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.