEING just how much detail is in every frame, but to me, it’s like an alternate version of the movie, and, having seen the original version probably well over a hundred times, it just doesn’t have the same appeal, except for study. As such, for this rewatch, I’m going to my old standby, the theatrical edition (with the mono soundtrack and the cut to black for the credits). This, to me, is the REAL version of the film, since it’s the one I watched over and over since 1985.
So, fittingly, we start in darkness, as we slowly fade in on Britai and Exsedol talking to each other, and two things are immediately clear: they look nothing like their TV counterparts (so much so that I didn’t even realize they were meant to be the same characters for a while), and they aren’t speaking Japanese. Yes, that’s right, an entire Zentradi language was devised for the movie. If you look at any Zentradi-Japanese dictionary, you’ll notice that it’s pretty limited, nothing like, say, Tolkien’s fully developed Elvish, but enough that the Zentradi characters can hold entire conversations with each other (although that starts to break down in the last third of the film, with the Zentradi speaking mostly in Japanese, with a few Zentradi words thrown in… I imagine for first-time Japanese viewers that would be a bit confusing unless they had paid VERY close attention to what words were spoken at the beginning, or were really good at picking things up from context).
Another thing becomes clear as they talk: the battle with the Macross has already begun (indeed, has been going on for a while), and “culture shock” is already beginning to set in among the Zentradi troops.
Then we get a brief reprise of the opening theme as the Macross emerges from darkness heading right at the camera. It’s a gorgeous shot, with perfect music. The bridge is no longer the tiny, cramped place we saw in the TV series, but a massive multi-leveled command center, with dozens of people working there (some of whom are speaking English). The city, likewise, is also completely redesigned, and looks less like Shibuya circa 1982, and more like its own thing, and it looks like it would fit inside the ship better. They even have highways on the ceiling. It also looks more like the consumerist paradise it was meant to be. Again, the bubble economy at work.
(Oh, and since the city is clearly visible through huge windows in the Macross’s “legs,” many people seem to think that’s something they came up with that ONLY for the movie, but “My Fair Minmay” makes it clear that, even in the series, the city was in three sections: one in the belly, and one in each leg.)
6. The way the VF-1s launch and move in space here makes MUCH more sense than it did in the series, since there they just seemed to be flying in the atmosphere, but here, we see all the verniers firing.
7. So, again, since we’re beginning in the middle, Hikaru is already a pilot and Minmay is already a star. Minmay’s concert seems pretty advanced compared to the series, with lasers and holograms… Sharon Apple will blow this stuff out of the water, though.
And it’s disappointing that her “medley” gets cut off before she moves on from “Shao Pai Lon.” All this new music, and they couldn’t even record a Minmay medley…?
Minmay, by the way, is a much different character here… again, it feels like a sequel. She’s more worldly and not quite the wide-eyed ingenue that she was in the show. She’s also already sick of the pop-star life, despite this being her first concert, and her album not even released yet. That’s some quick disillusionment…
Also… maybe it’s just me, but the way Minmay moves in the close-ups, closing her eyes, swaying, nodding with the beat, TOTALLY reminds me of how Mari Iijima looks when she performs.
8. The first battle, which goes on for a few minutes, is of course excellent, moving from space into the city. And it’s interesting how efficiently it delineates both the characters and theme. We learn immediately that Max is a genius pilot. We learn that Hikaru and Misa don’t get along, and that Misa is pretty “by-the-books,” even when her own life is in jeopardy. And then she delivers the wonderful line, “Who do you think is in charge here, the man or the woman?” (which, it has to be said, sounds MUCH more natural in Japanese than it does in English)… and that of course is the entire theme of the movie in a single sentence.
(Oh, and I want to note that Max’s attack on one of the battlepods has the first of several pretty gruesome scenes in the movie. Every time you see one of these, you know Itano is behind it. More about that later.)
(That same scene also has, as far as I’m concerned, the the first two visual mistakes in the movie, where Max’s VF-1A first has yellow on its leg (like Roy) and then has partially red trim on its chest (like Hikaru). The third and last one is later, when Focker’s Valk has a yellow heat shield.)
And somehow, within two minutes, Minmay has gotten off stage and into a restaurant with Kaifun, sitting next to a creepy-looking Kawamori who appears to be about to ask for an autograph before a Nousjadeul-Ger crashes into it, killing him (and a few other people). There’s a great face on a woman trying to escape the destruction, which, according to Renato, is a tribute to Urashiman.
And then the famous line, “Yatt? Zentran te meltran!” These are supposed to be the three spies, of course, although their voices are completely different, since they hired English-speakers to make the Zentradi language sound more “alien” (or at least “foreign”). And soon afterwards, we get the first ever utterance of “Yack… Yack deculture!” which will turn up in several places much later on. Here, it basically means “It’s horrible/terrifying/unthinkable.”
9. Next, we get the first real view, from a distance, of the Macross transforming. It works just like the toys do.
10. And HERE HIKARU COMES, TO SAVE THE DAAAAY!
Mostly, that is. Rescuing Minmay from the Zentradi is pretty easy. Saving her from the gravity malfunction is a little harder.
But yeah, suddenly the music changes from action music to a lovely little melody, as the gravity messes up and everything starts falling sideways, interrupted only by Minmay’s scream of desperation.
(Weirdly, Zac of the Anime News Network podcast, during their “Best of the ’80s” cast, referred to the Do You Remember Love score as “disco,” which I don’t get. It’s all orchestral. There’s not a disco beat in the entire movie.)
Upon rescuing her (and crashing), we get the only scene ever featuring the VE-1 Elintseeker. It looks great, but I don’t know why they made a toy of it. And then the Macross fires its main cannon for the only time in the film.
11. The alien threat repelled (for now), we get our first quiet moment in the film since the opening, as Hikaru makes sure Minmay is all right. This is the “trapped in the belly of the ship” bit that so tripped up Hikaru in the show, but here, there’s less desperation and more fun (As I said then, that was the Ishiguro version, this is the Kawamori version).
Oh… the scene where Hikaru steps on his flashlight has NEVER made sense to me. Was it on purpose…? It seems like it…
Now, the movie itself generally lacks the sense of humor and comedy that was so pervasive in the series, but the zero-g sequence brings a lot of it back, as Hikaru and Minmay learn to deal with the physics of weightlessness. The Coke can scene is especially good, and the shower scene, you can tell, is drawn with a lot of love.
Another question: how serious is Minmay about the “love scene” with Hikaru? On the one hand, she’s clearly having fun acting the part (at Hikaru’s expense). On the other hand, she really does kiss him. I’m assuming it’s no big deal (cf. Sheryl in Frontier Epsiode 10), but she does go out of her way to contact him later. I remember an actress (can’t remember who, unfortunately), saying something like, “acting is the only profession, besides prostitution, that requires you to kiss people.” So yeah, no big deal, most likely, but Minmay seems to see in Hikaru a chance to be a “normal girl” again.
12. And yes, immediately after they get rescued (“SCOOPU-DA!”), we see that Minmay is suddenly dissatisfied with her life. Hikaru doesn’t seem terribly happy, either, and a drunk Focker is all too happy to point out Hikaru (and Misa’s) flaws.
Honestly, this scene, um, hasn’t aged well. Although once again bringing up the movie’s theme, that men and women should get down ‘n’ dirty, not fight, it comes off as pretty sexist. But that at least fits Roy’s character, so I’m willing to let it slide. Basically, he thinks she’s too uptight, which she is.
And, just like in the series, the restaurant here looks really nice and inviting, although the tables seem too large for a place with such dim, “romantic” lighting. I mean, you’re not going to want to have an intimate dinner at a table for ten, right? The glowing drinks are a nice touch, too.
13. Likewise, Hikaru and Minmay’s date is majestic, showing off the glories of the city, with two teenagers who are clearly falling for each other (although Minmay’s still not ready to hit that hotel just yet). Having fun together isn’t really something Hikaru and Minmay got to do much in the series, and the movie seems to be trying to make up for that.
Of special note, at this point in time (January 2016), is the “Super Room,” with the holographic clothes, just like Sheryl, Ranka, and Walküre would later wear. At the “Macross the Design” exhibit in Shibuya for the 30th anniversary, they had a mock-up of this room, with life-size transparent sheets showing various Macross heroines, which was fun to see.
Anyway, Hikaru seems awfully comfortable hanging out with a famous pop star whose bikini pics he’s probably masturbated to countless times (I chalk it up to Minmay’s charm, making sure he feels at ease), up until he decides to really wow her… and makes the worst decision of his life.
And the Zentradi are there to rescue Hikaru and Minmay from the wrath of Misa and Kaifun (who, I guess, really IS Minmay’s brother here…? At least according to the This Is Animation Special…) and drunk Focker is there to rescue them all from the Zentradi, and uh… it doesn’t really work out.
(By the way, is Kaifun a pacifist here? We’ll never know, and the only indication is his line, “What a soldier!” to Hikaru, spoken with maximum contempt.)
14. And then we get “first contact” and the interrogation, which plays out much the same way as it does in the series, except with Minmay and Kaifun kissing instead of Hkaru and Misa.
One detail in here that I like is the somewhat more alien psychology of the Zentradi, in which after Minmay and Kaifun kiss, the Zentradi separate them from the others, as though there were something “special” about them now.
15. Following this is one of the best action scenes in the movie, or, well… ANYWHERE, really. Milia and her team attack the Zentradi ship, and it’s like a John Woo shoot out with power suits. It gets pretty grisly at points, especially when Milia steps on a dead Zentradi’s head, which is crushed in the same loving detail that Itano would later demonstrate in “Angel Cop.” Now, this is the first of two scenes that got “edited” in the first blu-ray version. This, by getting blurred out a little, and the decapitation later on by making the screen just go white. Apparently, the reason for the edits is that Kawamori never wanted these scenes in the movie in the first place. Itano assured him, while working on the scenes, that the gory stuff would go by so quickly that no one would even notice it. Well, of course, he was lying. The decapitation especially was screamingly obvious, so Kawamori removed it. Why did he wait so long? I have no clue.
Anyway, Milia leaves quickly (what WAS her objective, anyway? I guess just to scout the area and make sure they’re there before the whole Meltrandi fleet folds in…?) and Hikaru, Misa, and Focker try to escape, except Kamujin arrives in a glorified walk-on, and he and Focker kill each other. Focker gets a much more “action hero” death here, of course.
Oh, and Hikaru can’t even rescue Kaifun and Minmay, who get whisked away to Bodolzaa. And he and Misa get partially caught up in the fold and land on some very uninviting-looking planet. Things look grim. They’re about to get grimmer.
16. The sequence on Earth, on multiple viewings, always struck me as a little too long and slow. It doesn’t really seem like that anymore, but I definitely used to fast-forward this part when I watched it as a kid (not being able to understand the dialogue had a lot to do with that as well, I’m sure). But yeah, they see the destroyed Prometheus, realize they’re on earth, and spend a while investigating it and getting on each others’ nerves. If you want to know exactly how the Prometheus got like that, there’s the Playstation game. In the novelization, the Macross has the Deadalus and Prometheus attached, so on earth they see the crashed ruins of the ARMD-5.
And yes, it’s not THAT much of a shock for anyone who’s seen “Planet of the Apes,” but at least they don’t keep us in suspense too long.
I find it interesting that the landscape and weather look almost nothing like the post-apocalyptic earth in the TV series, but seem EXACTLY like the way Kawamori describes them in his “The Lost Two Years” short story. It’s all there, heavy, strange clouds, torrential downpour from the evaporated water that’s now in the atmosphere, wreckage all over the place.
Intercut with this is THE PLOT. Britai and Exsedol meet with Bodolzaa and learn a little bit about Protoculture. Again, it’s much like the TV series, with an added wrinkle… some kind of strange sound card. Huh… wonder if that will become important…?
In addition to THE PLOT, Misa and Hikaru discover the Protoculture ruins (the “City Spaceship Altira”… and of course the fact that it’s both a city and a spaceship draws comparisons to the Macross itself) and get THE BACKSTORY. It’s pretty much the same as what we learned in the TV series, with the addition that the Protoculture created humanity in order to try to start over. But, uh… how does Misa understand the computer? I guess she must’ve studied Zentradi, but… when? How? Maybe from documents found aboard the Macross when it crashed, possibly, but still…
And yes, over a fake dinner in a ruined, waterlogged dining room, they finally fall in love. You can tell because of the infamous scene a little bit later, after they kiss, and after we see the sunrise, they come outside, and Misa is ZIPPING UP HER SUIT.
Oh, and at the Macross the Museum exhibit (which has shown in various places, but which I saw in Hyogo), they had replicas of the Protoculture tableware set, as well as the lyric card that Misa found.
And yes, of course it’s slightly insulting that Misa demonstrates her more tender side by setting up dinner and waiting for her man to come home, but as always, I remind myself that she never becomes helpless or incompetent, and she gets to command the Megaroad-01 eventually, so I’m not going to criticize the film for it.
17. Soon, the Meltrandi begin to arrive, and we meet the last of our “re-imagined” characters, Lap’Lamiz (now called “Molk Lap’lamiz,” just as Bodolzaa is now “Gor Boldolzaa”), as the supreme commander of her fleet. And just like Bodolzaa, Lap’Lamiz basically IS her battle fortress, but all similarities end there.
And Milia attacks, and kills Kakizaki. I’ve seen the suggestion in some Robotech circles, asking if Milia had killed Roy (she couldn’t have, by the way… she was too busy with Max when Focker got all shot up) and yet Max married her anyway. But here, she DEFINITELY kills Kakizaki and Max ends up defecting to the Meltrandi side. Of course, it’s all made okay by the fact that the Meltrandi ally with the Macross pretty quickly, and really, I don’t think it’s meant to be examined too closely. It’s just a fun little reversal from the way things happened in the series.
I like that Max is now Skull Leader, with his blue-trimmed VF-1S. And his battle with Milia is the best dogfight in the movie. It’s incredibly fast-paced, and hard to fully grasp on a first viewing (it was probably the fourth or fifth time I saw it that I realized that Max’s wings snapped off after he did his roll), but incredibly exciting, showing off Itano’s skill as a battle choreographer.
Oh, and Minmay must’ve had a real effect on the Zentradi… not only are they using her music to scare off the Meltrandi, but now they’re (mostly) speaking in Japanese.
18. Anyway, the heat is off for a little while, since the Zentradi are so swayed by Minmay’s charms that they propose peace talks (!!!), allowing the film some time to concentrate on setting up the love triangle and resolving it (since really, as long as Minmay was out of the picture, possibly dead, there was no triangle at all. Hikaru had gone on a date with Minmay, dug her, they got separated, and then he ended up with Misa, since she was literally the last woman on earth. That’s serial monogamy until Minmay comes back).
(Incidentally, one of the reasons I prefer the “theatrical” version (with the cut-to-black ending credits) to the “special edition” (with the Flashback 2012 stuff at the end) is because of the sound mix. The theatrical version is mono, and you can hear a lot of the background chatter much better than you can in the stereo mix (you can hear it in the 5.1 version pretty well, too). Some of my favorite throwaway lines happen among the reporters waiting for the Global’s speech about the peace talks, including “Hey, does anyone have a cigarette?” and “Oh my Gawwwwwd… but they’re ALIENS!”)
(I also prefer the theatrical version BECAUSE of that cut-to-black ending. Yes, I know the Minmay concert was storyboarded for the ending credits but they ran out of time or money to animate it, but I’ve always though of it as something special that you had to go to Flashback 2012 to see, as a little bonus. Placed at the end of the movie, it makes a long movie seem a little overlong. It probably doesn’t help that I didn’t see the “special edition” until 2002 or so, and so had gotten VERY used to the theatrical cut.)
(And, as everyone notes, the date of the truce announcement is September 11.)
Back to the triangle, I think only the hardest, most bitter Minmay-hater would NOT feel bad for her. Yes, they only went on one date, but she’s clearly been missing him something fierce. So she gets abducted by aliens, kept there for over a month, and when she gets back, she finds that the cute boy she liked is screwing his superior officer. Movie Minmay gets a pretty raw deal, all things considered.
The next scene is great, and it’s Mika Doi’s personal favorite Macross scene, according to a talkshow at a fan club event. Misa cracks the code and realizes that the plate that she found in the city contains the lyrics to the song the Bodolzaa had. She rushes up to tell Hikaru, who is busy taking down his Minmay poster, when Minmay herself appears at the door, looking quite fetching in a beret. She embraces him just as Misa arrives. Now, remember what happened in Episode 35 when Misa showed up unannounced to find Hikaru with Minmay: she listened for a bit, and then ran away to get plastered. Look at what she does here (as Mika Doi pointed out): she steps inside, closes the door behind her, and stands in front of it. There is no way either Hikaru or Minmay can leave the room. Misa is a badass.
Anyway, Hikaru trips over his words (although, unlike in the series this time it really ISN’T what it looks like) and pisses off Minmay, and that’s pretty much the end of the love triangle that really only started a few minutes previously, except for some blowback from Minmay. (Although again, they only went on ONE DATE.)
19. Then a siren blares, and we get, believe it or not, a recycled shot. The operators on the bridge are shown in the same footage from the beginning of this movie (this viewing was the first time I noticed this…).
So at this point, again, it’s the Zentradi and the Macross against the Meltrandi, which seems like a fairly even match, even without the song.
(Oh, and the ACTUAL line, according to the film comic, is “We are supposed to have 60 second before the Meltlandians warp out.” That’s an odd way to say “Meltrandi”…)
Anyway, with the Meltrandi’s arrival, and the song incomplete, Bodolzaa decides to order everyone to kill everyone else. As with everything he orders, it doesn’t work. Oh, he kills (Molk) Lap’Lamiz, sure enough, but that just makes the remaining Meltrandi side with the Macross (saving Max, as I hinted before, from being a traitor).
The massive beam Bodolzaa fires to kill Lap’Lamiz uses the same sound effect as the likewise massive Solar Ray in Gundam. I don’t think this is a coincidence.
Right before Hikaru slaps her, Minmay asks, “Why can’t we be the only two people in the world?” Hikaru’s been there, done that… (And yes, Minmay-Haters, Minmay’s being silly and selfish here. As I said before, she got a raw deal in the movie.) (And Hikaru clearly took a lot out of himself by slapping her, based on his reaction.
Oh, and plenty of people will tell you that a VF-1A gets killed during this scene, but what they DON’T tell you is that it’s not a Brownie, it’s half-brownie and half-Kakizaki green.
Anyway, it works. Minmay costumes up, and the final battle begins.
And it’s AMAZING. Best battle-set-to-a-ballad ever, and one the best all-out spaceship battles in anime history. I can’t describe it, just watch the movie.
20. I’d go through the blow-by-blow, but you all know it. It’s like Episode 27 on steroids, which itself was like Episode 12 on steroids. This more or less destroyed my mind as a child. And of course the twist at the end is that there’s nothing special about the Protoculture song at all… any “ordinary love song” would’ve had the same effect on the Zentradi.
And again, as work from the “anime generation,” it set an entirely new, high standard for the medium, which has arguably been equalled, but never, I think, surpassed.
Anyway, in 1985, I was a big Robotech fan (although I knew where it came from). After watching this movie, I became a total Macross Purist. And I was ready for the next step. I’d have to wait a while, though.