THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH 119 – FIRST ATTACK

F Ep.7

MACROSS FRONTIER
#07: FIRST ATTACK

ICONIC SCENE: “Rather abrupt!”

STORY DATE: 2059

BROADCAST DATE: May 15, 2008

1. The intro here explains the Macross Galaxy, mostly telling us stuff we already know (although we actually SEE it for the first time, and it looks nothing like any other Macross ship we’ve ever been shown), in that its main purpose is scientific and technological advancement. In a way, I think, this is kinda the Macross Zero conflict rearing its head again, in that Frontier is “natural” and Galaxy is “technological” (of course, just as in Macross Zero, it’s complicated by the fact that Frontier, while it has a lot of natural surroundings on board, is still completely technological and artificial itself).

2. During her mike chatter between songs, Sheryl says “Macrosspeed” (all one word), which was used in one of the trailers for Do You Remember Love (“Minmay: Macrosspeed!”).

And Ozma named his formations after Fire Bomber songs; the first one they execute is, of course, “Planet Dance.”

3. Luca’s Ghosts have rather Biblical names: Simon, John, and Peter. Simon Peter was John’s son, but I dunno… Luca himself is, of course “Luke,” so “Matthew” and “Mark” would seem to make more sense than Simon and Peter… Unless there’s some connection I’m not getting…

4. And Canaria busts out the Koenig Monster (from the game VF-X2), the only fully transformable destroid (although we won’t see its battroid form until the very end of this series). It’s got the rather ironic callsign of “Rabbit-1.”

5. When Sheryl is talking to Grace backstage, the camera lingers on Grace’s smile just a little TOO long… It’s slightly suspicious…

6. Okay, when the Vajra battleship defolds, I have to wonder… how does a Vajra battleship work? Is it alive in its own right, or does it have a Vajra crew piloting it? I’m guessing the former, although either idea strikes me as a little weird. Maybe it’s connected to a Vajra Queen, kinda the way Bodolzaa and Lap’Lamiz WERE their fortresses in Do You Remember Love…? That seems most likely.

7. Sheryl starts crying on stage and Ranka’s dress seems to kinda bunch up around her stomach and glow a bit. She shouts Sheryl’s name, which makes the latter’s earring glow. That, a bit later, makes the earring Alto has in his cockpit glow as well, and it seems like Sheryl’s singing reverberates through his immediate area, which makes the Vajra pause long enough for him not to get killed. On first viewing, this sequence was supremely odd.

A few years before Frontier, a then-fifteen-year-old May’n had released three (decidedly NOT “hit”) singles (under her real name, Mei Nakabayashi), all of which I had managed to track down by this point (it wasn’t easy, trust me). The second one, “Sympathy,” had a cover of the Madonna “classic,” “Papa Don’t Preach” as a B-side. Right after this episode aired (i.e. before we knew what the deal was with Ranka’s tummy), I got it into my head to cut a Frontier AMV to that song, editing it so that it looked like Sheryl was singing about Alto getting Ranka pregnant. I never ended up making it, though. And now it’s probably much too late.

8. Luca gets captured (or, “eaten,” as Ozma puts it) by the Vajra battleship, and Alto, not QUITE against orders, but not on anyone’s direction either, breaks in to rescue him. And he finds a bunch of already-killed Vajra. This of course is the handiwork of Brera, who makes his debut here (except in the opening, where at first, big surprise, I thought he was a girl). He remains mostly hidden throughout this episode, although he does step in to help Alto free Luca’s Valk (and we also see “Slave Mode,” where someone can hook up a VF to their own EX-Gear and control it directly with body movements, which is kind of a cool innovation).

The thing that’s strangest about Brera right now, though, is the fact that on the fold back to wherever he came from, he pulls out a harmonica and plays “Aimo,” which only Ranka is supposed to know. It’s even weirder when you realize (as we’ll see later) the fact that he’s actually wearing a flight helmet and only a hologram makes it appear that he’s not, so playing the instrument should’ve been impossible (a fact that apparently eluded at least a few Delta viewers, who complained that the Aerial Knights don’t wear helmets. Like much of the Delta “magic,” the technology has already been presented; it’s just a matter of putting two and two together).

9. The Macross Quarter undergoes a transformation, and so does its helmsman, Bobby. Now the fact that the Quarter transforms isn’t a surprise, but seeing the amount of pure MOTION that it has sure is. After the original Macross and Battle 7, neither of which were terribly agile or mobile, seeing a Macross ship (even a small one like the Quarter) spin and twirl like a battroid is something of a shock.

And Bobby, who, as I’ve mentioned before, has been rather outrageously effeminate so far in the series, ties a headband on and suddenly becomes rather outrageously MACHO, shouting deep-voiced battle cries, and controlling the ship with his mighty thews. As soon as the battle’s done, his girlish charm returns.

10. So this episode was storyboarded by Kawamori himself, and it’s an excellent battle episode (in any Macross series, is there an episode that focuses on a big battle that actually LOOKS BAD…? If so, I can’t think of one. Even the combat-centered Macross 7 episodes are remarkably fluid and adept). A few mysteries get introduced, and the might of the SMS is displayed, especially through the use of the Monster and the Macross Quarter (weirdly, Pixie Team is there in their Queadluun-Rheas at the beginning, but then quickly vanish from the episode). As I said, I think the Vajra battleships are a little unconvincing (or at least I wish they’d been explained better), but other than that, no complaints. A thoroughly compelling episode.

OP: “Triangler”

ED: “Aimo”

NUMBER OF TIMES RANKA SAYS “ALTO-KUN” THIS EPISODE: 3

AND TOTAL: 16

EYECATCH: None.

NEXT EPISODE: “Song of Havoc, ring throughout the galaxy!”

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THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH 118 – BYE-BYE SHERYL

F Ep.6

MACROSS FRONTIER
#06 BYE-BYE SHERYL

ICONIC SCENE: “I’m borrowing this! Send the bill to Ray from Fire Bomber.”

STORY DATE: 2059

BROADCAST DATE: May 8, 2008

1. The intro brings up “Fold Faults,” which Alto mentioned (with no explanation) before. In effect, anyone who had previously tried to calculate time in Fold Space versus time in the regular universe (for their RPGs or whatever) was playing a mug’s game, since Fold Faults screw that up completely (and provide a nice explanation of why sometimes folds seem instantaneous and why other times they seem to take a while). If, while folding, you run into a fault, your fold will take much longer to complete. The narration doesn’t really dwell on the problem, but it is the central crux of the Frontier story.

Oh, and the episode title is a reference to Episode 7 of the original Macross, “Bye-Bye Mars.” Renato says that THAT title was a reference to the Japanese SF movie, “Sayonara Jupiter,” which had an “official” English title of “Bye-Bye Jupiter.” However, the movie didn’t come out until well after that episode of the original Macross had aired. The novel that the movie was based on had already been published several years before, but I’ve been unable to find out if the English title was used for the book.

2. And Sheryl’s about the leave back for Macross Galaxy, and Alto finally got her earring away from Gilliam’s personal effects (somehow).

And Ranka is going to be managed by Elmo (whose company, “Vector Promotions” is a clear play on “Victor,” the record company that releases (most of) the Macross music (all those Macross 7 radio show CDs were released by Polydor, for some reason).

And what’s up with the tables at the cafe they’re at? Are the little cursors you can shoot around on it part of some kind of game or something?

3. Well, Sheryl probably won’t be leaving the cast anytime soon (I would add, “surprising no one,” but apparently a lot of people really DID think she was just going to be a minor character in the series, despite her prominence in the OP and that a singer was hired specifically to perform her songs, and whose single was the second one released for the series), since Galaxy apparently got attacked by the Vajra.

4. And Alto lies to Ranka here, and I’m totally not sure why. He mentions he was at the Zentradi mall when Ranka was singing, and she (who of course saw him with Sheryl) asks, leadingly, “Oh, were you shopping?” And he replies, “Yeah, something like that.” She says, “By yourself?” and he grunts a yes. Now it looks as though he’s trying to keep his date with Sheryl a secret (even though I’d imagine it’s probably all over school by now) and Ranka knows that he’s not telling the truth. And he compounds the dishonesty by giving her one of the tickets to Sheryl’s concert that Sheryl gave him. Already, I think the blossoming Ranka/Alto romance is in trouble.

5. President Howard Glass declares a state of emergency (in order to go help Macross Galaxy) and “Special Exception Term B” gets invoked for the SMS, which means that no one can quit SMS until the emergency is over.

Sheryl also gives a speech which shows her to be quite the persuasive orator.

6. Okay, I haven’t really talked much about the music, and while most of it, both the songs and the score, is incredible, it’s been noted all over that Yoko Kanno, for all her talent, is something of an infamous plagiarist, especially in “Cowboy Bebop” and “Ghost in the Shell.” She generally avoids that in Frontier, but when we see the first VF-171s being launched here, the music track (titled “Big Boys”) is a direct lift from the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack.

7. It certainly LOOKS like Macross Galaxy is in a lot of danger, and SMS prepares to launch. Among the compromises they had to make with the government is that Cathy gets stationed with them, and her extremely serious and military demeanor contrasts comically with the more laid-back Macross Quarter bridge crew. In some ways, she really is the Misa of this series.

8. Alto and Sheryl have a nice little bonding moment, and again, it’s clear that Sheryl is not the horrible drama queen that she appeared back in the first few episodes. She also lets Alto borrow her earring, for good luck.

And SMS suits up for battle, with a lot of screen time devoted to Klan testing out her Queadluun-Rhea and Luca polishing up his Ghosts. We also get to see the Macross Quarter for the first time.

9. Sheryl’s concert is one of the bits that got redone for the DVDs from the original TV broadcast version. I’m unsure why, since it looked fine as-is (much better than, say, Episode 8, which perhaps was too far gone to get “touched up.” Of course, this episode was clearly done “in-house,” whereas Episode 8 was just as clearly outsourced, so Satelight probably had more control here on what could get revised and redone).

Anyway, she starts her concert with “Diamond Crevasse” (rather implausibly, I think. NO ONE would open a concert with that… You want to start by getting the people pumped up, right?), and one of the interesting things about the editing is that there’s no break in the song before the ending credits start, it just goes right into them for the second verse of the song.

10. And this one ends on a great cliffhanger, as the Macross Quarter folds away. But again, I think the part of the episode that really sticks out is the new-found warmth in Sheryl’s character. These kinds of reversals are often hard to pull off, but Sheryl seems utterly convincing in her switch from a total prima donna who’s yelling at everybody to a rather nice and considerate woman. Part of that is a strong and confident script, but Aya Endo’s likewise strong and confident voice acting shouldn’t be underestimated.

OP: “Triangler”

ED: “Diamond Crevasse”

NUMBER OF TIMES RANKA SAYS “ALTO-KUN” THIS EPISODE: 1

AND TOTAL: 13

EYECATCH: Kabuki Alto.

NEXT EPISODE: “Song of Prayers, ring throughout the galaxy!”

THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH 117 – STAR DATE

F Ep.5

MACROSS FRONTIER
#05: STAR DATE

ICONIC SCENE: “What? The ‘lee-rics’ aren’t ready yet?”

STORY DATE: 2059

BROADCAST DATE: May 1, 2008

1. In the intro, Frontier is described as a “small earth,” which ties into something kind of interesting. Recently, Kawamori’s treatment (dated late 1992) for the planned Hollywood live-action Macross movie came to light (news broken on *ahem* the Macross Speaker Podcast). It’s pretty interesting in and of itself, but it’s also interesting because in several ways it’s a precursor to Frontier. I’ll be bringing it up as we go along, but for now, let me point out that the Macross in the movie treatment was also designed as a closed ecological system, with replicas of things like the Amazon River and the Great Barrier Reef, and it’s described there, likewise, as a “small earth.”

2. Meanwhile, back on ground level, Ozma and Ranka have a huge fight because entering the Miss Macross Contest has led Ranka to get suspended from the elite girls’ academy she was attending (and yes, this could easily happen in Japan. Ever wonder why so many of the Japanese girls posting dance or music videos on YouTube hide their faces…?). Among the things she throws at him during the argument is, of course, a Minmay doll. And some kind of robot toy, but I can’t tell what. And a very sharp looking knife (!!).

Anyway, Ranka runs off, angry and depressed. And, rather ironically, she’s wearing her school uniform. Y’know, the school she just got kicked out of.

3. One of my favorite homages shows up in Sheryl and Alto’s conversation. Now, of course, the entire date (and Sheryl’s “disguise”) is a reference to the Hikaru/Minmay date in Do You Remember Love, but even more so: when Sheryl says, “You don’t want to be with me?” it’s an actual line spoken by Minmay (which probably only stood out to me because it’s in one of the Do You Remember Love trailers, as well as in Flashback 2012, which I’ve watched several dozen times or more). And it sure sounds like Aya Endo (Sheryl’s gorgeous and charming voice actress) was instructed to mimic the way Mari Iiijima read the line.

(Interesting to note the protagonists’ varying reactions to that line. Hikaru: “Okay… let’s go ALL OUT!” Alto: “No, it’s annoying.”)

Also, I think it’s kind of funny that the Hikaru/Minmay date takes up only about five or ten minutes in the movie (if you don’t include the ill-fated Valkyrie joyride), whereas this date takes up the entire episode. So far, it’s been easy to think of Frontier as a “kinda/sorta remake of SDF Macross on speed,” but it’s also finding its own pace.

Oh, and when the other students enter the locker room, one of them mentions “hover blades”… is that a Macross 7 Trash reference, or just a coincidence…? Honestly, once you start digging into it, you could go crazy trying to note everything that MIGHT be an homage (one that DEFINITELY is, though, because it’s mentioned in the DVD booklet for this episode, is that Alto and Sheryl eating hot dogs on their date is a reference to Hikaru and Minmay eating hamburgers on theirs… and that might show you how abstract some of these homages are). And good thing the school lockers are so big. I could barely fit all of my textbooks into MY high school locker, let alone a full-size pop diva.

(A NOTE ABOUT THOSE HOMAGES: I’m listing every one that’s obvious. There are a bunch that are less obvious, but are mentioned in the DVD booklets, for which I’ll always state “according to the DVD booklet…” or words to that effect. There are other less obvious ones that I’ve noted, that AREN’T in the DVD booklet, and I’ll say “this MAY be an homage…” (or words to that effect) for those. So… three categories for homages: “obvious,” “not obvious but confirmed official,” and “this may just be me… I dunno…”

That said, some of the “not obvious but confirmed official” seem a little suspect…)

(And if YOU see any homages that I’ve missed, please let me know in the comments. Thanks!)

And Sheryl’s orgasm from Alto’s (*ahem*) vibrating phone…? Pure theatrics. She’s just using the opportunity to snatch his “omamori” good luck charm, knowing that he’ll do anything she says until she gives it back. This is continuing Sheryl’s role as a total pain in the ass (which, honestly, she really has been so far), but that’s about to change.

4. Boy, If you’ve got Ranka’s type of phone, turning it off must be traumatizing, since it basically “dies.”

And then, hey! “Mr. Birla” makes his visual debut! He’ll remain mysterious for a long time to come, though.

And love triangles, love triangles! Everywhere you look in this show, there are love triangles. Along with the burgeoning Sheryl/Alto/Ranka triangle, we’ve obviously got an Ozma/Cathy/Leon triangle, as well as (kind of) a Ranka/Ozma/Cathy triangle (at least, Cathy says that if Ozma had paid as much attention to her as he does to Ranka, she might not have left him).

You, um, could ALSO go crazy trying to figure out all the triangles in this show. Let’s just say there are many that were intentionally put into the show, and quite a few more that can be drawn, whether the staff intended them or not.

(Continuing that, Nanase blames herself for Ranka’s suspension. We don’t yet know that she’s totally in love with Ranka, but still: Luca/Nanase/Ranka is a sort of triangle, as is Alto/Ranka/Nanase. See what I mean…? It gets CRAZY…! Almost Urusei Yatsura level… And that’s not even INCLUDING the Ranka/Nanase/Me triangle!)

5. Okay, Sheryl trying to catch (kill) butterflies is the first inkling in this show that she even has a soul. Again, I remind everyone, she’s been absolutely awful for four episodes straight (except when she’s talking to Ranka).

And it’s kind of interesting, given the show’s resolution, that Sheryl thinks Alto is “going steady” with Ranka. To her (Sheryl), I think, spending the day with “The Galactic Fairy, SHERYL NOME” is probably worth lying to one’s girlfriend about. At least, she never really brings up Alto and Ranka ever again.

Oh, and Mikhail finds Ranka first, so he gets to babysit her for the rest of the episode. Joy.

And the next part of the episode is just scenes from San Francisco.

6. And Sheryl explains “Implants.” The reason she could ask Grace for the concert footage and warned Alto against posting her boobs on the net is because, on Macross Galaxy, most of the people are artificial, and can easily record anything with their eyes. “It’s like telling the punchline before the set-up” groused one person on Macross World, but I view it as more clever than that. Yes, the line from last episode only makes sense in retrospect, but it seems to me that that’s a hallowed SF tradition: using the technology or idea in the story first, and explaining it later. Yes, this is mostly WRITTEN science fiction that I’m talking about, but I’m glad to see it moving to the visual format here (and it only took fifty years!). It’s honestly okay to implement SF concepts a few chapters or episodes before you explain them. It makes the first reading or viewing more intriguing, and the second that much more clear (and we DO want repeat customers, yes?).

Oh, and Sheryl mentions that her “all-natural” body is one of her selling points, which seems kinda weird to me. If Implants and such are so common on Galaxy, Sheryl eschewing such things would be akin to saying, for example, “Sheryl doesn’t have an email or Facebook account and never goes online!” Kind of unusual, but hardly a big deal. And more of an indicator of a Luddite than anything else.

And then they see HIPPOCOWS!! (And yes, that is what they’re called, even in Japanese.) Later, Ranka eats Hippocow ice cream, which I guess tastes good…? Apparently, they come right out of the “Avatar: The Last Airbender” cartoon. One question: the full-size Zentradi here don’t have the reverberation in their voices that the ones from the first series did, but they all speak extremely slowly. Why?

(Oh, and the train station in the background is called “Bokujou-Mae,” “In Front of the Pasture.” My home station, when I lived in Tokyo, was “Meidai-Mae,” “In Front of Meiji University.”)

And then Sheryl sees the Zentradi mall (named, apparently, after Exsedol, whose surname can be rendered as “Formo” or “Folmo.” The Zentradi script outside the mall, however, has it as “Forlmo,” hedging their bets. The Zentradi script INSIDE the mall generally says “SALE” followed by a price).

There’s a Zentradi guy outside the mall singing, basically, an “enka” song. “Enka” is, loosely, the Japanese equivalent of country/western songs. The ones sung by men are usually about how hard it is to be a man. The ones sung by women are usually about how the woman’s no-good, two-timing man ran off and left her alone with the kids (but she’s still burning for him). Nothing quite says “old timer” like being an enka fan, really. And this isn’t the last time enka will come up in the series, since Ozma is later referred to as having something of an enka mentality. Once, some friends of mine and I ended up by accident in an enka karaoke bar in Shibuya. We sang some pop songs, and the rather elegant (for the ladies) and dapper (for the men) (or maybe they were just Yakuza. I’m not sure) patrons quickly fled the place. I felt bad for the owner, but she gave us each a signed picture of an enka singer. On the train ride home, I showed it to the guy next to me and asked if she was famous. He said that he had indeed heard of her, so I guess she was.

ANYWAY, “Formo” or “Folmo” or “Forlmo” or WHATEVER is a mall on one of the smaller ships (“Island-3”) connected to the Frontier (“Island-1”) where full-size Zentradi live, work, and shop. It’s kind of nice to see, since the only non-miclone Zentradi we’ve seen in a long while have either been antagonists or curiosities. I’d imagine, though, that Sheryl running around shouting about how huge everything is is rather insensitive.

(We briefly see what looks like a winged tiger, except purple. Those will become important in a few episodes.)

And Sheryl comes up with some lyrics on the spot, and ends up writing them on a pair of Zentradi-size panties. Now what song this is is an open question, but I think the consensus is that this is “Yousei” (“Fairy”), although those lyrics probably got heavily revised before she recorded the song.

7. Meanwhile, Ozma’s been summoned (by Cathy, of all people, which leads to some awkward talk) to a meeting of some who have encountered the Vajra before, viewing the “corpse” of the one that Ozma “killed” back in Episode 2.

They’ve discovered that the Vajra’s shell is exactly like the energy-converting armor on Valkyries, that they create their explosive shells inside their bodies, and can fold on their own. And that their brains are much too tiny to control all of this. They also look kinda like Glaugs, but that’s left unsaid (but meant to be inferred, especially by the end of the series).

Ranka’s singing wakes it up (in a scene EXTREMELY reminiscent of Eva-00’s “awakening” in Episode 3 of Evangelion), but it gets destroyed (much too easily, honestly) (or else it just folds away…? The scene is unclear).

8. Mikhail challenges Ranka to sing where no one wants to pay attention to her (a good test, honestly), and she busts out the best version of Sheryl’s song, “What ’bout my star” EVER. Joined by (apparently) a Fire Bomber cover band, or at least a bunch of Zentradi who are using instruments (mostly) copied from Fire Bomber’s.

Although I note that the only reason she can actually SING is because she sees a paper airplane, which reminds her of Alto (and it IS actually Alto’s paper airplane).

(The Ranka-only version of the song remains unavailable. According to the “in-universe” liner notes for the first soundtrack album, someone recorded Ranka’s “guerilla live” song, and it was GOING to be released as-is, but Sheryl asked to have the recording (in order to, as she said, “make it cooler”) and she added her own vocals to it, losing the original recording in the process. Either version, though, is better than Sheryl’s original. The “Formo” version totally beats it for struttability. By which I mean, if you’re walking down the street and listening to this, your step picks up and you start STRUTTIN’, man!)

One of Sheryl’s best features is on display here. She helped Ranka blossom, and realizes quickly that Ranka has it in her to become a big star, but doesn’t feel at all threatened by that. Instead, she still wants to help and nurture Ranka’s talent. Such a change from, say, Jamis Merin.

And hey, Sheryl ALMOST says the “I don’t do this kind of service very often” line, but not quite.

9. Oops. Sheryl gives Alto as big a peck on the cheek as she can, and both Ranka and Alto are shocked by this. Mikhail is just envious.

And then, Ranka is approached by her soon-to-be-manager (and manager of the Enka Zentradi Guy), Elmo. Whose surname, by the way, is Kridanik, same as Britai’s. Macross Chronicle Magazine (which is really the final word on these things) is evasive about whether that means they’re related or not.

And at the VERY end, a fighter folds in near Frontier from Galaxy (Sheryl’s home), saying that they’ve been attacked. By Vajra. (Now, some people will say that this fighter looks a lot like a VF-2SS, but I honestly don’t see it.)

10. As I said at the time on Macross World, “Wow! Sheryl is FUN! Who knew?” And she totally is. Seriously, talk about your reversals…! Sheryl, in this episode, goes from most-hated character to most-loved character. Nearly everything she did in the first four episodes was selfish and angry, but here, she gets to breathe a little and enjoy herself a bit, and that makes all the difference. Her solicitousness towards Ranka also helps. of course, but really, she reveals herself here as generally kind and caring. I said before that Bobby was one of the best characters in Frontier, but Sheryl is far and away THE BEST character, so much so that I think she kind of outgrows the show itself… but that’s for later. For now, we just know she’s awesome. And she gives Alto a kiss, for which he should be eternally grateful (and his blessings don’t end here…).

OP: “Triangler”

ED: “Diamond Crevasse”

NUMBER OF TIMES RANKA SAYS “ALTO-KUN” THIS EPISODE: 6

AND TOTAL: 12

EYECATCH: The VF-25S and Ozma.

NEXT EPISODE: “Song of Parting, ring throughout the galaxy!”

THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH 116 – MISS MACROSS

F Ep.4

MACROSS FRONTIER
#04: MISS MACROSS

ICONIC SCENE: “Debran deculture!”

STORY DATE: 2059

BROADCAST DATE: April 24, 2008

1. I haven’t talked about Ranka’s cell phone (Keitai-kun, i.e. “Cell-kun”) but it’s really cool. I’d totally get one if it could do everything that Ranka’s can.

So Ranka gets into the Miss Macross Frontier Contest, and Alto’s training is not going all that well (I love the signs that he has to wear, saying “I’m dead” in various languages). And when defeated in the simulator, he has to do a few laps in an EX-Gear. Which doesn’t sound like much of a punishment until you realize that it’s turned off. Oh, and it turns out that Mikhail cranked the difficulty level of the simulator all the way up. He WANTS Alto to suffer.

(And the song being played during this is the “SMS Theme (That Chick is an Alien),” one of the more, um, whimsical songs in Frontier, with lyrics by Kawamori, under his old pseudonym, “Eiji Kurokawa.”)

2. We also realize here that Bobby, the Macross Quarter helmsman, is rather outrageously limp-wristed and effeminate. I suppose you could be offended by the stereotyping if you so choose (especially when you realize that he’s the battleship pilot… with dark skin… and an afro… and he’s in love with the Focker-type character… Man, he’s the new Claudia!), but me, I think he’s too much fun to get upset about. Easily one of the best characters in the show, stereotypical or not.

3. Ozma’s opposition to the Miss Macross Contest is played for irony, since Ranka has entered, but there’s additional irony in that (as we find out), his ex-girlfriend (Cathy) was a previous winner, so he really should know better…

And Sheryl seems to have learned from Jamis Merin’s example, fifty years before… if you’re already a celebrity, be a JUDGE, not a CONTESTANT.

And speaking of Jamis, we meet her possible granddaughter, Miranda Merin (and her bouncing boobs). And yes, Ranka looks VERY out of place here. The prim school uniform and the childish Valk backpack don’t help.

The dressing room scene here honestly reminds me more of the one from “My Fair Minmay” than anything from the original series, mostly due to the casual nastiness of the other girls.

Although, of course, again, Sheryl is nice to Ranka. So far, Ranka is again the ONLY character Sheryl’s been kind to.

4. Which Miss Macross Contest IS this, anyway? The signs outside say “The 25 [sic] anniversary,” the curtain says “Miss Macross 20 contest,” and the announcer says it’s the twelfth. I’m guessing the dialogue is correct, since Cathy won the 8th contest, and she’s about 23 herself.

I really like the music used to introduce the contest, but it hasn’t been released anywhere, unfortunately (there are a bunch of instrumental tracks that haven’t. When the Macross F Vocal Collection came out, I asked one of my Japanese friends if she thought a BGM Collection could be next. She said, “Maybe in the ’80s, but mmmm… now, I don’t think so.” Whereas, as far as I can tell, the only vocal tracks from the series that aren’t on CD are the original (*ahem!* Yoko Kanno-sung) version of the “Nyan Nyan Theme,” the Sheryl-less “What ’bout my star@Formo,” and the Bobby-less Ranka version of the SMS Theme).

And just as Minmay tugged at her swimsuit at her rear end, Ranka tugs on her top.

5. Alto gets called away from the contest, just as Hikaru did in Episode 9 of the original series. In the lobby, Alto and his dad see each other, and his dad definitely makes an “I HAVE NO SON!” face. And then basically comes out and says exactly that. Casual viewers might not realize that Alto’s dad’s voice actor also plays Bobby.

6. Oh, and I haven’t mentioned this yet, but the main SMS Valk group is called, in official materials, “Skull Platoon.” I prefer “Skull Team” since I’m not sure “platoon” should be used for aircraft. Anyway, the use of the term “Shotai” (“small group”) is definitely a reference to Do You Remember Love, where it was similarly “Skull Shotai” (only four members: Focker, Hikaru, Max, and Kakizaki), and emphatically NOT the TV series, where it was “Skull Daitai” (“large group”), which would be “squadron.” As such, I wouldn’t call this bunch “Skull Squadron” (one of the quibbles I have with the mostly-excellent Central Anime fansubs).

There’s another homage to the original series (one that’s been exploited in many AMVs) in the elevator that lifts the VF-25s to the launch deck: a reference to the opening titles of the first Macross. And an homage when one of the bridge bunnies, Ram Hoa, tells Alto, “Good luck, Skull-4,” and he replies, “Thank you,” in English, this time to Do You Remember Love when Hikaru first launches.

And they fight against Pixie Team, all female Zentradi in the new Queadluun-Rhea power suits (mentioned as “Queadluun-Lambda” in the first printing of the manga adaptation, but corrected in later pressings). They’re essentially Queadluun-Raus but with even more boosters and a shoulder cannon.

And the battle happens in “the site of an historic Zentradi battle,” grim reminders of which are around them everywhere. I’m slightly reminded of the dead Zeon soldier floating through space from Zeta Gundam. Unfortunately, no Supervision Army equipment is in sight here (they’re really never mentioned again after Macross 7).

The dogfight is really spectacular. Again, the action scenes in Frontier are easily on par with Zero, which is amazing for a weekly TV show, rather than an OVA series with six months between episodes.

After he shoots one of them down (Nene, although it really doesn’t matter. Of Pixie Team, only Klan is a real character. Nene and Raramia are barely in the show at all), Alto makes a kabuki pose. Again, for someone who’s trying to get away from that life, he sure hasn’t let go of it yet.

7. Ranka’s interview is really embarrassing to watch, since she totally screws it up. Again, this reminds me more of “My Fair Minmay” than it does the TV series.

And then she sings “My Boyfriend Is a Pilot” with the dogfight between Alto and Klan performing commentary on the lyrics (or vice-versa). Although the various (well… two) versions of “Do You Remember Love” that Ranka sings are entirely new arrangements by Yoko Kanno, this one uses the “Mylene Jenius Sings Lynn Minmay” version as its base. Ranka’s dance, clearly using motion capture, is really energetic and fluid, as Kawamori points out in his episode commentary (from the book “2059 Memories”), and adds that the younger animators worked on it, to give it even more energy. It’s something we haven’t really seen in Macross before. Even Minmay at her best, in the movie and Flashback 2012, didn’t jump around the stage the way Ranka does here.

Although at the end, she trips and falls (again, just like Minmay, who broke a heel during the swimsuit competition).

8. And the Vajra ACTUALLY show up (drawn by Ranka’s singing, I guess…) and we flash back to the resolution of the cliffhanger last time, where Ozma said if Alto joined SMS, he (Ozma) would tell him (Alto) the truth about the Vajra. This part is kind of a cheat, since all he tells Alto is that the Vajra destroyed the 117th Research Fleet and that Ranka is one of the survivors… but we already knew this from Ranka’s flashbacks (although Alto didn’t). However, the scene is clever in that we’re focusing on that part of it, and might completely miss Alto’s reference to “Fold Faults,” which will become central to the story. Sleight-of-hand scriptwriting is always fun.

Anyway, Klan softens the Vajra up, and Alto goes in for the kill using a 7,000-year-old Zentradi gun from the battlefield. Actually, it must be much older than that, probably closer to 500,000, but it hasn’t been fired for 7,000 years. Luckily, it still works (Klan explains that all Zentradi weapons are excellently-made).

9. In a surprise, Ranka actually LOSES the Miss Macross Contest, although it seems evident that she WOULD’VE won if Leon hadn’t interfered. He actually has a pretty good reason for doing this (as we’ll find out later). Anyway, Jamis Merin will have her revenge on Seattle… uh, I mean Macross, since her granddaughter (?) wins.

There’s another surprise in that the deep-voiced, built-like-a-porn-star Klan turns out to be an annoying little shrimp when micloned (thanks to “awkward genes,” as Mikhail says, although he’s one to talk… apparently, his own genes (a mix of human, Zentradi, and, nonsensically, Zolan) are awkward enough that he can’t macronize, according to the “Macross F Official Fan Book”). One thing I would like to know though, is why her uniform in her miclone form kind of resembles a 17th century jester’s (VF5SS explains that it’s a Russian thing, apparently). Interestingly, Klan’s voice actress, Megumi Toyoguchi, says that she feels MUCH more comfortable doing Small Klan’s voice than Big Klan’s.

Oh, and when Klan tries to attack Mikhail, you can see a giant tuna head (or is it an eel…? It looks like it in the second shot…) roasting in the background… I wonder if that’s Nyan-Nyan’s “Lynn Minmay Special” dish?

As a final stinger, Sheryl accosts Alto, tripping him in the process. Again, given how (mostly) completely awful she’s been so far in the series, this CAN’T be good (we might be tempted to think…).

10. Another good episode. I like how Alto and Ranka are paralleled here in working to achieve their dreams. Alto by entering SMS, Ranka by entering the Miss Macross Contest. Alto makes it, Ranka doesn’t, but as Sheryl said, this is still just the first step.

OP: “Triangler”

ED: “Diamond Crevasse”

NUMBER OF TIMES RANKA SAYS “ALTO-KUN” THIS EPISODE: 3

AND TOTAL: 6 (“One, two, three, four, five, and six…”)

EYECATCH: Alto and his VF-25F.

NEXT EPISODE: “Song of Heartbeats, ring throughout the galaxy!”

THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH 115 – ON YOUR MARKS

F Ep.3

MACROSS FRONTIER
#03: ON YOUR MARKS

ICONIC SCENE: “Tuna! SASHIMI!”

STORY DATE: March 2059

BROADCAST DATE: April 17, 2008

1. Ozma arrives to take care of the Vajra that showed up at the end of last episode. Mikhail and Luca show up to help him out, and BANG! Mikhail gets the Vajra right in the head! Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop it. More about this later on.

Anyway, it thrashes Ozma pretty badly and breaks the observation window where Alto, Ranka, and Sheryl are. Thinking quickly, Alto helps them all escape into a little shelter…

2. And there we are, the main homage of this episode, as the three of them are trapped in the shelter, just as Hikaru and Minmay were trapped on the Macross, and Basara and Mylene were trapped on the resort ship Riviera.

A funny bit is Sheryl tugging on her skirt before jumping in. No panty shots here. Sheryl would never let any of us out alive if we’d seen her panties.

Alto’s mostly upset, not that they’re trapped, but that Mikhail saved him a second time, and Ranka finds that she’s grabbed hold of Alto’s shirt and, try as she might, can’t unclench her hands, which I think is a really interesting, realistic, and often-overlooked detail that begins to show just how traumatized she’s been. Alto seems annoyed, and Sheryl gets on his case about it.

And then of course Alto’s accidentally pulls down Sheryl’s dress, revealing her justly celebrated ta-tas. It’s played off (as usual in anime) as a joke, but it honestly doesn’t become very funny until Ranka tries to calm the situation down by offering everyone tuna buns, which really do look like breasts.

3. And that’s the other big homage in this episode, because of the giant tuna fish when Hikaru and Minmay were trapped, and because tuna (“maguro”) is only one letter off from Macro (“makuro”), making it the perfect pun for a show called “Macross”(“makurosu”).

Incidentally, I’ve seen plenty of different types of steamed meat buns in Japan (everything from normal pork buns to pizza buns to pot-sticker buns), but the only place I’ve ever seen tuna buns is at Macross events. I almost tried one once, but Gwyn (the sometime-host of the Macross Speaker Podcast) warned me against it, saying that he had eaten one, and it was really nasty. I went for the pineapple cake instead, and enjoyed it.

Anyway, at least Ranka’s embarrassment breaks the tension. But already, you can see the inequality in the triangle, in that Sheryl and Alto are laughing at Ranka’s childishness (or childlike quality, if you want to be, y’know, less judgey).

That said, Sheryl is the one who pulls a Minmay after the life support in the shelter quits, and plans to open the airlock to die instantly rather than wait for death by suffocation. Ranka’s usually the one who echoes Minmay’s actions (see next episode), so this scene kinda stands out (although less so than I thought before looking the Frontier DVD booklets for this rewatch, which mention some (not all) of the homages, under the title “MACROSS CHECK!!” Ranka echoes Misa and Sheryl echoes Minmay much more than I had previously supposed).

Luckily, they’re rescued immediately after.

4. Again, a little more mystery with Grace, although first-time viewers may not recognize it as such, and repeat viewers already know the deal, when she asks Cathy for her ID for the intercom and pulls on her necklace, which Cathy calls an “implant.” It seems they’re illegal on Frontier, whatever they are…

5. Okay, first time I saw this episode, this had me baffled. As Sheryl says a sort of goodbye to Alto and Ranka, Sheryl tells Alto to forget what he saw (her breasts) and not post it on the net. On Macross World when this aired, everyone seemed to be laughing about that line, but I didn’t understand it at all… how could he post it on the net? I mean, he didn’t have a camera or a phone or anything. It’s impossible, right? Was I missing something…? Turns out I wasn’t, but it takes a few episodes for this line to make sense. I’ll pick up this thread again soon.

She also says that he can use the memory as a masturbation aid (just for tonight) if he wishes, then immediately rescinds that offer, laughing kinda nastily at him. Again, so far, Sheryl has been mostly bad-tempered and unpleasant. And here, she’s just being mean. Although she’s nice to Ranka, so that’s something, I guess. And she says it again: “I don’t do this kind of service very often.”

6. When Ranka sees Ozma injured, it’s another mysterious bit that won’t get explained for a while, and nicely illustrates one of the perils of quick fansubs. At first, yes, she’s addressing Ozma, saying (more or less), “Big Brother, you told me you quit piloting!” Then, with no transition or explanation, she goes into a flashback, saying (again, more or less), “Big Brother, I kept my promise and didn’t tell anyone.” Now here, she’s not addressing Ozma, but rather Brera, who we know nothing about yet. In Japanese, the transition sounds a little “off” and the second part doesn’t make a lot of sense in connection with the first. But the fansubs generally tried to smooth out the dialogue, and the jarring quality of the switch (which in itself is a clue) was glossed over. They tried to make the second line connect with the previous one, which of course, it shouldn’t for first-time viewers. And we were ALL first-time viewers at this point.

Central Anime’s subs are a vast improvement, because they took on the series a few years later, and thus could see the whole structure of the show.

Now, this of course isn’t just a fansub issue. It can happen anywhere where the translation is released serially, before the translator has read through the entire work (or, especially, before the entire work is complete). Sometimes later events influence how an early line should be rendered (especially with a language that can be as ambiguous as Japanese), but if the DVD, or manga volume, or whatever, featuring that early line has already been released, there’s nothing the translator can do about it, unless they’re lucky enough to be able to fix things in a later pressing (and they usually aren’t).

Oh, and I respect Alto’s expert catching of Ranka when she faints. He did much better than I did when a pretty young woman in a stunning blue leather jacket standing next to me passed out on the Keio Line, one otherwise peaceful morning.

7. “Dissociative amnesia,” says Canaria, the doctor/Monster pilot.

Okay, okay, I agree… amnesia is such an overused soap opera plot point that I find it rather annoying that it’s used here. I mean, it’s necessary for the story, but I wish there had been a better way.  I’m not really, y’know, against Ranka having a traumatic past, and again, I think the scenes with her clutching Alto’s shirt, and the unexplained “Big Brother” switch are well-done… but amnesia is pushing it.

Oh, and Ozma is a badass. Even lying in a hospital bed and connected to a drip, he can grab Alto’s shirt and make it seem like he could really fuck Alto up if he felt like it.

8. When Leon is looking through the personal records of Ranka, the sheet above her is for “JOHN BIRKS GILLESPIE,” A.K.A. “Dizzy” Gillespie, trumpeter and one of the Cosby Kids’ many jazz-playing uncles. The one under her is “NILS CA…” (Carson? Cassidy?). “CARLA BRUNI” is another one.

And y’know, I think everyone liked Cathy until they realized that she was sharing a bed with such a sleazebag (and Leon is, quite obviously, a sleazebag, even at this point). Fan art of her was basically nonexistent until the ending of the series, AFTER she gets back together with Ozma.

I’d also like to point out that she’s voiced by Sanae Koboyashi, who played Sara Nome in Zero. There’s a well-circulated pic from Newtype Magazine of the Frontier cast all dressed in each other’s outfits, except for Cathy, who’s dressed as Sara. Voice actor humor!

9. Alto, brooding over whether to join SMS or not, goes to Griffith Park, which is an oddly L.A. place to throw into the San Francisco/Shibuya/Shanghai mix of Frontier’s city (does the city have a name, anyway? Besides “Island-1,” I mean… Oh well, I guess “City 7” was both the ship AND the city inside it, and the city inside the original Macross never even had a name, so it doesn’t really need one, but still…).

The Griffith Park Observatory in Frontier looks much like the real one, except that the statue is much smaller at the actual site. A year or so after the show aired I went there for the first time since grade school. I wanted to take pictures that matched the show’s angles, but couldn’t remember what the shots looked like. So I ended up taking nearly a hundred photos of the place. Three of them ended up matching, more or less.

Griffith1

FrontierGriffith1

Griffith2

FrontierGriffith2

Griffith3

FrontierGriffith3

(You can also see the actual observatory at the beginning of The Terminator. It’s where naked Arnold takes the punk guys’ clothes.)

ANYWAY, Alto runs into Ranka there, while she’s singing “Aimo,” which was the ending song for the Broadcast Version of Episode 1, and will be heard often as the series progresses. I guess it’s kinda like “Planet Dance” in that way, and proved too much for some people. I remember one guy (on, I think, Animesuki), before the first Frontier movie came out, saying something like “If ‘Aimo’ is in the movie, I’m giving up on Macross completely!” Which, considering that it’s the single most important song in Frontier, sounds like he WANTED to give up on Macross (and SPOILER ALERT: yes, it’s in the movie. I wonder if he really did stop watching Macross after that…?).

After the trip to L.A., we visit Arlington Cemetery, which I visited once when I was in high school, so yes, the show is really jumping around the map here (more than Kalchoon Park, even, which is mostly European, and thus, all closer together in the real world). Gilliam’s funeral emphasizes a point that I’ll bring up later, in that Frontier is ecologically a completely closed system. Everything gets recycled, nothing goes to waste. Not even the bodies of dead SMS soldiers (and everyone else, too…? It’s unclear).

And the episode ends with both Alto and Ranka trying to grab their dreams, Alto by entering SMS, and Ranka by entering the Miss Macross Frontier Contest.

10. Again, at this point the series almost seems like the original Macross on fast-forward. But again, there’s enough different here that it doesn’t feel TOO much like a retread. As I said, the amnesia excuse kinda bugs me, but everything else is fine.

OP: “Triangler”

ED: “Diamond Crevasse”

NUMBER OF TIMES RANKA SAYS “ALTO-KUN” THIS EPISODE (to quote the Ranka single, “Cat’s Diary” – “And my lips write in my diary how many times that person’s name has been spoken… One, two, three, four, five, and six…”): only 3 (for now).

EYECATCH: Sheryl and her earring.

NEXT EPISODE: “Song of Antiquity, ring throughout the galaxy!”

THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH 114 – HARD CHASE

F Ep.2

MACROSS FRONTIER
#02: HARD CHASE

ICONIC SCENE: “What’s more important, your hair or your life?”

STORY DATE: March 2059

BROADCAST DATE: April 10, 2008

1. During the battle, Ranka has her first flashback, to a Vajra destroying a spaceship. We’ll see that scene a lot.

And within minutes, the first “Itano Circus” is shown, as Ozma’s battroid fires a ton of missiles at the Vajra (I would’ve thought he’d used them all up last episode…). Now, Itano himself didn’t work on this series, but during the production of Macross Zero, he personally trained a lot of the animators who did end up working on it, and so his absence isn’t as keenly felt as it was in, say, Macross Seven.

That said, Itano really disliked Frontier, so maybe he regretted teaching them what he knew… (More about this later).

2. Mikhail turns up in his blue VF-25G, which makes him look even more like an avatar of Max. Which he is… up to a point. And he’s got his sniper rifle, which is one of the things Itano didn’t like about Frontier (although that was more to do with using the rifle in space. I’ll save that point for Episode 9).

3. Then we get the biggest homage of the episode, as Alto pulls Ranka into the cockpit in midair. It’s a little different, though, since Ranka is actually falling UP… towards a hole in the ceiling. It’s also slightly more realistic, since he has to jump out of the cockpit in his EX-Gear to save her (although it all happens in space, which might negate that touch of realism). Oh, and I quite like the self-healing glass they have on the Frontier.

Ranka seems to have gone a little wonky, calling Alto “brother” before snapping out of it and not knowing where she is. And wouldn’cha jes’ know it… ALTO’S GRABBING HER CHEST after she comes to and squirms around! HA-HA! Hijinx ensue (although she just screams instead the usual socking him one. Ranka’s a gentle soul).

A bit later, she says she’s a quarter Zentradi (there’s that pesky “25” showing up again… VF-25, Macross 25, 25 episodes, Macross QUARTER… Fold QUARTZ…).

4. The scene where Alto sees the destruction in the city and then throws up is deftly observed and well-done. And it affords us a glimpse of the rarely-seen “Destroid Work,” which is still based on the Cheyenne CGI model (as every destroid we see from now on will be, apparently).

5. Another reference by President Howard Glass to the Mysterious Mr. Birla. That will take a while to be revealed as well.

We also note that President Glass’s mushroom-headed assistant (Leon Mishima) seems rather shifty. In Frontier, bad haircut equals bad person, generally.

6. And then we get the scene that made Nanase my favorite character. She’s walking to school, and stops because (I think) a water droplet falls on her hand. She looks at her hand for an extremely long time and then looks up, and is shocked. First time I watched it, I was sure something was going to pounce on her and kill her, and I thought, “No, I don’t want her to die… she’s cute!” It turns out that it’s just a destroyed bridge, and she’s fine, but I decided, deliberately, then and there, that she would be my favorite character.

So, no, it’s the not the boobs, but it is equally shallow and ill-considered.

7. In the scene with Ranka and Ozma talking about Alto (whose name Ranka still doesn’t know), I want to point out that Megumi Nakajima (whose debut role Ranka was, and who won a very public audition to get the part) got a lot of flack from Japanese fans at the beginning of the series for “bad acting.” I dunno… I think they were maybe a little too accustomed to typical “anime voices”…? To me, she sounds completely natural and completely real… qualities that I note get ironed out of her performance as the series goes on. At the beginning of the series, she sounds like a teenage girl; at the end, she sounds like an anime character (you can REALLY tell the difference by comparing the early TV episodes to the first movie, where the scenes are identical, but the voices aren’t). Her voice is still good, and still cute, but I miss her more, er, authentic voice from the early episodes.

A lot of information gets compressed into this scene: Alto and Ranka have their blood checked because of contact with the Vajra, which leads to Ozma finding Alto. Ozma appears to be Ranka’s older brother, and Ozma and Lt. Catherine Glass (the President’s daughter and Misa look-a-like) clearly have a history together.

Ozma leaves with Alto, in his amazing 1993 Lancia Delta HF Integrale (where the hell did he get THAT…? If it’s an original, it must be PRICELESS), playing “Totsugeki Loveheart” on the stereo. It’ll turn out that Ozma has been a HUGE Fire Bomber fan since he was fourteen or fifteen. When they were, y’know, big. That’ll be important much later.

They go to the SMS hangar and view Gilliam’s personal effects (and hey! There’s Sheryl’s earring! Which NO ONE, including us and her, knows she’s lost yet!)

8. Sheryl realizes (see?) that she’s missing her earring (although there’s no indication that that’s what the problem is) and she asks her manager, Grace, for the footage from the previous night’s concert. When Grace says it’ll arrive the next day, Sheryl insists, “But you saw the whole thing, right?” We don’t hear Grace’s answer, but soon, Sheryl is watching the concert on the TV in her hotel room. On first watch, this might fly right past you, or it might make you wonder if the staff screwed up or something. But no, it makes perfect sense later on.

(Incidentally, the way that Sheryl discovers her earring is gone is clever, by watching a home shopping network whose hosts are selling earrings while they inadvertently echo Sheryl’s conversation.)

9. Ranka’s singing seems to awaken a Vajra hiding out on Frontier, which interrupts Alto’s account of how Gilliam died. And when Alto says he wants a Valkyrie, Ozma punches him pretty damn hard.

Meanwhile, Sheryl tries to ask Ranka for directions, and ends up listening to Ranka (who doesn’t recognize her) gush about how much she loves Sheryl. Sheryl seems to eat this up and even asks for more. I will note that Sheryl has a small role in this episode, and is pretty vain throughout most of it.

Finally, Ranka starts singing “Diamond Crevasse” (which, if you were watching this when first broadcast, as I did, is the first time you would’ve heard the song), and Sheryl joins in. Suddenly (GASP!) Ranka realizes who she’s been talking to! And then Alto walks in, and (DOUBLE GASP!) Sheryl confronts him! And then (TRIPLE GASP!) the Vajra appear RIGHT OUTSIDE THE OBSERVATION WINDOW!!

It’s a mysterious climax, since we still don’t even know what Sheryl wants with Alto. She does get to say one of her signature lines, though: “I don’t do this kind of service very often” (“service” in this context means “bonus” or “freebie,” as it always does in Japan. I didn’t really get it until I went to a bar once and the owner gave me a plate of peanuts, saying, “This is service.” After that, it made sense).

10. With the battle at the beginning of this episode, one could be forgiven for not realizing that the demographic for shows like this had shifted radically since the ’80s and ’90s. The anime landscape had completely changed since 1982, when Macross aired on the (as I always point out) unusual-for-anime 2:00 PM Sunday timeslot, or 1994, when Macross 7 aired in the (as I sometimes point out) much-more-usual-for-anime 11:00 AM Sunday slot. Generally, in those days, anime was either a Sunday morning thing, or an after-school thing (usually weekdays between five and seven PM). Not prime time, as many anime fans seem to think.

But no, thanks in part to parent protests against the violence in Evangelion in 1996 (especially Episode 19), any anime that was not expressly for children got stuck (post-’90s) in the after-midnight ghetto block. The audience was necessarily more limited, but the broadcast was cheaper and the creators could be freer in terms of content (and really, the broadcast was primarily used as an advertising tool for the DVDs and BDs, which is still where the anime studio will make most of its revenue… the broadcast TV series is almost like an advertisement for the DVD/BD version… Making virtually EVERY show an OVA series in a sense. Some series, like Yamato 2199, debut in movie theaters first. Same goal, there. It’s an advertisement for the home-video version). And so it was with Frontier, airing Thursdays at 25:25 (ha), that is, 1:25 AM. And the audience had changed. Rather than the young boys targeted by the original Macross, the wide swath of young people targeted by Seven, the young men targeted by Plus, and the somewhat-less-young men targeted by Zero, the primary audience NOW for late-night anime was young women in their teens and twenties (emphatically NOT “little girls,” as a few people have asserted). Now this development had been growing for quite a while (indeed, one of the most fervent anime fans I’ve ever met was a 21-year-old woman, back in ’98. She showed me Evangelion: Death and Rebirth for the first time (it wasn’t yet available on home video, but had been shown on cable TV once, a couple of months previously, and she taped it… making me, I think, one of the first people in the US to see it) and she introduced me to Cowboy Bebop well before it was released in English), and this change in audience would profoundly affect the types of shows being made, even more (and arguably MUCH more so) than the “moe boom,” despite what western fans have to say about that.

But yeah, as I said, the battle and chase scenes are pretty amazing, and the mysteries are developing nicely, even the ones we may not realize are mysteries yet.

OP: “Triangler”

ED: “Diamond Crevasse”

EYECATCH: Keitai-kun and Ranka.

NEXT EPISODE: “Song of Determination, ring throughout the galaxy!”

THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH 113 – CLOSE ENCOUNTER

F Ep.1

MACROSS FRONTIER
#01: CLOSE ENCOUNTER

ICONIC SCENE: YAAAAAA!!

STORY DATE: March 2059

BROADCAST DATE: December 23, 2007 (Deculture Edition) + April 3, 2008 (Broadcast Version) + July 25, 2008 (Yack Deculture Edition)

1. Okay, there are three different versions of this episode, all available on the first DVD. I’ve watched all three again for this rewatch, but I’ll be damned if I’m doing a separate entry for each one. For those that care: I think the Deculture Edition has the best editing, but leaves out a key scene. The Broadcast Version has that scene, but cuts other stuff, which makes the episode confusing for anyone who hasn’t seen the previous version. As such, the Yack Deculture Edition (which contains EVERYTHING) is the preferred version, and is the one I’m covering specifically for this rewatch (somewhat anachronistically, since it didn’t come out until late the first DVD  in July of 2008, after over half of Frontier had already been broadcast). If you’re given to fansubs, the Central Anime set (which is probably the best of them, despite some quibbles on my part) uses the Yack Deculture Edition only.

I note that the first Delta DVD/BD, which conceivably could have the same problem, only has the Preview Version (Mission 0.89) and the Final Version (Mission 01), skipping the one that was shown on April 3 (oh, you didn’t know that Frontier had EXACTLY the same broadcast dates that Delta does…? I didn’t either, until I started taking note of them).

2. The fold, and especially the defold, seem to show some effects we haven’t seen before (acceleration on the part of the spaceship, and the usual “double vision” (sometimes triple) of the fold extends only to people rather than the whole scene. It also looks like a “ghost” Sheryl is joining the real one’s body here). No explanation is given, but of course whatever a fold looks like changes greatly depending on which series you’re watching… Although I note that they mention the “charged particles” that were a danger to your skin (!) from the “Miss DJ” album.

And a gag manga (in the first Macross Ace issue, still a few months away) seems to indicate that people having weird dreams is part of the whole experience.

Sheryl’s first line: “Strawberry Pie.” This line is cute, but very little afterwards is (like when she charms the students with a smile and then immediately turns around and talks shit about them. Some commenters have said that she’s absolutely right in that Alto does indeed almost ruin her show, but I note that her complaint is NOT that they’ll mess up, but that their aerobatics will distract attention from her (Sheryl’s long-suffering and innocuous (apparently) manager apologizes with a bow).

Soon after, Sheryl sees her first-ever ocean. First hint that Sheryl’s ship might not be much like Frontier (and it’s amplified in the novelization, where she says, “Wow, it’s nothing like the holo-movies!”). To me, it looks more like a lake, but I didn’t grow up in space.

We learn pretty quickly that she’s a huge singing star, mostly based on the gravitas that Frontier gives to her arrival. And she will also turn out to have a pretty amazing wardrobe, although her stage outfits, racy at the time of this episode’s broadcast (especially the dominatrix captain’s outfit with the microphone whip) look pretty tame compared to what she wears (or, er, doesn’t wear) in the movie version (I’m thinking mostly of the “Black Bunny”).

And about Sheryl’s stage show, it’s very Sharon Apple, in that holograms are everywhere (even her clothes are holographic, just like the “Super Room” in Do You Remember Love… or Walküre’s sudden wardrobe shifts).

3. Immediately, we can see that although Frontier itself looks almost identical to City 7, there’s a HUGE difference in the ships surrounding it. These seem much more “natural.” Frontier is also much, MUCH larger than City 7, but we might not realize that yet. Thus, the city areas of Frontier are probably actually larger than City 7’s (which took up the entire ship) AND there’s more room for fields, forests, and bodies of water.

Next, we see… San Francisco. I haven’t really talked about it yet, but there’s a San Francisco scene in pretty much every Macross directed by Kawamori (from Do You Remember Love, to Macross Plus, to here, and even the ending of Macross Dynamite 7, which uses his personal film, even though he didn’t direct the series). Apparently he REALLY loves the city (I thought it was great, too, the last time I was there. Much too expensive, though, and I’ve lived in Tokyo). Weirdly for us on Earth, on Frontier, San Francisco seems connected to Shibuya, Tokyo. Basically, this is a fantasy version of earth, much more so than “Kalchoon Park” in Macross II. Frisco, Shibuya, and Shanghai, all within a train’s ride! Who wouldn’t want that…? Add Los Angeles (which is kinda there, in a way) and London, and I’m totally there, buddy!

Following that, we get a recap of Space War I. For those confused by the Do You Remember Love version of things shown here, I will politely refer back to Episode 11 of Macross 7.

(If you don’t feel like pressing the link, here’s the crux: “‘Just as 2010: Odyssey Two was not a direct sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey, so this book is not a linear sequel to 2010. They must all be considered as variations on the same theme, involving many of the same characters and situations, but not necessarily happening in the same universe. Developments since 1964 make total consistency impossible, as the later stories incorporate discoveries and events that had not even taken place when the earlier books were written.’ – Arthur C. Clarke, Author’s note from 2061: Odyssey Three.” It works the same for Macross, begun in 1982 and continuing on even now, as it did for the Space Odyssey series, begun in ’64 (apparently) and continuing until ’99.)

Although here, there’s also a “space map,” which MUST be figurative, rather than literal, since it shows a whole bunch of Megaroad ships leaving Earth at the same time, which simply can’t have happened. Including the SDF-3, here identified as the Megaroad-02, despite several other sources identifying the SDF-3 as Britai’s battleship, reclassified.

Although we do get a nice hint as to the overall plot, when the map shows the Macross Galaxy (021) very close to the Macross Frontier (025) Fleet.

4. Next, we get the gate of Mihoshi High School, which is pretty obviously modeled on Sather Gate from UC Berkeley. And we see Nanase, who is MAI WAIFU in 2059.

I, uh, will explain the Nanase connection next time. It’s not JUST boobs.

(As opposed to 2067, wherein MAI WAIFU is Makina. And where, yes, it’s primarily the boobs. Although the hair and the delight in seeing “Regult-chans” made it decisive.)

Incidentally, on a safer topic, I’m not sure if the structure of Mihoshi High is meant to be reminiscent of a Destroid Monster, or the Macross, or both. My guess is both, because of the twin booms (Macross) and the chicken legs (Monster).

And yes… Frontier, when first announced, was described as a “high school story.” This unnerved a lot of fans who were sick to death of “slice of life” school anime series. Ultimately, I think all that worry was needless… they don’t really do much with the school setting over the course of the series.

5. It’s painful in retrospect to see Alto folding his future lover’s face into a paper airplane, but I guess no one had any idea of that yet, least of all him (and the BGM during this scene is one of the best tracks in the entire series, “High School Life,” also used for the “next episode” previews, and available on the second soundtrack, “Nyan Tora”).

Yes, Alto likes making paper airplanes. And he’s a great pilot, to boot. And he and his compadres are all making the “Isamu YF-19” hand as they practice (which, I should point out, is something actual pilots in the real world do as well. I can do it with my left hand but not my right (so to speak)).

(Oh, and about Alto’s name – there’s a kanji reading given for for it: 有人 – ARU-TO, but I think at least part of it is that an “alto” is, of course, a deep-voiced female singer (as opposed to a soprano). And his surname, “Saotome,” comes not from Ranma, but most probably from Taichi Saotome, who is a Kabuki actor famed for performing female roles (and the name “Saotome” actually means “young girl,” as well, which is the joke in Ranma 1/2) who, as of the early 2000’s, was pretty sick of playing female roles. In Kabuki (as in, I hasten to add, western theater from the Ancient Greek era until the 18th Century (when “actress” basically came to mean “prostitute”)), women’s roles were (and, in Kabuki, ARE) performed by boys, since women were (and, again, in Kabuki, ARE) prohibited onstage. I want to emphasize this, since a lot of western Macross fans seem to want to label Alto a drag-queen or female impersonator or something like that, but it’s totally not the same thing. In Kabuki, tradition overrides all, and so while now we, in modern Western theater, may have not only Ophelias performed (finally!) by women, but even the occasional female Hamlet (it’s happened, in a few productions), in traditional Kabuki, there are no women. There are men who play the male roles, and boys who play the female roles. This shouldn’t be underestimated, since much of Alto’s inner conflict is his wanting to be a man, despite always being perceived as a woman (or a boy) by everyone around him (especially Mikhail). It’s a double chance for growth there, since, as I said, BOYS are the ones who play WOMEN. He’s tired of being a boy, and tired of being a woman. He wants to be a MAN. Why, given all that, does he still have long hair, tied with a pretty red ribbon…? That’s an open question. You should ask the fujoshi, I guess.)

 

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Taichi Saotome

Alto also wants to fly, in a REAL sky, not one that has a 2km limit. This is his genuine conflict (I’ve seen some fans refer to this as “whininess.” I think it’s “personality.” But that’s me).

Oh, and Alto and his friends are training in EX-Gears, which is a new body-armor as well as part of the VF-25 cockpit. Some Robotech fans seem to fancy that it’s like a “Cyclone,” but I don’t really see that… it doesn’t turn into a motorcycle, or really transform at all, except for the folding wings (which the “Cyclone” (Mospeada) doesn’t have).

From their color schemes, we can tell that Alto (red) apparently equals Hikaru, Mikhail (I know “Michael” is official, but I don’t want to use that, because it would make it confusing later on) (blue) is Max, and Luca (green) is Kakizaki. Ozma (yellow and black) will later turn out to be Focker. Until they all switch roles, mostly.

6. Oh, hey! Nanase and Ranka (who we meet for the first time here) work at “Nyan Nyan,” Minmay’s old restaurant, which is now a huge chain (thanks to Yot-chan, as I said before, who took over the business from Minmay’s aunt and uncle and grew it exponentially. Again, this was first mentioned in the liner notes for the “Macross 7 Docking Festival” drama album, but not really capitalized upon (so to speak) until now.

And Ranka… what do we say about her? Just as Sheryl is the quintessential Shibuya girl (fashion-conscious, confident, and sexy), Ranka is the quintessential Akihabara girl (cute, non-threatening, and like a kid sister).

Oh, and I guess Ranka’s mobile hair needs some explanation (“Beware, beware! His flashing eyes, his floating hair!”). According to Kawamori, it’s a recessive Zentradi trait where some people can move their hair at will.

No…? You don’t buy it?

I don’t really, either. Along with most viewers, I guess, because it gets completely de-emphasized as the show goes on. And never actually explained in the series itself. As it stands, it almost seems like some kind of goofy and very cartoony reaction thing, but no, there is an (admittedly inadequate) in-universe explanation.

I feel for her in her struggles to get to Sheryl’s concert, especially the overcrowded train. I thought of this scene while making my tortuous, torturous way to the Macross Crossover 30 Live concert (although LEAVING turned out to be the harder trek, even with Adrian showing us an easier way out).

(I like that such original Macross concepts as the roving vending machines and trash robots make their reappearance here.)

And then, BANG! she meets Alto and it’s love at first sight. I think most viewers were on her side at this point, but oh, how that would change…

(Also, doesn’t it seem a bit unusual that sprinklers in a park would go off in the late afternoon…? Don’t they usually save that for the wee hours of the night?)

But yeah, she’s obviously (and cutely) very into him, and she makes the rather forward move of telling him to visit her at work, and then performs the Nyan-Nyan jingle, which would become probably the first REAL Macross meme (preceded by the not-terribly-popular “This thing turns on a dime. Thrust-vectoring rules the sky! Macross Zero style!”). Not surprising that it’s totally authentically catchy… Yoko Kanno’s primary income comes from writing ad jingles, after all, and both of her “CM Yoko” CDs are highly worth owning. And later, we’ll see the Nyan-Nyan TV ad itself (present first in the broadcast version, four months after the Deculture Edition, and thus, after it had become a popular meme), featuring a cartoon mascot that looks (and SOUNDS) suspiciously like a caricature of Ms. Kanno herself. This version of the tune has never been released on any album.

(The fountain springing up, by the way, is where the commercial break for the Deculture Edition happened… much better placement than in the Broadcast Version and Yack Deculture Edition, I think, where it happens after the next scene of Valks launching.)

7. Meanwhile, the alien menace progresses through a few layers of defense, including a Valk vanguard and bunch of Ghosts. Then the VF-171 teams get sent out, and get destroyed.

8. Sheryl’s concert starts with the immortal Basara line, “Listen to my song!” but with the feminine pronoun “atashi” replacing the slangy male pronoun “ore.” “Atashi no uta o kiké” replacing “Ore no uta o kiké,” in other words).

Weirdly enough, Mikhail’s order to his team as Sheryl’s concert begins has never been properly transliterated in any fansub. The old ones had it as “Up toward the heavens!” and the Central Anime subs have it as “Vertical break!” But if you check the first volume of the manga, it’s right there in plain English (or katakana, at least): “Upward Air-Bloom!”

Anyway, Alto screws the whole thing up by knocking Sheryl off her perch. Although he kind of ends up with her earring (more about that later). This was the scene missing from the Deculture Edition, though it’s vital to the story.

9. S.M.S. gets introduced next, and this is something new for Macross: civilian contractors. Now, if you had been following the Iraq situation at the time, it would seem that the civilian contractors, like Blackwater, were kinda in a sort of gray area (essentially, my understanding of it, which may be flawed, is that our armed forces were there more or less to defend the contractors, who had, shall we say, much more leeway in what was legal or not for them to do, because they had less accountability. And, let’s face it, there AND here: a private army, answerable to no one but a wealthy private citizen who writes the checks? That sounds like a bad idea in general. If they came from the Middle East and were funded by an Islamic radical, they’d be called “terrorists,” right? But no… in Frontier (and in Delta), these are the GOOD guys, with the best pilots and equipment).

So yes, our heroes this time are, calling a spade a spade, mercenaries: civilians acting like the government forces, but not reporting to the government. The actual mercenary aspect doesn’t really get explored until we get to the first movie. And there, it’s AWESOME. But that’s for later.

Oh, and Gilliam is TOTALLY the decoy-guy-who-will-get-killed. I’ll just get that out of the way now.

10. Honestly, this almost plays out like an Irwin Allen disaster movie… we meet everyone, living their lives normally, in the first half… and then ALIENS ATTACK in the second half.

Among the landmarks we see during the announcement of the attack is the “Shibuya 199 Building,” a total steal from the actual Shibuya 109 Building, a trendy department store. I will note that if you’re trying to get this exact shot of the real 109 building from the angle that we see in the series, your photo will be marred by sidewalk trees blocking the picture, unless you want to step out into the street, which I don’t advise doing. I speak from experience. It may be easier in winter, though, when the trees have no leaves.

11. (Look, I TRY to keep the TV episodes at ten points each, feature-length movies at twenty, clip shows at five, and clip movies at fifteen, but here, it just kept spilling over…) Ozma’s armored VF-25S is the first that shows up, and it’s great. The VF-25 itself is designed to look like a VF-1 that transforms like a VF-19. This has made for some complicated (and brittle) toys and model kits. There’s added novelty in that now the armored parts, for the first time, can also transform, rather than leaving the Armored Valk stuck in battroid mode, as every armored battroid we’ve seen before has been.

For the Vajra (named after one of the Twelve Heavenly Generals of Buddhist lore… “Vajra” is the Sanskrit reading, whereas the Japanese name is, weirdly enough, “Basara”), the red type will be our main antagonist throughout the series, while the tan ones never get explored, replaced soon (mostly) by the green, two-legged types. And more about THAT later. In this first episode, the Vajra can also launch what look like clusters of tentacles (as… what? Decoys?), an ability that will also vanish later on (with one exception). The Vajra cannon is also WAY more powerful here than it will be later, taking out entire capital ships with one shot (although there’s evidence that it can vary the strength of its blasts).

12. The Vajra get inside Frontier (“Island-1”) and focus on Ranka (for some reason…*hint, hint*). Alto, in his EX-Gear, tries to help out, but gets shot down. Then Gilliam in his VF-25 comes in, and yeah… it’s kind of Alto’s fault that Gilliam gets killed, since Gilliam is distracted by telling Alto to clear out.

And Gilliam’s death is probably the most gruesome Macross death since Guld’s. Thankfully, it takes place largely offscreen. You’d THINK this was one of the scenes that would’ve reassured the “Macross-needs-to-be-gritty-and-hardcore” crowd, but I remember at least one guy on Macross World Forums saying that the scene actually went too far. There’s no pleasing some people…

13. And then Alto gets into the VF-25 to rescue Ranka, and we get the first REALLY obvious homage in the series, as his gerwalk is posed exactly like Hikaru’s VF-1D in Episode 2 of the original show. I know that this jazzed up a lot of long-time Macross fans (myself included… another one who I know even cried at this point) and really angered at least one notable Robotech commentator (I have no idea why, even after reading his several blog posts about it).

14. Visually, this episode is great. I especially like the muted color palette (the color of the blood, for example, while looking nothing like REAL blood, works perfectly). The mecha scenes look fantastic, with the CGI models being even less distracting than they were in Macross Zero (which already did an excellent job with them). All in all, this looks like an OVA, rather than a TV series (although some of that quality would drop in future episodes).

15. So yeah, as I said, although I missed a lot on that first airing, due to it being shown after midnight and after my birthday party, I was totally thrilled with this episode. After I got back to the US in late January, I watched it over and over again, including seeing a couple of inadequate fansubs (my favorite for sheer absurdity being the one that mentions the “Brief-25” instead of “VF-25”). I embarked on my second comprehensive Macross Rewatch after that, watching about three episodes or a movie per day after work. It took me a little over two months, which led me, with a little too much optimism, to think that six months would be enough time to finish THIS rewatch before Delta premiered. No such luck, as we all know by now… although I think I’ll be done before the DVDs and blu-rays start getting released in July.

Anyway, yeah, Frontier felt like a major revelation for me: just enough taken from the original series to appeal to my old-school sensibilities, but enough different to keep me intrigued.

OP: None (Deculture Edition), “Triangler” (Broadcast Version and Yack Deculture Edition).

ED: “Do You Remember Love” (Deculture Edition), “Brera and Child Ranka Aimo” (Broadcast Version), “Diamond Crevasse” (Yack Deculture Edition).

EYECATCH: None (Deculture Edition), “Nyan-Nyan” ad (Broadcast Version and Yack Deculture Edition).

NEXT EPISODE: “Song of Pursuit, ring throughout the galaxy!”

THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH – 25th Anniversary Special

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MACROSS 25TH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL! MACROSS IS COMING BACK!

ICONIC SCENE: “Real Songs! Real Love! Real Transformations!”

BROADCAST DATE: December 23, 2007

Sorry for the doinky picture quality… unlike the previous specials I’ve covered, this one has not been released on home video, and so I got stuck with the YouTube version (which will probably be taken down any moment now).

This is also the first time I’ve seen it since it originally aired, since at that time I was actually in Tokyo and saw it on TV. I had arrived in early November of 2007, initially hoping to find a job as an English teacher. Unfortunately, my timing was disastrous: a week or so before I arrived, the largest chain English school in the country, NOVA, with hundreds of branches all over Japan, has gone out of business quite suddenly, leaving thousands of English teachers out of work and without their final paychecks (I’m not exaggerating; Gaijinpot, the main website for finding work in Japan, has a feature which tells you how many other people have applied for a job, and everything I tried told me that there were over five thousand other people trying for the same job… and of course, most of them, unlike me, had work visas. I had absolutely no chance).

It was a weird, exciting time. I was staying at a cheap but very friendly hotel, Hotel Juyoh in Taito-ku (which I highly recommend to anyone visiting Tokyo. It’s close to the anime district of Akihabara and to Tokyo Sky Tree, although that didn’t exist in 2007. The immediate area around the hotel isn’t as great, although the last time I was in the area, on New Year’s Day, 2012, it had modernized considerably thanks to Sky Tree being close by. And right across the street from the hotel is the best coffee shop I have ever been to, Cafe Bach, where five dollars for a cup does not feel exorbitant. The coffee is THAT good).

Anyway, when I arrived, I was much more in an Evangelion mood, the first of the New Eva movies having opened a couple of months before and still (amazingly) playing in the first-run theaters. At one point at the hotel, a guy I was talking to mentioned Macross F. I had heard that a new Macross series was coming out, but knew nothing about it. He called me over to one of the computers the hotel had and showed me the trailer on YouTube, and yes, it looked stunning.

Still, Macross at this point was virtually dead, even though it was the twenty-fifth anniversary year. Checking Animate, the primary chain shop for anime goods, revealed no merchandise, although I heard “Daybreak’s Bell,” the first opening theme for Gundam 00, so many times that it really got drummed into my head, and still reminds me of those days. The used-goods shops were a little better. In Nakano, I found the second volume of the TV novelization (what? I hadn’t known that there were Macross novels… (see the category “Translations”) and I found a cheap copy (my second… later joined by a third) of the little picture book “Macross Love Story” at a used book store in Jimbocho (the owner, who looked to be about five or six years older than I, chuckled with fondness when I placed the book by the cash register, and said that he used to watch Macross as a kid).

The strangest thing I found, quite early on (and as I’ve said before), was that the original TV series was being rerun. At three AM, Thursday mornings. Since I didn’t have a job, I could catch it if I happened to be awake at that time (which happened a lot at the beginning, and less so as I adjusted to the time change).

But again, Macross just wasn’t really on my radar at the time. It had been three years since Zero ended, and I was collecting (but not building) the Hasegawa kits (which I had been picking up at a place called “Best 1 Hobby” in Alhambra (RIP) that I just happened to come across one day). It was nice to see Macross on TV (even if it was at such an inconvenient hour) and the Macross F trailer looked really good, but, as I said, my mind was on Evangelion, and this was at the point when Gainax (err, I mean “Khara”) had announced three movies, the second of which would be coming out in December (remember that? The first Eva movie was announced for August 2007, the second for December 2007, and the third and fourth, which were each supposed to be 45 minutes long and released as a double feature (and thus, effectively a single film), were supposed to be Spring 2008. THAT schedule got thrown out the window quickly enough, didn’t it…? And indeed, it was clear by this point that no, the second movie wouldn’t be arriving in December).

So it was with virtually no expectations, that, still a little drunk from the birthday party the hotel staff and friends had thrown me, I turned on the TV to see the 25th anniversary special and the “preview” (“Deculture Edition”) of Episode 1 of Macross F.

I’ll talk about Frontier next time. The preceding show is pretty much in line with the “Macross Fastest Liftoff” special which aired a couple of weeks before Macross 7, with one big difference: one of the “celebrity” hosts, Hiroyuki Mayasako (who also appeared in that weird Macross Zero commercial that I linked to before) is actually a Macross fan. The other three know nothing about it and don’t really care. One of them even gives Mayasako a lot of shit for liking it.

(Mayasako, as a kid, apparently saw Do You Remember Love in the theaters in 1984. I kinda envy him that.)

So the hosts sit down and, as often (always) happens on Japanese TV, they watch a video about the history of Macross. It’s nothing that you wouldn’t already know, although I find it interesting that they emphasize that the last battle scene in Do You Remember Love has the song playing over it for its entire seven-minute running time. And even the three who don’t care are impressed that Kawamori directed the movie when he was twenty-three (which, yeah, really IS pretty amazing. I mean, what were YOU doing at twenty-three?), turning twenty-four during production.

Probably the most notable feature of the special is that it spends a lot of time talking about the original series and Do You Remember Love, and then skips over everything else to talk briefly about Aquarion (?!?) before getting to Macross F. And then it ends with talking about the robot dog Aibo, which is something that all the hosts seem to know (and finally, something they all care about).

It does point to an issue that I haven’t really brought up, though, in that the original Macross was absolutely monumental in the history and development of anime, and that that’s something which none of the sequels have really been, except subliminally. Macross Plus probably comes the closest, with its revolutionary use of CGI and the fact that it’s, in the West, at least, one of THE series that it seems like nearly every anime fan has seen (maybe not so much anymore, but certainly in the ’90s when anime was finally really breaking through and finding a western audience). But in Japan, none of the sequels had had anything like the same impact as that first series.

That, however, is about to change, as Frontier really will make history, of a sort.

(NOTE: There was another part to this post, initially, detailing my personal adventures with Robotech during the 2004-2007 period, but that was making this post WAY too long, so I snipped it out and may post it separately after the Rewatch is done. It’s…. not kind.)

THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH 112 – The Bird-Human

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MACROSS ZERO
FINAL CHAPTER: The Bird-Human

ICONIC SCENE: Bird is the word.

STORY DATE: September 2008

RELEASE DATE: October 22, 2004

1. Wait, did we skip an episode or something? Within the first couple of minutes, Focker and Shin find the Bird-Human’s head, and then it’s taken from them (along with Sara and Aries) by the Anti-Unification Forces.

Now, this seems like a flaw in plotting, in that it could’ve been an episode in itself. Admittedly, it would’ve been a slow-moving episode (or else very short: I say ten minutes, tops), so maybe it’s for the best that it got crammed in here. But yeah, from here on out, Macross Zero will shift gears and become a simple story about trying to rescue Sara and Aries. Mostly.

2. Mao suddenly has vast new powers, such as seeing where Sara and Aries are being held, and communicating with Shin by appearing to him in his cockpit and communicating telepathically (I think). And yes, like the flying totem pole last time, I agree with the show’s detractors that this goes a little too far and gets a little too weird.

3. There is some moral complexity brought into the story when Nora brings up “Operation Iconoclasm” (meaning, of course, “smashing of the idols”… or “gods,” which is more to the point), where the Unified Forces will try to destroy the Bird-Human if necessary. Shin yells at Sara not to believe it, but he’s wrong; Nora is absolutely telling the truth.

4. There’s a fond farewell to Edgar and to the old mechanic (“Nakajima,” named after the aircraft manufacturer, just like Makina in Delta is), and Shin won’t be back to write a message on Edgar’s cast. Oh, and the VF-0s loaded out with Ghosts and rocket launchers look badass.

And then the AFOS makes all of the battleships and subs start floating in mid-air. I have to admit, I’m mystified as to why this is happening (I guess it makes it easier for Shin and Focker to find them…?). And that’s an incessant problem with this episode; while I could easily whip a summary and “high-altitude” analysis (Shin and Focker go to rescue Sara and Aries. Sara is overtaken by hatred and starts singing the “Song of Destruction” which is the failsafe in the Bird-Human to destroy the human race if they turn out too warlike. Shin approaches her with no weapons, which shows that Love Conquers All and humanity is worth saving, and the two of them are whisked away to parts unknown), once I start getting into the nitty-gritty of the episode, there are many things I don’t quite get.

I’m not really expecting clear-cut explanations and rationales; I’m eminently okay with ambiguity. But I’m not sure the series has earned it. Unlike, say, “The End of Evangelion,” which does pretty much make sense if you’re willing to meet it halfway, or “2001: A Space Odyssey,” which is as clear as day if you take the time to read the novel, there are still plenty of baffling things here no matter how often or how deeply you look at it. Again, in broad strokes, it makes perfect sense, and I guess the strange little details are just there to keep that story moving along, whether or not they make sense in and of themselves.

5. There’s an interesting bit where Shin fires the Ghost booster and is going too fast to transform. That’s a limitation we’ve never heard of before, but it makes a lot of sense.

The dogfight that ensues is absolutely incredible. It’s always during the battle scenes that Macross Zero really comes alive.

6. Shin gets to Sara, but his battroid’s head gets blown off. It takes almost five minutes for him to nearly hit the water, which seems rather implausible.

7. And then the Bird-Human awakens, with Sara as its partner/pilot/advisor. It’s no coincidence that its voice is the same as Sara’s father’s, although I get the feeling that that’s more her perception of it than the reality (perhaps). Anyway, yes, she has given into despair and the Bird-Human starts destroying everything.

8. Nora and D.D. still haven’t learned that there are bigger fish to fry now that the Bird-Human has awakened, and get killed by it for not realizing that. And Dr. Hasford gets killed for… well, just for being a creep. Aries gets killed because Roy is Claudia’s, dammit!

9. And the ending is somewhat inconclusive, but not as mystifying as other parts of the episode. Again, the Power of Love and Song wins through, and the scene of Shin and Sara trying to touch each other through the glass is genuinely moving.

Then a Destroid Monster shows up to destroy the Bird-Human with reaction warheads. Just like with the Protodeviln and the Space Whales, the warheads fail to do much of anything. And despite that, and just because Shin and Sara love each other, the Bird-Human decides that humanity is worth preserving after all, and folds off, Sara still inside. After a beat, it takes Shin with it.

10. A lot of people have problems with that ending, and I understand why, but I think it’s okay. Again, a little inconclusive, but not bad. In the cast interview that came with the DVD, Shin’s voice actor is practically BEGGING for a movie edition to be made, and if they had done that, I have no doubt that the ending would have been expanded upon and probably improved.

But yeah, I can’t shake the feeling that the final episode is aspiring to a profundity that it doesn’t possess. Again, the overall story of the episode is fine, but some of the plot mechanisms used to get from point A to point B (and from B to C, and so on) strain credulity past the breaking point.

Still… the visuals remain excellent throughout and pretty much rescue the episode. Even the backgrounds are worth paying close attention to. I said at the outset that this was more an experiment, and a demonstration of what the Satelight staff could do, and on those levels it succeeds wildly, and sets us up for the next Macross, which apparently was already being hashed out at this point.

THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH – MACROSS ZERO ZERO

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MACROSS ZERO ZERO

ICONIC SCENE: APPALE!!

RELEASE DATE: May 28, 2004

What the hell IS this thing? It’s on the Volume 4 DVD, and it seems like a very weird little trailer for a film that doesn’t exist, except for the parts where it seems like an ad for Appale Genki.

It’s nice to hear Hidetaka Tenjin’s “announcer voice,” though, as well as to see some of the actual locations that were used to create Mayan Island.

But yeah, very strange overall.