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.

THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH – 25th Anniversary Special

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MACROSS 25TH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL! MACROSS IS COMING BACK!

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

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MACROSS 20TH ANNIVERSARY PREMIUM COLLECTION

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

RELEASE DATE: August 25, 2002

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HA! As if!

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

books

MACROSS II, PLUS, and SEVEN
EXTRA: BOOKS AND ALBUMS

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 100 – MACROSS PLUS MOVIE EDITION

+ Movie

MACROSS PLUS: MOVIE EDITION

ICONIC SCENE: 2fast, 2furious

STORY DATE: 2040

RELEASE DATE: October 7, 1995

1. So, as I said in the last post, this movie debuted about three and a half months after Plus Vol. 4 had come out. It was a limited-release double feature with the Macross 7 movie (which itself was only about half an hour… watching both movies together takes less time than watching, say, any of the “Lord of the Rings” movies). It’s compilation film, more or less: a re-editing of the four OVA episodes with over thirty minutes cut out, and some new scenes added in, as well as a new Sharon Apple song. I remember renting the raw Japanese version many months before the English release came out, and when the American version hit the market, I remember some grumbling because there was no dub made of it; you could only get it in Japanese, subtitled.

Again, Macross Plus was initially proposed as a movie, and then some higher-ups decided to make it an OVA first to build interest in the eventual movie edition. I’m not sure that strategy worked, really, except maybe in the west. Not that it ever got a theatrical release outside of Japan (which is a real shame… I saw it at a midnight screening in Shinjuku once, and it’s absolutely astonishing on a big, big screen with a kick-ass sound system). It’s also worth noting that this is only the second feature-length theatrical Macross movie, and would be the last for fourteen more years, when the first Frontier movie came out.

2. It wastes no time getting into the story (and unfortunately cutting the absolutely awesome battle scene from the first OVA… Oh, and about that scene… I just realized that the other pilot’s “C’mon, c’mon, c’mon… YES!” line is taken wholesale from Terminator 2, when John Connor grabs three hundred bucks from an ATM). After a brief prologue (even briefer than the one that opened the OVA series… that one had all three main characters, this one just has Myung), we get to Sharon arriving on Eden, followed by Guld going up in the YF-21. This is all before the title comes up.

3. During Sharon’s set-up, instead of “Bad Dog” playing, we can hear a brief, scrambled preview of the new song for the movie, “Wanna Be an Angel.” Then, in a new scene, it turns out that the YF-19 is launching immediately after the YF-21 lands. Since the 19 didn’t even show up until Episode 2 of the OVA, it’s pretty clear that this movie is being free-handedly rearranged and compressed.

Oh, and for some reason, the YF-19 is now “Eagle One” instead of “Alpha One,” but the YF-21 is still “Omega One.” I’m not sure why. And I’d like to point out that the dialogue has been completely rerecorded, even where the lines are exactly the same as they were in the OVA.

And among Isamu’s first spoken lines are the immortal “kawaii-ko chan” (“pretty baby”) and “Yahoooooo!” This will become important later…

And a little more time is spent on the dino-bird that Isamu draws in the sky, including a flashback to high school showing a much more primitive one that he drew with his pedal-plane. The scene of Isamu riding the pedal-plane has some added resonance, since because of the camera angle, it almost looks like HE has wings. The message is clear from the outset: Isamu belongs in the sky.

And when the YF-19 come in for a “landing” of sorts, in a newly done scene, there’s a VF-17 on the ground.

4. I note that the character animation done expressly for the movie (like Isamu chatting up Lucy right after landing) is in a slightly different style and looks a little less detailed than the scenes that are from the OVA. This scene, by the way, is the first of several wholly new scenes in the movie. Most of the new footage is spliced in with animation from the OVA rather than completely new. This one just telescopes a few separate scenes together (Isamu and Lucy, Isamu re-meeting Guld, and establishing Isamu’s contempt for Jan (Yang…? Whose name, by the way, is only mentioned towards the end of the movie. Seriously, until ten minutes from the end of the film, if you didn’t already know his name, you’d’ve been wondering about it), but the others add more to the story.

5. Another new scene comes after that, loaded with foreshadowing, where Myung is talking with Reymond, Sharon’s owner, telling him that eventually Sharon will awake and won’t need her anymore. And of course that’s absolutely true. Reymond wonders why Sharon hasn’t awakened yet, since the program is complete. That’s… not as true.

Reymond also makes a pass at Myung, which she politely rebuffs (in almost EXACTLY the same way I was rebuffed by a Japanese girl I came on to once, weirdly enough).

6. I mentioned before how nonsensical I find Myung’s actions, considering her past. One of my friends (who makes beautiful model kits and reviews them on CollectionDX as “ShowaPop”) recently hit on an idea that makes it all fit together better: that in high school, Guld and Myung were actually going out, and that Isamu really was horning in on their relationship (and that Myung really was beginning to fall for Isamu, and probably would’ve broken up with Guld sooner or later). It of course doesn’t excuse Guld, but it makes both his and Myung’s actions and decisions more relatable, especially her decision to sleep with him, and the air of possession that he seems to have towards her. It’s a great theory and I love it, but there’s one problem: I’m not sure that the Macross Plus novel (which, again, was written by Plus’s scriptwriter, Keiko Nobumoto) follows that idea, and that takes precedence over any fan theory, no matter how well-reasoned. I don’t know… I hope to get to the novel soon. As it stands, I haven’t read it yet, despite owning two copies of it…

There’s also Isamu’s line when the three of them meet up accidentally at Star Hill, “So you’re Guld’s woman now?” which, yeah, would indicate that she wasn’t before. I dunno… maybe they kept the relationship secret…? Anyway, as much I like the theory, I’ll remain agnostic on it until I read the novel. But I’m watching this movie taking that idea into account, and yeah… the story works A LOT better this way.

7. There’s an odd bit of contradiction here… generally, in writing the movie script (and even though the Plus project was envisioned first as a movie, I’m assuming the movie script came after the OVA series scripts… I might be wrong about that) Nobumoto was extremely careful to make everything fit, sometimes making very small changes to reflect the rearrangements and cuts (an example that I mentioned before: General Gomez is a minor character in the series whose scenes get cut for the movie. However, a scene that referenced him is still in the film, but the dialogue has been rewritten to remove his name). However, in the scene where Guld sees Myung on the TV, one of the other guys on the YF-21 team mentions that Isamu has been grounded for three days. Then we hear on the TV that Sharon’s concert is in three days. Then there’s a montage of Guld and Isamu going through flight tests before the concert happens. Oh well, just chalk it up to the mad pace of film-making, I guess. After all, I only noticed it because I’m doing these stupid write-ups and trying to go over everything with a fine-toothed comb.

8. At about half an hour into the film we get the next wholly new scene. In the OVA, it was implied that Lucy and Isamu were an item (or at least sleeping together), but here, it’s made very clear indeed. Unfortunately, it also makes Isamu look like more of a jerk, as it’s also clear that he’s just spending the night with Lucy to get his mind off of Myung. That said, I gotta admit that, given Isamu’s personality, this is more what he WOULD do, rather than (as in the OVA) sitting in his room alone, brooding. I mean, let’s face it – he IS a jerk, and never shows a whole lot of respect for the people around him, nor much restraint, nor does he seem to like being inactive, nor dwelling on stuff.

And THAT said, his armor isn’t up completely, and I have no reason to doubt that his answer to Lucy’s question about how it feels to fly isn’t sincere and deeply personal. So yeah… not quite a relationship, but more than just a booty call.

(If it seems like I’m overanalyzing this, all I can say is that I like Lucy a lot more than I like Myung, and it always bugged me that she (Lucy) gets tossed aside so easily.)

Anyway, the real purpose of this scene is twofold: first, in Isamu saying that when he’s flying full-throttle he can almost see another world, that helps set up the ending, where Sharon tries to give him exactly that. Second, it makes Lucy’s jealousy later on more explicable. And, I guess, it gives an excuse to show Lucy’s tits (in the first – and so far only – overt sex scene in any Macross series).

9. Thanks to an added line earlier about how the YF-19 needs to be overhauled, it’s explained why Isamu is in a VF-11 during the YF-21 tests taken from the first episode of the series. See what I mean about the careful scriptwriting?

Oh…and one thing that I’ve noticed that’s odd… in Japanese, there are two ways to pronounce the number nineteen: “ju-ku” and “ju-kyu.” Macross Plus consistently uses the first while Macross 7 consistently uses the second. No clue, folks…

But yeah, honestly, this scene (where Guld mostly-accidentally pushes down Isamu’s VF-11, causing him to crash) works better here, putting it in the middle of the movie, than it did in Episode 1 of the OVA. First off, it seems more reasonable that Isamu would survive but be hospitalized from this than from the shooting mishap in OVA Episode 2. Second, the tensions are running EXTREMELY high throughout this scene, and there’s been more build-up for that in the movie than there was in the first part of the series. Third, it completely eliminates the seriously (deliberately…?) confusing stuff about Guld putting live ammo in Isamu’s gun. That’s a subplot I’m not sorry to lose.

10. One thing that I really AM sorry to lose, though, is Millard’s line about a real fighter pilot being someone who thinks he can win in a fight, even if he’s injured. That added some resonance to the fight between Isamu and Guld outside the hospital.

Another thing I miss is all the security camera footage of Isamu acting nonchalant as he prepares to steal the 19.

A third thing I miss (to go back AND forwards) is Jan’s remark at the beginning that Isamu and Guld “seem like good friends.” He mentions this in the first OVA, and brings it up again at the end, when the two make up. In the movie, the first reference is cut, so the second is not referring back to anything (which, I think, helped give rise to the “What a bromance” line, which references nothing and is a completely anachronistic remark, in the subtitles for the Japanese remastered blu-ray. And yeah… about those subs, no one seems to know who did them. They’re not the original subs from the Manga Entertainment version, and none of the usual people who make subs for releases like this seem to be responsible for them, so… it’s a mystery).

11. Instead of immediately starting with “Information High,” Sharon starts her set with “Wanna Be an Angel,” which is a really great song, and actually sounds like something Sharon would sing. The new visuals that go along with it, especially the giant dino-bird, are also creepy and weird and impressive.

The Sharon in this scene is the one that now most often gets represented in official art, because hey, she’s got green hair and twin-tails. Just like Hatsune Miku.

And then we get “Information High,” which, for reasons I expounded on last time, I really don’t like. To summarize, it sounds nothing like Sharon. And it still makes me grimace when I see people say it’s their favorite Yoko Kanno song, since she had nothing to do with it. Might as well say that “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” is your favorite Beatles song. I will say this for “Information High,” though: it fits perfectly with the scenes of Isamu getting past the defense net. It fits less well with the new scenes of Sharon’s holograms, I think, but that might just be me, since I think of Sharon’s imagery (thousands of birds flying through the city, for example) as very delicate and ethereal, and a pounding ’90s techno-dance song with powerful vocals is… kinda the opposite of that.

I also think it sounds much more dated (here, in 2016) than Sharon’s other songs, which to my ears still hold up quite well.

12. When Marj starts saying “Subarashii… Subarashii yo, Sharon…” (“It’s magnificent… it’s magnificent, Sharon…”), I’m always reminded of the little drama CD that was a give-away with early tickets for the Seven and Plus double feature. It features the Macross 7 cast (Fire Bomber, Max, and Milia) meeting Isamu, Guld, Myung, and Sharon. Again, the voice actor for Max is Sho Hayami, same as for Marj (so he’s already on hand). At one point, Sharon is demonstrating her power, and you hear Marj saying “Magnificent, Sharon…” and then Milia angrily spouts, “Max, what are you saying!?” Max gives a start and says, “Oh, uh… I don’t know what came over me…”

Oh, and for the record, on that CD, Basara and Sharon end up intensely disliking each other.

13.  Then we get the last of the completely new scenes, as Millard talks to Lucy about how he’ll keep Isamu out of trouble. Which is fine, except I’m sure he has no idea that Isamu and Guld are about to shoot up an entire city. I… guess Millard can pull it off…? Maybe…?

14. From here on, everything plays out pretty much the same as it does in the series, just expanded, with member of the main cast getting more screen time. The battle with the Ghost is greatly prolonged, as the YF-21 ends up ejecting its arms and legs to go faster. Guld is pushing himself past mortal endurance, and the the Ghost is pushing itself past its own limits just to stay ahead of him. Then Guld’s eyeball pops and he starts vomiting blood. He hits the Ghost and destroys it, but the YF-21 ends up in orbit, Guld dead inside it. For the first part, this is a great action scene, and then it gets faster and faster… and pretty grisly, to boot. But again, my impression with the OVA series is that Guld at that point WANTED to die. I don’t get that feeling here. I think he wanted to destroy the Ghost, and willing to do anything to accomplish that (shades of John Henry…?).

Sharon’s hypnosis of Isamu is also expanded, tying in with what he said to Lucy earlier about a distant world that he can’t quite reach.

And Myung, fittingly, is now the one who finally kills Sharon, by pulling out the bio-neural chip.

15. The addition of the scene towards the end with Millard and Lucy kind of answers the question of “Well… what happens to Isamu NOW?” question hanging over the end of the OVA. On the one hand, he saved Macross City. On the other, he virtually destroyed another city. At least we know now that whatever happens to him immediately after this, he’s still flying twenty years down the line.

But anyway, yeah… the movie. On the whole, I think it’s better than the OVA series, although there are some things (as I mentioned) that I miss. Also, those cliffhangers… seeing it all in one go, without having to wait months for the next episode… it simply doesn’t have the same impact (but that’s true of the OVA series now, too). But still, it was a great show, and it makes a great movie. And neither version feels superfluous; both, I think, are necessary for a complete grasp of the story. Again, truly one of the milestones in anime history, although it tends to get overshadowed by something that was starting at about the same time this movie came out. Namely, Evangelion. Which became THE series that permeated both the otaku and the mainstream cultures. So yes, Plus is not as well-remembered in Japan as it by rights should be, but I think it’s one of those perennial titles that keeps finding a new audience year after year.

THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH 85 – PLUS VOL. 4

+ Ep.4

MACROSS PLUS
EPISODE 4

ICONIC SCENE: Ma-ku-ro no SHAAAARON o…

STORY DATE: April 2040

RELEASE DATE: June 25, 1995

1. For Japanese fans, the wait for the final episode of Plus was long enough… four months. And that release date must’ve been something of an event day, since, as a Sunday, it was also the date of the broadcast of Macross 7 Episode 36 AND the release of Macross 7 Vol. 5 on home video. I wonder what hardcore fans did? Scurry to the video store when they opened at ten o’clock AM to pick up the two laser discs, and try to get back home by eleven o’clock to see the new episode? Then watching the new episode while staring longingly at Plus Vol. 4 on the table next to them, wanting to pop it in immediately, but needing to wait until the new TV episode finished? Or sleeping in, watching Macross 7 on TV and THEN going over to the video store to get the new discs, hoping the small stock wouldn’t be sold out by the time they got there? Maybe just setting the VCR timer and then rushing off…? Or maybe they were just Plus fans who didn’t care about Seven, or Seven fans who didn’t care about Plus.

For western fans, it was a different story… we waited, and waited, and WAITED… Nearly eight months after Vol. 3, in Spring of 1996, Vol. 4 came out in the US. I got the subbed version (I like to think I wasn’t snobby about English dubs, but I was studying Japanese at the time, and needed all the exposure to the language I could get), so the “Big Issue” wasn’t immediately apparent to me. Even after I got the DVD, I didn’t watch the English version until I’d had it for years, and then only saw it because I’d heard rumblings on Macross World about it.

You see, the English and Japanese versions differ not only in the cast, but in the music and sound effects, as well. The Japanese version contains several new pieces of music that hadn’t been released on CD yet, and those were replaced in the English version by tracks from previous episodes, notably during Guld’s big revelation (which in Japanese used the new track “Dog Fight,” but in English was “Breakout” from the first soundtrack album). The central reasons for what happened seem shrouded in mystery on the Japanese side of things, but apparently when the English dub production staff got the film to work on, it was silent. No audio at all. Thus they had to create not just the dialogue track, but the music and sound effects tracks as well, and for music, could only rely on what had been previously released on CD. They did a great job of it, incidentally. It’s different, but it still works. And at the US Renditions panel at Macross World Con last year, we learned that Kawamori himself watched the English version and gave it a thumbs up, saying “Hollywood style!”

And if the story had ended there, it would be fine. However… Bandai Visual, in a VERY unusual move, had been releasing Macross Plus in Japan with the English dub and Japanese subtitles, as the “International Version.” Episodes 1 through 3 came out in quick succession in 1995 (I have no idea how well they sold, but I can’t imagine it could’ve been much), but Episode 4 didn’t seem to get released at all. At least, I never saw it around. However, it HAD been released (presumably in extremely small quantities) on laser disc in the year 2000…

Notice anything special about that year…? Not only is it five years AFTER the previous episodes, but it’s also when video tapes and LDs were rapidly being replaced by DVDs. As such, it was released at the tail end of a dying format, and the release vanished so thoroughly that it wasn’t until years later that it was confirmed that it had come out AT ALL. The “International Version” dub was also included on the various DVD sets in Japan, but thanks to region codes, most viewers outside of Japan didn’t see those. As such, it wasn’t until the blu-ray came out in 2012 (with the “International Version” audio included, in another unusual move by Bandai) that western fans finally got to see it… and learned that it wasn’t the same at all as the Manga Entertainment US version, but, instead, a newer dub apparently commissioned by Bandai Visual themselves. The cast was almost completely different (now featuring David Hayter as Isamu instead of Bryan Cranston), and the music and sound effects were the same as in the original Japanese version. As you can imagine, this led to many complaints among western fans. Now the complaints about the voice cast, I can understand completely, but there was an odd disconnect among fans who had never watched the Japanese version (just as I hadn’t watched the English version), didn’t realize that the Manga Entertainment dub had been done under compromised circumstances, and now demanded to know why THIS English dub CHANGED all the music and sound effects as well. Replies that the soundtrack had actually been RESTORED to its original version fell on mostly deaf ears. As loyal Robotech fans always say, the version you saw first is the default “better” version. And if you always heard “Breakout” during Guld’s memory-recovery, you don’t wanna hear “Dog Fight” instead, even if that piece was written specifically for that scene.

(I can’t excuse myself altogether from this sentiment, I admit, since the “theatrical” version of Do You Remember Love, with the mono soundtrack and cut-to-black end credits will always be my preferred version of the film… but that really IS the original version of the film, at least, no matter WHAT Kawamori changes…)

So, anyway, yeah… the upshot of all of this is that there are two completely different English dubs of this episode, one with the “right” voices but “wrong” music, and one with the “wrong” voices but “right” music. Which, honestly, is another reason why I just stick with the Japanese version.

2. I guess it’s also worth pointing out that, as a HUGE Macross Plus fan, once I saw this episode, I was disappointed. After Episode 3, my expectations were sky-high, probably impossible to live up to. I enjoy Episode 4 a lot, and now think it’s excellent, but yeah… that first time, I thought, “Well, it was good, but…”

I’ll, uh, get into this in greater detail as we continue.

3. No recap, we launch right into Isamu defolding. Again, remember: he has no idea Myung is in danger, he just wants to show up the Ghost X-9. I really think Jan (Yang…?) has the best idea, by falling asleep and missing this part.

Seriously, the defense line around earth is awesome and terrifying… satellites! Space carriers! LASERS! And the fact that the only way in is for Isamu to shut everything down and just let gravity pull him in… well, if it were me in the 19, I’d be white-knuckling it the whole way down, especially when it starts spinning end over end.

And of course, this scene has one of the most quotable lines in the series: “Luck is one of my many skills.”

4. Okay, this is where I’m out of step with the Macross fandom at large (in the West). Just as everyone but me loves the VF-2SS, everyone but me also loves the song “Information High.” To me, the problem is that it doesn’t sound like Sharon. It sounds like generic ’90s techno. I honestly don’t know why everyone seems to think this song is great. The song has nothing to do with Yoko Kanno, (although I’ve seen plenty of YouTube videos saluting the genius of Yoko Kanno while posting it, even though she didn’t work on it at all), it has nothing to do with Sharon, it feels like it has been tossed in from some other project… WHY DOES EVERYONE LOVE IT SO?

(This isn’t a rhetorical question. If you can explain, please comment!)

5. Has Guld snapped? He’s very definitely trying to kill Isamu here. Although I guess I’m not sure how else he was meant to stop him from crashing the Ghost party…

Also, where are they? It’s been dark in Macross City for quite a while, but it seems like it’s only afternoon wherever the 19/21 dogfight is happening. I guess they landed in another time zone and have some distance to go before they get to Macross City. And while I’m nitpicking, I think the staff kinda forgot that Macross City is meant to be in Alaska (I think…). No one in the city seems dressed for an April night there.

And there’s the issue that EVERYONE points out about the city they destroy while fighting each other. Is it abandoned for some reason? I mean, I’m sure it’s a holiday (very few massive festive ceremonies happen on days that AREN’T holidays, after all, unless it’s the parade in “Ferris Beuller’s Day Off,” which apparently takes place on a school and work day), so the office buildings MIGHT be empty (although it looks like the lights are on in many of them…), but there’s no traffic on the street, even (well… there are cars, but none of them are moving)… When does that EVER happen? Isn’t there even a Starbucks in the area?

So yeah, I think all of us are hoping that there’s no one around, because of the thousands of injuries and fatalities this grudgematch would cost. Knowing Itano, though, I’m sure he was really enthusiastic about the idea of killing off so many innocent people at one go. This IS, after all, the guy who directed Megazone Part II AND Angel Cop. And added the decapitation scene to Do You Remember Love. I’m pretty sure he gets darn excited by mass death and destruction.

But really, none of this should matter, because the dogfight is AWESOME. Best Macross fight since Max and Milia in Do You Remember Love, which itself was the best since Max and Milia in Episode 18. As I’ve said before, as a combat director and choreographer, Ichiro Itano is peerless, and as much as I like the Macross shows he’s not involved with, his absence is always keenly felt. Frontier can come close, but it’s just not the same.

And the scene is again boosted tremendously by the music. As I said above, I sympathize with people who only watched the Manga Entertainment dub, but “Dog Fight” is one of the standout pieces in an already standout score. It works absolutely brilliantly here.

I flat-out love the build-up to Guld’s revelation, as the argument between two ace pilots flying the galaxy’s most advanced fighters gets pettier and pettier, devolving into resentments left over from junior high, all while they are using everything they have to try to kill each other. Plus is not generally known for its sense of humor, but this is all pretty funny.

However… then we get to the revelation itself. Again, I always suspected Guld because, first, of his anger-management issues, and second, because of the terror on Myung’s face when he puts his hands on her shoulders back in Episode 1. So to find out that yes, it really WAS all his fault seemed like a failed twist to me. I also suspect that he was asking the wrong person for forgiveness, and that Isamu lets the whole thing go much too easily. Isamu is not the REAL wronged person here.

Now, I really don’t want to go too deeply into this, first since I haven’t read the novelization (which apparently goes more into detail), but more importantly because it’s really fucking ugly and disturbing. And as I said in Episode 2, it makes Myung’s decisions make no sense at all. Whether he raped her or not (and I’m EXTREMELY inclined to think he didn’t), she would mostly likely avoid any contact with him, and the idea that she would actually sleep him is preposterous. Maybe she’s just the forgiving type, but this is going WAY too far.

6. Sharon’s omnipotence continues, and again, it seems more “magical” to me than anything in the preview episode of Delta. Hypnotizing everyone into a Sharon-worshipping stupor, I can accept… somehow being able to program security guards into going after Myung, though, is pushing it (and there’s always those snake-like electrical cables… it’s MAGIC, I tell ya!).

Still, it gives Myung her chance to be an action heroine, and she grabs it and runs with it. Literally.

And when she confronts Sharon, we learn that there really isn’t any Sharon, there’s just a kind of Jungian shadow-self of Myung. That is, Sharon is doing everything that Myung would LIKE to do, but is too repressed to. And “everything that Myung would like to do,” it turns out, includes giving Isamu the thrill of his life.

Now, I’m guessing that Sharon really doesn’t understand the consequences of her actions… those consequences, after all, are the reason Myung won’t do these things. So I’m not sure if Sharon realizes that she could actually KILL Isamu. Like, forever. She can plan, she can anticipate, but in a very real sense, I’m not sure she sees that there’s a future, and that a particular moment will not last.

7. Anyway, bullshit writing about suppressed memories and rape/not-rape or not, Isamu and Guld patch things up just in time to join forces against Sharon and the Ghost. Of course, Guld tells Isamu to go after Myung, basically giving up on trying to get together with her. But Sharon has another surprise for Isamu… the Macross. I have to admit, it always gets me when we see the anti-gravity system start up and the ship start to rise. Again, and I’m sure it’s also partially the “Bulgarian Voices”-influenced music (previously used in the “next episode” teasers), the scene is imbued with a sense of awe and wonder (and, as always, that incredible DETAIL) that’s missing from the analogous scene in Macross II.

Of course, Macross II also doesn’t have a guy JUMPING OFF THE SHIP TO HIS DEATH some 1500 meters below…

And the first time I watched it, once the Macross started up, my first thought was “Oh, shit! The main cannon’s gonna fire!”… which it never actually does here. Missed opportunity… (Can you begin to see why I was disappointed…?)

8. Back with Guld, he’s clearly losing to the Ghost. I know he doesn’t have much of a choice, but I’m assuming that he basically WANTS to die. I mean, his entire purpose was wrapped up in the idea of himself as Myung’s protector, and with that stripped away, there’s really nothing left for him. That said, I always forget how tame his last run is here in the OVA as opposed to the Movie Edition.

9. So that’s the Isamu-Myung-Guld love triangle wrapped up (more permanently than most Macross love triangles), which leaves us only the Myung-Isamu-Sharon triangle to deal with (or, more accurately, Myung-Isamu-Shadow Myung…). And it plays out much the same way as you might imagine. Sharon hypnotizes Jan (Yang?) into trying to kill Isamu, then gets to Isamu himself, before the spell is broken by the power of Myung’s REAL song (and love). Isamu downs the Macross, destroys Sharon, and saves the day.

There are still a lot of questions hanging in the air, but we haven’t reached our final word on Plus, so I’ll save those for the Movie Edition.

10. As I said at the outset, when I first watched this, I was a little disappointed in light of my massive expectations. Looking at it now, it feels like an unassailable classic, marred somewhat by the handling of the sexual assault subplot (cf. Wings of Honneamise), but not irreparably.

And even with the ending of Myung’s song winning the day, it still feels like an outlier for Macross. I mean, every Macross series has its own tone and its own personality – there’s no such thing as a cookie-cutter Macross series – but even Macross Zero isn’t anywhere near as macho as this series.  Which is interesting because it’s the only Macross series that doesn’t involve a war. And there’s been some backlash against it (a very little bit… I’ve seen several people call it “boring” over the past couple of years, which I find insane; there is not a single boring frame in this show. Other young’uns have called it “shallow,” and yeah… I can kinda see that), but generally, it stands (in the West, at least) as one of the grand classics of anime, and rightly so.

THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH 66 – PLUS VOL. 3

+ Ep.3

MACROSS PLUS
EPISODE 3

ICONIC SCENE: “I have officially lost everything.”

STORY DATE: 2040

RELEASE DATE: February 21, 1995

1. We open with the same gunshot sound we left off with, nearly two months before, followed by ambulance sirens. Isamu looks terrible when we first see him, hooked up to tubes and lying in a pool of black goo in the hospital. He looks worse here than he actually is, and I think everyone watching this probably drew a sharp breath when they first saw him, and then a sigh of relief when they realized that all his limbs are still attached.

2. Guld, for his part, comes out and lies to the court about his role in adding live ammo to the YF-19’s gunpod. I note that, even with three albums and one maxi-single of overlapping material, the music in this scene has not been released.

Millard, at this point says that fighter pilots are the most self-confident people around. “Men who, even when they’re hurt, think they can beat their opponent.” This line of course gets played out later in the episode.

Anyway, the upshot is that General Gomez (who’s not in the movie, even in name… at least one line has been changed that referenced him) halts the project while they check the software that would’ve malfunctioned and loaded the ammo to the 19.

Guld and Millard talk, and while they’re evasive, it’s clear that Guld was lying and Millard knows he was lying. However, they don’t really explain anything, leaving the situation the horribly confused mess that I described some weeks ago. And then Millard says something about the Unified Forces thinking there’s “no room for manned fighters” in the future… Hmm…

3. Isamu and Myung drive off together, and we get the “quiet moment where the characters begin to fall in love.” At least, Myung vents her frustrations, and Isamu responds with what, for him, passes for sympathy. Then he sees a giant dino-bird and he’s off chasing it.

There’s also a scene with Jan (as always, official spelling aside, I refuse to accept it as “Yang”) and Lucy talking about Isamu running off, and the way it’s handled is a great example of the difference between this series and Macross II. Macross II had plenty of scenes of characters in empty rooms, standing still and talking. Here, there’s a lot of motion from both characters, and they’re talking to each other from either side of a huge fish tank. I’m sure this scene was way more expensive, but it’s always visually interesting… which is important, since this is anime, not a radio show.

And then we get the fist fight, referring both to Millard’s earlier line about pilots thinking they can win even when wounded, AND replaying the almost-fight from Episode 1. There, as you’ll recall, Myung jumped between them, and Guld stopped his punch. Here, she does the same thing again, but too late: Isamu smacks her right in the jaw.

When Myung breaks down and tells everyone Sharon’s dirty little secret, I note that no one shows any compassion for poor Jan, who’s most likely just had his greatest dream completely shattered.

4. Myung seems to get a lot of flak for being primarily a mopey sad-sack, but honestly, that’s the part of her character that DOES make sense to me. Yes, she’s outwardly successful, but the sham is tearing her apart inside, and she literally has nothing else in her life. Of course she’s going to be bitter, depressed, and angry to come back to her old home and confront memories that she really doesn’t want to face again. As I said before, the part that really doesn’t make sense to me is her solicitousness towards Guld, but I’ll go into that next time.

Anyway, I wonder if part of the problem might be the voice actress… while the Macross Plus English version is one of the true high standards of American anime dubbing, Myung’s voice actress (Riva Spier, who now has her own fitness program in Studio City, called Rivafit) is good, but not quite as good as Rica Fukami from the Japanese dub. Fukami’s voice sounds truly raw and painful. The English version sometimes comes off as whiny and perhaps a little insincere.

On a lighter note, the airport departures sign in the scene when Myung is waiting for her flight shows, in Zentradi, that some destinations from Eden include Osaka, Tokyo, and Nagoya.

So Guld proposes, and Myung leaves for Earth. And, um… how long has she been on Eden, anyway? Since before the project started, and that seems to have been going on a while. I guess it all depends how compressed time was in those montages.

5. And then the project is cancelled, all due to the Ghost X-9. About the Ghost… it gets a reputation as a real killer thanks to this series, but it’s easy to forget that there were Ghosts in the original series, as well. I didn’t even know those were unmanned until well after I saw Plus… Anyway, those Ghosts are never seen doing anything terribly spectacular. So, yeah… the Ghosts are not a new idea for Macross, but their speed, agility, and firepower sure are. And that will inform other Macross shows to come.

6. And of course, Millard tells them precisely where the unveiling of the Ghost will be held, and adds an obligatory “Don’t do anything we’ll regret,” although I’m sure he knows EXACTLY what Isamu’s going to do with that information.

7. And then Lucy tells Isamu that she got the message Myung was leaving and didn’t tell him. I kinda sympathize with her… Isamu did toss her aside pretty quickly.

And the POV shot of Isamu falling backwards is really well-done.

8. Ha! When we get to Earth, there’s ANOTHER mention of the New Unified Government, as established thirty years previously. This is remarkably consistent with the original series… until we get to Frontier.

The Spaceport near Macross City is named after Global… does that mean he’s dead…? He’d only be 81 at this point…

Macross City itself has grown considerably over the last thirty years, and now looks like a true metropolis. The crisscrossing highway leading up to the Macross is, according to the This Is Animation Special for the Plus Movie Edition, based on Orlando, Florida.

And it should be clear to everyone that Marj has gone a little bonkers by this point, talking about his dreams being realized. To her credit, Myung kinda gives him a strange look, but it’s not until he murders Sharon’s owner, Mr. Reymond, that she KNOWS he’s a bonus disc and a director’s commentary short of a blu-ray box set.

Sharon, by the way, seems virtually omnipotent now, in that she can seemingly project herself anywhere, take over any computer system, somehow make cables move the way she wants them to… Some people complain about “magic” in Macross, but Sharon’s powers seem WAY more magical than, say, the floating rocks in Zero, or Walküre’s transformations.

9. Meanwhile, as anyone might have guessed, Isamu steals the YF-19 to interrupt the demonstration of the Ghost X-9. What IS surprising is that Jan is hanging out in the back seat, and I definitely love the bit where he stands up to Isamu and says that the 19 is not Isamu’s plane alone.

Honestly, as I said before, Isamu, as charming as he can be, kinda, is truly a self-centered, arrogant jerk, and it’s nice to see him get that flung back in his face for once.

They leave using the Fold Booster… but I thought that was experimental in Macross Seven, five years later…?

10. And, the first time I watched it, as the percussion for the ending theme began to fade in, I actually shouted at the TV, “NO! Don’t end here! DON’T END HERE!! DAMMIT!!” This really is the best cliffhanger in the entire series, and the fact that I was yelling at my TV is the best compliment I can give it, since honestly, I never do stuff like that.

So yes, a quieter episode than we’ve had, but man, does it build to its climax. The wait for the next episode was excruciating.

THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH 58 – PLUS VOL. 2

+ Ep.2

MACROSS PLUS
EPISODE 2

ICONIC SCENE: Pro-wrestling.

STORY DATE: 2040

RELEASE DATE: January 1, 1995

1. Nearly four months after Episode 1, here comes Episode 2.  The crowd scenes at the concert hall are excellent, really capturing the feeling of anticipation before a big, long-awaited  concert, although my favorite shot is of Isamu and Lucy checking their seats, while Jan (or, grudgingly, “Yang”) walks up carrying two VERY full bags of merchandise. If Eden prices in 2040 are anything like Tokyo prices in the 2010s, he probably spent over five hundred bucks on that stuff… which isn’t even unusual at concerts in Japan.

Of course, the first important thing here is, what the hell is Myung DOING? She’s in a trance, she looks like a puppeteer… It’s all very creepy (again, “creepy” is a word I’ll be using a lot in these posts).

Next of course is the concert itself, which makes Minmay’s hologram show in Do You Remember Love seem cheap and tacky. It’s totally immersive and wonderful, but… doesn’t watching what are basically music videos projected all around you kinda seem antithetical to the idea of a live performance…? Still, we’re almost at this point currently: just a few years ago, the Japanese pop trio Perfume performed a short but lavish set at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, and the clever use of projectors and walls really made it seem like the audience was going inside the film that would usually just be projected behind a band.

Oh, and the cheering when Sharon arrives was recorded at a Macross fan club event, where the audience were instructed to cheer for her. The same strategy was employed for the Frontier movies.

2. The images are pretty stunning, and Sharon herself is gorgeous (I’m especially fond of the “coquettish Sharon” type that appears during “Idol Talk”). Speaking of which… can I just say how disappointed I was when I got the first Macross Plus soundtrack and “Idol Talk” wasn’t on it…? Now I knew how fans of the original felt when “My Boyfriend Is a Pilot” wasn’t released until the second soundtrack came out.

Speaking of “Idol Talk”… after listening to the CD a few times years and years ago, I noticed a spoken bit, low in the mix, that sounded like it was in English. I put headphones on, cranked up the volume, and listened to it plenty to times to figure out what was being said. And when I understood it, I blushed.

And once I heard it, I couldn’t “un-hear” it. For something buried so deep in the song, it rings out clear as day every time I listen to it now.

3. Jan mentions the “Macross Consortium” after hacking into Sharon during the concert, which is something we’ll never hear about again outside this series.

4. And yeah, Myung notices Isamu in the audience and it affects her performance, to where Sharon actually kisses him. I’m guessing that a kiss from a hologram must be one of the most unsatisfying experiences ever.

5. And now, we finally get Alpha One, the YF-19, Isamu’s “kawaii-ko chan” (which itself was a pretty old-fashioned term, even in 1994. It’d be like if he was calling it a “groovy doll” or something), and it’s pretty amazing. While, as I said for Episode 1, the tone of the show is virtually nothing like the original, one thing that it does carry over is the sense of awe that these fighters are handled with. You watch Episode 1 of SDF Macross, you watch this scene (or the YF-21 test last time), and these planes look IMPRESSIVE. It’s all due to camera angles and how the planes are filmed, but it totally works. I’m blown away every time here, even though all Isamu does is draw a giant dino-bird in the sky.

Oh, and Isamu’s little forward-swept wings hand-gesture is something I can only do with my left hand, for some reason.

6. The training montage is likewise really cool stuff, even to the point of including movie-style Nousjadeul-Gers, a VF-1J, and a Destroid Monster (variants of which show up in pretty much every Macross iteration).

Afterwards, we see Millard working with his artificial leg, which has an interesting story, told later in the radio drama “Macross Classic: Inside Story,” which is unrelated to the SDF Macross story “The Lost Two Years,” but is set during the same time frame, between episodes 27 and 28. It turns out Millard was a member of Skull Squadron, dealing with rogue Zentradi. (It also, um, features the Flower Girl from Seven, which really SHOULD be impossible, unless she’s a lot older than she looks.)

7. From Britannia.com: “Entelechy, (from Greek entelecheia), in philosophy, that which realizes or makes actual what is otherwise merely potential. The concept is intimately connected with Aristotle’s distinction between matter and form, or the potential and the actual.”

Of course, this scene will remain mystifying until next episode.

It makes a LITTLE more sense later when Jan hacks into Sharon and can’t find the emotion program for her, but I know that I didn’t understand this scene until I watched it again after seeing Episode 3.

8. I really like the scene with Myung, Kate, and Morgan, because it shows that Myung actually can relax a bit, to a degree. The name of the restaurant they meet up at is the “Dino Bird Beer Garden,” which is probably why for the Movie Edition, the translator changed the name of those giant flying creatures from “pterosaur” to “dinobird.” The restaurant itself looks like a pretty cool, if expensive, place, in keeping with all the restaurants, bars, and coffee shops in Macross. The dinosaur-themed plates and bowls seem a little over the top, though…

We get a little bit of nostalgia as Kate sings “My Boyfriend Is a Pilot” at karaoke (second time that song’s shown up recently, one week after its appearance in Seven). Then she tells Myung to sing “Voices,” which is kind of weird… why would the karaoke place have that song? Was it a big local hit or something? I do like the fact that instead of just showing a music video, the actual walls of the room change to reflect the song playing.

Anyway, Myung freaks out. And runs away when Kate calls Isamu and Guld to come over. (I note that Kate has a digital address book, but still no one has cell phones in the Macross universe. At least they finally have answering machines, though. And car phones.)

I’m not really sure of the chronology here… If Sharon is trying to kill Myung by engineering the fire in the concert hall, that would indicate that the emotion chip has already been added to her. But it hasn’t. So… she’s already dangerous? Adding the chip just made it worse? I guess…

But try to kill Myung, Sharon does, or at least she tries to put Myung’s life in danger and warning Isamu and Guld that it’s happening, so one of them will rescue her. Guld arrives first, and Myung apparently ends up sleeping with him.  Given that we’ve seen the series before and kinda/sorta know what happened seven years ago, AND given her terrified reaction last episode when Guld put his hand on her shoulder, her actions here make NO GODDAMNED SENSE.

Neither do Sharon’s powers, really… they TRY to make her getting into the computer system, starting the fire, and hiding it from security plausible, but… I dunno… I don’t really buy it. That problem will get worse next episode.

And yet, despite all this, the scene works like crazy… it’s genuinely suspenseful.

9. Then we enter the climax. Lucy and Isamu essentially break up (they were together…? Yep, if the Movie Edition is anything to go by) and Isamu confronts Guld in the dining hall (I note that Isamu is eating a thoroughly traditional Japanese breakfast of fish, natto, rice, miso soup, and an egg. This is basically the equivalent of the “complete breakfast” that your sugary cereal is a part of, albeit a lot healthier). Guld has the smug attitude of someone who just got laid, and Isamu is insanely jealous. That hostility finds its way into the day’s testing, which turns into a big ol’ robot brawl.

Ultimately, Guld grabs the YF-19’s gun and shoots Isamu with it. Speaking of things that make no goddamned sense, I’ve never understood this scene, and while I’ve seen a number of people who are confident that they understand it, their explanations are wildly different.

There’s a scene earlier which, upon second viewing, seems to show Guld tampering with the 19’s ammo load via computer. So Guld is pretty certainly the one who put live ammo in Isamu’s gunpod. So this is where things get strange. Isamu’s firing off paintballs for a while, until he supposedly runs out of ammo. He clicks the trigger a few times… nothing. Then he uses the gun like a club to attack Guld. He and Guld fight over it, and the 21’s arm breaks off, still holding the gun. The 21 gets knocked down and Isamu starts kicking the shit out of it. Guld sees the gunpod lying on the ground, disconnects the BDI system, and (off-screen) grabs the gun and shoots the 19 with it.

So what was his plan? Was he trying to get Isamu to shoot him, which would of course get Isamu kicked off the team? Was he waiting to grab the gunpod from the 19? None of this is ever made clear. The only reason I can think of is that the story staff needed some way for Guld to shoot Isamu, but not get thrown off the project for it.

Anyway, I can see why they cut this bit out of the Movie Edition…

10. So yes, despite all these story flaws, I still love this episode. As I said before, this series still plays like crazy, and is always gorgeous to look at and listen to. The overall plot is strong, but thank goodness for the Movie Edition, which cuts out a lot of the parts that make no sense. But we’ll get to that later.

THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH – FASTEST LIFTOFF

7 Ep.0

MACROSS FASTEST LIFTOFF

BROADCAST DATE: October 2, 1994

This is an odd little teaser for Macross Seven that aired two weeks before the series started (and almost exactly twelve years after the debut of the original SDF Macross series). Our hosts on this odyssey of fantasy and wonder are LaSalle Ishii, a popular TV variety host, and Nana Horie, an actress. It’s an unusual choice, for sure. Ishii, at that point, was approaching forty, Horie was sixteen, and neither of them know anything about Macross. There doesn’t seem to be any script; it looks like they were given topics and info and just told to discuss it, which leads to a number of embarrassing and/or hilarious moments (my favorite is when Ishii is handed a Bandai Valkyrie and tries to transform it, even though he has no idea how to do so). Ishii is still around, although he tends to do TV dramas rather than variety shows these days, but Horie seems to have had a very brief career and has vanished from show business. She doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page. The show is narrated by Kenji Utsumi, who played MIllard in Macross Plus, but is probably better known as Raoh in Fist of the North Star. He passed away in 2013.

Anyway, they’re in some kind of Egyptian-themed (???) set, with Macross merchandise placed all around them, talking about the history of Macross (“I can’t believe it’s been twelve years already!” Ishii says at the beginning, mock-sobbing as Horie comforts him, before she points out that she doesn’t know anything about Macross because she was only four years old when it debuted… Only twelve years…? Horie was four…? Man, I feel old…). But mostly, it’s hype for Macross Seven.

Again, it’s pretty weird, but kind of interesting. Early on, Ishii likens Macross to a “trendy drama,” the nickname for TV serials that appealed to young working women, and he stresses the “human interest” of the series. At the time of this writing, a bunch of dudes are still miffed that Delta is aimed primarily at young women rather than men in their forties, but clearly that trend goes back a lot further than they thought.

When they get to the mecha, you can tell this was made before the second episode of Plus came out, because they show the VF-1 and the YF-21, and then skip to Basara’s VF-19. The YF-19 is nowhere to be seen.

There’s an interview with Kawamori, as well (where he’s given the vague credit “Original Creator/Supervisor” of Macross Seven… more about that next time) and he shows off his model of of the VF-17 (not made out of Legos, although there’s a Lego VF (is it a 19…?) behind him).

There are also a lot of clips from the original series, but oddly, they seem to mostly use the awful Star Pro scenes… were they trying to make Seven’s animation look good by comparison? I have no idea…

The “Making of Macross 7” is kind of cool, showing the animation and voice recording studios, but yeah… other than that, its primary value is for comedy in how amateurish the whole thing is. I’m not sure how fired up for Macross Seven I’d be if I’d seen this first…

THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH 46 – PLUS VOL. 1

+ Ep.1

MACROSS PLUS
EPISODE 1

ICONIC SCENE: Bromance Part 1.

STORY DATE: 2040

RELEASE DATE: August 25, 1994

1. So soon after Macross II (which apparently was successful, but I think a lot of that success was due to overseas sales rather than the Japanese market) Kawamori came back with an idea he had about a variable fighter competition. Apparently, this was not originally a Macross story, but became one in order to secure funding. Before this, he had been dead-set against doing sequels, and I’m not sure entirely what changed his mind, although I’d imagine that the realization that Macross sequels were going to be made with or without him had to have been a factor.

But whatever the reason, Kawamori finally took to the idea of sequels, and embraced it to the fullest. For the first and only time, there were plans for THREE different Macross installments, all due at the around the same time: Macross Plus, Macross Seven, and Macross: Final Outpost Earth. That last one, of course, was the made-in-Hollywood live action movie that never got off the ground, although designs were made for it and a script was written (a brief shot of which can be seen in a documentary, with Minmay talking to “Richie Pirelli,” who is probably meant to be the Hikaru stand-in). I’d love to read the whole thing, but with the screenwriter having passed away years ago, and his widow also being quite elderly, I have no clue how to contact her to see if I can track down a copy.

Anyway, we’re here to talk about Macross Plus. It began life as movie, but it was decided to make an OVA first in order to build buzz for the eventual film. It was co-directed by Shinichiro Watanabe, written by Keiko Nobumoto, and had music composed by Yoko Kanno, all three of whom later worked extensively on Cowboy Bebop. The main studio involved in production was Triangle Staff, perhaps best known for the Venus Wars movie and Serial Experiments Lain, and they brought a highly-detailed style to the work. Character designs were, for the first time, handled not by Mikimoto, but by the single-named Masayuki, who later worked on Evangelion, directing (among other things) Death and Rebirth, and the first half of The End of Evangelion. He had also previously done the amazing Thundercats opening, which was SO good that there was no way the show could ever live up to it.

So yeah, it’s a great team assembled here, and Kawamori really wanted to push the boundaries for anime, beginning to incorporate a lot of this “computer graphics” animation that had been making a stir. It’s used sparingly but effectively in Plus (and Seven), and was apparently enormously expensive. I’ve heard that Plus was the most expensive OVA produced at that time. I have no idea if it’s true or not, but I wouldn’t doubt it. It looks spectacular from start to finish, and is amazingly refreshing after the drabness of Macross II.

2. For me, I was more or less out of anime by ’94. I was still going to comic shops, but was much more interested in Sandman and Cerebus and trying to get everything Alan Moore had ever written. I was still getting some manga (damned if I can remember what, though). Most of the places I’d gone to get anime stuff were gone (RIP Model Works and Book Village). However, a new store called Comics Factory had opened near PCC (it’s still there, but not in the same location. A nail salon is in its old place) and they had anime VHS tapes for rental. Occasionally, I would rent stuff, but nothing had really grabbed me. Now, by this point, anime in the US had become a big enough thing that there were several companies licensing and releasing stuff (mostly films and OVAs, rather than TV shows) in the west. The amateur magazine Animag had folded, and most of its editorial staff had moved on to the much-more-official Animerica Magazine, which I bought because my all-time favorite manga, Area 88, was being serialized in the back (or, really, middle) of the issues. Anyway, it was there that I read about Macross Plus and Seven first. Seven sounded slightly interesting (it’d be nice to see Max and Milia again), but Plus seemed to be another of those “set decades in the future of the series you liked, so no one you care about will show up” sequels that I was sick of. And anyway, I hadn’t even finished watching Macross II and no longer considered myself a Macross fan.

(I was, however, buying the Robotech Perfect Collection tapes from Streamline, which featured two episodes of the original Japanese series that made up Robotech, followed by the same two episodes of Robotech. It was then that I realized that I simply couldn’t watch Robotech anymore. The voice cast was fine, but the need to fill seemingly every available second with narration and dialogue made me want to tear my hair out.)

Anyway, one day I walked into Comics Factory, and the owner asked me, “Have you seen Macross Plus yet?” (The English dub of Volume 1 had just come out the week previously.) I replied that I wasn’t interested in it. He said, “Look, it’s really cool. Rent it, and if you don’t like it, I’ll refund your money.” I took him up on the offer and rented it. The next day, I returned it. Not only did I not ask for the refund, but I bought a copy of it as well. I was a Macross fan again.

3. It’s interesting to compare the beginning to Macross II. That series was very “TV-like” in that it had opening and ending titles (and even a commerical-break eyecatch!) and kept the episodes to the standard 25 minutes of a broadcast show. Plus is much more cinematic, with the moody and a cappella song “Voices” playing over a scene of three teenagers testing a homemade prop-plane. It’s a quiet, serene, and lovely moment for characters whose lives, we’ll find out, are anything but.

Then the title comes up, and we switch to the only war scene in the series. And it’s clear immediately that Ichiro Itano is back, directing the battle. VF-11s swooping around, picking off Zentradi battle suits in an asteroid field. Its excellent stuff, the most exciting battle scene we’ve had since Do You Remember Love. We also get a quick sketch of our main character, Isamu Dyson, as a really excellent pilot who’s basically handling the entire battle by himself. Yes, he rescues two of his comrades, but in daredevil ways that probably had them wetting themselves.

And of special note is that the VF-11’s gunpod is equipped with a bayonet, of all things. Shades of the knife that the VF-25 will be equipped with…

Honestly, in these opening scenes, he comes across as a brilliant pilot, but an unlikable jerk. He’s hotheaded, arrogant, doesn’t follow orders, and doesn’t listen to anybody.

4. New Edwards Test Flight center is, of course, essentially Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California. It’s worth noting that Kawamori and Itano visited Southern California (Fullerton) while preparing to make this series, to take flying lessons at Air Combat USA, which bills itself “the ORIGINAL civilian dog fighting school in the world.” Among other things, they were allowed to sit in the back of a couple of trainers and have a mock dogfight. At one point, Itano blacked out. Now, this can be extremely dangerous… he could’ve even died, but as he was sitting on the tarmac, the producer told him to immediately draw what it looked like to have a blackout, before he forgot.

The biggest effect of this trip (which is felt through all of the Macross series to follow) is a better sense of what it feels like to actually be inside a fighter plane, pulling tremendous Gs. Do You Remember Love fairs better than the TV series in this regard, but in Plus, some of the maneuvers look genuinely painful.

Takumi Yamazaki, the voice actor for Isamu was hoping that he, too, would get to go up in a fighter so he could bring more realism to his role, but the producers were cheap and sent him to a roller coaster at the amusement park built around Tokyo Dome (then called “Big Egg City,” now called “Tokyo Dome City”). He quickly got used to the g-forces, though, over the many times he rode the coaster.

5. Ah, and then we get the YF-21 (AKA Omega One), which is really a thing of beauty. Of course, the special thing about it is that it’s controlled by thought (the “Brain Direct Imaging” (or BDI) system). And, refreshingly, it doesn’t look much like any Valkyrie we’ve seen before, its battroid mode having a much more Zentradi-type look to it. It’s also pretty clearly inspired (as is the plot) by the YF-22 and YF-23 competition that had taken place a few years earlier. As such, even now, with it’s “stealth-y” look, it seems less dated than, say, the VF-1 (or, especially, the Macross II Valks).

My favorite part of this scene, though, is the incredibly clear and efficient way they show that the YF-21is controlled by the pilot’s brain rather than just explaining it. I’m not sure if I really buy the wings changing shape, though.

6. We see the YF-19 briefly on a display. I’m sorry, that doesn’t count as a first appearance.

We hear about what a beast the YF-19 is, with a reputation for injuring or even killing its pilots. In this way, it reminds me of a plot thread from the original Macross series that was dropped when the show was reduced to 26 episodes: the “Devil Machine No. 2,” which was likewise meant to be a fighter that was being tested, and which was extremely dangerous, with all of its test pilots dying.

Oh, and there’s a problem with the official subtitles here, where the designer of the YF-19 is “Yang” Neumann, when really, it should be “Jan.” I don’t know if it was deliberate on the translator’s part, or if they didn’t realize that “Jan” (pronounced, of course, “yan”) is a completely normal Scandinavian or German name. I’m either underestimating the translator’s intelligence, or the translator is underestimating the audience’s. (EDIT: I just got word that actually, the “Yang” spelling was REQUESTED by the Japanese side of the production. No clue as to why, but I apologize for sniping at the poor translator when they had nothing to do with the choice.)

7. After more scenes showcasing what a contentious jerk Isamu is (and an interlude of Guld, unusually, losing his cool), we get Sharon Apple and Myung both introduced in quick succession.

Sharon, of course, predates Hatsune Miku (and Kyoko Date and Aimi Eguchi, Miku’s ancestors) by quite a few years, a fact that has escaped no one’s attention. Least of all the Macross staff, who even turned it into a joke during the Macross Crossover Live 30 a few years ago.

Eventually, of course, Isamu, Guld, and Myung (and Lucy) all meet up and there’s a big confrontation… the first of many.

The confrontation itself, and Myung’s role in it, is pretty weird. Myung seems somewhat scared of Guld, and confrontational with Isamu. Guld clearly loves Myung and hates Isamu. And Isamu seems kinda smug and hostile towards both Myung and Guld, or at least EXTREMELY jealous that Guld was hugging Myung. It’s not clear yet WHY all this makes no sense, and we have no clue that it’ll make even LESS sense soon enough. More on this topic later.

8. A few things: Marj (Sharon’s manager) is voiced by Sho Hayami, who of course also voices Max. Lucy is voiced by a young Megumi Hayashibara. And the city they’re in is totally modeled on San Francisco. Isamu and Lucy even hang out at Fisherman’s Wharf.

9. Okay, NOW we get to the good stuff, and the YF-21 shows what it can do. Highlights of course involve FLYING STRAIGHT INTO A CLASSIC ITANO CIRCUS OF MISSILES, but going so fast that they don’t detonate. You can also see just how outclassed the VF-11 is here; even with two boosters and tons of skill, Isamu is struggling to keep up. I’ve heard people who really like the VF-11 say that they’re dismayed with the cannon fodder role it was given in Macross Seven, but really, it doesn’t fare much better here, five years earlier in story time.

(Oh, and the bombers that launch the drones? Piloted by full-size Zentradi, according to Macross Chronicle.)

Eventually, of course, Guld loses concentration, has a flashback, and his mind-link with the YF-21 is severed. Now, the flashback confused me as the series continued, because the first time I saw it, it seemed clear to me that Guld was the aggressor, even though we later learn that he doesn’t think he was. Was that meant to be a twist? Or did everyone realize that it probably wasn’t Isamu who attacked Myung…?

And, in the end, it seems kind of amazing that Isamu can easily walk away (with just a band-aid on his cheek) from the crash his VF-11 went through. They’ll change that for the movie, and rightly so.

By the way, both the ending theme and the “Bulgarian Voices”-inspired “Next Episode Preview” songs are amazing, but you knew that already. Speaking of the next episode previews, I have no clue why, on the Japanese remastered box set, they were removed from the episodes themselves and placed on the bonus disc instead.

10. This episode in particular has a creepy, ominous vibe to it. The music helps, but a lot of it is the visuals, too. Unlike Macross II, this one is in no way trying to recapture the mood of the original. It’s got a much more serious tone, and seems aimed at the boys who saw the first Macross series when they were young children but who are now in their twenties.

It worked like a charm on me, that’s for sure…