THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH – TOP GAMRIN

7 PLUS 5

MACROSS 7 P*L*U*S
TOP GAMRIN

ICONIC SCENE: Aww, he’s so widdle…

RELEASE DATE: June 25, 1995

So here we are at the short that came with Volume 5 (Eps. 16-20) of Macross 7. As I said last post, the release date for this was kind of a big day, as Macross Plus Vol. 4 was also released (and Macross 7 episode 36 aired). This one, of course, is about Gamlin (or “Gamrin,” as it’s shown here), from the beginning of his desire to fly (starting when he was a child, at his father’s funeral) to the completion of his training under Milia. Again, it doesn’t tell us much that we couldn’t have guessed: he’s a serious, diligent student, and the best in his class. And Milia is a strict teacher. Her VF-11 is pretty cool, as well. I wonder if anyone’s made a custom of it?

THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH 85 – PLUS VOL. 4

+ Ep.4

MACROSS PLUS
EPISODE 4

ICONIC SCENE: Ma-ku-ro no SHAAAARON o…

STORY DATE: April 2040

RELEASE DATE: June 25, 1995

1. For Japanese fans, the wait for the final episode of Plus was long enough… four months. And that release date must’ve been something of an event day, since, as a Sunday, it was also the date of the broadcast of Macross 7 Episode 36 AND the release of Macross 7 Vol. 5 on home video. I wonder what hardcore fans did? Scurry to the video store when they opened at ten o’clock AM to pick up the two laser discs, and try to get back home by eleven o’clock to see the new episode? Then watching the new episode while staring longingly at Plus Vol. 4 on the table next to them, wanting to pop it in immediately, but needing to wait until the new TV episode finished? Or sleeping in, watching Macross 7 on TV and THEN going over to the video store to get the new discs, hoping the small stock wouldn’t be sold out by the time they got there? Maybe just setting the VCR timer and then rushing off…? Or maybe they were just Plus fans who didn’t care about Seven, or Seven fans who didn’t care about Plus.

For western fans, it was a different story… we waited, and waited, and WAITED… Nearly eight months after Vol. 3, in Spring of 1996, Vol. 4 came out in the US. I got the subbed version (I like to think I wasn’t snobby about English dubs, but I was studying Japanese at the time, and needed all the exposure to the language I could get), so the “Big Issue” wasn’t immediately apparent to me. Even after I got the DVD, I didn’t watch the English version until I’d had it for years, and then only saw it because I’d heard rumblings on Macross World about it.

You see, the English and Japanese versions differ not only in the cast, but in the music and sound effects, as well. The Japanese version contains several new pieces of music that hadn’t been released on CD yet, and those were replaced in the English version by tracks from previous episodes, notably during Guld’s big revelation (which in Japanese used the new track “Dog Fight,” but in English was “Breakout” from the first soundtrack album). The central reasons for what happened seem shrouded in mystery on the Japanese side of things, but apparently when the English dub production staff got the film to work on, it was silent. No audio at all. Thus they had to create not just the dialogue track, but the music and sound effects tracks as well, and for music, could only rely on what had been previously released on CD. They did a great job of it, incidentally. It’s different, but it still works. And at the US Renditions panel at Macross World Con last year, we learned that Kawamori himself watched the English version and gave it a thumbs up, saying “Hollywood style!”

And if the story had ended there, it would be fine. However… Bandai Visual, in a VERY unusual move, had been releasing Macross Plus in Japan with the English dub and Japanese subtitles, as the “International Version.” Episodes 1 through 3 came out in quick succession in 1995 (I have no idea how well they sold, but I can’t imagine it could’ve been much), but Episode 4 didn’t seem to get released at all. At least, I never saw it around. However, it HAD been released (presumably in extremely small quantities) on laser disc in the year 2000…

Notice anything special about that year…? Not only is it five years AFTER the previous episodes, but it’s also when video tapes and LDs were rapidly being replaced by DVDs. As such, it was released at the tail end of a dying format, and the release vanished so thoroughly that it wasn’t until years later that it was confirmed that it had come out AT ALL. The “International Version” dub was also included on the various DVD sets in Japan, but thanks to region codes, most viewers outside of Japan didn’t see those. As such, it wasn’t until the blu-ray came out in 2012 (with the “International Version” audio included, in another unusual move by Bandai) that western fans finally got to see it… and learned that it wasn’t the same at all as the Manga Entertainment US version, but, instead, a newer dub apparently commissioned by Bandai Visual themselves. The cast was almost completely different (now featuring David Hayter as Isamu instead of Bryan Cranston), and the music and sound effects were the same as in the original Japanese version. As you can imagine, this led to many complaints among western fans. Now the complaints about the voice cast, I can understand completely, but there was an odd disconnect among fans who had never watched the Japanese version (just as I hadn’t watched the English version), didn’t realize that the Manga Entertainment dub had been done under compromised circumstances, and now demanded to know why THIS English dub CHANGED all the music and sound effects as well. Replies that the soundtrack had actually been RESTORED to its original version fell on mostly deaf ears. As loyal Robotech fans always say, the version you saw first is the default “better” version. And if you always heard “Breakout” during Guld’s memory-recovery, you don’t wanna hear “Dog Fight” instead, even if that piece was written specifically for that scene.

(I can’t excuse myself altogether from this sentiment, I admit, since the “theatrical” version of Do You Remember Love, with the mono soundtrack and cut-to-black end credits will always be my preferred version of the film… but that really IS the original version of the film, at least, no matter WHAT Kawamori changes…)

So, anyway, yeah… the upshot of all of this is that there are two completely different English dubs of this episode, one with the “right” voices but “wrong” music, and one with the “wrong” voices but “right” music. Which, honestly, is another reason why I just stick with the Japanese version.

2. I guess it’s also worth pointing out that, as a HUGE Macross Plus fan, once I saw this episode, I was disappointed. After Episode 3, my expectations were sky-high, probably impossible to live up to. I enjoy Episode 4 a lot, and now think it’s excellent, but yeah… that first time, I thought, “Well, it was good, but…”

I’ll, uh, get into this in greater detail as we continue.

3. No recap, we launch right into Isamu defolding. Again, remember: he has no idea Myung is in danger, he just wants to show up the Ghost X-9. I really think Jan (Yang…?) has the best idea, by falling asleep and missing this part.

Seriously, the defense line around earth is awesome and terrifying… satellites! Space carriers! LASERS! And the fact that the only way in is for Isamu to shut everything down and just let gravity pull him in… well, if it were me in the 19, I’d be white-knuckling it the whole way down, especially when it starts spinning end over end.

And of course, this scene has one of the most quotable lines in the series: “Luck is one of my many skills.”

4. Okay, this is where I’m out of step with the Macross fandom at large (in the West). Just as everyone but me loves the VF-2SS, everyone but me also loves the song “Information High.” To me, the problem is that it doesn’t sound like Sharon. It sounds like generic ’90s techno. I honestly don’t know why everyone seems to think this song is great. The song has nothing to do with Yoko Kanno, (although I’ve seen plenty of YouTube videos saluting the genius of Yoko Kanno while posting it, even though she didn’t work on it at all), it has nothing to do with Sharon, it feels like it has been tossed in from some other project… WHY DOES EVERYONE LOVE IT SO?

(This isn’t a rhetorical question. If you can explain, please comment!)

5. Has Guld snapped? He’s very definitely trying to kill Isamu here. Although I guess I’m not sure how else he was meant to stop him from crashing the Ghost party…

Also, where are they? It’s been dark in Macross City for quite a while, but it seems like it’s only afternoon wherever the 19/21 dogfight is happening. I guess they landed in another time zone and have some distance to go before they get to Macross City. And while I’m nitpicking, I think the staff kinda forgot that Macross City is meant to be in Alaska (I think…). No one in the city seems dressed for an April night there.

And there’s the issue that EVERYONE points out about the city they destroy while fighting each other. Is it abandoned for some reason? I mean, I’m sure it’s a holiday (very few massive festive ceremonies happen on days that AREN’T holidays, after all, unless it’s the parade in “Ferris Beuller’s Day Off,” which apparently takes place on a school and work day), so the office buildings MIGHT be empty (although it looks like the lights are on in many of them…), but there’s no traffic on the street, even (well… there are cars, but none of them are moving)… When does that EVER happen? Isn’t there even a Starbucks in the area?

So yeah, I think all of us are hoping that there’s no one around, because of the thousands of injuries and fatalities this grudgematch would cost. Knowing Itano, though, I’m sure he was really enthusiastic about the idea of killing off so many innocent people at one go. This IS, after all, the guy who directed Megazone Part II AND Angel Cop. And added the decapitation scene to Do You Remember Love. I’m pretty sure he gets darn excited by mass death and destruction.

But really, none of this should matter, because the dogfight is AWESOME. Best Macross fight since Max and Milia in Do You Remember Love, which itself was the best since Max and Milia in Episode 18. As I’ve said before, as a combat director and choreographer, Ichiro Itano is peerless, and as much as I like the Macross shows he’s not involved with, his absence is always keenly felt. Frontier can come close, but it’s just not the same.

And the scene is again boosted tremendously by the music. As I said above, I sympathize with people who only watched the Manga Entertainment dub, but “Dog Fight” is one of the standout pieces in an already standout score. It works absolutely brilliantly here.

I flat-out love the build-up to Guld’s revelation, as the argument between two ace pilots flying the galaxy’s most advanced fighters gets pettier and pettier, devolving into resentments left over from junior high, all while they are using everything they have to try to kill each other. Plus is not generally known for its sense of humor, but this is all pretty funny.

However… then we get to the revelation itself. Again, I always suspected Guld because, first, of his anger-management issues, and second, because of the terror on Myung’s face when he puts his hands on her shoulders back in Episode 1. So to find out that yes, it really WAS all his fault seemed like a failed twist to me. I also suspect that he was asking the wrong person for forgiveness, and that Isamu lets the whole thing go much too easily. Isamu is not the REAL wronged person here.

Now, I really don’t want to go too deeply into this, first since I haven’t read the novelization (which apparently goes more into detail), but more importantly because it’s really fucking ugly and disturbing. And as I said in Episode 2, it makes Myung’s decisions make no sense at all. Whether he raped her or not (and I’m EXTREMELY inclined to think he didn’t), she would mostly likely avoid any contact with him, and the idea that she would actually sleep him is preposterous. Maybe she’s just the forgiving type, but this is going WAY too far.

6. Sharon’s omnipotence continues, and again, it seems more “magical” to me than anything in the preview episode of Delta. Hypnotizing everyone into a Sharon-worshipping stupor, I can accept… somehow being able to program security guards into going after Myung, though, is pushing it (and there’s always those snake-like electrical cables… it’s MAGIC, I tell ya!).

Still, it gives Myung her chance to be an action heroine, and she grabs it and runs with it. Literally.

And when she confronts Sharon, we learn that there really isn’t any Sharon, there’s just a kind of Jungian shadow-self of Myung. That is, Sharon is doing everything that Myung would LIKE to do, but is too repressed to. And “everything that Myung would like to do,” it turns out, includes giving Isamu the thrill of his life.

Now, I’m guessing that Sharon really doesn’t understand the consequences of her actions… those consequences, after all, are the reason Myung won’t do these things. So I’m not sure if Sharon realizes that she could actually KILL Isamu. Like, forever. She can plan, she can anticipate, but in a very real sense, I’m not sure she sees that there’s a future, and that a particular moment will not last.

7. Anyway, bullshit writing about suppressed memories and rape/not-rape or not, Isamu and Guld patch things up just in time to join forces against Sharon and the Ghost. Of course, Guld tells Isamu to go after Myung, basically giving up on trying to get together with her. But Sharon has another surprise for Isamu… the Macross. I have to admit, it always gets me when we see the anti-gravity system start up and the ship start to rise. Again, and I’m sure it’s also partially the “Bulgarian Voices”-influenced music (previously used in the “next episode” teasers), the scene is imbued with a sense of awe and wonder (and, as always, that incredible DETAIL) that’s missing from the analogous scene in Macross II.

Of course, Macross II also doesn’t have a guy JUMPING OFF THE SHIP TO HIS DEATH some 1500 meters below…

And the first time I watched it, once the Macross started up, my first thought was “Oh, shit! The main cannon’s gonna fire!”… which it never actually does here. Missed opportunity… (Can you begin to see why I was disappointed…?)

8. Back with Guld, he’s clearly losing to the Ghost. I know he doesn’t have much of a choice, but I’m assuming that he basically WANTS to die. I mean, his entire purpose was wrapped up in the idea of himself as Myung’s protector, and with that stripped away, there’s really nothing left for him. That said, I always forget how tame his last run is here in the OVA as opposed to the Movie Edition.

9. So that’s the Isamu-Myung-Guld love triangle wrapped up (more permanently than most Macross love triangles), which leaves us only the Myung-Isamu-Sharon triangle to deal with (or, more accurately, Myung-Isamu-Shadow Myung…). And it plays out much the same way as you might imagine. Sharon hypnotizes Jan (Yang?) into trying to kill Isamu, then gets to Isamu himself, before the spell is broken by the power of Myung’s REAL song (and love). Isamu downs the Macross, destroys Sharon, and saves the day.

There are still a lot of questions hanging in the air, but we haven’t reached our final word on Plus, so I’ll save those for the Movie Edition.

10. As I said at the outset, when I first watched this, I was a little disappointed in light of my massive expectations. Looking at it now, it feels like an unassailable classic, marred somewhat by the handling of the sexual assault subplot (cf. Wings of Honneamise), but not irreparably.

And even with the ending of Myung’s song winning the day, it still feels like an outlier for Macross. I mean, every Macross series has its own tone and its own personality – there’s no such thing as a cookie-cutter Macross series – but even Macross Zero isn’t anywhere near as macho as this series.  Which is interesting because it’s the only Macross series that doesn’t involve a war. And there’s been some backlash against it (a very little bit… I’ve seen several people call it “boring” over the past couple of years, which I find insane; there is not a single boring frame in this show. Other young’uns have called it “shallow,” and yeah… I can kinda see that), but generally, it stands (in the West, at least) as one of the grand classics of anime, and rightly so.

THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH 84 – Men’s Passionate Song

7 Ep.36

MACROSS SEVEN
EPISODE 36: Men’s Passionate Song

ICONIC SCENE: “Could Mohammed move that mountain or was that just PR?”

STORY DATE: December 2045

SCENARIO TITLE: The Resurrection Called “Danger”

BROADCAST DATE: June 25, 1995

1. A-HA! Basara has a dream in which he’s a child with a guitar, singing at a mountain. Because it’s a dream, though, Sivil’s “UUUUUU!” shriek rings out and suddenly Basara becomes an adult, with Sivil on top of the mountain, but here it is: Basara’s goal, and the reason for his singing.

They just don’t explain it yet.

Anyway, Sivil gets away from him in the dream, and he wakes up and launches to try to find her.

Weirdly, while the last episode ended with Basara walking off alone again (naturally), this episode begins with him camped out with Gamlin and Mylene. But yeah, that doesn’t last long.

2. More Jamming Birds training is next. Colonel Burton is really trying his best to whip them into shape, and it’s totally not going to work. I looked for Bobby among them and didn’t see him, so maybe he still hasn’t recovered from their last sortie…? Or else he quit.

3. Basara’s dream looks like it might have been prophetic after all… he sees a giant mountain-shaped cloud on the ocean and goes to investigate it. It makes the Fire Valks systems go haywire and the engine cut out. And inside the cloud is, indeed, a volcano and a massive projection of Sivil. The show has always been weird, but it’s about to get weird in a completely new way.

4. Of course Gigil is waiting for him. As I said before, this is the true love triangle of the series.

Because of “energy faults,” their battroids have to climb up the mountain, hand over hand, each trying to get to Sivil before the other.

5. While Mylene is looking for Basara, she’s softly singing the song “Fall,” a song from the “Second Fire!!” album. It’ll turn up properly in a few episodes.

6. Basara grabs the wrong rock, and falls down the side of the mountain. Gigil first moves on, but then has an attack on conscience and goes back to help him. Additionally, in a close up, we can see that the bullet is still lodged in Gigil’s eyepiece from when Burton shot him back in Episode 33.

7. Anyway, using the wondrous power of cooperation, they manage to reach Sivil. Kind of. She’s still sinking into the volcano, but I honestly don’t think she’s in any danger. Again, way back in Episode 22, Gigil was hoping that City 7 would be destroyed from the star it was falling into, because then Sivil would come back. The Protodeviln are virtually indestructible (I’ll go into this in excruciating length later, because it seems to evade a lot of Macross fans).

8. With the mountain crumbling around them and Sivil slowly sinking, Basara and Gigil BOTH start singing “Power to the Dream.” And Sivil wakes up.

Her first word? “Basara!”

Love triangle RESOLVED!

9. Mylene and Gamlin arrive just as the volcano sinks completely into the sea. For a few beats, it seems like that’s it, but then, rising from the ocean, emerges AN ANCIENT PROTOCULTURE CITY!

NOW this show is getting somewhere!

10. And it only took 36 episodes to do so. Seriously, I love this show, and when it’s good, it’s wonderful… but it totally could’ve been tightened up a bit. Even this episode, great as it is, seems overlong. But the next couple are going to be AWESOME.

THIS EPISODE’S GAVIL-ISMS: Again, none. He’s not in this episode. I don’t miss him.

FLOWER GIRL SIGHTING: On the seashore, watching the horizon. A gust of wind blows past, knocking both the bouquet and her boom box into the ocean. I think this is meant to be ominous.

7 Ep.36f

EYECATCH: Basara/Sivil

THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH 83 – A Night for Just the Two of Us

7 Ep.35

MACROSS SEVEN
EPISODE 35: A Night for Just the Two of Us

ICONIC SCENE: Was there any other choice?

STORY DATE: December 2045

SCENARIO TITLE: Shock on a Dark Night

BROADCAST DATE: June 18, 1995

1. A careful viewing of the opening credits shows us that we’ve got our new ending theme, “…Dakedo Baby!!” starting in this episode. Two things about this: first, it’s definitely a sign of the times. When the first Macross series started in 1982, yes, there were singles and albums for anime soundtracks, but usually the OP and ED were unshakably the same for the duration of the series (barring things like the final episode of Macross having “Runner” sung by Minmay instead of Makoto Fujiwara). It was the adaptation of Rumiko Takahashi’s manga “Urusei Yatsura” that, in 1983, decided to try using anime songs to push pop singles, and it worked. By the mid-’80s, plenty of  anime had a mid-series switch of either the opening or ending song, or both. In fact, I think Macross 7 is more of an exception for keeping the same opening throughout the series. So, before 1983, if you wanted the opening and closing songs of your favorite anime, you bought one 7″ single, and that was that. For shows after 1983, you’d generally have to buy two. Now, of course, it’s commonplace for a show to switch songs every twelve or thirteen episodes AND have different artists do each of the songs (meaning that the OP and ED songs have to be on two different singles: something Macross 7 also did. “Seventh Moon” and “My Friends” were released separately), so that for, say, a 26-episode series, you’ll be buying four different singles if you want to keep up. Even worse, nowadays the songs are generally not on the soundtrack albums, so the singles remain the only way to get them. At the time of this writing, Macross Delta is still at least a month away, and I’m sure that that will break all the records (probably set by Frontier, which I’ll get to in due time) about how devious marketers can be about getting you to buy every album AND single release.

Second, “…Dakedo Baby!!” is credited not to Fire Bomber, but to “Chie Kajiura.” For me, in ’96, this was baffling. As I’ve mentioned before, I got the soundtrack albums before seeing the series. Well, some of them, at any rate. For a long time, I only had four: “Music Selection from Galaxy Network Chart,” “Let’s Fire!!,” “Mylene Jenius Sings Lynn Minmay,” and “Second Fire!!” I guess I didn’t think much about how Mylene’s vocals sounded totally different on the Minmay album than they did on the Fire Bomber albums, because when I finally got around to watching the series and noticing that “…Dakedo Baby!!” was credited to someone else, it really confused me. I pulled out “Second Fire!!” and listened to it again, and noted that, yeah, “…Dakedo Baby!!” sounded like Mylene, not like another singer. And THAT’S when I realized that the Minmay album was the one that sounded out of place, because it was sung by Tomo Sakurai, and the other Mylene songs weren’t.

Of course, for Japanese fans, there were other considerations in place, first of all being that, although Victor Records was initially trying to hide the fact that the voice actors for Basara and Mylene didn’t do the singing, that cover had been blown when Yoshiki Fukuyama and Chie Kajiura came out for the encore at the Fire Bomber concert in May 1995 (I’ll talk more about that later), but perhaps more importantly, they were beginning to promote Chie Kajiura’s solo career, as she had an album in the works, and “…Dakedo Baby!!” was the lead single for it (that said, when the album came out a few months later, the “album version” of the song is vastly different from the Macross 7 version. And probably better. I’ve seen her perform both versions live).

2. Huh… for once, no recap. We open on an angry crowd outside a concert hall, because the Fire Bomber gigs have been cancelled (or, as it says on the sign, “DIS-CONTINUATION”).

Ray confirms to the press that Basara and Mylene have left the ship, but insists that Fire Bomber won’t break up.

3. Still, with Fire Bomber gone, the fleet is virtually defenseless… Colonel Burton sees this as an opportunity to push the Jamming Birds again. Max squashes that.

4. Gamlin tells Mylene that he quit because he really wasn’t sure what the military was all about anymore… completing the parallel with Basara’s situation. They’re going through pretty much the same journey right now.

Mylene, always the voice of the audience’s expectations, wants them both to stop thinking so much and get back to work. Gamlin tries to turn the tables on her, asking why SHE sings, and she simply says, “because it makes everybody happy.” There. See, Basara? It’s easy.

5. After Gubaba runs off, Mylene gives a more detailed account of her history with him. This will get dramatized in the Macross 7 P*L*U*S episode that was included with Vol. 9 of the series (which contains this episode).

Then she sings “Kimi no Todoke,” in its debut, in order to get him to come back, although he doesn’t.

Then Mylene and Gamlin get ready to go to sleep… Gamlin thinks Mylene is inviting him to share the one sleeping bag, and he does push-ups to quell his horniness.

It doesn’t really work, especially since later, in her sleep, her hand falls on his crotch. It’s time for sit-ups…

6. Then their campsite is attacked by a kinda-sorta dinosaur thing that wants to put out their campfire.

7. We go back to the fleet for a bit to see the Jamming Birds training session, which is going terribly. But it’s still funny.

8. Gubaba finds Basara and then Mylene and Gamlin find Gubaba, about to be eaten by the dinosaur from before (or at least, one that looks exactly like it). Gamlin fights it off, but then it comes back with its mother.

By the way, the landscape here doesn’t really make much sense. Basara is in a desert, and every time we see him, it’s desert as far as the eye can see. Gubaba reaches that desert, but when the dinosaur is chasing him, he somehow gets to a forest, which is where the rest of the confrontation happens. Weird.

As is always the Macross 7 way, Mylene starts singing (“Pillow Dream”) and calms the monster down.

And Basara runs off again.

9. At the very end, we get Gigil, still singing “My Soul for You,” still following Sivil.

And again, the ending credits are new. A lot of the images in it are great, my favorite being a giant cat about to devour the Tokyo government building.

10. So yeah, the plot advances hardly at all here, but I enjoy the deepening of Gamlin and Mylene’s friendship, which is really what this episode is all about. As such, it doesn’t feel like filler. And from here on out, the third climax begins, and it’s a doozy.

THIS EPISODE’S GAVIL-ISMS: Another blissful (dare I say, “beautiful”…) Gavil-free episode.

FLOWER GIRL SIGHTING: Sitting in a park at the beginning, listening to “Remember 16.”

7 Ep.35f

EYECATCH: Mylene/Gamlin

THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH 82 – The Day Gigil Sang

7 Ep.34

MACROSS SEVEN
EPISODE 34: The Day Gigil Sang

ICONIC SCENE: You’re a civilian now. Stop that.

STORY DATE: November 2045

BROADCAST DATE: June 11, 1995

1. Again, the narration at the beginning comes out and explains something that’s only been hinted at, that Geperunitchi’s body is not his real body, which still sleeps on the fourth planet of the Varauta System.

2. Fire Bomber has their first Basara-less concert. There’s one shot that’s especially good that makes the stage seem huge and empty, reflecting Mylene’s feelings. And I guess either the guitar parts are prerecorded, or else Ray’s covering them (as Spinal Tap keyboardist Viv Savage said when asked if he could take Nigel’s guitar parts as well as his own keyboard parts, “Oh yeah, of course. I’ve got two hands here”).

3. And Basara himself is wandering through the desert in his battroid, upset that it wasn’t his power alone that woke Sivil.

4. Geperunitchi has mostly been pretty tolerant of the other Protodeviln doing their own thing, but now he says he needs to kill Sivil before she messes up his dream. Gavil volunteers to take her out, and Geperuntichi suggests he take Valgo with him. Gavil doesn’t want to, and generally, it really seems like the Protodeviln aren’t much into teamwork.

5. VEFFIDAS SPEAKS FOR THE SECOND TIME!! “Basara won’t come back. Not until he finds something.”

Ray then suggests to Mylene that she goes after him. This is virtually the same as Dynamite 7, isn’t it… (or vice-versa, I guess)? Including watering the plant that Basara left behind.

6. We start to get a three-way battle among Gavil, Valgo, and Gigil… it really seems like most of the Protodeviln really don’t like each other. Except of course that Gigil is in love with Sivil. Eventually, Gavil and Valgo team up against Gigil, which raises a question… like Geperunitchi, Gigil is inhabiting someone else’s body… if that body dies, does HE die? Later evidence will suggest that it doesn’t work like that, and you’d think Gavil would know that.

And again, Valgo’s attacks would probably seem more impressive if they weren’t all the same color as cotton candy.

7. Gamlin’s in the brig, as punishment for having punched Colonel Burton. Milia visits him, and he resigns. She mentions that Mylene has flown off to find Basara, and offers him his VF-17 as severance pay. Wink.

8. Finally, Gigil’s battroid is heavily damaged, and he’s wounded, and, as the title promises, he starts singing “My Soul for You.” It surprises Gavil and Valgo enough that they let him go.

9. Glavil finds Basara, and Gavil tries to capture him, and then Mylene shows up. Kind of like the vampires in the early episodes, Gavil and Glavil allow Basara and Mylene to have a chat while they stand around and do nothing for a minute or so. I really kind of hate scenes like this.

Anyway, Mylene’s singing gets strong enough to take care of Glavil, and Gamlin shows up and – for the second time – switches out his ammo pack and blows up Gavil’s battroid.

And Basara doesn’t sing, nor does he come back.

10. So yeah… not great, not bad… an average (but important) episode. It still feels like set-up, rather than a satisfying episode in and of itself. And yes, I’m having to push myself a bit to get through the series right now.

THIS EPISODE’S GAVIL-ISMS: “Conquest beauty,” “true beauty,” “never-ending sleep beauty,” “Gigil has his own kind of beauty, devotion beauty,” “mysterious beauty,” “capture beauty,” “how dare they sully this beauty.”

FLOWER GIRL SIGHTING: At the very beginning of the episode, waiting in line to see Fire Bomber, and then at the concert itself. Without Basara there, she’s totally not digging it.

7 Ep.34f

EYECATCH: Mylene/Basara

THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH 81 – Betrayal and a Girl’s Tears

7 Ep.33

MACROSS SEVEN
EPISODE 33: Betrayal and a Girl’s Tears

ICONIC SCENE: The flower from Sivil’s plot of land…

STORY DATE: November 2045

BROADCAST DATE: June 4, 1995

1. Interestingly, the opening narration titles name the VF-17 and the VF-19 for the first time: “Stealth Valkyrie” and “Blazer Valkyrie.” Just like the toys say!

2. So now Basara is trying to figure out exactly WHY he’s singing… just like Minmay did before him. This’ll take a few episodes to sort out.

3. And Mylene successfully follows him to the vegetation plant this time. And then she sees Sivil, and FREAKS THE HELL OUT. Honestly, I don’t blame her.

4. They mentioned it before and we saw it briefly a couple of episodes ago, but I like that the cars can use their flying ability to cruise over the sea to go from ship to ship. Here, we see Mylene doing so (although we’ve never seen her flying in space, since, y’know, her car doesn’t seem to have a roof…), as she travels to Battle 7. She even gets splashed here.

5. And she spills the beans about Sivil to Max, just as Colonel Burton is walking past. Of course, being a total dick, he takes matters into his own hands. So to speak.

6. Basara decides to take the Fire Valk to wake Sivil up… I guess it’s a good thing the military already knows where she is, or else, wouldn’t they learn now…? From him…?

And then there’s just a gaping hole in the ground where she was.

Basara, by the way, isn’t terribly environmentally conscious, knocking over trees as he walks through the vegetation plant. SOMEONE would notice that (and the Valk footprints), I’m sure.

7. Basara and Gigil each think the other has taken Sivil, and Gigil eventually grabs Mylene and holds her hostage until Basara takes him to wherever Sivil’s being held. Luckily for Mylene, it’s pretty sure to be somewhere inside Battle 7.

And Burton is quite willing to let Mylene die in order to hang on to Sivil. He… may have a point… but he’s not going to endear himself to either Max or Milia this way.

8. And Basara suddenly bursts out with the debut of “Power to the Dream.” Burton shoots at Gigil and gets him in the eyepiece, but doesn’t hurt him (man… does Burton want Mylene dead or WHAT…?), Gigil unloads the spiritia he’s collected at Sivil, and the combination of that plus Basara’s song FINALLY wakes her up.

9. Gamlin punches Burton out when the Colonel confronts Basara, and it’s well-deserved, honestly. The guy’s a jerk.

And later, Mylene leaves the hospital to explain everything to Basara, but it’s too late. He’s gone.

10. As I mentioned over the past few episodes, we have built up a certain status quo for the storyline now that the fleet has reached Lux, and this episode gleefully tosses that out the window. We’re not at the climax for Part Three of the overall story, but we’re getting closer. Good stuff.

THIS EPISODE’S GAVIL-ISMS: None at all! Not-appearing-in-this-episode beauty!

FLOWER GIRL SIGHTING: Walking down the street at the end of the episode.

7 Ep.33f

EYECATCH: Basara/Sivil

THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH 80 – JAMMING BIRDS

7 Ep.32

MACROSS SEVEN
EPISODE 32: JAMMING BIRDS

ICONIC SCENE: Feel free to snicker.

STORY DATE: November 2045

BROADCAST DATE: May 28, 1995

1. Okay, this is one of my favorite episodes of the entire series. Macross 7 has always taken swipes at the entertainment industry, but here’s where the satire turns especially nasty and biting. We start with a recruitment ad, saying, “You too can be a hero like Sound Force!” before saying that a new Sound Force-type group (teased last episode) named “Jamming Birds” will be formed.

That name, by the way, comes from the Basara half of Fire Bomber, Yoshiki Fukuyama’s band, Humming Bird. They made several really wonderful albums in the ’90s before breaking up. For Fire Bomber fans, I highly recommend 1995’s album, “1•2•3,” which contains alternate (and mostly better) versions of some of Fire Bomber’s songs, often with radically different lyrics and arrangements.

2. We get right into the Jamming Bird auditions, and it’s clear immediately that this all just hype and propaganda. At least until Dr. Chiba embarrasses everyone by asking the first applicant’s measurements (since, you know, body strength is a major part of singing powerfully). His long-winded explanation has to be cut off, because of ratings. Luckily for the TV station, it turns into a swimsuit competition after that, although Dr. Chiba’s line of questioning still comes off as creepy.

3. Max has doubts about the effectiveness of the Jamming Birds, to which Exsedol replies, “Even if it’s futile, at least it’s nice to look at young women in bathing suits.” He’s come a long way from the guy who was shocked by the girl in the bikini on the movie poster back in Episode 26 of the original Macross…

4. And then Milia comes out in a swimsuit and sings a little bit of “Banana Moon of Love.” It’s a pity she didn’t get chosen… the Jamming Birds would have better odds on survivability with someone like her on the team.

The audition takes another creepy turn as Bobby, from Episode 11, turns up to apply. He tells his inspiring story of having his spiritia drained, only to overcome that and return to the spotlight (conveniently omitting the fact that he was about to rape Mylene when it happened). Although it’s worth noting that Mylene mostly seems happy that he’s well, now. After his speech, there’s a shot of a crowd of women squealing over how handsome he is, and one of them is a dead ringer for Minmay: again, an in-joke, since Bobby is voiced by Arihiro Hase, who also played Hikaru.

5. One of the guys commanding Basara to work with training the Jamming Birds says that the whole purpose of singing at the enemy is to scatter and confuse them so that the Unified Forces can more easily destroy them… he sounds EXACTLY like a Robotech fan explaining why he hates the later Macross sequels…

Anyway, Basara walks out, and Colonel Burton (who will be a thorn in his side for a while) gets revenge by repossessing the Fire Valk.

6. In an impressive (but rather sparsely attended) ceremony, the Jamming Birds make their debut… and they’re awful. They come out in cheap-looking costumes and pose, singing “RIding in Your Valkyrie,” which was probably the most insipid song in Macross II, and even then, almost chanting it rather than singing it, using very thin vocals. I’m honestly impressed with the sound direction here. The song is pretty silly, but it’s not a bad pop song by any stretch; in fact, in Macross II, it sounded fine. And yet, this version sounds small, tinny, and completely terrible. As it’s meant to.

Oh, and hey… “Honey” is back, this time rubbing it in Akiko’s face that he’s managing the Jamming Birds. Yeah… good luck, man.

Oh, and Ray brings up the elephant in the room: that these kids could just be headed straight to their deaths.

7. I will give the Jamming Birds props for their two-seater VF-11s. They look pretty cool, with a nice blue-gray paint scheme.

However, as soon as they go into actual combat, they all start screaming and can’t sing. It’s kinda mean-spirited, but it’s also hilarious. And Bobby gets spiritia-drained again. Good.

Finally, two of them start singing, in shaky, small voices that are completely ineffective.

8. The gimmick this time is that Mylene deprograms the brainwashed soldier, but Gavil has a beam that reasserts the mind control. But Basara’s singing is too powerful for the sound canceling system or the mind control beam.

9. Basara keeps singing even after the enemy are gone. It’s been a subplot in this episode that Basara is getting frustrated because no one really seems to understand why he’s singing. I’ve seen a lot of people complain that Basara never grows or changes throughout the series, and in part, that’s true: the series is far more about the rest of the cast (and us) coming to understand his way of thinking. But he IS changing here. The frustration is not exactly new, but it’s much stronger now, and even Gavil notes that Basara’s singing is pure anger here. No, it’s not as dramatic as, say, Gamlin or Mylene’s development, but it’s there.

10. So when I was first watching this series, raw, back in ’96, this was one of the stand-out episodes for me. Again, the satire is pretty nasty and mean-spirited, but the Jamming Birds are so hysterically terrible that I couldn’t resist. You see stuff like this all the time in the music industry: get a powerful producer behind a group of bright-eyed young people, promise the group that they’ll be stars, and they’ll become really big even if they’re minimally talented. And sometimes it works. In the short term, at least. More often than not, it leaves the singers mired in failure while the producer cashes in and then runs off.  It’s more trenchant for Japanese pop music, where a few large production companies really do control everything, and extremely overtly (since in the US, music companies at least have enough shame to PRETEND that they’re not factories that run on young people’s dreams and aspirations), but the phenomenon exists everywhere, and it’s always going to be relevant.

THIS EPISODE’S GAVIL-ISMS: “Perfection beauty,” “no beauty,” “destruction beauty,” “amplification beauty,” “no hint of beauty,” “ultimate beauty,” “anger beauty.”

FLOWER GIRL SIGHTING: In the crowd at the end, watching Gavil retreat on the city monitor.

7 Ep.32f

EYECATCH: Jamming Birds (girls)/Jamming Birds (boys)

THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH – Ray and Akiko and Stefan…

7 PLUS 4

MACROSS SEVEN P*L*U*S
Ray and Akiko and Stefan…

ICONIC SCENE: Better times…

RELEASE DATE: May 25, 1995

This two-and-a-half-minute short, included with Vol. 4 of the VHS and LD of the series (eps. 13 to 16), like the Veffidas one, tells us something we didn’t already know: that actually, while Akiko talked about Stefan as her fiancé, it was really Ray that she was in love with (and he with her), and that Stefan was really her second choice (it’s certainly not a coincidence that Stefan is asleep, silent and virtually unseen throughout the film, even though, really, he’s just a few feet away from Ray and Akiko).

Watching it after Episode 31 gives a somewhat different feel, I think, than watching it after Episode 16. With the series nearly two-thirds of the way finished, it seems more to point towards Ray and Akiko’s future rather than being just an explanation of their past. Perhaps. And the forest scenery and the cabin are lovely.

THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH 79 – Passionate Scandal

7 Ep.31

MACROSS SEVEN
EPISODE 31: Passionate Scandal

ICONIC SCENE: BIFF! BANG! POW!

STORY DATE: October 2045

SCENARIO TITLE: SCANDALOUS HERO

BROADCAST DATE: May 21, 1995

1. Huh. At the beginning of this episode, Veffidas plays the drum part for “1•2•3•4•5•6•7 Nights,” which is otherwise known for not actually appearing in the show itself (although it does turn up on one of the later “Macross 7 P*L*U*S” episodes).

2. And we’re suddenly introduced to a new character, Janet, who’s a tabloid reporter. This is a pretty frivolous storyline, really, but I have to admit that a lot of the headlines and “altered” photographs are pretty funny. We start out with a relatively unsensational one, comparing Basara to Minmay, and then they just get sillier and sillier (“Basara and his secret love,” showing a photo of Basara and Rex together, with Ray edited out. “Basara is Hikaru’s secret child.” “Basara is Minmay’s secret child.” “Basara is Hikaru AND Minmay’s secret child.” “Basara’s secret rendezvous with Mylene.” “Are Basara and Gamlin a couple?”)

3. We also meet our next Protodeviln (which could be anywhere from the third to the sixth Protodeviln we’ve seen, depending on how you’re counting… I mean, Gavil and Glavil are technically one being in two bodies, and we haven’t seen Geperunitchi or Gigil’s true forms yet).

This one is Valgo, another giant one, and… I dunno. I think each Protodeviln, design-wise, is more underwhelming than the last one. Geperunitchi and Gigil’s human forms? Sure, fine. They look great. Sivil… a sexy space vampire? Again, why not? Glavil’s a giant, reptilian monster? Okay. Gavil, the furry space elf? Well… Not quite what I was expecting. Valgo’s maybe a little better than Gavil, and DEFINITELY better than the twins, when they arrive on the scene. But just as Mikimoto’s character designs got simplified for the show itself, the villains’ seem a little watered down from Miyatake’s originals. I think a lot of it has to do with how colorful they are… It doesn’t help that Sivil had THE most badass introduction in the whole show, and no one else could quite live up to it (how could they? If Glavil had gone all-out in his first episode the way Sivil did in hers, the entire Macross 7 Fleet would have been destroyed and everyone would be dead (“GOOD!” I hear a bunch of people shout…)).

4. It seems like it’s kind of amazing that the “Galaxy Sport” tabloid pictures seem to anticipate Photoshop by a number of years, but the truth is a little more startling: sophisticated photo-doctoring even appears in “My Fair Minmay,” and that was published in ’83. The way the newspaper is shown working, though, is a little less prophetic. You have your tablet, and when the roving “EXTRA! EXTRA!” vending machine comes your way, your stick your tablet into the slot, and it uploads the news directly onto it and charges you. So inconvenient!

5. Other tabloids start getting in on the Basara scandal action, too. One of them even says he went into the mountains of India looking for enlightenment. Isn’t that what Kawamori did in the eighties…?

Oh, and Ray says he doesn’t know anything about what Basara did before they met, and nothing about his past… which I think shows that the later “On Stage” episode really IS just a fabrication.

6. I note that Janet is always listening to Sharon Apple (first “Idol Talk,” and later, “Information High”… which means it debuted here, since Macross Plus Vol. 4 hadn’t come out yet. And still later, “After, in the Dark”). I guess that means she’s a bad guy, more or less…?

7. And it all gets more serious when Janet sees Basara singing to Sivil, and takes a lot of pictures of them. Actually, she’s come on a pretty good day, since Gigil’s patience has finally run out, and he rushes out and starts beating Basara up in order to get him to sing harder (and wake Sivil up faster).

Gigil almost kills Janet, but Basara stands in the way… and Gigil starts crying. And then runs off. And Sivil’s eyes open a bit.

8. Valgo’s attack gives another hint to the identity of the Protodeviln, sort of. Glavil’s beam originated in the form of a pentagram, and so does Valgo’s… except Valgo’s is upside-down. Apart from that, though, his attack is truly weird. Out of his chest comes a bunch of pink stuff (and yes, it kinda looks like he’s jizzing all over the place) that turns into small pink monsters that fly around sucking spiritia. Again, the problem (apart from the ejaculating… I mean, it’s not the first time we’ve seen a Protodeviln orgasm) is that the little monsters look pretty goofy. The scene where they swoop down onto the streets of City 7 really SHOULD be horrifying, but it’s totally not.

And Basara seems rather upset when his sound energy actually kills all of Valgo’s minions.

9. And then, at the end it’s revealed that Janet’s secret source for photos was actually  Milia’s secretary (henchman…?) Michael, who it turns out is her brother. His full name is Michael Johnson. Get it? Get it…?

*sigh*

Also, in a bit of foreshadowing, Colonel Burton talks to Dr. Chiba about mass-producing the sound boosters. Hmm…

10. So yes, as I said, the tabloid storyline is frivolous, but it’s also a lot of fun. And apart from that, important stuff happens. Valgo arrives and Gigil’s real personal journey begins. So yes, I wish Valgo and his minions looked better, but that’s really my only complaint here.

THIS EPISODE’S GAVIL-ISMS: None, thank goodness. Gavil barely appears in this episode.

FLOWER GIRL SIGHTING: She appears in the background in many of the tabloid photos of Basara.

7 Ep.31f

EYECATCH: Mylene/Ray and Veffidas

THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH 78 – The Formula for a Love Triangle

7 Ep.30

MACROSS SEVEN
EPISODE 30: The Formula for a Love Triangle

ICONIC SCENE: “Omae ni AI-TAIIIII…”

STORY DATE: October 2045

SCENARIO TITLE: TWINKLE STARDUST

BROADCAST DATE: May 14, 1995

1. A lot of times you can tell what the episode is going to be about by what they discuss in the intro… here, it’s almost entirely about the Zentradi. And sure enough, we open with Geperunitchi having brainwashed the surviving soldiers from the all-Zentradi Macross 5 Fleet, and putting Gavil in command of them.

2. Mylene keeps trying to follow Basara, to see where he’s going (he’s going to sing to Sivil). She asks Michael to follow him, and he explains that probably Basara is going off to meet Rex. Didn’t they have this same conversation, like, ten or eleven episodes ago…? I do like the repeated detail, then as now, that when Mylene gets really jealous, she totally throws herself into practicing music.

3. Kinda weirdly, I guess, Mylene even goes to Gamlin with her concerns about Basara, and it’s clear that Gamlin doesn’t hate Basara anymore, and even (grudgingly) respects him. Talking about his piloting skill, Gamlin suggests that Basara may even surpass Max (BLASPHEMY…?).

4. I said last time that often Macross 7 is kinda the same thing over and over again… that’s not ENTIRELY the case, or, at least, it’s an oversimplification. It’s more like certain plot threads stay in something of a holding pattern until the rest of the plot catches up to them. In this clutch of episodes, it’s Basara singing to Sivil while Gigil looks on and waits. Usually, the purpose of this seems to be to lure the audience into expecting a pattern, and then eventually reversing it (the best example of this would be the folding of City 7 back in Episode 12, and there’s another big one towards the end of the series). The problem with this approach, though, is that it does make the show seem like it’s spinning its wheels. And it kind of is… spinning its wheels so that when the wheels suddenly fly off, you’ll be more shocked. And it works, generally. But in the meantime, it can get pretty tedious.

The one development this time is that after Basara leaves, Gigil picks up the guitar and strums it.

5. Gamlin brings up “QM-69,” the one maneuver that he can’t master, even though Basara can do it all the time. Of course, by the episode’s end, Gamlin can accomplish it, too.

6. Gavil’s actually flying in a VF now. It’s also fitted with another sound-canceling system, a little more sophisticated that last episode’s electronic earplugs.

And in a bit we’ll see often (speaking of repetitious plot threads), Gamlin switches out the ammo (?) on his gunpod from something a little stronger, and blows Gavil’s VF up. Gavil, of course, can easily survive such an explosion, and just flies away under his own power.

7. Everyone seems surprised that the sound beam is useless against conventional weapons. I’m not sure why this is so shocking. It seems like common sense.

8. However… it soon comes out that the enemy ships are manned by mind-controlled people from Macross 5, which changes the game quite a bit. And the sound beam DOES affect them, breaking Geperunitchi’s control. Although the first pilot rescued is named “Matthew Langley,” which doesn’t seem like a terribly Zentradi name to me. Maybe only his mom is Zentradi…?

9. Ultimately, all the pilots get rescued (except the ones killed by Docker), and Gavil has to retreat. Slowly, the sound energy is shown to be more and more useful as the series goes on.

10. Again, on first viewing, this probably would’ve felt like mostly filler. Here, after multiple viewings, it feels like continued set-up. But hey, we’re only a third of the way into Part Three of the whole story. Something major is bound to happen again soon…

THIS EPISODE’S GAVIL-ISMS: “Frightening beauty,” “strategic beauty,” “thoroughness beauty,” “explosion beauty,” “wild dance of beauty,” “completion beauty.”

FLOWER GIRL SIGHTING: Accosted by Michael when he’s trying to follow Basara, asking if she’s seen “a guy with glasses and a strange backpack.” She doesn’t really answer, but she looks awfully confused.

7 Ep.30f

EYECATCH: Gamlin/Docker