THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH – CONCLUSION

Conclusion

THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH – CONCLUSION

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.

THE END.

Okay, not quite.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
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!

Okay, NOW… THE END.

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.

SEE YOU NEXT DECULTURE.

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THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH 141 – FB7

FB7

MACROSS FB7

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

STORY DATE: 2059

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.

FB7F

EYECATCH: Basara

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.)