MACROSS PLUS: MOVIE EDITION
ICONIC SCENE: 2fast, 2furious
STORY DATE: 2040
RELEASE DATE: October 7, 1995
1. So, as I said in the last post, this movie debuted about three and a half months after Plus Vol. 4 had come out. It was a limited-release double feature with the Macross 7 movie (which itself was only about half an hour… watching both movies together takes less time than watching, say, any of the “Lord of the Rings” movies). It’s compilation film, more or less: a re-editing of the four OVA episodes with over thirty minutes cut out, and some new scenes added in, as well as a new Sharon Apple song. I remember renting the raw Japanese version many months before the English release came out, and when the American version hit the market, I remember some grumbling because there was no dub made of it; you could only get it in Japanese, subtitled.
Again, Macross Plus was initially proposed as a movie, and then some higher-ups decided to make it an OVA first to build interest in the eventual movie edition. I’m not sure that strategy worked, really, except maybe in the west. Not that it ever got a theatrical release outside of Japan (which is a real shame… I saw it at a midnight screening in Shinjuku once, and it’s absolutely astonishing on a big, big screen with a kick-ass sound system). It’s also worth noting that this is only the second feature-length theatrical Macross movie, and would be the last for fourteen more years, when the first Frontier movie came out.
2. It wastes no time getting into the story (and unfortunately cutting the absolutely awesome battle scene from the first OVA… Oh, and about that scene… I just realized that the other pilot’s “C’mon, c’mon, c’mon… YES!” line is taken wholesale from Terminator 2, when John Connor grabs three hundred bucks from an ATM). After a brief prologue (even briefer than the one that opened the OVA series… that one had all three main characters, this one just has Myung), we get to Sharon arriving on Eden, followed by Guld going up in the YF-21. This is all before the title comes up.
3. During Sharon’s set-up, instead of “Bad Dog” playing, we can hear a brief, scrambled preview of the new song for the movie, “Wanna Be an Angel.” Then, in a new scene, it turns out that the YF-19 is launching immediately after the YF-21 lands. Since the 19 didn’t even show up until Episode 2 of the OVA, it’s pretty clear that this movie is being free-handedly rearranged and compressed.
Oh, and for some reason, the YF-19 is now “Eagle One” instead of “Alpha One,” but the YF-21 is still “Omega One.” I’m not sure why. And I’d like to point out that the dialogue has been completely rerecorded, even where the lines are exactly the same as they were in the OVA.
And among Isamu’s first spoken lines are the immortal “kawaii-ko chan” (“pretty baby”) and “Yahoooooo!” This will become important later…
And a little more time is spent on the dino-bird that Isamu draws in the sky, including a flashback to high school showing a much more primitive one that he drew with his pedal-plane. The scene of Isamu riding the pedal-plane has some added resonance, since because of the camera angle, it almost looks like HE has wings. The message is clear from the outset: Isamu belongs in the sky.
And when the YF-19 come in for a “landing” of sorts, in a newly done scene, there’s a VF-17 on the ground.
4. I note that the character animation done expressly for the movie (like Isamu chatting up Lucy right after landing) is in a slightly different style and looks a little less detailed than the scenes that are from the OVA. This scene, by the way, is the first of several wholly new scenes in the movie. Most of the new footage is spliced in with animation from the OVA rather than completely new. This one just telescopes a few separate scenes together (Isamu and Lucy, Isamu re-meeting Guld, and establishing Isamu’s contempt for Jan (Yang…? Whose name, by the way, is only mentioned towards the end of the movie. Seriously, until ten minutes from the end of the film, if you didn’t already know his name, you’d’ve been wondering about it), but the others add more to the story.
5. Another new scene comes after that, loaded with foreshadowing, where Myung is talking with Reymond, Sharon’s owner, telling him that eventually Sharon will awake and won’t need her anymore. And of course that’s absolutely true. Reymond wonders why Sharon hasn’t awakened yet, since the program is complete. That’s… not as true.
Reymond also makes a pass at Myung, which she politely rebuffs (in almost EXACTLY the same way I was rebuffed by a Japanese girl I came on to once, weirdly enough).
6. I mentioned before how nonsensical I find Myung’s actions, considering her past. One of my friends (who makes beautiful model kits and reviews them on CollectionDX as “ShowaPop”) recently hit on an idea that makes it all fit together better: that in high school, Guld and Myung were actually going out, and that Isamu really was horning in on their relationship (and that Myung really was beginning to fall for Isamu, and probably would’ve broken up with Guld sooner or later). It of course doesn’t excuse Guld, but it makes both his and Myung’s actions and decisions more relatable, especially her decision to sleep with him, and the air of possession that he seems to have towards her. It’s a great theory and I love it, but there’s one problem: I’m not sure that the Macross Plus novel (which, again, was written by Plus’s scriptwriter, Keiko Nobumoto) follows that idea, and that takes precedence over any fan theory, no matter how well-reasoned. I don’t know… I hope to get to the novel soon. As it stands, I haven’t read it yet, despite owning two copies of it…
There’s also Isamu’s line when the three of them meet up accidentally at Star Hill, “So you’re Guld’s woman now?” which, yeah, would indicate that she wasn’t before. I dunno… maybe they kept the relationship secret…? Anyway, as much I like the theory, I’ll remain agnostic on it until I read the novel. But I’m watching this movie taking that idea into account, and yeah… the story works A LOT better this way.
7. There’s an odd bit of contradiction here… generally, in writing the movie script (and even though the Plus project was envisioned first as a movie, I’m assuming the movie script came after the OVA series scripts… I might be wrong about that) Nobumoto was extremely careful to make everything fit, sometimes making very small changes to reflect the rearrangements and cuts (an example that I mentioned before: General Gomez is a minor character in the series whose scenes get cut for the movie. However, a scene that referenced him is still in the film, but the dialogue has been rewritten to remove his name). However, in the scene where Guld sees Myung on the TV, one of the other guys on the YF-21 team mentions that Isamu has been grounded for three days. Then we hear on the TV that Sharon’s concert is in three days. Then there’s a montage of Guld and Isamu going through flight tests before the concert happens. Oh well, just chalk it up to the mad pace of film-making, I guess. After all, I only noticed it because I’m doing these stupid write-ups and trying to go over everything with a fine-toothed comb.
8. At about half an hour into the film we get the next wholly new scene. In the OVA, it was implied that Lucy and Isamu were an item (or at least sleeping together), but here, it’s made very clear indeed. Unfortunately, it also makes Isamu look like more of a jerk, as it’s also clear that he’s just spending the night with Lucy to get his mind off of Myung. That said, I gotta admit that, given Isamu’s personality, this is more what he WOULD do, rather than (as in the OVA) sitting in his room alone, brooding. I mean, let’s face it – he IS a jerk, and never shows a whole lot of respect for the people around him, nor much restraint, nor does he seem to like being inactive, nor dwelling on stuff.
And THAT said, his armor isn’t up completely, and I have no reason to doubt that his answer to Lucy’s question about how it feels to fly isn’t sincere and deeply personal. So yeah… not quite a relationship, but more than just a booty call.
(If it seems like I’m overanalyzing this, all I can say is that I like Lucy a lot more than I like Myung, and it always bugged me that she (Lucy) gets tossed aside so easily.)
Anyway, the real purpose of this scene is twofold: first, in Isamu saying that when he’s flying full-throttle he can almost see another world, that helps set up the ending, where Sharon tries to give him exactly that. Second, it makes Lucy’s jealousy later on more explicable. And, I guess, it gives an excuse to show Lucy’s tits (in the first – and so far only – overt sex scene in any Macross series).
9. Thanks to an added line earlier about how the YF-19 needs to be overhauled, it’s explained why Isamu is in a VF-11 during the YF-21 tests taken from the first episode of the series. See what I mean about the careful scriptwriting?
Oh…and one thing that I’ve noticed that’s odd… in Japanese, there are two ways to pronounce the number nineteen: “ju-ku” and “ju-kyu.” Macross Plus consistently uses the first while Macross 7 consistently uses the second. No clue, folks…
But yeah, honestly, this scene (where Guld mostly-accidentally pushes down Isamu’s VF-11, causing him to crash) works better here, putting it in the middle of the movie, than it did in Episode 1 of the OVA. First off, it seems more reasonable that Isamu would survive but be hospitalized from this than from the shooting mishap in OVA Episode 2. Second, the tensions are running EXTREMELY high throughout this scene, and there’s been more build-up for that in the movie than there was in the first part of the series. Third, it completely eliminates the seriously (deliberately…?) confusing stuff about Guld putting live ammo in Isamu’s gun. That’s a subplot I’m not sorry to lose.
10. One thing that I really AM sorry to lose, though, is Millard’s line about a real fighter pilot being someone who thinks he can win in a fight, even if he’s injured. That added some resonance to the fight between Isamu and Guld outside the hospital.
Another thing I miss is all the security camera footage of Isamu acting nonchalant as he prepares to steal the 19.
A third thing I miss (to go back AND forwards) is Jan’s remark at the beginning that Isamu and Guld “seem like good friends.” He mentions this in the first OVA, and brings it up again at the end, when the two make up. In the movie, the first reference is cut, so the second is not referring back to anything (which, I think, helped give rise to the “What a bromance” line, which references nothing and is a completely anachronistic remark, in the subtitles for the Japanese remastered blu-ray. And yeah… about those subs, no one seems to know who did them. They’re not the original subs from the Manga Entertainment version, and none of the usual people who make subs for releases like this seem to be responsible for them, so… it’s a mystery).
11. Instead of immediately starting with “Information High,” Sharon starts her set with “Wanna Be an Angel,” which is a really great song, and actually sounds like something Sharon would sing. The new visuals that go along with it, especially the giant dino-bird, are also creepy and weird and impressive.
The Sharon in this scene is the one that now most often gets represented in official art, because hey, she’s got green hair and twin-tails. Just like Hatsune Miku.
And then we get “Information High,” which, for reasons I expounded on last time, I really don’t like. To summarize, it sounds nothing like Sharon. And it still makes me grimace when I see people say it’s their favorite Yoko Kanno song, since she had nothing to do with it. Might as well say that “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” is your favorite Beatles song. I will say this for “Information High,” though: it fits perfectly with the scenes of Isamu getting past the defense net. It fits less well with the new scenes of Sharon’s holograms, I think, but that might just be me, since I think of Sharon’s imagery (thousands of birds flying through the city, for example) as very delicate and ethereal, and a pounding ’90s techno-dance song with powerful vocals is… kinda the opposite of that.
I also think it sounds much more dated (here, in 2016) than Sharon’s other songs, which to my ears still hold up quite well.
12. When Marj starts saying “Subarashii… Subarashii yo, Sharon…” (“It’s magnificent… it’s magnificent, Sharon…”), I’m always reminded of the little drama CD that was a give-away with early tickets for the Seven and Plus double feature. It features the Macross 7 cast (Fire Bomber, Max, and Milia) meeting Isamu, Guld, Myung, and Sharon. Again, the voice actor for Max is Sho Hayami, same as for Marj (so he’s already on hand). At one point, Sharon is demonstrating her power, and you hear Marj saying “Magnificent, Sharon…” and then Milia angrily spouts, “Max, what are you saying!?” Max gives a start and says, “Oh, uh… I don’t know what came over me…”
Oh, and for the record, on that CD, Basara and Sharon end up intensely disliking each other.
13. Then we get the last of the completely new scenes, as Millard talks to Lucy about how he’ll keep Isamu out of trouble. Which is fine, except I’m sure he has no idea that Isamu and Guld are about to shoot up an entire city. I… guess Millard can pull it off…? Maybe…?
14. From here on, everything plays out pretty much the same as it does in the series, just expanded, with member of the main cast getting more screen time. The battle with the Ghost is greatly prolonged, as the YF-21 ends up ejecting its arms and legs to go faster. Guld is pushing himself past mortal endurance, and the the Ghost is pushing itself past its own limits just to stay ahead of him. Then Guld’s eyeball pops and he starts vomiting blood. He hits the Ghost and destroys it, but the YF-21 ends up in orbit, Guld dead inside it. For the first part, this is a great action scene, and then it gets faster and faster… and pretty grisly, to boot. But again, my impression with the OVA series is that Guld at that point WANTED to die. I don’t get that feeling here. I think he wanted to destroy the Ghost, and willing to do anything to accomplish that (shades of John Henry…?).
Sharon’s hypnosis of Isamu is also expanded, tying in with what he said to Lucy earlier about a distant world that he can’t quite reach.
And Myung, fittingly, is now the one who finally kills Sharon, by pulling out the bio-neural chip.
15. The addition of the scene towards the end with Millard and Lucy kind of answers the question of “Well… what happens to Isamu NOW?” question hanging over the end of the OVA. On the one hand, he saved Macross City. On the other, he virtually destroyed another city. At least we know now that whatever happens to him immediately after this, he’s still flying twenty years down the line.
But anyway, yeah… the movie. On the whole, I think it’s better than the OVA series, although there are some things (as I mentioned) that I miss. Also, those cliffhangers… seeing it all in one go, without having to wait months for the next episode… it simply doesn’t have the same impact (but that’s true of the OVA series now, too). But still, it was a great show, and it makes a great movie. And neither version feels superfluous; both, I think, are necessary for a complete grasp of the story. Again, truly one of the milestones in anime history, although it tends to get overshadowed by something that was starting at about the same time this movie came out. Namely, Evangelion. Which became THE series that permeated both the otaku and the mainstream cultures. So yes, Plus is not as well-remembered in Japan as it by rights should be, but I think it’s one of those perennial titles that keeps finding a new audience year after year.