It feels weird to be writing a “conclusion” when the newest series is right in the middle of airing. And yeah, this is more of a long pause than a total wrap-up (it’ll probably be a few years before I do a full Delta rewatch). I’ve still got lots more material for the blog, but for now, the Great Macross Rewatch is done. It’s been an interesting journey to watch, for me at least, as the original series (which was never really an underdog) managed to generate so many years of anime, and stands now as, well, not quite a household name, but very highly-regarded in many circles. Pretty good for a series that was designed as a merchandise-friendly throwaway series so that Studio Nue could then do what they REALLY wanted to do: Genocidas (which of course, they never did).

This last weekend, Shoji Kawamori was, of course, a guest at Anime Expo, and I was lucky enough to help out a bit at the booth for Satelight, which is his animation studio. It was the second time I’d done so, the first being the previous year, when Satelight designer Thomas Romain was one of the guests of honor. I was introduced to him as “a big Macross fan,” and his response, “Ah, yes… Zat is what zhey dragged me away from to come ‘ere,” was the ONLY thing anyone told me about Delta. This time, Kawamori was pretty busy the entire time, and so I only got to meet him once, when he came by the booth Sunday morning. We didn’t talk much; I was introduced to him by the other Satelight employees, and I thanked him for his work.

The previous night, Saturday, July Second, had been his big panel, mostly talking about his childhood and the development of Macross, and in particular the VF-1. Much of the content of the talk would not have been a surprise to anyone who has followed this blog from the start, but one thing that I hadn’t known was that after trying to get Genocidas funded and having no luck, Macross (which he termed a “dummy project”) was basically created in a single night. Of course, it went through many changes during pre-production, but most of the core concepts were decided upon in that one session.

(There was a great bit after the talk, when he came out and posed for a big group photograph with all the cosplayers who were there. The cosplay was mostly Delta (lots of Walküre members, plus a Hayate and a Mirage), but there was also a Minmay, a Basara, a Sheryl, a Ranka, and a Shin Kudo. Only Macross II and Plus were not represented.)

I think it’s indisputable that as far as the history of anime goes, the first series (with Do You Remember Love) is the most important, both at home (as the flagship series produced by the first generation of what would become “otaku”) and abroad (even in somewhat muffled form, as Robotech, the first series retains most of its force and power, and remains popular, despite Harmony Gold’s constant inadvertent attempts to sabotage it). Following that I would say that, for Japan, Frontier is the second-most important, for ushering in the “ani-son boom,” whereas in the west, it’s Macross Plus, for being an absolutely must-see series at a time when anime was first really beginning to take off in the US.

But really, if there’s anything I hope you take away from this Rewatch project, it’s how central the concept of music was even for the first series (although, again, Carl Macek downplayed its importance in Robotech). It fits squarely into the history of idol anime as much as it does mecha anime, and as I said during Episode 12 of the original series, the use of idol music during the space battle was one of the things, apparently, that the fans really went nuts about, since no one had ever tried anything like that before. The music is one of Macross’s signature features, and one of the things that makes it different from other mecha anime.


Okay, not quite.

I’ve had A LOT of help on this. The SpeakerPODCast Crew (Adrian, Gwyn, and Renato), VF5SS, and Karice67 have all been extremely generous with their time and knowledge, and generally helped me look a lot smarter than I actually am.

Thanks to the Facebook groups Robits, Macross Fans US, Macross Fans of Malaysia, Macross △ Delta, and Robotech Freedom for putting up with my twice-weekly invasions (and often being kind enough to actually READ the blog post before commenting… well, in Robits, at any rate).

And thanks to CaptainJLS, whose acknowledgment here probably surprises him as much as it does you, for inspiring the whole thing in the first place. Years ago, I stumbled over his wonderful “365 Days of Robotech” blog posts, and thought, “Huh… I wish someone would do something like this for Macross…”

And thanks to YOU for reading this, especially if you’ve actually made it through the entire Rewatch. Your dedication is impressive, especially considering my digressive, self-interrupting, and completely tangled and annoying writing style. I really appreciate it!


No, wait…

Okay, now that the Rewatch is all nicely wrapped up, there are going to be some changes. First, the updates to the blog will be less frequent, probably once a week (or less) rather than the twice a week I’ve been doing. I’ve got a few topics that spiraled out of control and had to be pruned while I was doing the the Rewatch, and there are other topics that got spread out over many posts that I would like to consolidate. And there’s the post about the  dRobotech/Macross rights issue, which I’ve been working on for a while, and which is getting fearsomely long (It’s looking like it’ll be at least two parts. Maybe three). And also, I’ve got a few translations I’ve finished (or started) and nowhere to put them. So that’s what’s coming up in the next while.






ICONIC SCENE: Totsugeki Planet Explosion Don’t Be Late Overflow *Kira!*


RELEASE DATE: October 20, 2012

1. Man, I’ve been dreading this. FB7. A pretty inadequate addition to the 30th Anniversary celebration(s).

(Okay, I admit… not being a gamer, I forgot completely about Macross 30 until I was almost finished with this post. Add it in wherever you wish, ’cause I sure didn’t. Until I finally remembered that it existed.)

Unfortunately, since everything else for the 30th Anniversary was an event of some sort or another, this is the only part of it that anyone outside Japan (heck, outside Tokyo, even, unless they made a special trip) got to see. And it’s the only one that remains accessible and available, unfortunately.

For the events, well… if they’d all been happening over the same couple of weeks (which, admittedly, would’ve most likely have been a nightmare – or straight up impossible – to schedule), then any number of fans could’ve made a pilgrimage to Tokyo and enjoyed them all… but no, they were all spread out over the course of a year and a half or so. Again, not a big problem for ME, as I was living in Tokyo then, but pretty unfair to anyone who didn’t live close by. That said, they did group some of the events together, so that there were a couple of advantageous weeks to visit, if one had been so inclined. May 2012 had the first two museum exhibits, one in Shibuya and one in Ikebukuro. August had another museum exhibit in Ikebukuro, October had the Musicalture (or Musiculture… or Music Turn-A Lture…) and Macross FB7, and the following July was the Macross Crossover 30 Live. Around the same time, a touring museum exhibit started up, making a stop in Takarazuka (which I went to) and Ishinomaki (which I didn’t). And finally, with the blu-ray of Macross Plus coming out, there was an all-night screening of Plus, Do You Remember Love, and (depending on which night you went) one of the Frontier movies.

All in all, I think the 30th was disappointing to most, and felt mostly cobbled together. Which isn’t to say that an ENORMOUS amount of effort didn’t go into it. The life-size VF-25 Gerwalk wasn’t cheap or easy to make, and neither was the life-size VF-1S cockpit. And all the museum exhibits had artwork and displays that were wonderful to see.

It started, though, with a tragedy, in that Noboru Ishiguro, director of the original Macross series and co-director of Do You Remember Love, passed away just before the events started. Pretty much everything ended up being dedicated to his memory.

For me, the first two exhibits (Macross the Design at Shibuya Parco and Macross Super Dimension Exhbition “Ridin’ in Your Valkyrie!”) were the most interesting, for showing the divide among Macross fans at the time. The entrance to Macross the Design (in a display area of Parco, a department store in Shibuya, a block or so behind the 109 Building, which itself was the model for the 199 Building in Frontier) was made to look as if you were boarding the Megaroad-01 (and the ticket looked like a boarding pass), including even a new welcome message recorded by Mika Doi as Captain Misa Hayase. After going through the entrance hall, the first room wasn’t terribly promising… life-size pictures of some of the Macross idols, the Basara guitar, a blown-up Zentradi dictionary on the wall… but then, the NEXT room was astonishing, as it hearkened back to the very beginning, when the show was still “Battle City Megaroad” and the walls were covered with all sorts of early sketches and designs, including quite a few that have never been reprinted in any book. There was also Kawamori’s own Lego SV-51, and a replica of the photo album from the ending credits of the first series (I assume it was a replica, because you could flip through it). In that nook, “Runner” was also playing in a continuous loop, and the poster of Minmay on the snowy day was there on the wall, turned upside-down of course. My girlfriend, who hadn’t yet seen Macross, was puzzled as to why I was laughing so hard. But yeah, most of the stuff there was about the making of the series, and the first series at that. Endlessly fascinating for the specialist (like me… and you, most likely, or else you wouldn’t be reading this (and thank you if you are!)), but probably a little too in-depth for the casual fan, or for the Frontier fan.

No, THAT was the Ikebukuro exhibit, which had MUCH more emphasis on Frontier, and less on any “behind-the-scenes” stuff. Instead of making it look like you were boarding the Megaroad-01, you entered Mihoshi High, eventually ending up at the SMS hangar that had the life-size gerwalk. Honestly, most of the exhibit seemed planned with an eye for getting the Frontier fans curious about previous Macross iterations. This is also where Adrian took a snapshot of me pretending to “cop a feel” of the life-size cardboard Nanase stand-up (which a deranged Robotech podcaster somehow got a copy of and ran with for a while. No skin off my nose, honestly). Anyway, I ended up really soaking up this exhibit pretty thoroughly, since one of Gwyn’s friends who was there was a professional photographer, and he spent quite a while getting pictures of absolutely everything (photography had been forbidden at the Shibuya exhibit), which meant we were there for much longer than we were probably meant to be. Oh, and he took an excellent pic (not uploaded anywhere, as far as I know) of about fifteen or twenty Ranka cosplayers, each wearing a different Ranka costume. I totally WANT a copy of that photo! And, uh, one bit of behind-the-scenes info that I learned here, that WASN’T at the other exhibit, was that Kawamori, as I’ve said before, only got three hours of sleep the entire week before Episode 27 of the original series aired. Again, hats off. I couldn’t have done the same.

The gift shop for the Ikebukuro event also had a TV screen set up, showing the title “Macross FB7” and saying “Ozma meets Fire Bomber!” Which sounds like it would’ve made a better movie than what we eventually got.

Oh, and about that life-size gerwalk… it was originally supposed to have legs. Even after it debuted in Tokyo, they said it would have legs by its next appearance in Osaka. But it didn’t. It still doesn’t.

2. The next event was the Gengaten Exhibit in Ikebukuro, that August. This was also a more “scholarly” gallery of work, with plenty of early designs, as well as original pieces that ended up getting used for prints or CD or video covers. Did you ever get one of those portfolios of prints back in the ’80s? There were two: the “Character” one (which I got) and the “Mecha” one (which I never saw for sale). Well, the original drawings and paintings for ALL of those prints were here, which was kind of amazing. One of the OTHER surprises was discovering that all the yellow on Ishtar’s Emulator outfit for any Mikimoto Macross II painting was actually done in gold leaf. It seems like a strange choice on his part, since unless you saw the original paintings, you would never know.

For me, the big thing about it was that I got in on something that no one else from the SpeakerPODCast did: a talk show with Tomo Sakurai (Mylene) and Aya Endo (Sheryl). I almost won an FB7 poster signed by Ms. Endo, but I’ve already told that bitter story plenty of times.

My favorite part was when they both were asked if they had to choose, would they pick Basara, or would they pick Alto? Ms. Endo swiftly answered “Neither.” Ms. Sakurai was quiet for a bit, then asked, “Is it me, or is it Mylene?” The host said, “It’s you,” and she instantly replied, “You know, I always liked Gamlin best.”

3. Then in October came the Musicalture (or however you want to spell it), playing at Tokyo Dome City Hall. Going into it, I totally wasn’t sure what to expect. A stage musical extravaganza…? It could turn out to be an expensive waste of time… but it ended up being really wonderful. And unfortunately, a lost piece of Macross history (both in the Macross universe and the real one), since I gather that it was not a huge success (we saw it on a Saturday matinee, and the orchestra seating was perhaps half full. The mezzanine and balcony were both completely empty). So yeah… eight performances and then it was gone. No cast album, no DVD release, nothing. I talked before about the Macross 7-era radio dramas (like Macross Generation), and those CDs are all long out of print, but at least they still exist. For this, if you weren’t there, you missed it. And even if you WERE there, you’ll never see it again. Which, again, is a real shame, because it was really good, and a great addition to the overall Macross “story.”

At one point during the play, it suddenly occurred to me: if I could go back in time to 1985, and tell me-as-a-kid watching Robotech or Do You Remember Love, “In the year 2012, you’ll be living in Tokyo and you’ll be watching a Macross stage musical,” I wonder how he would’ve reacted…?

4. A week or so after the Musicalture finished its eight performances (it wasn’t cancelled, that’s just how many were scheduled), Macross FB7 opened for what I believe was a two or three week limited engagement. But since I’m trying to delay talking about FB7 as much as possible, I’ll jump ahead to the following July of 2013, as Gwyn, Adrian, and I headed for Takarazuka City in Hyogo Prefecture for the Macross the Museum exhibit at the Osamu Tezuka museum. On the podcast about it, Renato heaped scorn upon us for continually saying “Hyogo” instead of “Takarazuka,” but for me, personally, I found that if I told Japanese friends that I was going to Takarazuka, they would automatically infer that I was going to see the famous all-female Takarazuka theater troupe, and invariably seemed disappointed when I explained that no, I was actually just going to the Tezuka museum. I’m sure the museum staff gets this confusion all the time. The museum itself was pretty great, although it made me realize just HOW LITTLE that I knew about Tezuka’s work (not surprising, I guess, since only a fraction of it has been released in English). The reason we went the day we did because Gwyn got a tip that it would be a good day to go. It turned out that Hidetaka Tenjin was giving a talk. He walked in and said that he had a special guest, and then Kawamori walked in, shocking EVERYONE. We had a nice intimate Q & A with him (I’m not sure how many people could fit in the room, but it was definitely under a hundred). This is where our friend Howard asked specifically about Macross II, and Kawamori replied that everything in Macross is as “canonical” as everything else, as every Macross series is more-or-less set in its own universe, so sure, Macross II is part of that as well.

(Likewise, recent Facebook comments to the contrary, Miyatake said that yes, Britai’s battleship could indeed be the SDF-3, regardless of the anger that may cause in some fans. And yes, it caused PLENTY of anger, although I’m still unsure why, exactly.)

5. Next came the Macross Crossover 30 Live, a five-and-a-half-hour concert that had a little of everything except Hiroko “Ishtar” Kasahara (why WASN’T she there, anyway?). It was at Makuhari Messe, which can easily hold thirteen thousand people, and it sold out quite handily. Great concert, but it was a devastatingly hot and humid day, so leaving the place, surrounded by (again) 13,000 people who looked, felt, and most importantly SMELLED completely awful was not the best way to end the evening (and, for me at least, that was the final stop on the 30th Anniversary festivities. Glorious, but… yeah, smelly).

6. Of course, during all this, there was also Macross 30, but I haven’t played the game (although I’ve watched Gwyn play it), nor have I read the novel. I bet that it’s a better tribute than FB7 is, though.

And, as kinda/sorta part of the 30th Anniversary, I saw an all-night Macross movie marathon. At midnight, there was the Macross Plus Movie Edition. At two AM, there was Do You Remember Love. And at four AM (by which point I was having a hard time staying awake), I saw Wings of Farewell yet again. Again, a good one to go back in time and tell me-as-a-kid watching Do You Remember Love: “Don’t worry, you’ll see it on the big screen eventually. It’ll take nearly thirty years, but you’ll do it.”

7. Okay, enough shilly-shallying. On to FB7. The story doesn’t make much sense, and seems lifted from that Cowboy Bebop episode with the Betamax tape… just, y’know, extended into a series of tapes, instead of just one. But look… the plot isn’t really terribly important. The real purpose of this “movie” (listed as an “OVA” in Macross Chronicle) is to show off how great Macross 7 looks on blu-ray, as well as to give the Frontier kids a reason to check it out.

(In other words, I would ask when during Frontier this is meant to be set, since Ranka is wearing the uniform of the school she got kicked out of early on, and yet she and Sheryl have a massive duet at the end, even though she shouldn’t be famous (or friends with Sheryl) yet… Likewise, at the end of Macross 7, the surviving Protodeviln were leaving to go to another galaxy, but I guess at least one of them came back…? And where’s Alto, anyway? Oh well, it really doesn’t matter. NOTHING here is terribly well thought out on a story level.)

I dunno… Renato says the movie’s good for putting on as background noise when you’re cleaning house or whatever, but, heck… why not put all your Fire Bomber albums on, on random? That’s what I do…

8. The problem is that I can’t imagine anyone who hasn’t already seen Macross 7 enjoying this in the slightest. There’s no way to follow the TV series plot here, so as an introduction to Macross 7, it’s pretty useless. But even if you’re a huge Macross 7 fan, it still seems quite haphazardly strung together. In the talk segment that’s on the blu-ray, director Tetsuro Amino says that he tried to organize it as a rock show, with the emphasis placed on the songs rather than the narrative. But it’s not really a collection of music videos, either… And that perhaps is the main problem. We’ve all seen straight compilation movies, and it’s usually easy to judge them as successful or unsuccessful as stories. Likewise, we’ve probably also seen anime shows edited into a collection of music videos, where the measure of success is not how clear the story is, but how inventively the previously-seen footage is used. This, though, seems like it’s trying for both approaches simultaneously (as well as a third approach, in having the Frontier characters slowly discover what happened in Macross 7), and isn’t terribly satisfying from any angle. But it’s difficult to judge how successful it is at what it’s trying to do, because it’s totally unclear what kind of film it’s trying to be.

The most I can say is that some of the best scenes get included (especially Sivil’s debut from Episode 17 and Kinryu’s attack from Episode 26), and Fire Bomber sounds as good as ever. And yeah, hearing this in a theater with a kick-ass sound system was the best part of the movie.

Oh, and at the end, a title card comes up, saying “To be be!” Which is cute.

9. It’s not a complete wash. I like the bit where Ranka asks Sheryl if she got the “Listen to my song!” line from Basara. Cutting to Ozma’s awed face when Basara shouts, “Mountain! Galaxy! Listen to my song!” from Seven’s final episode is EXACTLY right. Ranka echoing Minmay with her “1-2-3-4” is fine. And the concert at the end is pretty great: director Amino’s second attempt to capture the magic of the Beatles’ “Let It Be” rooftop concert (gotta love Leon frantically on the phone with, undoubtedly, the cops). And the two straight-ahead music videos included on the blu-ray (and, as of right now, easily found on YouTube) are a lot of fun. If the whole movie had been like THOSE, it would’ve been better. Or at least, I would’ve liked it more.

Hey, I’m open to the idea that this film was experimental and ahead of its time. I find that extremely unlikely, but you never know.

And the two new songs are good, although I think the medley suffers from too much keyboard and not enough guitar. The live version on the blu-ray here corrects that, but doesn’t have May’n (due to a scheduling oversight, she had her own concert that evening. I hope SOMEONE got raked over the coals for that), which makes the ultimate DEFINITIVE version of the medley the one that was performed at the Crossover Live 30… the one that’s never been released on home video. *Sigh.*

Oh, and as Renato pointed out, by the end of Macross 7, we knew that Sivil and Geperunitchi had had their revelations and become “good guys,” but we still didn’t know, really, about Gavil. So it’s nice to see that he’s no longer a jerk, as well. Although… I wonder where Glavil is?

Oh… and there was an interesting bit of difference between what you’re seeing on DVD or BD, and what we saw in the theater: apparently, the computer model of Mylene’s VF-11 MAXL Custom wasn’t ready when the film was released to theaters, so it just used a VF-25 in Mylene colors. By the time the video was ready, so was the MAXL.

10. So yeah… of all the things we could’ve gotten as a 30th Anniversary film, we get THIS…? The music is great, the new scenes are well-done, the ending medley is wonderful (but could’ve been a bonus DVD on the CD single, or an incentive added to the blu-ray box). Other than that…? Enh, it’s pretty much a waste of time. The blu-ray extras are much more interesting than the film itself. Heck, even the audio commentary is more fun, with the first half of the movie being the director talking with the Macross 7 cast, and the second half being him talking with the Frontier cast (and where Aya Endo says she watched Macross 7 on TV when she was in elementary school, making the director (and myself, and maybe you) feel VERY old indeed). Again, that first ad: “OZMA MEETS FIRE BOMBER,” now THAT sounds like it could’ve had potential. Instead, we got “Ozma watches Fire Bomber on his TV,” which is nowhere near as enthralling.

That said, if it had been the Delta cast instead of the Frontier cast watching Macross 7 on TV, that could’ve been a winner, because of the Jenius connection (I can see Mirage being INTENSELY embarrassed by her grandparents and aunt, can’t you? And of course the rest of Delta Team would be razzing her about it… It almost writes itself!), so maybe it was just an idea executed too early…? (See…? It IS ahead of its time!)

All this said, I’m glad I saw it in the theater, and I’m glad I saw it with Renato, since Yoshiki Fukuyama, musician-Basara, just happened to be in the audience when we saw it, and he and Renato recognized each other, so we got to talk briefly (although Fukuyama was in something of a rush to get to the bathroom after the film, so our talk was VERY brief). And even HE wouldn’t commit to liking the movie (although he definitely didn’t say he DISLIKED it… Renato asked him what he thought, and Fukuyama sucked his teeth and said, with a smile, “Well, it was only the first time I saw it, so I can’t really say…” I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but, uh, that doesn’t sound good, does it?).

In its defense, one of my girlfriend’s friends, a guy who watched Macross 7 on TV in 1994, confessed that he cried tears of joy during this movie. So not EVERYONE thought it was bad.

But yeah, for the rest of us, eminently forgettable, and a particularly inauspicious start to Macross’s fourth decade… but really, haven’t ALL of the ten-year anniversary openers been lackluster? Macross II, for the tenth anniversary, was just plain dull. Macross Zero, for the twentieth, seriously underperformed commercially. This, for the thirtieth, follows suit on BOTH counts. It always seems to take a few years into each anniversary for Macross to really hit a homer… but it always does, eventually. If that first step forward of new decade HAS to be failure, at least this wasn’t an EXPENSIVE failure. And it cleared the way for Delta, which (to many old-school fans’ chagrin) has so far been extremely successful.

Oh… and after hemming and hawing during my Macross 7 Rewatch, being “ninety-nine percent sure” that Akiko Nakagawa, voice of the Flower Girl, also voiced Sivil (who was just listed in the credits of the show with a question mark), I had a real facepalm moment when she was straight-out credited here as Sivil. Why, um, did they want to keep it secret before…? Oh well, at least I was right (for once)… but I wish I’d checked the credits HERE before I went through THAT series this time ’round.

THIS MOVIE’S (EXCUSE ME, I MEAN OVA’S) GAVIL-ISMS: “Beauty,” “Final beauty,” and a bunch of others from various episodes of the show.

FLOWER GIRL SIGHTING: Well, she’s all over the place, from many different episodes, and I’ve already used all those scenes. For the purposes of THIS movie, though, here’s Ram Hoa dressed as the Flower Girl from the concert at the end.



POST SCRIPT: At around the same time this was taking shape, so was “Robotech: Love Live Alive,” announced a little earlier, but released six or seven months later. A few Robotech fans I’d had interactions with were gloating a bit, in that FB7 seemed to be a Macross version of “LLA.” In a podcast, post-FB7 but pre-LLA, I wrung my hands a little about this. FB7 was SO INADEQUATE, could it be that LLA would trump it…? Adrian, who usually doesn’t venture a prediction unless he’s sure he’s correct, stated that FB7 could, on the contrary, “set a new low bar” for LLA to FAIL to clear. And, as usual, he was absolutely right. As inadequate as I find this, it has quite a bit of new animation and two great new songs. Which is more than LLA has going for it. At the VERY least, with FB7, I can jump to the final “rooftop concert” sequence, and feel like I’m watching something worthwhile. And that’s a good four or five minutes right there. With LLA, the two minutes and the last thirty or so seconds are the only parts worth watching, no matter HOW hardcore a Robotech fan you are (and the more hardcore you are, the less interesting the movie is).

(And yeah, I admit that all that’s kind of a cheap shot from me (“Hey, this isn’t good, but it’s better than LLA!”), but it IS true.)

THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH – 25th Anniversary Special



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 – 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!

MACROSS II, PLUS, and SEVEN – Suggestions for Further Reading (and Listening!)



Sorry, folks – this isn’t the embarrassment of translation riches the last post of this type was, because I’m still working on stuff from that post and haven’t reached this material yet. That said, I intend to do all (or at least most) of the stuff presented here, but it’s not going to be immediate. Maybe in a few years, if all goes smoothly.

Super Dimension Fortress Macross II
As I said before, there are five novels for Macross II. The first two (or maybe two and a half) adapt the series, the next three tell a sequel, as Hibiki investigates a Chinese mafia group called “Black Panda.” Some of the illustrations are intriguing (Ishtar holding a baby…?), but I don’t know much about them yet.

There’s also a manga adaptation by Tsuguo Okazaki (creator of Cosmopolice Justy), which is completely faithful to the OVA. I get the feeling, but haven’t been able to confirm, that it was actually requested by Viz (or at least SOMEONE on the American side of the business) and created primarily so that an English version could be released. It was put out in the US as ten monthly issues which were later collected in book form. A drawback (perhaps): this was at the point in time when manga was routinely “flopped” to read left-to-right. So yeah, everything’s backwards in it (it wouldn’t be until a few years later when keeping the original right-to-left format of manga became the norm. Viz experimented by releasing two different versions of the Evangelion manga, one flopped and one unflopped. The unflopped one apparently outsold the flopped one by wide margin, and that gave them the go-ahead to present everything in its original format. The late, kinda-lamented Tokyo Pop was really the first company to fully embrace right-to-left books, as a cost-saving device, and it worked).

There’s also a made-in-America manga sequel, called “Macross II: The Micron Conspiracy,” which I haven’t read. It’s got a good creative team, though (written by James Hudnall, who adapted a lot of the early Viz manga, and art by Schuloff Tam, who used to draw the covers for Animag).

Macross Plus
There isn’t a whole lot on the Plus front, especially in the ’90s (a Plus manga was made later, but I’ll get to that in due course). Basically, there’s just a novel, titled simply “Macross Plus Vol. 1,” written by scriptwriter Keiko Nobumoto. As the title indicates, it was meant to be the first of two volumes. In an afterword, though, she states that writing this book was so difficult that she couldn’t face writing another, and thus, there would be no Volume 2.

What’s interesting about it is that the adaptation of the OVA/Movie story would’ve been mostly in the second book, and the first half of Volume 1 instead tells the story of Isamu, Guld, and Myung in high school. Of all the books on my list to translate, this one is probably at the top of ones I’m eager to get to.

Macross Seven
Here’s where everything goes crazy… Macross 7 never had any novelizations until the two-volume adaptation of Dynamite 7 (written by Fumihiko Iino, otherwise unaffiliated with Macross, although his debut was a novelization of “Godzilla 1984”), which I’m not terribly interested in. But everything else… Jeez.

1. Books:
Okay, there is a short story, called “Fire to Tomorrow!” that’s included in the Fire Bomber Roman Album. And there were two manga series. the first, “Valkyrie Rock,” was a four-panel gag manga series that was serialized in “Comic Bon Bon” Magazine and has never been collected in book form (although I’ve seen scans of some strips online… it doesn’t look very good), but what was meant to be the real gem was “Macross 7 Trash” by Haruhiko Mikimoto. This debuted in late ’94 in the first issue of a new magazine, “Shonen Ace” (Or “Shonen AAAAAAAAAAAAACE!” if you saw the ads from any Evangelion episode taped off of TV). Shonen Ace was aimed squarely at the otaku crowd, and contained mostly series either derived from anime or that were already being developed as anime. Other series in it from very early on included “Tenchi Muyo,” “Crossbone Gundam,” “Escaflowne,” and “B’t X.” “Evangelion” joined it very soon (and probably kept the magazine afloat during those early years).

So anyway, Macross 7 Trash doesn’t adapt the series, instead being a story what happens elsewhere in City 7. But honestly, despite occasional appearances from Captain Max, Mayor Milia, vampires, and the Flower Girl, it could’ve been set anywhere, in any universe, and it would’ve been much the same. In other words, there’s very little about it that screams “Macross.” We’ve got a sport called “Tornado Crush,” which is a violent race on “air blades” (hovering roller blades, essentially) and it follows the trials of one of the star players, Shiba Midou. I don’t really want to rehash the story, and there is a (not very good) translation out there if you’re curious. I started collecting the series soon after Volume 1 came out, and by Volume 5, I was really hoping it would end soon so that I wouldn’t have to keep buying the books. Mikimoto, initially making thirty-page chapters per month, slowed down, and it appeared sporadically in the magazine (often presenting shortened chapters, or skipping issues entirely) as the story dragged on and on with very little seeming to actually happen. At the time, it was excruciating (I had a serious sense of deja vu when trying to follow “Ecole du Ceil,” which had (has?) similar problems, and I’ll get to “Macross the First” later…).

For this rewatch, I actually sat down and read the whole series through again over a few days when I got to Episode 39 of the series, and it left a somewhat more favorable impression. Overall, though, I still think it’s pretty but pointless, drags on much too long, and doesn’t have enough of a connection to the series. Still, since Mikimoto did it, it’s as official as they come, and probably shouldn’t be ignored.

2. Albums
Oh my God… where to start? First off, there are a number of fan-club and exclusive drama CDs and tapes. Some of these appear on the Macross 7 DVD and blu-ray sets. Most of them are essentially advertisements, with a few funny skits thrown in.

(I’ve already mentioned the movie promo, which has the Macross Seven and Plus casts meeting. That’s probably the best of them.)

The first real Macross 7 drama album, which I’ve also mentioned, is “Macross 7 Docking Festival ~Singing Saves the Galaxy!?~” which I really enjoy. It’s a lot like “Miss DJ,” really. It skews heavily towards comedy, but also adds a lot of little details that may have been intended for the show but never quite made it in. It also features a great reunion of Shammy, Kim, and Vanessa. And it dates itself firmly to the early ’90s by having that old Nirvana gimmick of having the last track fade out, followed by too many minutes of silence, and then a hidden track (remember when it seemed like EVERY band was trying that…?).

I’ve briefly (well… briefly for me) mentioned the Macross radio show that ran concurrently with Seven. As far as I can tell, it was mostly a talk show, hosted by Akiko Nakagawa, who voiced the Flower Girl (and, I’m 99% sure, Sivil). However, they also had several series of radio dramas. Each episode was only about ten minutes, but they combine into stories of startling length. All of them (as far as I’m aware) have been released on CD, and I’m grateful for that. As unenthralling as they are, at least they haven’t been lost to history. But yeah… unenthralling they most definitely are. The first one, “Mellow Heart Beat,” for example, is a full, 70-minute CD all about the Flower Girl trying to access Fire Bomber’s homepage. Yes, really. The second, “Melodious Illusion,” is SLIGHTLY more interesting, about a sort of ghost that lives inside a computer, who tries to influence the Flower Girl. The third, which is so long that it sprawls out over three CDs, is “Galaxy Song Battle,” a symbolic story about the virtues of positive music, as Basara kinda/sorta fights with special guest singers Lark Skybeauty (representing “Songs of Sadness”) and Panther (representing “Songs of Rage”).

But the radio show didn’t ONLY do Macross 7 dramas. They also did a Macross 7 Trash drama album (which seems to start as a serious adaptation and then turns into a comedic portrayal of the Minmay Voice competition). It’s not very good, overall, but it does have one of the best covers of “Do You Remember Love” ever, which unfortunately has never been released in a “clean” version (in the drama, there’s a lot of chatter over the intro). It also features a character named “El Niño Gumpy,” which might be the greatest name ever. But the most interesting ones they did were “Macross Classic – Inside Story” and (theoretically, at least) “Macross Generation.”  “Macross Classic” reunites nearly all the cast from the original Macross (Mari Iijima isn’t there, although there is a Minmay concert involved), and tells a story during the “lost two years” between episodes 27 and 28. So yes, it’s a story about the first Macross series, but very definitely made in the ’90s, since it features both Millard (as a Skull Squadron pilot) and the Flower Girl (???) (Incidentally, in a way, the Flower Girl has shown up in every major “generation” of Macross so far. She’s on this album, set in 2010 or 2011. She in the Macross 7 TV series (obviously), set in 2045, and in the Macross Frontier manga, in 2059, she’s at a Sheryl concert. She must be older than she looks…). And last, the radio show presented “Macross Generation,” a completely new story with a completely new cast, set on the Macross 9 Fleet in 2047. As I said before, it’s not as interesting as it sounds, although it starred a very young Yukari Tamura as the heroine, Tomo Sakurai as Canary Minmay, and also had Megumi Ogata (voice of Shinji Ikari) not only voicing the tough-guy cosmo-bike racer Rafarl, but also singing “Runner” at one point. So, if it’s been your lifelong dream to hear Shinji Ikari sing a Macross song, look no further.

Anyway, I’m sorry that all I can do is point you towards a bunch of untranslated books and albums, rather than, y’know, providing them, but be patient, and I’ll let everyone know when I make progress on them (hey, the Rewatch is nearing its final stretch… but the blog has to live on after that, right?)

THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH 107 – The Planet Where the Galactic Whales Sing

D7 Ep.4

EPISODE 4: The Planet Where the Galactic Whales Sing -ZOLA-

ICONIC SCENE: Mimi o sumaseba…


RELEASE DATE: July 25, 1998

1. Fire Bomber without Mylene and Basara is hilarious. Ray has wooden standees of them set up and puts the mike in front of a boom box with their parts. The scene is directed brilliantly, filming the standees with the same dynamic shots it would’ve used for the real people. Like Basara flying with his guitar in Episode 1 here, I genuinely laughed out loud when I first saw this.

(This time ’round, I note that the date for the concert on Mylene’s standee, February 2, 2045, is impossible, since that was before Mylene joined the group, and they wouldn’t have been popular enough to make a life-size stand-up figure then anyway.)

2. Basara’s attempt to stop Graham seems pretty Greenpeace… he just gets in the way. Graham forges ahead regardless.

3. In the background, “Zomeo and Zoliet,” the radio show, starts getting remarkably preachy, as Zomeo, the human from the Macross 11 Fleet, starts realizing how great Zolan culture is, and plans to stay and totally go native. Zoliet’s a little shocked by this, since, apparently, Zolans and humans can’t have children together (a point which the radio show’s narrator emphasizes) and so, for her, her affair with Zomeo was really just a fling, and she has no intention of settling down with him. Some great love story, huh?

One thing that’s fun about “Zomeo and Zoliet” is the way it tends to comment on the action in the series. If a character like Graham or Lawrence says, “I don’t understand,” Zoliet might say, on the radio, in the background, “Why don’t you understand?” Or, as here, as Gamlin is staring at the space whales flying over the city, the narrator of “Zomeo and Zoliet” says, “He was at a loss for moment.” It’s one of those things they never make a big deal about, but it’s always there in the background, throughout the whole series.

4. As Gamlin flies out to the white whale, the poachers launch their reaction weapon. Graham tries to stop it, but fails. It hits the white whale… there’s a bright flash… red stuff pours out of it onto Basara’s VF-19P, staining it thoroughly, and… the whale is unharmed.

Really, taken as a whole, Macross 7 could easily be subtitled, “A Story About Things Reaction Weapons Can’t Kill.”

5. About that red stuff… It looks like blood, and for a long time, I think everyone thought that it was blood (well… maybe not Japanese fans who read the novelization, if it gets mentioned there (I haven’t checked)…), because it’s unexplained in the series itself. However, according to Macross Chronicle magazine, it’s… pollen.

Yes, that’s right. The white whale just jizzed all over Basara’s Valkyrie.

(Another subtitle for Macross 7: “A Story About Giving Alien Beings Orgasms Through the Power of Rock.”)

6. And of course where the pollen lands on the Valk, as well as the interplay of light and shadow on it, makes it look almost exactly like Basara’s old Fire Valk. It even appears to have a face, of a sort.

7. Basara starts strumming and singing “Angel Voice,” which has a distinctive “Whoa, whoa, whoa…” descending hook. And the space whale starts singing along with that part.

Now, about that song… you don’t see this as often now, but I remember years ago on Macross World, a bunch of people declaring how much they hated this song (because it was a duet with a space whale… which has nothing to do with the intrinsic merit of the song). Luckily, I had a rebuttal to bust out: it’s written by Yoko Kanno, who they all adored, thanks to Plus (Frontier didn’t exist yet). It happened often enough, as did the adulation of “Information High,” that I imagine there’s at least one person (and probably many more) who will say he ADORES Yoko Kanno’s work, citing “Information High” (which she didn’t write) as a favorite, and then saying he hates all Macross 7 songs, like “Angel Voice” (which she did). Stamping out that kind of disconnect is one of the main purposes of this blog, although I’m not sure how successful it is on that count (or whether this particular example is still a battle that needs to be fought. As I said, you don’t see people ripping on Fire Bomber’s music much anymore. Even people who don’t like the show now generally agree that the music was good, barring (maybe) “Planet Dance”).

I think “Angel Voice” got somewhat rehabilitated in 2002 when the “Macross the Tribute” album came out, with Mari Iijima’s cover of the song, and still later, when a fan combined the two versions into a Basara/Minmay duet. That duet is not official at all, but it totally should be, because it sounds excellent. And hell… Basara AND Minmay together, singing a Yoko Kanno song…? That’s all sorts of super dimensional crossover right there!

8. The death of the three space whales that head to the cemetery is pretty spectacular, bathing the whole planet in green light and then sending off a beam that creates three new space whales. Yes, it’s all “circle of life” stuff, but it’s really well-done “circle of life” stuff. And it turns out that the whales’ energy interacts with Zola’s to create things like the healing hot springs. Even Liza’s wounds are healed.

9. So yes, everything ends happily. Graham says he’ll still pursue the white whale, but I don’t think anyone believes him. And Mylene arrives just in time to miss Basara and Gamlin as they leave.

And the final screen reads “to be DYNAMITE.”

10. And that’s that. Still not QUITE the end of Macross 7, but the end for now. And I started out by positing that Dynamite 7 was a very different series from the original, and it’s true… but it also, in at least one way, seems like the TV series in miniature. Each one of its four parts is better than the previous one, and while there are moments of tedium and some WTF (in a bad sense) thrown in along the way, it builds to an excellent climax. Really, the “Angel Voice” sequence is one of those real Macross moments that seems so definitive and iconic precisely because it’s not like anything else. I would say that the Dynamite series is worth it just on the strength of this episode, although I’m still a little iffy about the series as a whole. Yeah, it all boils down to “save the space whales,” but there’s a lot more than just that. And while I can’t call the series “subtle” about that theme, they don’t really bludgeon you with it TOO much (also, I’d point out that whale hunting versus conservation is still an unsettled and contentious debate in Japan. What seems like a “safe” issue to target in the US isn’t necessarily so elsewhere). Anyway, it’s only four episodes. It takes less than two hours to watch the whole thing. You’ve got two hours to spare, so just go for it.

So what happens to Basara next? That’s an open question, and depends on what you read. According to the liner notes to the “Ultra Fire!” Fire Bomber compilation album (released in 1999), he ended up back at the Macross 7 Fleet after three months. The manga “Macross 7th Chord” also shows him there, sometime in the early 2050s (“Seven years after Macross 7,” which could place it anywhere from 2052 to 2054). But the liner notes to the Fire Bomber reunion album “Re:Fire,” supposedly recorded in 2060 (and released in 2009), say that he never came back, and his parts on the album were recorded separately from the rest of the band’s (for everyone else: Mylene went solo, Ray became a producer, and Veffidas worked as a session drummer). So yeah, it’s anyone’s guess. Just another of those little mysteries at the end of every Macross series…

And yes, that’s the end of the 15th Anniversary celebration. There honestly wasn’t much: a four-episode OVA, a Playstation game, a concert (the “One Night Stand,” featuring Mari Iijima, Yoshiki Fukuyama, Hiroko Kasahara, and Akino Arai… Chie Kajiura couldn’t make it, because she was pregnant at the time), a new single “FRIENDS ~Across the Dimensions~” featuring Mari Iijima and Tomo Sakurai (maddeningly available in two separate versions, each with a different B-side. Of course I bought both, but I wasn’t happy about it), and a bunch of reissues of the old model kits. And then, apart from a couple of games and some merchandise (notably, Yamato Toys picked up the toy license, and Hasegawa picked up the model kit license), Macross went dormant for a few years. Apart, that is, from some video games (“VF-X2” and “Macross M3”).

AND IN THE FOLLOWING YEAR, 2048: A young Ozma Lee fails to prevent the Vajra destroying the 117th Research Fleet, and ends up adopting Ranka, one of the survivors.


D7 Ep.3




RELEASE DATE: May 25, 1998

1. We open with Sazapi, the evil lesbian manager, in bed, lighting a very post-coital-looking cigarette… and then the scene cuts to the hotel room door, which is completely destroyed.

And then it cuts to Ray and Veffidas. Veffidas is carrying Mylene, and Ray is saying, “Veffidas, you might have gone too far there!” Now… remember when I said that the manga “Mylene Beat” doesn’t QUITE fit in with the series? That’s because there, it’s not really Veffidas that saves Mylene, it’s a huge dragon who is summoned by Mylene’s terrified emotional state who rips apart the hotel, rescues Mylene, and gives her to Ray and Veffidas.

I’m sorry, I don’t buy that something like that happened and no one in the series ever mentions it.

But yeah… this was the big cliffhanger from last time, as Mylene was about to get raped, and it’s completely resolved (and never brought up again) in the first couple of minutes, and even used as a sort of punchline. Ray says, “Well, I guess you learned your lesson,” although it’s unclear what that lesson would be, exactly. Yeah… it all strikes a very sour chord.

2. Back on Zola, at the whales’ graveyard, Basara finds another ancient mural and some ancient writing, which Elma’s furry snake, Capy, says he can read.

It turns out that the white space whale is several million years old (the others only live to be a mere seven thousand) and was worshipped as a god by the primitive Zolans. My guess here (somewhat, of course, influenced by Frontier), is that the Protoculture must have known about the space whales, and probably based the look of the Zentradi battlecruisers on them.

3. Many of the poachers get killed, and many others get arrested, so their captain demands a retreat (for now). Liza grabs a VA-3C and sneaks aboard their ship before it folds.

4. The conversation between Graham and Basara about the white space whale is kinda fun, because while they’re ascribing motivations and feelings to it, it’s clear that they’re really just talking about themselves. Graham says that the whale, having seen all its friends pass away, wants to die now, whereas Basara argues that if the whale wants to fly, everyone should just stand back and let it. See? They’re not REALLY talking about the whale. Basara even brings it up, asking Graham, “Aren’t YOU the one who really wants to die?”

5. Ugh. If we didn’t hate the poachers before, we probably do now, since it turns out they’re always listening to that absolutely horrendous “Fire Bomber American”
album. Now, a lot of the Macross 7 albums were pretty obviously done quickly and cheaply, but this one really just consists of a couple of English-speakers singing over the Fire Bomber karaoke tracks, and not very well. I mean, their voices sound okay, I guess, but they sound nothing like Basara or Mylene, and I’d be surprised if it took longer than a day to record the whole thing.

There was a rumor going around at the time that “Macross 7 is going to come out in the US, and this was done as the soundtrack for it!” Nope and nope.

That said, there’s a persistent notion that the music publishing rights are too expensive, and that’s what’s been holding back Macross 7 from US release, quite apart from any Harmony Gold shenanigans. This was apparently said by someone (accounts differ as to whom) at some anime con (accounts differ as to which) sometime in the ’90s (accounts differ as to when). According to people I’ve talked to who would know, this was apparently never the case. I obviously don’t know anything about it firsthand, but I’m inclined to believe them. And, given the short shelf-life of most pop music, if it was the case THEN, I doubt it’s STILL the case. Witness, for example, AKB0048, which was licensed with no apparent problems, despite the fact that all its music was EXTREMELY popular in Japan.

Anyway, yeah. “Fire Bomber American.” Don’t listen to it. The only interesting thing about it is that (in-universe, of course) its producer is listed as Lynn Kaifun. Nearly forty years later, he’s still a hack…

6. So the leader of the poachers wants to buy a reaction weapon to kill the white whale, which will allow them to easily get the others. The arms dealer they talk to gently ridicules them for thinking the whales have any kind of intelligence. The poacher insists that they do, which makes Liza, eavesdropping on this conversation, flash back to what Lawrence is trying to prove about the whales.

Okay, I’ve said before that Dynamite 7 seems too small-scale, really, but I kind of appreciate the world of the story. Every setting we’ve seen before has been state-of-the-art, mostly, from the SDF-1 to New Edwards to the Macross 7 Fleet. Most of the technology we’ve seen has been new. But both the Zolan VF-5000s and the poachers’ VA-3Cs are a couple of decades old, and places like an illegal arms-dealer’s warehouse have been completely unseen before now. Akusho, where Basara lived, was kind of an attempt to to show us how the other half lived, but that was still on an (again, state-of-the-art) emigration fleet. Zola, on the other hand, truly is hicksville, and the poachers aren’t much better. This is the first (and so far only) Macross story that shows us the fringes of society, although Delta seems poised to explore that as well.

But yeah, Liza finds out about the plan to get a reaction weapon and manages to make her escape by stealing a VF-17 and a fold booster. This should be an exciting scene, but for some reason lacks tension. I’m not sure why, really, but it might be because it all happens too quickly and easily.

7. An interesting bit of misunderstanding happens when Liza talks to Basara, realizes he’s from Fire Bomber, and assumes that Sound Force has been officially deployed to Zola to take care of the reaction weapon situation. She’s rather disappointed to learn that they haven’t. Also, it seems to indicate that Sound Force’s exploits are widely-known, despite what Ozma and Bobby will say twelve years down the road.

8. Graham throws Basara out of his boat when he leaves (man, Basara’s guitar is amazingly resilient… falling from heights, getting blown into space, getting thrown into the ocean… and yet it’s still fine!), but Liza agrees to take him up in her VF-5000. However, once they get to the launch bay, Basara sees a white VF-19P, and it’s all over.

9. So again, Graham, Basara (now strumming what will turn out, next episode, to be “Wild Life”), the Zola Patrol, and the poachers are all surrounding the whale. Graham is working especially hard to kill it before the poachers do. Then we cut back to Fire Bomber, where Ray suggests that Mylene goes after Basara and Gamlin. Finally, in a good scene, we’ve got Gamlin on Zola, asking if anyone’s seen a weird guy who runs around saying “Listen to my song!”

10. Better still than the previous episode, but the series as a whole isn’t quite grabbing me. The lack of tension in Liza’s escape is a big problem, as is the fact that the space whales are difficult to care about. It still LOOKS wonderful, though. And the music is great.

ELSEWHERE IN 2047: On the Macross 9 Fleet, a Miss Macross contest is being held and the young singer Pasel wants to win, and become a big singer like her idol, Canary Minmay. A cosmo-bike racer named Rafarl gets involved, as does, weirdly, the mafia. From the radio drama “Macross Generation” (which is honestly a little dull. Nice Mikimoto character designs, though).

Macross Generation


D7 Ep.2


ICONIC SCENE: The VF-5000 vs. the VA-3C.


RELEASE DATE: February 25, 1998

1. Mylene has a completely different bass now… I wonder why? Did the old one get destroyed with the Mylene Valk and I just didn’t notice…? Or is it just because it no longer matches her wardrobe?

Anyway, while Mylene is getting depressed and screwing up her part, we see Basara getting rescued by having some pink goo launched at him. And then he’s in some kind of medical tank that looks very similar to the one Isamu was in in Episode 3 of Plus.

2. When we first see Elma here, she’s singing “Yume no Michi” (“Road of Dreams,”) which was the first song Yoshiki Fukuyama, singer for Basara, ever wrote, and one that he performs at every (non-Macross) concert he does (pretty much the ONLY stable feature of his live sets. Unless you see him at a specifically Macross gig, you never know what songs you’re going to get. It’s completely different every night). And in a surprise move, her motorcycle/truck thing turns out to be amphibious.

3. We meet Lawrence, a scientist studying the space whales, and who also obviously has a crush on Elma’s older sister Liza. It seems he’s trying to prove that the space whales are conscious beings, rather than just similar to plants, as is commonly accepted. Liza doesn’t really care, and I’m betting you don’t, either.

4. Gamlin doesn’t like seeing Mylene depressed, and goes off to find Basara in his brand-new VF-22 (in Diamond Force colors). I’m not sure I realized, the first time watching the series, that it indeed was a VF-22, and I remember being confused when I got the Hasegawa kit of the fighter, and it having decals and painting instructions for the “Gamlin Type.”

5. Basara leaves his hospital bed and comes back to Elma, but he’s clearly in really, REALLY bad shape. More so than the VT-1C battroid, which somehow made it back, although it seemed blown up pretty thoroughly last episode.

6. The next scene (and in fact, this whole subplot) seems to come out of nowhere. Mylene is filming a video for the song “Koi no Mahou” (“Magic of Love”), and ends up talking to some manger-type person, a woman named Sazapi. Why she’s with Mylene is never addressed in the series. Probably as far back as fifteen years ago, I read that there was a manga, called “Mylene Beat” that was supposed to explain all of this, and in 2008, I finally picked up a copy, and yes, it does. The manga is all about what happens to Mylene during Dynamite 7, focusing mostly on the time that this episode takes place. Sazapi is trying to get her to leave Fire Bomber and go solo (using the Jamming Birds girls as backup singers: “Mylene Jenius with Jamming Angels”), but the whole thing is a ruse: Sazapi is working together with Colonel Burton (remember him?) to create an EVIL series biological weapon/monster. Somehow, Mylene’s emotional states help feed the monster; the more extreme the emotions, the more it impacts the monster. After that, it kinda falls apart as a parallel story, but I’ll get into that next time. It’s a good manga, though, with very nice art by Mizuho Takayama, who also illustrated the Dynamite 7 novelization.

Anyway, the tasteless upshot here is that Sazapi ends up drugging Mylene and trying to rape her, which is the cliffhanger of the episode. This series is overall so sweet and charming that this subplot REALLY doesn’t fit. In the manga, it seems like Sazapi isn’t actually trying to rape Mylene, but rather just get the strongest emotional response she can… which ends up making the monster break its bonds and escape captivity. Honestly… yes, it’s an explanation of sorts, but it doesn’t really excuse the subplot, which never should’ve made it past the brainstorming stage.

7. The Zola Patrol’s VF-5000s fight the poachers’ VA-3Cs. While it’s cool to see some rather rare designs in action, the battle isn’t really all that impressive or memorable.

8. Then there’s the OTHER scene that makes people uncomfortable. Basara is infected with the bacteria from the space whales, so Elma carries him to a healing hot springs (incidentally, when first picking him up, she says, “I can’t move,” again paralleling Mylene’s current plight. I can see that the writers are trying to create a comparison between them… but again, I just can’t figure out what it’s supposed to mean). Anyway, Elma and Basara (and Graham, although they don’t know he’s there yet) all take a bath in the hot springs. This seems to bother a lot of (western) fans, although it’s not a prurient scene at all (and wouldn’t be at all out of place in rural areas of Japan… and Zola is indeed rural). I mean, yes, there’s nudity in this scene, and (technically, at least) there isn’t in the Mylene scenes, but the Mylene scenes seem leering and ugly, whereas this scene doesn’t. To me, at least. I don’t see anything sexualized about it.

9. Then we get one of the best scenes of the whole series, as Basara sings “Feel Universe.” Various shots of Zolan animals living and killing each other play out over the song. Yes, all very National Geographic/”Circle of Life” stuff, but the animals and the settings are drawn gorgeously, and the exoticness of the Zolan setting helps make it work. It’s lovely and a little shocking, because it doesn’t anthropomorphize the animals at all, or sugar-coat anything (I especially like the cute baby bears eating still-twitching fish, with blood dripping down their adorable little chins). And it sets up the ending, where Graham leads Basara to the graveyard of the whales.

10. Overall, I think is episode is better than the previous one. There’s more happening, we get to see more of Zola, and there are several new songs. The main storyline, involving the space whales, still fails to really grab me, but the episode is so gorgeous to look at, and has so many clever little moments, that that barely matters. The Mylene subplot nearly ruins it, but not quite.

ELSEWHERE IN 2047: In the game Digital Mission VF-X, some rogue Zentradi kidnap an idol group called the Milky Dolls, and it’s up to YOU to save them!



D7 Ep.1

EPISODE 1: Drifting -WONDER- (Dynamite 7 episodes each have two titles: one in Japanese and one in English. For episodes 2 and 3, the titles have the same meaning, but for 1 and 4, they’re different. Or – more probably – the English title of this episode is meant be “WANDER, ” and they just misspelled it.)

ICONIC SCENE: Basara at the controls.


RELEASE DATE: December 18, 1997

1. So, over a year after Plus and Seven ended, the next Macross series debuted, as an OVA. This one was for the 15th Anniversary, and had the misfortune of arriving while everyone’s attention (mine included) was more focused on Evangelion than anything else. I mean, I was aware that it was coming out (probably from Animerica magazine, but maybe from Egan Loo’s Macross Compendium… in ’97, I still didn’t have internet access in my home, but my Mom’s office did, and so sometimes, on my days off, I would go over there and “surf the Information Superhighway” during her lunch break. The compendium was one of the first (and most useful) sites I found, although it didn’t have what I really wanted: episode synopses of Macross 7, since it would be a while before I found the fansubs, and even longer before I managed to get all of them).

Anyway, as I was saying, I was aware that it was coming out, but wasn’t really thrilled with the prospect of more Macross 7 (not, y’know, OPPOSED to it, really, just not so enthusiastic), especially when I found out that the story was supposed to be a thinly-veiled “save the whales” analogy. So I really didn’t seek it out, it was just something that I planned to get around to someday. And then, sometime in ’99 when I finally decided to give it a try, it turned out that the Japanese video rental store that I frequented had never ordered the fourth volume, so I guess I wasn’t alone in my indifference to the series. If I recall correctly, I rented the first three and copied them, but didn’t get around to watching them, except maybe the first episode (again, this would have been watching raw in Japanese, and I still wouldn’t have understood much of what anyone was saying). I think sometime later, I found Volume 4 for rent at another video store on Sawtelle, and I may have rented and copied it from there, or I may have just PLANNED to do so. I honestly can’t remember, and all my video tapes are packed away, so I can’t check. Anyway, by that point, DVD was rapidly replacing video tapes, and it wouldn’t be too much longer before I caved in and got a DVD player, which moved me away from the Japanese areas of Los Angeles, and more towards the Chinese areas of Alhambra and Monterey Park, exploring, for a while, the exciting, baffling, and often hilarious world of cheap Hong Kong bootleg DVD sets. To the best of my recollection, I didn’t actually watch all of Dynamite 7 until I did my first comprehensive Macross rewatch in 2003, by which point I would’ve had the Hong Kong DVD.

And I was pretty much as underwhelmed by it as I expected I would be, although I liked it much better when I watched it again sometime later.

But yeah, it’s a small, tightly-focused story, which is something that Macross 7 the series never was. As such, the “feel” of Dynamite 7 is completely different, even though it shares many of the same characters. And those characters are a little older, and a little different than they were in the show.

That said, I’ve never heard anyone who liked Macross 7 hate on Dynamite the way I have, say, heard fans of the SDF Macross TV series hating Do You Remember Love (it doesn’t happen often, but it happens), or fans of the Frontier series dismissing the movies (that happens more often). I think mostly, despite its differences, it’s just viewed as “more Macross 7,” and I’ve never seen anyone comparing it to the original, trying to decide “which is better.”

2. What’s immediately clear from the very first shot is that the art is much more detailed than in the show. We begin with a prologue where Basara, sitting in his room (which looks much more “ruined” here) watering his flower, which is NOT the same flower he picked up when Sivil was awakened, picking up his guitar, saying goodbye to Gubaba, and leaving. Then we get the opening.

A few things about that opening (which was done by Gonzo): it will be slightly different for each of the four episodes, it’s got a lot more CGI than the original did (but the CGI Fire Valk here looks noticeably worse than the Fire Valk in the series opening… especially starting in Episode 2, where it transforms to gerwalk), and whereas “Seventh Moon” really swings, “Dynamite Explosion” totally ROCKS.

And that’s something that’s true throughout. While I’m a little iffy on the Fire Bomber songs from the early part of the TV series (I think they’re good songs, just a little overproduced), the songs in Dynamite are pretty consistently awesome, rawer and harder than anything in the series. It’s how Fire Bomber ALWAYS should’ve sounded.

(And Yoshiki Fukuyama (Basara’s singing voice)’s 2005 self-cover album, “FUKUYAMA FIRE!!” is even better, with a raw power that’s missing from the earlier versions of the songs.)

3. So, yeah, it’s a year or more after the TV series ended, and Basara is gone again (I’m guessing the opening is showing early parts of his journey from City 7) and he ends up at our primary locale for this series: the planet Zola. It’s an odd place. The natives appear to be another Protoculture-uplifted race (they’re similar but not identical to humans, not least because, like all Zola fauna, they’re marsupials. And have some sort of symbiotic relationship with furry snakes that they all have around their necks) and for some reason, they all have English names. Their technology is mostly about the level of mid-20th century earth, and there’s a definite craze for radio broadcasts among them, including a show that we hear many times in the background: “Zomeo and Zoliet” (and if you really feel like trying to piece together THAT story, all of the episodes are included on the album “Radio Fire!”). Basara ends up in a charming little seaside town, and immediately gets himself shot at by some would-be Valkyrie thieves, and then ACTUALLY shot (or rather, tased, kinda) by the police. It’s apparently not serious, because he soon gets up and starts singing… only to get knocked off the pier.

4. He ends up getting taken home by a young Zolan girl, Elma, who tells him about the space whales, which are often poached because parts of them can be used for fold engines (and yes, this idea will be recycled for Frontier). Then he passes out from the medicine she applies to his wound.

So yes, we’re not even ten minutes into this episode, and Basara has already been shot, knocked off a pier, and drugged. Then picked up by Elma’s father, a macronized guy named Graham. He’s kind of our Captain Ahab, obsessed with finding and killing “the white space whale,” since his wife died while trying to sing to it some years ago. In the meantime, he mostly frowns and glares a lot.

5. The cut back to the Macross 7 fleet is done in an interesting way, with Elma singing “Planet Dance” blending into Mylene’s “GO (Song of Freedom).” There’s some kind of connection it seems like the staff is making throughout the series between Mylene and Elma, but I confess I’m not sure I understand it.

We also see that a new Battle 7 is still under construction.

But yeah, the Fire Bomber concert sequence gives us a nice demonstration of how much better Dynamite 7’s production values are that the TV series’. There, it never looked like Fire Bomber were actually playing their instruments, and all of the concerts were in auditoriums with completely bare stages. Here, it’s clearly a big event, with all the screens, scaffolding, and lighting effects that a real concert would have. It’s not a holographic wonderland like Sharon Apple’s concerts (or Sheryl’s, or Ranka’s), but considering that part of Fire Bomber’s appeal is their sincerity and authenticity, that’s probably deliberate choice.

6. Basara goes off with Elma to get a guitar string to replace the one that broke when he fell from the pier, and, in a touch of realism in trying to find a certain something in a remote area, they don’t have his brand. But the music store employee fills him in on Graham, and his madness in the face of the whales.

And the guitar string problem turns out not to be a problem, when Basara peels off a strand of a space whale’s “whisker” (which Graham is using to sharpen his harpoon), and it sounds beautiful. That’s it: Basara completely restrings his guitar with whale-whisker strands, and decides he HAS to see the whales – nothing will stand in his way. He even improvises a song about it.

All that said: it find it difficult to believe that ANY guitarist would head out on a long journey without an extra supply of strings.

7. Some poachers come to steal Graham’s Valkyrie, but he drives them off pretty quickly. Then his right shoulder (he’s missing the arm) starts twitching, and that means the whales are here.

8. Both Graham and Basara launch, and both launches are pretty funny. Graham gets into his power armor (?), which looks like a deep-sea diving suit, and then boards what looks like a tiny boat… until it lifts out of the water, revealing a largish spaceship. Basara, for his part, gets into Elma’s mother’s beat-up old VT-1C, and STILL uses his guitar to control it. Not that he can, like, plug a guitar controller in or anything… no, he ACTUALLY hits the controls with his guitar to move them. First time I saw this, I honestly laughed out loud.

9. Everyone goes out into space, and it’s total chaos. Basara is singing (and how he expects the whale to hear him, when he has no speaker pods or sound boosters, is beyond me), the poachers get sidelined pretty quick, Graham actually lands on the whale and is going to town with his harpoons, the Zola Patrol is frantically trying to stop everybody… and then Basara’s VF blows up, ejecting him into space without a spacesuit.

10. I’m still kind of on the fence about this series. On the one hand, it looks REALLY good. The animation is excellent, for the most part, and the world of Zola is well-realized and unlike anything we’ve seen in Macross before. On the other hand, the story still seems too small-scale. And while the story developments are fun and often charming, there’s one plot point that comes up next episode that’s really tacky. A major part of the fun, I think, is the audience’s reunion with Basara (and seeing Basara just be Basara), but that’s a little more exciting if it’s been two years since you last saw him, not when you, y’know, start watching it literally the day after you finish the series.

FLOWER GIRL SIGHTING: Nowhere. See? I told you it was totally different.