ICONIC SCENE: Pro-wrestling.
STORY DATE: 2040
RELEASE DATE: January 1, 1995
1. Nearly four months after Episode 1, here comes Episode 2. The crowd scenes at the concert hall are excellent, really capturing the feeling of anticipation before a big, long-awaited concert, although my favorite shot is of Isamu and Lucy checking their seats, while Jan (or, grudgingly, “Yang”) walks up carrying two VERY full bags of merchandise. If Eden prices in 2040 are anything like Tokyo prices in the 2010s, he probably spent over five hundred bucks on that stuff… which isn’t even unusual at concerts in Japan.
Of course, the first important thing here is, what the hell is Myung DOING? She’s in a trance, she looks like a puppeteer… It’s all very creepy (again, “creepy” is a word I’ll be using a lot in these posts).
Next of course is the concert itself, which makes Minmay’s hologram show in Do You Remember Love seem cheap and tacky. It’s totally immersive and wonderful, but… doesn’t watching what are basically music videos projected all around you kinda seem antithetical to the idea of a live performance…? Still, we’re almost at this point currently: just a few years ago, the Japanese pop trio Perfume performed a short but lavish set at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, and the clever use of projectors and walls really made it seem like the audience was going inside the film that would usually just be projected behind a band.
Oh, and the cheering when Sharon arrives was recorded at a Macross fan club event, where the audience were instructed to cheer for her. The same strategy was employed for the Frontier movies.
2. The images are pretty stunning, and Sharon herself is gorgeous (I’m especially fond of the “coquettish Sharon” type that appears during “Idol Talk”). Speaking of which… can I just say how disappointed I was when I got the first Macross Plus soundtrack and “Idol Talk” wasn’t on it…? Now I knew how fans of the original felt when “My Boyfriend Is a Pilot” wasn’t released until the second soundtrack came out.
Speaking of “Idol Talk”… after listening to the CD a few times years and years ago, I noticed a spoken bit, low in the mix, that sounded like it was in English. I put headphones on, cranked up the volume, and listened to it plenty to times to figure out what was being said. And when I understood it, I blushed.
And once I heard it, I couldn’t “un-hear” it. For something buried so deep in the song, it rings out clear as day every time I listen to it now.
3. Jan mentions the “Macross Consortium” after hacking into Sharon during the concert, which is something we’ll never hear about again outside this series.
4. And yeah, Myung notices Isamu in the audience and it affects her performance, to where Sharon actually kisses him. I’m guessing that a kiss from a hologram must be one of the most unsatisfying experiences ever.
5. And now, we finally get Alpha One, the YF-19, Isamu’s “kawaii-ko chan” (which itself was a pretty old-fashioned term, even in 1994. It’d be like if he was calling it a “groovy doll” or something), and it’s pretty amazing. While, as I said for Episode 1, the tone of the show is virtually nothing like the original, one thing that it does carry over is the sense of awe that these fighters are handled with. You watch Episode 1 of SDF Macross, you watch this scene (or the YF-21 test last time), and these planes look IMPRESSIVE. It’s all due to camera angles and how the planes are filmed, but it totally works. I’m blown away every time here, even though all Isamu does is draw a giant dino-bird in the sky.
Oh, and Isamu’s little forward-swept wings hand-gesture is something I can only do with my left hand, for some reason.
6. The training montage is likewise really cool stuff, even to the point of including movie-style Nousjadeul-Gers, a VF-1J, and a Destroid Monster (variants of which show up in pretty much every Macross iteration).
Afterwards, we see Millard working with his artificial leg, which has an interesting story, told later in the radio drama “Macross Classic: Inside Story,” which is unrelated to the SDF Macross story “The Lost Two Years,” but is set during the same time frame, between episodes 27 and 28. It turns out Millard was a member of Skull Squadron, dealing with rogue Zentradi. (It also, um, features the Flower Girl from Seven, which really SHOULD be impossible, unless she’s a lot older than she looks.)
7. From Britannia.com: “Entelechy, (from Greek entelecheia), in philosophy, that which realizes or makes actual what is otherwise merely potential. The concept is intimately connected with Aristotle’s distinction between matter and form, or the potential and the actual.”
Of course, this scene will remain mystifying until next episode.
It makes a LITTLE more sense later when Jan hacks into Sharon and can’t find the emotion program for her, but I know that I didn’t understand this scene until I watched it again after seeing Episode 3.
8. I really like the scene with Myung, Kate, and Morgan, because it shows that Myung actually can relax a bit, to a degree. The name of the restaurant they meet up at is the “Dino Bird Beer Garden,” which is probably why for the Movie Edition, the translator changed the name of those giant flying creatures from “pterosaur” to “dinobird.” The restaurant itself looks like a pretty cool, if expensive, place, in keeping with all the restaurants, bars, and coffee shops in Macross. The dinosaur-themed plates and bowls seem a little over the top, though…
We get a little bit of nostalgia as Kate sings “My Boyfriend Is a Pilot” at karaoke (second time that song’s shown up recently, one week after its appearance in Seven). Then she tells Myung to sing “Voices,” which is kind of weird… why would the karaoke place have that song? Was it a big local hit or something? I do like the fact that instead of just showing a music video, the actual walls of the room change to reflect the song playing.
Anyway, Myung freaks out. And runs away when Kate calls Isamu and Guld to come over. (I note that Kate has a digital address book, but still no one has cell phones in the Macross universe. At least they finally have answering machines, though. And car phones.)
I’m not really sure of the chronology here… If Sharon is trying to kill Myung by engineering the fire in the concert hall, that would indicate that the emotion chip has already been added to her. But it hasn’t. So… she’s already dangerous? Adding the chip just made it worse? I guess…
But try to kill Myung, Sharon does, or at least she tries to put Myung’s life in danger and warning Isamu and Guld that it’s happening, so one of them will rescue her. Guld arrives first, and Myung apparently ends up sleeping with him. Given that we’ve seen the series before and kinda/sorta know what happened seven years ago, AND given her terrified reaction last episode when Guld put his hand on her shoulder, her actions here make NO GODDAMNED SENSE.
Neither do Sharon’s powers, really… they TRY to make her getting into the computer system, starting the fire, and hiding it from security plausible, but… I dunno… I don’t really buy it. That problem will get worse next episode.
And yet, despite all this, the scene works like crazy… it’s genuinely suspenseful.
9. Then we enter the climax. Lucy and Isamu essentially break up (they were together…? Yep, if the Movie Edition is anything to go by) and Isamu confronts Guld in the dining hall (I note that Isamu is eating a thoroughly traditional Japanese breakfast of fish, natto, rice, miso soup, and an egg. This is basically the equivalent of the “complete breakfast” that your sugary cereal is a part of, albeit a lot healthier). Guld has the smug attitude of someone who just got laid, and Isamu is insanely jealous. That hostility finds its way into the day’s testing, which turns into a big ol’ robot brawl.
Ultimately, Guld grabs the YF-19’s gun and shoots Isamu with it. Speaking of things that make no goddamned sense, I’ve never understood this scene, and while I’ve seen a number of people who are confident that they understand it, their explanations are wildly different.
There’s a scene earlier which, upon second viewing, seems to show Guld tampering with the 19’s ammo load via computer. So Guld is pretty certainly the one who put live ammo in Isamu’s gunpod. So this is where things get strange. Isamu’s firing off paintballs for a while, until he supposedly runs out of ammo. He clicks the trigger a few times… nothing. Then he uses the gun like a club to attack Guld. He and Guld fight over it, and the 21’s arm breaks off, still holding the gun. The 21 gets knocked down and Isamu starts kicking the shit out of it. Guld sees the gunpod lying on the ground, disconnects the BDI system, and (off-screen) grabs the gun and shoots the 19 with it.
So what was his plan? Was he trying to get Isamu to shoot him, which would of course get Isamu kicked off the team? Was he waiting to grab the gunpod from the 19? None of this is ever made clear. The only reason I can think of is that the story staff needed some way for Guld to shoot Isamu, but not get thrown off the project for it.
Anyway, I can see why they cut this bit out of the Movie Edition…
10. So yes, despite all these story flaws, I still love this episode. As I said before, this series still plays like crazy, and is always gorgeous to look at and listen to. The overall plot is strong, but thank goodness for the Movie Edition, which cuts out a lot of the parts that make no sense. But we’ll get to that later.