CHAPTER 3: Azure Deathmatch
ICONIC SCENE: Peeping at Mao and Shin.
STORY DATE: September 2008
RELEASE DATE: November 28, 2003
1. See? Sara is actually surprised that the rocks are floating. This isn’t normal, even for a place as strange as Mayan.
And I like that Shin manages to deflect Aries by actually telling the truth, which she takes as a joke. Admittedly, the way in which he says it makes it impossible to take seriously, but he is explaining what happened.
2. Sara also has a flashback to when she was a child, and Dr. Hasford took a blood sample from her (after distracting her with the gift of a necklace). Virtually everything she has done since is her attempt to atone for that sin. Hasford seems creepy enough, though, that I’m shocked she trusted him at all, ever.
3. Now, last episode, Shin was placed between Sara and Aries, and with this episode it becomes pretty clear that Aries isn’t really on the “good” team. I said before that the “tradition versus modernity” conflict is more complicated that it might, at a cursory glance, appear, but generally, yes, the traditions of Mayan Island are not to be tampered with (BECAUSE THEY’RE NOT JUST ANCIENT TRADITIONS, THEY’RE INSTRUCTIONS AND INFORMATION FROM “ANCIENT ASTRONAUTS” WITH SUPER TECHNOLOGY. See? the relationship between the “ancient” and “modern” here is COMPLICATED!). And Aries, while well-intentioned and genuinely curious, is pretty definitely tampering with them. I’d like to say she’s the most morally ambiguous character in the series, but that’s the thing: she isn’t ambiguous. Yes, her research is the most important thing to her and any help she gives to the islanders is a just a by-product of that (if even that), but she is honestly trying to understand. When Hasford shows up and she joins forces with him, THEN she goes over to the “dark side,” so to speak, but she still never does anything that could be construed as “evil.”
4. Mao pulls a “kancho” (“enema”) on Shin, which is what it’s called when you jab someone’s ass between their butt cheeks. Where she learned it is an open question, since I’m pretty sure it’s just a Japanese kid thing. But yeah, it’s basically the Japanese equivalent of giving someone a wedgie.
I’ve had a few dreadful experiences with Japanese elementary school children, but thankfully a kancho was never among them. It looks seriously uncomfortable.
Shin asks Mao if all the villagers are at some kind of sacred meeting, but actually, they’re just watching Arjuna on TV. You kinda have to wonder what they make of it…
5. The underwater scenes are really excellent, with the same eye for detail that made the nature scenes in Dynamite 7 so great. There’s a very definite theme of environmentalism going on here, which seems not just to displease but actually ENRAGE some commenters I’ve seen (even more so than the whale theme of Dynamite 7… probably because few of those people ever watched Dynamite 7), but I think it’s justified and not terribly preachy. I mean, the island and its surroundings ARE gorgeous, and they’re about to get thoroughly trashed, so it seems perfectly appropriate to linger for a while (here and in the next episode) on the beauty that’s soon to be gone.
The song during this scene, “Yanyan” (here in the fictional Mayan language, and in Japanese for the ending theme), is also lovely, sung by Yuuka Nanri, the voice actress for Mao (and former singer for the band Fiction Junction). It strikes an interesting balance between sounding like a Pacific Island folk song and being “pop,” and it works. Macross Zero doesn’t get a lot of credit for its music (because, I guess, it’s not Yoko Kanno) but I think Kuniaki Haishima does a fine job, with both the songs and the score.
6. Mao’s “treasure” turns out to be the head of AFOS, and it gets a thrill from seeing Mao “kiss” Shin (actually, she’s just giving him some air). And again, that causes a rather large reaction on the island itself. Again, see? It’s not magic, it’s not singing, it’s the Protoculture artifact that’s causing all the weirdness.
Oh, and Mao during the “kiss” and afterwards, seems less like a precocious kid and more like an adult with an interest in Shin. Ranka at sixteen will be far more uncomfortable re-enacting this scene than Mao at twelve is in enacting it in the first place.
7. We get a fair amount of new mecha in the second half of the episode. First we see some Ghosts launching (although they look very little like the Ghosts from any previous (or later) Macross series). Later, we’ll get the Armored VF-0S and the Destroid Cheyenne. The Armored VF-0S battroid makes its only appearance here, but the Cheyenne will go on to be a guest-star in Frontier and Delta. Still later, the Anti-Unification Force’s Octos (which is kinda like a destroid, I guess) will show up.
8. The battle scene here is absolutely brutal, especially after Shin gets the head of the AFOS and the Anti-Unification Forces attack the island. The village is caught in the middle of the battle, and, as I said before, it gets completely ripped apart. The mother and child on the pier when it blows up always makes me wince.
And of course, Sara thinks it’s really all her fault. This will lead her to make some spectacularly bad decisions, the first of which will be to try to kill Shin.
9. While trying to rescue the Bird-Human’s head, Shin’s VF-0D gets totaled by Nora. Nora’s SV-51 also takes a beating, but she comes back in an Octos to capture both Shin and Sara. Quick work, Nora…
Oh, and Mao is now in some kind of regressed state (she’s sucking her thumb) and for some reason needs a blood transfusion… and the only blood around that matches happens to be from the AFOS. I wish they went into a little more detail about the “Alpha Bombay” blood type and what’s different about it, but oh well.
10. Again, so far so good. The series continues to crack right along, knowing generally when to amp up the action and when to slow down and take a breath. There’s one thing that’s kind of jarring about the battle, though, in that either by choice or because of time constraints, a lot of the mecha (especially the Armored VF-0S) is hand-drawn rather than a CG model. This has happened in the previous episodes, too, but it’s REALLY noticeable here, especially when the Cheyennes and the SV-51s change from 2D to 3D between shots. That’s a minor complaint, though. Overall, the series is excellent so far.