SUPER DIMENSION FORTRESS MACROSS II – LOVERS AGAIN
EPISODE 2: 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.
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.)
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.
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.