SUPER DIMENSION FORTRESS MACROSS II – LOVERS AGAIN
EPISODE 1: CONTACT
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.
(TO BE CONTINUED…)
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.