THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH 109 – The Stars on the Ground

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MACROSS ZERO
CHAPTER 2: The Stars on the Ground

ICONIC SCENE: “Yeh c’n still fight when yer drunk.”

STORY DATE: September 2008

RELEASE DATE: May 23, 2003

1. We pick up right where we left off, in the middle of the battle. The pace here is kind of insane, and while the overall dogfight isn’t hard to follow, there’s A LOT going on, and very quickly. I think the staff were relying on one of the virtues of the DVD format, and expecting that fans would end up going through the dogfight frame by frame. But I dunno… there are even scenes in Do You Remember Love and Macross Plus where I didn’t see EVERYTHING that was going on until I had seen them multiple times, so maybe Itano just doesn’t give a shit about whether the viewers can keep up or not.

But yes, we find out that Focker’s opponent (in a really impressive black SV-51) is his old instructor, D.D. Ivanov. Virtually nothing will be made of this connection. Heck, they don’t even meet face-to-face in the series.

(Robotech fans have often latched on this as being akin to the Edwards character inserted into Robotech II: The Sentinels, but Robotech fans, in my experience, will latch on to ANYTHING. Hell, one guy even tried to conflate Ariel (Invid Princess with green BLOOD) with Ranka (Vjara Queen with green HAIR)… even though Ranka is NOT a Vajra Queen (those are bigger and scarier) and as though green hair was a totally new thing for Macross (which it’s not).)

2. Strange… last episode, Shin outright stated that he didn’t care about the politics of the Unification Wars and just wanted “ground that doesn’t shake,” but he has a flashback here and we see that he witnessed his family being murdered by Anti-Unification soldiers (at least, I hope they’re Anti-Unification…). This sets up a parallel with Nora (who we’ve seen but haven’t really met yet), and she doesn’t seem like she buys in to political ideologies either, but she IS consumed by hatred by the Unified Forces. I’m somewhat surprised that Shin doesn’t feel an analogous hatred.

And Shin gets into his first Valk. He does relatively well, considering that he’s never operated a gerwalk before. The gerwalk’s movement, incidentally, is done really well. So far, we’ve only seen pilots who really know how to fly these birds, so it’s interesting to see this Zero moving really awkwardly. It’s one of my favorite bits of animation in the whole series.

It’s also one of a couple of Valks apparently piloted by “LCDR TIM BAKER.” I guess Skull Team has a couple Tim Bakers flying gray VF-0As… (both of whom die in this battle).

(Oh, and I just checked my Hasegawa 1/72 model kit of the VF-0A. Yes, “LCdr Tim Baker” is on the decal sheet. Authenticity!)

3. The “Satelight Helicopter” makes its debut here, in the scene where the Unified Forces retrieve the body of the Bird-Human (now code-named “AFOS,” but what that means remains a mystery… one of my friends suggested “Artifact from Outer Space,” and that sounds as good as anything, I guess). It’s a Sikorsky SH-60 Seahawk, and as VF5SS at CollectionDX (which is, let’s remind everyone, ONE WORD) has shown, it appears SOMEWHERE in nearly every Satelight production. I’m not sure if it’s an in-joke or if they’re just cutting corners.

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4. In discussing the Protoculture theory, Aries and her scientist co-worker discuss the idea that evolution happens through viruses. I have no idea if this is an actual theory or not.

Still, they use a giraffe as their example, and, coincidentally enough, Aries has to grow a few inches to pour the cola on Focker’s head later, so let’s ask the animation staff… was that a virus, or just genetics?

5. Focker takes Shin back to their aircraft carrier, the Asuka, and Shin gets to see the VF-0D he’ll be flying for the next few episodes. He examines it pretty closely, but somehow misses that Edgar’s name is printed on it, since he’s really surprised when Edgar shows up, still alive.

Their training makes it pretty blatant, as I said before, that the story is at least partially a metaphor for when pilots had to adapt from prop planes to jet fighters. Again, evolution. Everything in this series comes back to that.

6. During Focker’s drunk conversation with Shin, he throws in, “How can you fight a war if you’re afraid of some booze?” AKA the famous line from Do You Remember Love (immortalized in the Clash of the Bionoids dub as “Yeh c’n still fight when yer drunk,” which doesn’t have QUITE the same meaning, although I quoted it above).

7. When Shin goes back to Mayan, there’s a nice touch where we see two Mayan boys pretending to be fighter planes. As much as Sara is trying to keep the “Kadun of Steel and Fire” out, the influence is seeping in. No wonder she seems extra pissed off in this episode.

And her mood is not improved by Shin repairing the generator, giving electricity back to the island (the lights in the houses are the “stars on the ground” of the title).

And Aries taking blood from the villagers to examine it makes Sara angry as well, and she (Sara) mentions “two snakes entwined,” referring to another corrupted legend account, this time the double helix of DNA (again, I love shit like this! By the way… did you know that one of Saturn’s rings is a double helix? The implications, man…).

Shin also gets his first real test of loyalty here. Old man Nutuku has already sussed out that Sara is falling for Shin, and Shin finds himself having to choose a side with Sara or Aries regarding the blood collection (Sara’s fearful expression here is really well-drawn). He finally lets the villagers themselves decide (safe answer), which leads to Aries offering them “Appale Genki” (the energy drink from “Earth Girl Arjuna”… who herself makes a brief appearance on television next episode). But Sara does have a point… as we find out later, the islanders’ blood is not ENTIRELY human. Or at least her’s and Mao’s aren’t. I’ve never been sure if it’s just the two of them, or if it’s everyone’s.

8. And man… Nora, in the first scene we really meet her in, is a pretty literal ball-buster. Again, very little is done with the “villains” here, but there is an interesting line that the Anti-Unification Forces originally developed the variable fighter idea, and the Unified Government took the idea from them. Is that true? Who knows? I mean… I’m sure the Anti-Unification factions didn’t know that the Zentradi were coming, which was the whole POINT of making variable fighters in the first place…

Oh, and I note that Nora’s voice actress is Minami Takayama, the same as Dilandau in Escaflowne, so I always keep waiting for Nora to shout, “Burn! BURN!” But it takes a few episodes for her to do so.

9. And then… OH MY GOSH! FLOATING ROCKS!! MACROSS IS RUINED FOREVER!!! NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

Or, at least, that’s what a lot of people apparently thought.

I dunno. To me it seemed clear, even on first viewing, that this was caused by the AFOS rather than Sara or her song. I mean, yes, the song is triggering the reaction, but this isn’t magic, it’s Arthur C. Clarke’s “sufficiently advanced” science. I’m not sure why so many people seem to have a problem with it (do they still? I know they sure DID, when this episode came out. At least on Macross World forums).

Between Sara singing naked and the AFOS beginning to bleed out of its rather vaginal-looking “neck,” there’s definitely a lot of feminine energy going on in this scene, even though the Bird-Human is definitely male (if I were to be uncharitable, I might suggest that all that feminine energy, some of it subliminal, MIGHT be at least PART of the reason why a lot of male fans don’t respond well to this series. But I’m not uncharitable (at least, not YET… I might be, regarding Delta), so I won’t).

Oh, and Sara’s song is in French, but I’m not sure we’re really supposed to know that. I think it’s just meant to sound “otherworldly,” which, to its credit, it does. The singer, Holy Raz, seems to have vanished from public life. I remember finding her MySpace page, back when MySpace was still a thing, but I haven’t found any reference to her at all since. And even back then, any link I found to her was connected to Macross Zero. If she has any other releases, they’re very well-hidden.

And speaking of music, the ending theme to this episode, “Lifesong,” is the funkiest Macross song ever (so far). Not even the rap on the 20th Anniversary short has a groove like this.

10. So between the evolution theories, the coming-to-terms-with-new-technology theme, and even some Bruce Lee-isms (“you must be like water” and “you must understand your opponent’s feelings”), the series definitely has a lot on its mind. Macross is not known for being terribly cerebral, but scriptwriter Hiroshi Ohnogi is a pretty intellectual guy, and a lot of that comes through in the show.

That said, this is probably the least “fun” of any Macross series. While there is humor here, the overall tone is much more “serious” than any previous Macross series since Plus (and I think that’s it’s actually much darker – and deeper – than Plus was, because of the aforementioned themes).

Which, again, might be a clue as to why it wasn’t very successful. Despite the ad that I linked to Chapter 1, with the thirtysomething salaryman saying “Our youth! Macross Zero!” there’s very little here that tugs on those “youth” nostalgia-cords. And as I also said before, it’s very experimental; apart from the VF-0 being like a modernized VF-1, the show doesn’t LOOK much like any Macross before it, and the story doesn’t FEEL like any Macross before it. But then, as I keep insisting, every Macross series has its own identity, and we should be more surprised when two Macross shows are ALIKE rather than when they’re different (even Frontier… which goes into terra obscura pretty quickly).

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