THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH – 20th Anniversary Premium Collection

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MACROSS 20TH ANNIVERSARY PREMIUM COLLECTION

ICONIC SCENE: Indeed, “Macross will advance.” Just not immediately.

RELEASE DATE: August 25, 2002

I can’t really say that Macross came roaring back with a vengeance for its 20th anniversary in 2002, but there was a small current of momentum. The big news, of course, was a new OVA series, a prequel of sorts, called “Macross Zero.” And the big news about that was that, first, Akira Kamiya would be reprising his role of Roy Focker, and, second, that the mecha was all meant to be pure CGI. I don’t think I was alone in looking forward to the former news and having some trepidation about the latter. CGI had, over the previous two or three years, become more prominent in anime, and sometimes it looked great, but more often it didn’t.

Now, I don’t ascribe to the idea, which seems common among people who got into anime in the ’80s (and ’90s), that CGI is inherently impersonal and lacks “heart.” I mean, it’s like synthesizers, in a way… my generation grew up hearing a lot of electronic sounds on the radio, which we dug, but which the generation above us often decried as not REAL music. And yes, plenty of times synthesizers and computers and drum machines were used unimaginatively, or in ways that sound WAY more dated now than non-electronic music of the same time period does, but if used effectively, they could help create some really amazing music. It’s the same with animation, really.

Kawamori, of course, had been something of a vanguard on the computer animation front, incorporating a lot of it into Macross Plus (and a little bit into Seven). By this point, he actually had his own CGI animation studio, Satelight, and Macross Zero was, among other things, meant to be a demonstration of what they could accomplish.

This DVD, a limited edition released four months before the premiere of Macross Zero, manages to show both the good and the bad of CGI anime. On the good side, there’s a short promo clip (done, not by Satelight, but by Gonzo, like the Dynamite 7 OP and ED) devised for the 20th anniversary, showing Valkyries flitting about, and looking totally great. Some of the shots are filtered and very stylized, others are ripped right out of their respective series. All of them look wonderful. There’s a slight mistake, though, on the shot of the VF-11. It says that it’s a MAXL, but it’s really just an 11B or C.

On the bad side, there’s the trailer for the (mercifully?) unreleased “3D-VFX” game. It started life as a movie, then was downgraded to game status, and then vanished completely.

(Sunrise, by the way, was doing their own very public CGI experimentation and learning at this time, with their Gundam Evolve shorts and MS Igloo, and both those and 3D-VFX have the same major problem: the mecha look great, but the characters fall deep into the uncanny valley (MS Igloo probably fares the best with its people, but still doesn’t look very good). 3D-VFX goes for an almost puppet-like look for its characters, like a Supermarionation series, but that almost adds to creepiness.)

Still… although it doesn’t look wonderful, I’m always sad to lose a piece of Macross history, so I wish it could’ve been revived some form or other.

Next on the DVD, there’s a brief history of all the Macross series and movies so far, ending with a short trailer for Zero, in which they emphatically do not show the VF-0. And the rest of the DVD is plumped out with all of the OPs from every Macross series, the beginnings from some of the games, and a few Macross-themed commercials.

Now, in the summer of 2002, I was still reeling from an extremely bad break-up, and Macross wasn’t really on my radar for a while. I didn’t get Macross Zero Episodes 1 and 2 until the following year, and didn’t get this DVD until after that, which is a pity, as it probably would’ve assuaged some of my fears about all-CGI for the Valks. It was definitely in 2003 that I also did my first comprehensive Macross rewatch, using the US releases for SDF Macross, II, and Plus, the Japanese release for this, and Hong Kong bootlegs for everything else.

And although I was a member of Macross World at the time, I didn’t visit it terribly often. And if I did, I never checked the toy news, so the first news of Harmony Gold beginning to block Macross toys flew past me. Indeed, while I had given up on Macross 7 ever being released in the US, I felt sure that Zero would be licensed soon, and looked forward to an official Western release…

HA! As if!

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