THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH – CONCLUSION

Conclusion

THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH – CONCLUSION

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE END.

Okay, not quite.

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

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

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

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

Okay, NOW… THE END.

No, wait…

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

SEE YOU NEXT DECULTURE.

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MACROSS FRONTIER – Suggestions for Further Reading (and Listening!)

Frontier books

SUGGESTIONS FOR FURTHER READING (AND LISTENING!)
Okay, for Macross Zero, there is absolutely nothing. Books, drama albums, nothing. But before I get into the Frontier stuff specifically, there are a couple of surprises that the success of Macross Frontier yielded, in the form of two separate magazines:

Macross Chronicle
This one started first, in July 2008, while Frontier was still airing. It wasn’t published (initially, at least), by the publisher D’Agostini, but it follows a model they often use: each issue had an assortment of pages (a few about mecha, a few about characters, a few about other topics), in more-or-less random order. Your job, as the reader, is to gently pull the pages out of the magazine (they’re attached to the spine with relatively weak glue) and put them in order in the special Macross Chronicle binders (sold separately, of course). Since it’s all published out of order, it’s almost more like collecting trading cards than actually getting a magazine series, and it’s likewise supposed to activate one’s collector mentality and a desire to get ALL the pages. And for me, at least, it worked like a charm. If you DID collect all fifty issues that were released biweekly over the next two years (as I did), you’d be rewarded with five full binders… a 1,600-page Macross encyclopedia covering nearly every topic you could imagine. Each issue featured a few pieces of original art, including an invariably stunning Tenjin picture (by the way, all three headers that I’ve used for this blog come from Chronicle. None of them have been Tenjin pieces, though).

(I remember one guy on Macross World saying something like, “I only want to get one issue: which one gives you the most bang for your buck?” That’s an unanswerable question because, again, the assortment is so varied, and the collection is almost worthless as a resource unless you dive in and get ALL the issues.)

A few years later, D’Agostini would come out with a new edition of the magazine, plumped out to eighty issues, with thirty more Tenjin pictures and the addition of a complete episode guide and other original artwork. And I don’t doubt they’ll release it again, expanded to include Delta, sometime in the next decade or so.

The magazine isn’t perfect. I think they initially overestimated how much they could fit into fifty issues, which led to some pages never appearing (Wendy Ryder, for example). One thing that I think of as a flaw, though, YOU might think of as a virtue: it takes a very hard stance regarding what is “canonical” and what isn’t. Thus, Do You Remember Love is presented as an in-universe movie AND NOTHING ELSE, and both it and Macross II are separated from the rest of the pages. To me, as I’ve said before, the idea of canonicity in Macross is best viewed in very loose and ambiguous terms (TRUST ME! Your RPGs might suffer, but your mental health will be better for it!). Anyway, in the magazine, there’s a lot of (in my view) useless verbiage that’s there mostly to rationalize and harmonize the discrepancies between various Macross series. That’s a hopeless task, due to fail, but they do as good a job as can be done, I guess.

Now… as far as translations go, I worked on a few, but found it VERY rough going. Much as I would like to do the whole thing, I really doubt I ever will. However, Macross World member Sketchley has translated many portions of it, which you can view on his website. Likewise, the Macross Mecha Manual uses a lot of information from the magazine in its write-ups.

Macross Ace
This to me was a really interesting magazine that never lived up to its potential (although it came close occasionally). I’ve already talked about Shonen Ace, the anime-themed manga anthology magazine started by Kadokawa Publishing in 1994 (and home of Macross 7 Trash and the Macross Frontier adaptation, as well as things like Evangelion, Crossbone Gundam, and Escaflowne). In the year 2000, they tried an experiment: they had persuaded Yoshikazu Yasuhiko, character designer, animation director, and celebrated manga artist, to do his own adaptation of the first Mobile Suit Gundam series (for which of course he had been the character designer and animation director). He agreed on one big condition: each magazine installment would have to be around 100 pages long, which was much too long for Shonen Ace. So a new magazine was proposed: Gundam Ace, which would be mostly a showcase for Mobile Suit Gundam the Origin, and a central hub for Gundam-themed manga and news. They got Hiroyuki Kitazume (character designer for Zeta and Double Zeta) to write “Char’s Deleted Affair: Portrait of a Young Comet,” covering Char’s life between the end of First Gundam and the beginning of Zeta, and (starting in issue 3) Haruhiko Mikimoto to write “Ecole du Ceil,” a story beginning a couple of years before Zeta and then tying directly into it. Along with these three starring series, they also developed a stable of artists for shorter series and one-shots. The quality was high across the board (mostly), the tone of the different manga series was varied, and the magazine was a rousing success. The first year, it was released quarterly, the second year upped it to bimonthly, and in the third, it became monthly, where it stands currently.

Anyway, to get the point, it was popular enough that various limited-edition spin-off titles were occasionally released. In 2005, to coincide with the Zeta Gundam movie trilogy, three issues of “Zeta Gundam Ace” were released. Every time a new episode of Gundam Unicorn debuted, they would release an issue of “Gundam UC Ace.” For the Gundam 00 movie, we had “Gundam 00 Ace.” And in early 2009, right about the time that, in-universe, the Macross was due to launch, we got “Macross Ace,” which ostensibly was NOT a limited series like the other spin-offs. Clearly hoping to capture the same magic of Gundam the Origin, the flagship title was Haruhiko Mikimoto’s “Super Dimension Fortress Macross the First.” (This wasn’t the first time they had tried this. Following Gundam the Origin’s success were, in other Kadokawa magazines, “Ultraman the First” and “Kamen Rider the First,” followed by “Kamen Rider the Next.”) Ecole du Ceil, still continuing in Gundam Ace, was put on hiatus (where it stays, nearly eight years later), and Mikimoto went to work on the new Macross series. The other flagship titles were “Macross F: Secret Visions” which was drawn by the oddly-named “Noshi” (who would, with no explanation, after Issue 3 change his or her name to “okiura”), but plotted by Frontier’s scriptwriter, Hiroyuki Yoshino, and “Macross 7th Chord,” by Akira Kano. Various one-shots, gag manga, interviews, and articles filled the rest of the magazine.

It was released on a strange, thrice-yearly schedule, and while it seemed as though a lot of effort was being put into it at first, that kind of dwindled as the magazine continued. “Macross F: Secret Visions” disappeared after four chapters (enough for one collected book), although each issue CLAIMED that the series would return in the next, and new issues were filled with more and more gag manga one-shots. The magazine stuck around until the second Frontier movie debuted, and then quietly limped to a halt after a mere eight issues.

Which, naturally, seems like a real shame to me. While there’s obviously less ground that can be covered in Macross than there is in Gundam, it still seems like there’s enough to fill a small magazine. I was hoping for more side stories and gap-fillers (I mean, there’s almost thirty years between Flashback 2012 and Macross Plus that’s gone virgin territory, right?), but the regular manga serials remained few, and the quality generally wasn’t as high as it could’ve been (i.e. several rungs below an average issue of Gundam Ace).

Of the continuing series, the best are definitely “Macross the First” and Kikuya Megane’s beautiful adaptations of stories from “Nyan Dra,” the Macross F drama albums. “Macross F: Secret Visions” was well-drawn, but was mostly an exercise in getting Sheryl and Ranka nearly naked (even including a hot springs chapter). The fourth chapter introduced an interesting new character, a Zentradi girl who worships Sheryl, but the manga vanished after that. “Macross 7th Chord” was just bizarre (featuring a VF-9 controlled by piano), and ended mid-story (a hasty epilogue was tacked on to the compiled book of the series). Later issues had “Macross Plus: TAC Name,” a competent but not-very-interesting retelling of Plus, adding nothing new besides Sharon Apple wearing glasses in the final battle. The gag manga were hit-and-miss. Nearly every manga from the magazine has been collected in book form, so if you really want to know, they’re out there. And all of the issues of the magazine remain cheap. Gwyn got an entire set (his second or third) on Japanese Amazon for about ten cents (¥11). Not ten cents per issue, but ten cents TOTAL (plus shipping, of course).

Honestly, if they had just hung on one more year, they probably could’ve cashed in somewhat on the 30th Anniversary. But then again, maybe not. Anyway, even with the magazine cancelled, “Macross the First” was too good to lose, so it was shunted to ANOTHER new magazine, “Newtype Ace.” This one was monthly, so the chapters became shorter: twenty pages rather than ninety or so. “Macross Plus: TAC Name” also continued in the magazine, and “Macross 7th Chord” was initially announced, but never appeared. Later, they were joined by Kikuya Megane’s “Macross Fortissimo,” initially meant to be the story of what happened between the Macross Frontier movies, but instead becoming an alternate ending. The big draw of the magazine, though, wasn’t Macross (obviously) but rather Tiger and Bunny, and once enthusiasm for that began to fade, so did the magazine. It lasted fourteen issues. The Plus and Frontier manga had both managed to finish by that point, but Macross the First was left homeless AGAIN, eventually finding a place digitally on Kadokawa’s “Comic Walker” app. Six chapters were released before the manga went on hiatus. That was about a year ago, and it was announced last week that it’s finally back AGAIN, this time as part of the lineup of “Comic Newtype.”

All of which has been a really long-winded way of getting us to…

Macross the First
Okay, first off, it LOOKS gorgeous. Mikimoto is still a great illustrator, and the designs have all been quite handsomely revised and updated (in other words, all the characters look like they’re ACTUALLY living in 2009, as opposed to the never-ending early-eighties look of the series). I get the distinct feeling, though, that Mikimoto himself only draws the characters, leaving (definitely) the mecha and (probably) the backgrounds to his assistants… so when you get to a chapter that’s nearly all battle scenes, there’s very little actual Mikimoto art in it. There are some interesting twists to the story (most dating back to the planning stages of the show, but left out of the actual production), but… look, we have six volumes of the manga (Volumes One through Three come from Macross Ace, Volumes Four and Five from Newtype Ace, and Volume Six from Comic Walker), and the story still hasn’t progressed very far. By Volume Five, they’ve left Mars and are gearing up for the Miss Macross Contest, when suddenly… the story goes into a flashback to a battle that took place before the Macross launched (Christmas Eve, 2008). Most of Volume Five and all of Volume Six covers this, and Volume Six ends with it still unresolved. In the upcoming Volume Seven, I hope the flashback finishes up and we (FINALLY!) get to Minmay’s debut.

Back in 2009, I was seriously PUMPED to translate this, especially after realizing that the dialogue from the first two issues in Macross Ace (the whole of the first volume) was about 75% taken directly from the TV series, which meant that most of it was already translated. Jasonc and The White Drew Carey from Macross World offered to do the Photoshop work, and we were good to go. However, as soon as I announced publicly that we were going to be working on it, everything turned VERY weird. First, I had some ethical concerns about a quick English translation turnaround (since even people who don’t speak Japanese will still often buy untranslated manga for the art… especially with something like this, where if you’ve seen the series, you know the story. And more about THAT in a bit), but also I think I had underestimated just HOW HUNGRY plenty of fans were for this manga, and how hungry others were to capitalize on that hunger.

Suddenly, I started getting messages about it from people (pretty much all from the Latin American fandom) hounding me; some polite, some rude, some threatening, some warning. One guy insulted me and then begged for my help IN THE SAME SENTENCE. The big thing that kept getting brought up was some scanlation group that wanted to take my translation and scans, translate it into Spanish, and then claim total credit for the whole thing… and they wanted to charge people to read it.

(Another scanlation of the manga was begun by Redshoulder, and you can read his account here and here. There are some definite parallels with my experience, and I have no doubt that the Spanish group he had trouble with was the same one circling around me. Indeed, if I had released our scanlation earlier, I’m sure it would’ve been ME having all the problems instead of him.)

Anyway, the situation had me a little spooked and annoyed, and I vacillated on whether to release the scanlation or not. I talked about this on Macross World, saying that, again, the dialogue (for the first two volumes, which were all that existed at that point) was mostly word-for-word from the show, and even with no Japanese language ability, anyone who had seen the series could understand the story. And then someone came in, saying how awful I was for saying that people should learn Japanese in order to read it. I pointed out that I hadn’t said anything of the kind. And then someone ELSE came in and jumped down my throat, agreeing with the first person, writing a huge post about how stupid and awful I was (I think the exact word he used was “asinine”) to say that people should learn fluent Japanese in order just to read a manga. When I replied that, again, that wasn’t at all what I was saying, he refused to budge, telling me that yes, that WAS what I had been saying (even though it clearly wasn’t). The following posters read his post, didn’t read my original post about it, and totally agreed with him, making a nice little dogpile on me for not translating the manga, even though I had already translated it.

At this point, my enthusiasm for the project went from “heavily dampened” to “virtually nonexistent.”

Anyway, since we had already finished Volume 1, I held on to it until a) the Redshoulder scanlation came out, and b) I saw Volume 1 in Book Off (the big used book chain in Japan) going for about a dollar (¥105). Figuring if it was that cheap, demand must not be high, so we weren’t cutting much into sales, and also figuring that our version was better than the other one (ours may be objectively better, or I may just THINK it’s better because it’s MY work… probably the latter), I went ahead and put it out. A few friends exhorted me to continue, and indeed, I had already started on Volume 2, but again, it’s all caused me nothing but headaches, and my enthusiasm is basically gone. I still have the text files, I still have a bookmark in Volume 2, and once or twice a year, I pick it up and translate a page or so before thinking that I’d rather do something else. I’m not asking for pity or even sympathy, just explaining why I was so gung-ho at first and so uninterested now, and why there’s only one volume finished, even though by rights I should have all six done by this point.

The sudden dive into the flashback and the manga’s uncertain future (yes, Volume Seven is about to be serialized, but who knows what’ll happen after that?) additionally make it difficult to muster up the effort. As the series stands currently, it’s a double cliffhanger: the main story and the flashback are both unfinished. I’d like to know that it’s going to come to an actual finale before I work on it more.

(And, I might add, my ethical fears were, in the end, warranted, since sales were weak enough that not one but TWO magazines that carried the manga were canceled. If every hardcore Macross fan around the world had supported it, regardless of whether they could read Japanese or not, Macross Ace would probably still be cooking along. Just for the art alone, it was worth the price.)

As for the other Macross Ace manga series… Mm, yeah, I kinda want to translate them, but only in the sense that I want to translate EVERYTHING. I’m not really jazzed about any of them, except maybe for the Kikuya Megane ones. And not even them, too much.

Okay, that long and depressing tale finished, it’s on to…

Macross Frontier
1. Albums: Unlike the dizzying array of Macross 7 drama albums, Macross Frontier only has four (which is still about one too many). They were released as a series, “Nyan Dra” (standing, obviously, for “Nyan Nyan Drama”), monthly in early 2009 (the fourth one comes with a box to hold all of them in). The script quality varies track by track: the best ones are, I think, absolutely essential, and the worst ones are pretty stupid. I think the staff knew this, because each album contains one great story, one useless story, and one that’s somewhere in between (except for the fourth volume, where EVERY story is mediocre or dull). The best are usually written by Frontier’s scriptwriter, Hiroyuki Yoshino (one story per disc), and the best of those are (on Volume One) “Alto Meets Sky,” about 13-year-old Alto (weirdly still with Nakamura’s usual Alto voice) discovering his love of flying, and (on Volume Three) “Galaxy Memory,” about Sheryl growing up with Grace. These two feel the most “necessary,” and it’s not surprising that they’re among the stories adapted by Kikuya Megane for her manga version (although she throws things off a little by having Sheryl posters appear in the “Alto Meets Sky”… I can’t believe that Sheryl debuted four or five years prior to the start of Frontier… I get the feeling Ms. Megane just wanted to draw Sheryl, and damn the continuity). Of the non-Yoshino stories, generally they’re played for laughs, and the good ones are VERY funny. Additionally, there’s a “Super Dimension Duet” as a bonus track on each disc, but these are generally more interesting in concept than execution. Mostly, I think, the overcooked arrangements ruin the songs, although Bobby damn near steals “Totsugeki Loveheart.”

Apart from the albums, there are a few other fan club or promotional audio drama clips around. Much like the Macross 7 ones, these are usually thinly-veiled advertisements, although they can be pretty clever.

2. Novels and manga: now HERE’S where Frontier showed its muscle. The sheer amount of stuff is daunting once you see how much there is, and a little disheartening once you realize that a lot of it isn’t very good. First off, there are a whopping EIGHT novels, all by previously-unaffiliated author Ukyou Kodachi, who is now an official staff member (he wrote Macross the Ride, Macross 30, and he’s in charge of “continuity” for Delta, as well as the scriptwriter for Episode 8). The first four novels adapt the TV series, but with A LOT of added material, including cameo appearances from a number of characters from previous Macross shows (and even the games). The next two books are actually not novels but short story collections. In every issue of Macross Ace, Kodachi would write a story, generally Frontier-themed, although sometimes the lines get blurred a bit, like in the one or two about Alto’s father, as a young man, meeting Isamu. Additionally, he would also occasionally write Frontier stories for Kadokawa’s “light novel” magazine, “The Sneaker.” If you’ve read the Suzumiya Haruhi books, the short stories in, say, Book 3 were also originally published in The Sneaker (“Sneaker Literature,” you see, being the imprint for Kadokawa’s “light novel” division). So yeah, all those stories and a couple more are collected here. And finally, the next two novels adapt the movies. And more about Mr. Kodachi in a moment.

So that’s already a lot, and that’s BEFORE we get into the manga serials, which is where you can most easily see how Frontier’s fortunes changed as it became more popular (and who its audience really was). Before the TV series started airing properly, two manga series debuted. First was the official adaptation in Shonen Ace, by Hayato Aoki, which would run to five volumes when complete. Then there was a gag manga (I think…) called “Super Dimension Shrine Maiden Ranka,” by Yoshihiro Kuroiwa. This one didn’t last very long and was never reprinted in book form. I haven’t seen it, except for a very few excepts on Google Image Search. The Shonen Ace adaptation, though, is generally pretty good, despite some dodgy art. It follows the story of the TV series fairly faithfully, although it naturally compresses many events. It’s funny… when this series was ahead of the TV series (as it was for a while), there was a HUGE interest in the manga at Macross World, and someone was even translating the issues as they came out. As soon as the TV show overtook the manga, everyone stopped caring. Which is why you can only find the first five or six chapters translated into English. About midway through the TV series, a third manga serial, “Macross Frontier: Embrace, to the Ends of the Galaxy!” by Sorahiko Mizushima started up in Comp Ace, the computer-themed spin-off of Shonen Ace. If you thought Ranka was too “moe” in the series, you probably shouldn’t check out this manga. Even Sheryl looks like a cutesy little girl in it.

Anyway, yeah, that didn’t prove terribly popular, either, although there ended up being enough installments to collect into a book. So at this point, yes, Macross Ace had become the primary venue for Macross-themed manga, but not the only one. In “Newtype Romance,” which, as its name suggests, is aimed at fangirls, there was “S.M.S.☆Tale,” all about Alto, Michel, and Luca. As far as I can tell, there is virtually no plot, but if you want more Alto and Michel, it’s there for you. And in 2010, there was a big announcement that a manga about Sheryl would be appearing in the girl’s magazine, “Bessatsu Friend.” This ended up being “Sheryl – Kiss in the Galaxy,” with beautiful artwork by Kariko Koyama. I would highly recommend it on the artwork alone. And unfortunately, the artwork is the ONLY reason I can recommend it. It starts promisingly enough, showing Sheryl’s desperate childhood, and then… kinda falls apart. The characterization of Sheryl (and Ranka) is great, but any time the story remembers “Oh, hey… there’s a space war going on, isn’t there?” the writing gets really bad. It’s odd, because Kawamori is credited as the advisor for the series, but I assume that was just for publicity (like Tomino’s role in Crossbone Gundam… he came up the idea and then let the manga artist do all the work). In other words, the story doesn’t really feel like anything Kawamori would’ve done. Sheryl shippers seem to overlook the series’ flaws, though, because the finale at last gives them an unambiguous happy ending for Sheryl and Alto (and, um… Brera and Ranka. Disturbingly enough, they look ready to get married. To each other. All’s well that ends well, I guess). It ran initially for three volumes (which comprise the whole of the main story), followed sometime later by a fourth volume with a side story and a flashback. And again, the art is EXCELLENT. I really wanted to love the series, but I just couldn’t…

Anyway, I hope you notice the trend that Frontier manga started out being serialized in boy’s “otaku” magazines, but ended up in girls’ comics. Again (and I know a bunch of people don’t believe this), the audience had changed, from boys to young women (and, I must insist, emphatically NOT “little girls”).

Oh, there are also a couple of Frontier gag manga anthologies. Neither is terribly interesting.

What IS interesting, though is…

Macross the Ride
The was a feature in Dengeki Hobby magazine, a serialized novel (again by Ukyou Kodachi, who wrote all the Macross Frontier novels and is currently writing the Delta novels) which, let’s face it, really mostly exists so that model kit customizers can show off their work. It’s set on Macross Frontier, a year BEFORE the series starts, and is about air racers on “Island Reno” (it was written before the tragedy at the Reno Air Race). So yeah… everyone has heavily customized racing Valkyries, and every issue of Dengeki Hobby in the twelve issues that contain the story had plenty of photos of models of these customized Valks, with tips on how the kits were made. All of them are pretty great-looking, but I think my favorite is Chelsea Scarlet’s VF-19ACTIVE (which, looking at it now, bears a suspicious resemblance to a VF-31…). So the fact that the story is apparently actually INTERESTING, despite just being a framework to show off model kits, is kinda something. It’s high on my list to read and translate, but, uh… yeah, I won’t be getting to it soon.

THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH – 25th Anniversary Special

25

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 112 – The Bird-Human

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MACROSS ZERO
FINAL CHAPTER: The Bird-Human

ICONIC SCENE: Bird is the word.

STORY DATE: September 2008

RELEASE DATE: October 22, 2004

1. Wait, did we skip an episode or something? Within the first couple of minutes, Focker and Shin find the Bird-Human’s head, and then it’s taken from them (along with Sara and Aries) by the Anti-Unification Forces.

Now, this seems like a flaw in plotting, in that it could’ve been an episode in itself. Admittedly, it would’ve been a slow-moving episode (or else very short: I say ten minutes, tops), so maybe it’s for the best that it got crammed in here. But yeah, from here on out, Macross Zero will shift gears and become a simple story about trying to rescue Sara and Aries. Mostly.

2. Mao suddenly has vast new powers, such as seeing where Sara and Aries are being held, and communicating with Shin by appearing to him in his cockpit and communicating telepathically (I think). And yes, like the flying totem pole last time, I agree with the show’s detractors that this goes a little too far and gets a little too weird.

3. There is some moral complexity brought into the story when Nora brings up “Operation Iconoclasm” (meaning, of course, “smashing of the idols”… or “gods,” which is more to the point), where the Unified Forces will try to destroy the Bird-Human if necessary. Shin yells at Sara not to believe it, but he’s wrong; Nora is absolutely telling the truth.

4. There’s a fond farewell to Edgar and to the old mechanic (“Nakajima,” named after the aircraft manufacturer, just like Makina in Delta is), and Shin won’t be back to write a message on Edgar’s cast. Oh, and the VF-0s loaded out with Ghosts and rocket launchers look badass.

And then the AFOS makes all of the battleships and subs start floating in mid-air. I have to admit, I’m mystified as to why this is happening (I guess it makes it easier for Shin and Focker to find them…?). And that’s an incessant problem with this episode; while I could easily whip a summary and “high-altitude” analysis (Shin and Focker go to rescue Sara and Aries. Sara is overtaken by hatred and starts singing the “Song of Destruction” which is the failsafe in the Bird-Human to destroy the human race if they turn out too warlike. Shin approaches her with no weapons, which shows that Love Conquers All and humanity is worth saving, and the two of them are whisked away to parts unknown), once I start getting into the nitty-gritty of the episode, there are many things I don’t quite get.

I’m not really expecting clear-cut explanations and rationales; I’m eminently okay with ambiguity. But I’m not sure the series has earned it. Unlike, say, “The End of Evangelion,” which does pretty much make sense if you’re willing to meet it halfway, or “2001: A Space Odyssey,” which is as clear as day if you take the time to read the novel, there are still plenty of baffling things here no matter how often or how deeply you look at it. Again, in broad strokes, it makes perfect sense, and I guess the strange little details are just there to keep that story moving along, whether or not they make sense in and of themselves.

5. There’s an interesting bit where Shin fires the Ghost booster and is going too fast to transform. That’s a limitation we’ve never heard of before, but it makes a lot of sense.

The dogfight that ensues is absolutely incredible. It’s always during the battle scenes that Macross Zero really comes alive.

6. Shin gets to Sara, but his battroid’s head gets blown off. It takes almost five minutes for him to nearly hit the water, which seems rather implausible.

7. And then the Bird-Human awakens, with Sara as its partner/pilot/advisor. It’s no coincidence that its voice is the same as Sara’s father’s, although I get the feeling that that’s more her perception of it than the reality (perhaps). Anyway, yes, she has given into despair and the Bird-Human starts destroying everything.

8. Nora and D.D. still haven’t learned that there are bigger fish to fry now that the Bird-Human has awakened, and get killed by it for not realizing that. And Dr. Hasford gets killed for… well, just for being a creep. Aries gets killed because Roy is Claudia’s, dammit!

9. And the ending is somewhat inconclusive, but not as mystifying as other parts of the episode. Again, the Power of Love and Song wins through, and the scene of Shin and Sara trying to touch each other through the glass is genuinely moving.

Then a Destroid Monster shows up to destroy the Bird-Human with reaction warheads. Just like with the Protodeviln and the Space Whales, the warheads fail to do much of anything. And despite that, and just because Shin and Sara love each other, the Bird-Human decides that humanity is worth preserving after all, and folds off, Sara still inside. After a beat, it takes Shin with it.

10. A lot of people have problems with that ending, and I understand why, but I think it’s okay. Again, a little inconclusive, but not bad. In the cast interview that came with the DVD, Shin’s voice actor is practically BEGGING for a movie edition to be made, and if they had done that, I have no doubt that the ending would have been expanded upon and probably improved.

But yeah, I can’t shake the feeling that the final episode is aspiring to a profundity that it doesn’t possess. Again, the overall story of the episode is fine, but some of the plot mechanisms used to get from point A to point B (and from B to C, and so on) strain credulity past the breaking point.

Still… the visuals remain excellent throughout and pretty much rescue the episode. Even the backgrounds are worth paying close attention to. I said at the outset that this was more an experiment, and a demonstration of what the Satelight staff could do, and on those levels it succeeds wildly, and sets us up for the next Macross, which apparently was already being hashed out at this point.

THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH – MACROSS ZERO ZERO

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MACROSS ZERO ZERO

ICONIC SCENE: APPALE!!

RELEASE DATE: May 28, 2004

What the hell IS this thing? It’s on the Volume 4 DVD, and it seems like a very weird little trailer for a film that doesn’t exist, except for the parts where it seems like an ad for Appale Genki.

It’s nice to hear Hidetaka Tenjin’s “announcer voice,” though, as well as to see some of the actual locations that were used to create Mayan Island.

But yeah, very strange overall.

THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH 111 – Forest

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MACROSS ZERO
CHAPTER 4: Forest

ICONIC SCENE: “Hubba-hubba” time.

STORY DATE: September 2008

RELEASE DATE: May 28, 2004

1. Boy, the six-month wait between episodes of this series sure was annoying, wasn’t it? Watching it all at a go, it’s hard to remember that it took fully two years for the entire series to come out.

2. Things look bad at the beginning, with Shin, Sara, and Aries all captured, and Nora taking out a lot of her rage on Shin. We learn that just as Shin’s family was killed by Anti-Unification soldiers, Nora was raped and her family killed by Unified Forces soldiers.

3. And okay, I held off during the refueling scene last time, but since we’re at our second mid-air refueling scene, I have to admit that I always find these funny, because of the 1961 film Starfighters (“A bold air force epic!”) which was featured on an episode of Mystery Science Theatre 3000. “Starfighters” tries to be an exciting fighter plane story, but they were stuck with whatever Air Force stock footage they could get, which meant many, MANY scenes of refueling.

(It’s also (“Starfighters,” that is), I think, a really instructive film for would-be fiction writers who want to capture a genuine military flavor but do so at the cost of character and plot. All of the detail in the film is correct, and yet the movie is nearly unendurably dull. Even the romance is bogged down by a too in-depth description of “corn detasseling.” It reminds me of a number of fanfics I’ve read in that way. Too much mechanical detail, not enough humanity.)

4. Dr. Hasford finally shows up, and is really quite deliberately cruel to Sara, in (I think) order to get her to somehow summon the Bird-Human’s head. Instead, more rocks float and she and Shin escape on a flying totem pole.

Okay, I kind of agree that THIS scene is a little hard to swallow. My assumption is the Bird-Human’s head is aiding Sara because she’s in a pretty awful state, but yeah… it’s a little silly.

It does, however, afford us a great falling-in-midair rescue scene. The first time I was watching this, I thought it was an homage to the original series. A few years later, Frontier would step up and show me what a REAL homage looks like.

5. There’s a good touch afterwards, though, when Sara is basically saying that she didn’t want to be rescued because she broke the Blood Law and is unfit to be the priestess, as the rain washes off her tribal priestess make-up.

6. And just in case the island wasn’t torn up enough, Nora orders the launching of a fuel-air bomb, although she’s confident that it won’t kill either Shin or Sara.

7. Much of the remainder of the episode is Shin and Sara, and Focker and Aries, trying to escape (both pairs at a rather leisurely pace) and getting to know each other better. We can piece together more of Focker’s history here: he was definitely in love with Aries when they were teenagers and actually went to college solely to be near her. Then she went away to Oxford to study with Dr. Hasford, and he didn’t say goodbye or see her off, which, to her, meant that he wasn’t interested in her (the opposite of course was true). And although he was a pacifist, when the Unification Wars broke out and his friend Michael was killed in a bombing attack, he signed up to become a pilot.

We also learn (as if we couldn’t have figured it out already) that Sara is WAY more conflicted in her duties than she appears. I always assumed that she was so strict and fundamentalist BECAUSE she was so conflicted. But Shin is also quite willing to meet her half-way (heck, he even starts singing to a cicada! That’s devotion right there!).

8. Mao also gets healed, using some Mayan ritual. I’m not sure if the Bird-Human’s wings start to grow because of her, or because of some other reason. I’m guessing it’s her, though.

9. And then the fuel-air bomb strike happens, and all the beautiful stuff we’ve been watching for the last fifteen minutes gets blown to shit.

10. And again, carping about the flying totem pole aside, I really like this episode. I enjoy that it slows down a bit and tells us more about the characters. Heck, we got more about Focker’s past here than in all thirty-six episodes of the Macross TV series. And as always, the nature scenes are well-observed and gorgeously animated.

And that ending is a real shocker.

THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH 110 – Azure Deathmatch

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MACROSS ZERO
CHAPTER 3: Azure Deathmatch

ICONIC SCENE: Peeping at Mao and Shin.

STORY DATE: September 2008

RELEASE DATE: November 28, 2003

1. See? Sara is actually surprised that the rocks are floating. This isn’t normal, even for a place as strange as Mayan.

And I like that Shin manages to deflect Aries by actually telling the truth, which she takes as a joke. Admittedly, the way in which he says it makes it impossible to take seriously, but he is explaining what happened.

2. Sara also has a flashback to when she was a child, and Dr. Hasford took a blood sample from her (after distracting her with the gift of a necklace). Virtually everything she has done since is her attempt to atone for that sin. Hasford seems creepy enough, though, that I’m shocked she trusted him at all, ever.

3. Now, last episode, Shin was placed between Sara and Aries, and with this episode it becomes pretty clear that Aries isn’t really on the “good” team. I said before that the “tradition versus modernity” conflict is more complicated that it might, at a cursory glance, appear, but generally, yes, the traditions of Mayan Island are not to be tampered with (BECAUSE THEY’RE NOT JUST ANCIENT TRADITIONS, THEY’RE INSTRUCTIONS AND INFORMATION FROM “ANCIENT ASTRONAUTS” WITH SUPER TECHNOLOGY. See? the relationship between the “ancient” and “modern” here is COMPLICATED!). And Aries, while well-intentioned and genuinely curious, is pretty definitely tampering with them. I’d like to say she’s the most morally ambiguous character in the series, but that’s the thing: she isn’t ambiguous. Yes, her research is the most important thing to her and any help she gives to the islanders is a just a by-product of that (if even that), but she is honestly trying to understand. When Hasford shows up and she joins forces with him, THEN she goes over to the “dark side,” so to speak, but she still never does anything that could be construed as “evil.”

4. Mao pulls a “kancho” (“enema”) on Shin, which is what it’s called when you jab someone’s ass between their butt cheeks. Where she learned it is an open question, since I’m pretty sure it’s just a Japanese kid thing. But yeah, it’s basically the Japanese equivalent of giving someone a wedgie.

I’ve had a few dreadful experiences with Japanese elementary school children, but thankfully a kancho was never among them. It looks seriously uncomfortable.

Shin asks Mao if all the villagers are at some kind of sacred meeting, but actually, they’re just watching Arjuna on TV. You kinda have to wonder what they make of it…

5. The underwater scenes are really excellent, with the same eye for detail that made the nature scenes in Dynamite 7 so great. There’s a very definite theme of environmentalism going on here, which seems not just to displease but actually ENRAGE some commenters I’ve seen (even more so than the whale theme of Dynamite 7… probably because few of those people ever watched Dynamite 7), but I think it’s justified and not terribly preachy. I mean, the island and its surroundings ARE gorgeous, and they’re about to get thoroughly trashed, so it seems perfectly appropriate to linger for a while (here and in the next episode) on the beauty that’s soon to be gone.

The song during this scene, “Yanyan” (here in the fictional Mayan language, and in Japanese for the ending theme), is also lovely, sung by Yuuka Nanri, the voice actress for Mao (and former singer for the band Fiction Junction). It strikes an interesting balance between sounding like a Pacific Island folk song and being “pop,” and it works. Macross Zero doesn’t get a lot of credit for its music (because, I guess, it’s not Yoko Kanno) but I think Kuniaki Haishima does a fine job, with both the songs and the score.

6. Mao’s “treasure” turns out to be the head of AFOS, and it gets a thrill from seeing Mao “kiss” Shin (actually, she’s just giving him some air). And again, that causes a rather large reaction on the island itself. Again, see? It’s not magic, it’s not singing, it’s the Protoculture artifact that’s causing all the weirdness.

Oh, and Mao during the “kiss” and afterwards, seems less like a precocious kid and more like an adult with an interest in Shin. Ranka at sixteen will be far more uncomfortable re-enacting this scene than Mao at twelve is in enacting it in the first place.

7. We get a fair amount of new mecha in the second half of the episode. First we see some Ghosts launching (although they look very little like the Ghosts from any previous (or later) Macross series). Later, we’ll get the Armored VF-0S and the Destroid Cheyenne. The Armored VF-0S battroid makes its only appearance here, but the Cheyenne will go on to be a guest-star in Frontier and Delta. Still later, the Anti-Unification Force’s Octos (which is kinda like a destroid, I guess) will show up.

8. The battle scene here is absolutely brutal, especially after Shin gets the head of the AFOS and the Anti-Unification Forces attack the island. The village is caught in the middle of the battle, and, as I said before, it gets completely ripped apart. The mother and child on the pier when it blows up always makes me wince.

And of course, Sara thinks it’s really all her fault. This will lead her to make some spectacularly bad decisions, the first of which will be to try to kill Shin.

9. While trying to rescue the Bird-Human’s head, Shin’s VF-0D gets totaled by Nora. Nora’s SV-51 also takes a beating, but she comes back in an Octos to capture both Shin and Sara. Quick work, Nora…

Oh, and Mao is now in some kind of regressed state (she’s sucking her thumb) and for some reason needs a blood transfusion… and the only blood around that matches happens to be from the AFOS. I wish they went into a little more detail about the “Alpha Bombay” blood type and what’s different about it, but oh well.

10. Again, so far so good. The series continues to crack right along, knowing generally when to amp up the action and when to slow down and take a breath. There’s one thing that’s kind of jarring about the battle, though, in that either by choice or because of time constraints, a lot of the mecha (especially the Armored VF-0S) is hand-drawn rather than a CG model. This has happened in the previous episodes, too, but it’s REALLY noticeable here, especially when the Cheyennes and the SV-51s change from 2D to 3D between shots. That’s a minor complaint, though. Overall, the series is excellent so far.

THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH 109 – The Stars on the Ground

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MACROSS ZERO
CHAPTER 2: The Stars on the Ground

ICONIC SCENE: “Yeh c’n still fight when yer drunk.”

STORY DATE: September 2008

RELEASE DATE: May 23, 2003

1. We pick up right where we left off, in the middle of the battle. The pace here is kind of insane, and while the overall dogfight isn’t hard to follow, there’s A LOT going on, and very quickly. I think the staff were relying on one of the virtues of the DVD format, and expecting that fans would end up going through the dogfight frame by frame. But I dunno… there are even scenes in Do You Remember Love and Macross Plus where I didn’t see EVERYTHING that was going on until I had seen them multiple times, so maybe Itano just doesn’t give a shit about whether the viewers can keep up or not.

But yes, we find out that Focker’s opponent (in a really impressive black SV-51) is his old instructor, D.D. Ivanov. Virtually nothing will be made of this connection. Heck, they don’t even meet face-to-face in the series.

(Robotech fans have often latched on this as being akin to the Edwards character inserted into Robotech II: The Sentinels, but Robotech fans, in my experience, will latch on to ANYTHING. Hell, one guy even tried to conflate Ariel (Invid Princess with green BLOOD) with Ranka (Vjara Queen with green HAIR)… even though Ranka is NOT a Vajra Queen (those are bigger and scarier) and as though green hair was a totally new thing for Macross (which it’s not).)

2. Strange… last episode, Shin outright stated that he didn’t care about the politics of the Unification Wars and just wanted “ground that doesn’t shake,” but he has a flashback here and we see that he witnessed his family being murdered by Anti-Unification soldiers (at least, I hope they’re Anti-Unification…). This sets up a parallel with Nora (who we’ve seen but haven’t really met yet), and she doesn’t seem like she buys in to political ideologies either, but she IS consumed by hatred by the Unified Forces. I’m somewhat surprised that Shin doesn’t feel an analogous hatred.

And Shin gets into his first Valk. He does relatively well, considering that he’s never operated a gerwalk before. The gerwalk’s movement, incidentally, is done really well. So far, we’ve only seen pilots who really know how to fly these birds, so it’s interesting to see this Zero moving really awkwardly. It’s one of my favorite bits of animation in the whole series.

It’s also one of a couple of Valks apparently piloted by “LCDR TIM BAKER.” I guess Skull Team has a couple Tim Bakers flying gray VF-0As… (both of whom die in this battle).

(Oh, and I just checked my Hasegawa 1/72 model kit of the VF-0A. Yes, “LCdr Tim Baker” is on the decal sheet. Authenticity!)

3. The “Satelight Helicopter” makes its debut here, in the scene where the Unified Forces retrieve the body of the Bird-Human (now code-named “AFOS,” but what that means remains a mystery… one of my friends suggested “Artifact from Outer Space,” and that sounds as good as anything, I guess). It’s a Sikorsky SH-60 Seahawk, and as VF5SS at CollectionDX (which is, let’s remind everyone, ONE WORD) has shown, it appears SOMEWHERE in nearly every Satelight production. I’m not sure if it’s an in-joke or if they’re just cutting corners.

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4. In discussing the Protoculture theory, Aries and her scientist co-worker discuss the idea that evolution happens through viruses. I have no idea if this is an actual theory or not.

Still, they use a giraffe as their example, and, coincidentally enough, Aries has to grow a few inches to pour the cola on Focker’s head later, so let’s ask the animation staff… was that a virus, or just genetics?

5. Focker takes Shin back to their aircraft carrier, the Asuka, and Shin gets to see the VF-0D he’ll be flying for the next few episodes. He examines it pretty closely, but somehow misses that Edgar’s name is printed on it, since he’s really surprised when Edgar shows up, still alive.

Their training makes it pretty blatant, as I said before, that the story is at least partially a metaphor for when pilots had to adapt from prop planes to jet fighters. Again, evolution. Everything in this series comes back to that.

6. During Focker’s drunk conversation with Shin, he throws in, “How can you fight a war if you’re afraid of some booze?” AKA the famous line from Do You Remember Love (immortalized in the Clash of the Bionoids dub as “Yeh c’n still fight when yer drunk,” which doesn’t have QUITE the same meaning, although I quoted it above).

7. When Shin goes back to Mayan, there’s a nice touch where we see two Mayan boys pretending to be fighter planes. As much as Sara is trying to keep the “Kadun of Steel and Fire” out, the influence is seeping in. No wonder she seems extra pissed off in this episode.

And her mood is not improved by Shin repairing the generator, giving electricity back to the island (the lights in the houses are the “stars on the ground” of the title).

And Aries taking blood from the villagers to examine it makes Sara angry as well, and she (Sara) mentions “two snakes entwined,” referring to another corrupted legend account, this time the double helix of DNA (again, I love shit like this! By the way… did you know that one of Saturn’s rings is a double helix? The implications, man…).

Shin also gets his first real test of loyalty here. Old man Nutuku has already sussed out that Sara is falling for Shin, and Shin finds himself having to choose a side with Sara or Aries regarding the blood collection (Sara’s fearful expression here is really well-drawn). He finally lets the villagers themselves decide (safe answer), which leads to Aries offering them “Appale Genki” (the energy drink from “Earth Girl Arjuna”… who herself makes a brief appearance on television next episode). But Sara does have a point… as we find out later, the islanders’ blood is not ENTIRELY human. Or at least her’s and Mao’s aren’t. I’ve never been sure if it’s just the two of them, or if it’s everyone’s.

8. And man… Nora, in the first scene we really meet her in, is a pretty literal ball-buster. Again, very little is done with the “villains” here, but there is an interesting line that the Anti-Unification Forces originally developed the variable fighter idea, and the Unified Government took the idea from them. Is that true? Who knows? I mean… I’m sure the Anti-Unification factions didn’t know that the Zentradi were coming, which was the whole POINT of making variable fighters in the first place…

Oh, and I note that Nora’s voice actress is Minami Takayama, the same as Dilandau in Escaflowne, so I always keep waiting for Nora to shout, “Burn! BURN!” But it takes a few episodes for her to do so.

9. And then… OH MY GOSH! FLOATING ROCKS!! MACROSS IS RUINED FOREVER!!! NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

Or, at least, that’s what a lot of people apparently thought.

I dunno. To me it seemed clear, even on first viewing, that this was caused by the AFOS rather than Sara or her song. I mean, yes, the song is triggering the reaction, but this isn’t magic, it’s Arthur C. Clarke’s “sufficiently advanced” science. I’m not sure why so many people seem to have a problem with it (do they still? I know they sure DID, when this episode came out. At least on Macross World forums).

Between Sara singing naked and the AFOS beginning to bleed out of its rather vaginal-looking “neck,” there’s definitely a lot of feminine energy going on in this scene, even though the Bird-Human is definitely male (if I were to be uncharitable, I might suggest that all that feminine energy, some of it subliminal, MIGHT be at least PART of the reason why a lot of male fans don’t respond well to this series. But I’m not uncharitable (at least, not YET… I might be, regarding Delta), so I won’t).

Oh, and Sara’s song is in French, but I’m not sure we’re really supposed to know that. I think it’s just meant to sound “otherworldly,” which, to its credit, it does. The singer, Holy Raz, seems to have vanished from public life. I remember finding her MySpace page, back when MySpace was still a thing, but I haven’t found any reference to her at all since. And even back then, any link I found to her was connected to Macross Zero. If she has any other releases, they’re very well-hidden.

And speaking of music, the ending theme to this episode, “Lifesong,” is the funkiest Macross song ever (so far). Not even the rap on the 20th Anniversary short has a groove like this.

10. So between the evolution theories, the coming-to-terms-with-new-technology theme, and even some Bruce Lee-isms (“you must be like water” and “you must understand your opponent’s feelings”), the series definitely has a lot on its mind. Macross is not known for being terribly cerebral, but scriptwriter Hiroshi Ohnogi is a pretty intellectual guy, and a lot of that comes through in the show.

That said, this is probably the least “fun” of any Macross series. While there is humor here, the overall tone is much more “serious” than any previous Macross series since Plus (and I think that’s it’s actually much darker – and deeper – than Plus was, because of the aforementioned themes).

Which, again, might be a clue as to why it wasn’t very successful. Despite the ad that I linked to Chapter 1, with the thirtysomething salaryman saying “Our youth! Macross Zero!” there’s very little here that tugs on those “youth” nostalgia-cords. And as I also said before, it’s very experimental; apart from the VF-0 being like a modernized VF-1, the show doesn’t LOOK much like any Macross before it, and the story doesn’t FEEL like any Macross before it. But then, as I keep insisting, every Macross series has its own identity, and we should be more surprised when two Macross shows are ALIKE rather than when they’re different (even Frontier… which goes into terra obscura pretty quickly).

THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH 108 – The Sea and the Wind

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MACROSS ZERO
CHAPTER 1: The Sea and the Wind…

ICONIC SCENE: The sexy, sexy VF-0.

STORY DATE: September 2008

RELEASE DATE: December 21, 2002

1. With the release of this series (one day before my birthday, although I didn’t realize that until now), it becomes a little easier to see the marketing strategies involved with Macross. Taking their cues from Gundam, the TV shows are meant (mostly) to bring in new viewers (and mostly placate old viewers, Delta’s first episode notwithstanding), while the OVAs are (again, mostly) meant to cater to fans of the original. This is made EXTREMELY clear for Macross Zero in the goofy TV commercial for its release: a thirtysomething businessman (played by celebrity and genuine Macross fan, Hiroyuki Mayasako) is in a restaurant, depressed. Suddenly he notices that his sandwich can be rearranged to look like a gerwalk, which excites him past the point of reason. A voiceover shouts, “Our youth! Macross Zero!” before it cuts back to the guy, exhausted but happy, as he murmurs “Deculture…”

And yes, this series is definitely meant to grab the guys who saw the original Macross on TV back when they were kids, who are now (circa 2002) in their late twenties and early thirties. Exactly the same people that Macross Plus was aimed for, except that they’re now eight years older than they were then. And exactly the same crowd that Yamato and Hasegawa were targeting, with their VF-1 toys and kits (because those guys are probably feeling nostalgic for their youth, and MAYBE they don’t have kids of their own yet and can afford to spend time and money on expensive toys and model kits).

Macross Zero pretty much failed to capture that market (or ANY market). So much so that they haven’t tried anything like it again in the fourteen years since its debut.

The question, as always, is WHY. Why didn’t it capture the imaginations of those guys who saw the original as kids? I’ll try to answer that as best I can through the next few posts, using both comments I’ve read online, conversations I’ve had, and my own feelings about it (since I’m mostly part of that demographic it was aiming towards, except that I’m not Japanese).

2. The staff is great, and features Hiroshi Ohnogi (from the original series, as of Episode 16) as scriptwriter and Ichiro Itano (from the original series, and probably the reason you still love some of the mecha scenes from it) as battle choreographer. It also features Hidetaka Tenjin doing “mechanical art.” He is the quintessential “fan-made-good,” as he started off drawing Valkyries as a hobby. Then his website was noticed by people of influence, and he was chosen to make the gorgeous cover pictures for the Hasegawa Macross kits, and eventually went on to Satelight to work on Macross Zero, Frontier, and now Delta. As well as drawing box art for virtually EVERYTHING else, mecha-related (seriously, if it exists, he’s probably drawn it at some time or another). And that brings up an interesting point about the “aesthetic” of Zero: figuring that Yukikaze had done extremely well portraying realistic aircraft, and that Zero couldn’t compete with it on those grounds,  it was decided that the inspiration for the Macross Zero fighters would be model kit box art, rather than reality. It’s not meant to look “real” or even “anime-style,” It’s meant to look like a really dynamic ’80s model kit box (again… NOSTALGIA, NOSTALGIA, NOSTALGIA). Anyway, if you love the realistic “grime” on the VF-0, thank Tenjin. Likewise, if you’re a Robotech fan, any pic of the mecha that you’ve seen (and maybe added the word “Robotech” to) anytime in the last fifteen years, it’s probably a Tenjin pic. Seriously, Harmony Gold should pay him a commission.

The character designs are by Takuya Saito, and it’s weird… if you looked at the Macross Zero website that was up and being updated during the two years this series was a going concern, they looked awful. Simplistic and sloppy. In the show itself, though, I think they look really good. They seem, if I may say so, to really be ANIMATION designs, in that the characters look best in movement. And they’re capable of a wide range of facial expressions, which is paramount (Macross Zero has some of the most expressive facial movement EVER in a Macross series, no disrespect to Mikimoto or Masayuki).

3. Thematically, it’s got some very different concerns than previous Macross shows (as I’ve said before, there’s no such thing as a “cookie-cutter” Macross series). First off is the encroachment of civilization upon a “primitive” island tribe. The second is fighter pilots learning to adapt to changing technology, just as prop plane pilots had a difficult time transitioning to jets (or the first-ever fighter pilots had to adapt to a battlefield that was three-dimensional, rather than fought purely on a 2D “plane” (in the Euclidian sense) of land or sea). Now, that second theme could easily have been part of the original Macross, except that the concern was getting Hikaru into Valk combat as soon as possible, thus glossing over his training by using a montage in Episode 6. If they had shown Hikaru getting used to gerwalk and battroid modes, it would probably have been much like this.

4. Another point of note before we get into the episode: this is the first series that came out AFTER Macross “began,” since the SDF-1 was supposed to have crashed on earth in 1999. I remember wondering, before watching this series, if they were even going to mention the date, or change it, or whatever… but no. The date of the crash remains 1999. Macross is suddenly an alternate history rather than a vision of the future, although this entire story still happens in 2008, which was still (barely) the future when the series was released.

And right from the outset, it’s clear that this is NOT a prequel in the usual sense. The first Macross series started in 1999 and then jumped forward ten years. This is, again, set entirely in 2008, although it shows 1999 through Shin’s memories. The first few minutes of “Booby Trap” still happen earlier than any part of Zero. Likewise, Zero is not a usual prequel in that it doesn’t set up the conflict and events of the first series. It’s more a side-story that happens to occur before the main story starts, much like, say, “MS Igloo.” Now, very few Gundam fans will suggest that you should watch MS Igloo first, even though, chronologically, the first episodes happen before the first Gundam series. So I don’t know why there are apparently so many people who decide to start watching Macross with this series (at least, I’ve seen many people online asking if they should start with this series, and other people suggesting that people start with this series). Let me be blunt:  If you’re going to systematically watch all of Macross, production order is the most satisfying and least confusing way to go. Especially since this series has many more connections to Frontier than it does to any other Macross show.

I mean, really, if you’re going to be strict about chronology, at least watch the first few minutes of “Booby Trap,” and THEN pop this in when the date in the SDF-1 rebuilding montage gets to “2008.”

5. So we start with our new hero, Shin Kudo, and he’s definitely A Guy Who’s Seen Too Much, although we won’t find out WHAT until later. He remembers 1999, when the (still, as of this series, unnamed) Macross crashed (the word “Macross” is never uttered by anyone in this show at any point). For a twelve-year-old boy in 1999, he’s got some curiously old-fashioned toys on his shelf. He says he sees the crash site to the west, which makes me wonder where, exactly, he lived. If he’s in Japan, it should be to the south, rather than west. Maybe he’s living in Hawaii…? Was the explosion so big that one could even SEE it from Hawaii…? Maybe Guam…?

The Unification Wars also look vastly different here than they did in the first episode of the original Macross, mostly because these scenes can show actual war machines of the ’90s, rather than projecting 1983 ideas of what would be in use in the ’90s. That said, the F-14s here are clearly thrown in because of resonance with the VF-1, as all the real F-14s had been grounded (and *sob!* trashed) well before 2008.

Oh, and a note about Shin. While watching this series the first time, back in 2003, I couldn’t help but think, “Man… they should revive Area 88 and make it look like this,” since Area 88 is near and dear to my heart. To my utter shock, they actually did that exact thing a year or so later, although it didn’t end up looking nearly as good as this does. Anyway, apparently, I was just following a subliminal hint: I’ve been told (by a fan… so make of it what you will) that Shin Kudo was named “Shin” because the main character of Area 88 is also named Shin.

6. The opening dogfight is really good. It impressed me back in 2003 and still holds up well. There’s still something that seems a little… off… about the CGI models, but damned if I can figure out what it is, and it’s not TOO distracting, anyway (maybe it’s just the “box art” aesthetic…? I’m not sure). Honestly, it could just be that, during this rewatch, after six months of watching (mostly) hand-drawn Macross animation, the sudden shift into (mostly) pure CGI is a little jarring.

Plot-wise, it seems to hearken back to the opening battle in Macross Plus Episode 1, where Isamu manages to rescue his teammates in ways that scare the living shit out of them (in most other ways, Shin and Isamu are virtually nothing alike. Shin is emotionally completely disconnected, whereas Isamu is nothing BUT a bundle of emotions). Then Nora’s SV-51 shows up and makes short work of Shin’s team, and it’s excellent, showing just how outclassed normal jets would be against a variable fighter.

Anyway, everyone gets shot down, their aircraft carrier is destroyed, and Shin is apparently the only survivor.

7. Then we’re introduced to the island of Mayan, where most of the story will take place. It seems pretty sheltered from western civilization, at least at first. It later turns out that they DO have electricity and things of that sort, but all the people who could work that stuff have left (or died in the war).

They also have some very suspicious-sounding legends that seem like corrupted versions of actual (Macross) history (NOTE: I would like to render “Tori no hito” as “Bird-man,” and indeed, I did for a few years, and so did everyone else. But Frontier shows “Bird-Human” as the accepted translation. That, to me, seems to summon a very different image, since what we get here doesn’t seem the slightest bit “human,” but oh well… like “Focker” (rather than “Fokker”), “Glaug” (rather than “Glahj”), “Michael” (rather than “Mikhail” and “Michel”), and now “Freyja Wion” (Rather than “Freya Vion”), that’s a lost battle… (I don’t look forward to meeting people who talk about how much they like “Fray-Ja Wee-on”). Primarily, there’s the legend of the Bird-Human coming down from the sky and meeting the Fish-Human. The Bird-Human cuts off the Fish-Human’s tail and legs sprout out. Again, a metaphor for the Protoculture arriving and messing with genetics to create the human race. A bit later, it also appears that Mayan Island itself might be the remnants of a Protoculture space ship, but that legend (about a turtle shell from the sky getting cracked and becoming the islands) never gets expanded upon (When I first saw this episode, I figured that that ship would be reactivated so the Mayan people would escape the destruction of the earth by the Zentradi, but nope).

Now, I’ll be honest: the “history disguised as legends” idea is a pretty common one in science fiction (and sometimes fantasy), used in countless stories and cropping up in the most unlikely places. And I have always been a complete sucker for it. Anything that can really impart a sense of a vast abyss of time will pretty surely activate my “sense of wonder and awe” that I think we can all agree is a major (THE major…?) appeal of any work of speculative fiction. And how better to achieve that, really? If I ever start writing science fiction (unlikely… but you never know), you can BET that this will be a rich vein for me to tap.

So already, this series had me hooked. And yes, I realize this is just my personal quirk.

(We also see Mao for the first time in this scene, looking bored and irritated with the story, although we don’t know that she’s important yet.)

But yeah, there are really only two important Mayan characters: Sara Nome and her sister, the just-mentioned Mao Nome. Sara is the stern, unfriendly one. Kinda like Misa, but less likable. And a little more savage. And always worried about “Kadun,” which seems like some kind of curse or demonic spirit (there appear to be many “Kadun”s). Mao is the young, spirited, carefree one (and is much TOO young to be a serious contender in the love triangle here). Between them, there’s a lot of discussion about traditions and about modernization, which actually turns out to be much more interesting than it sounds. Sara, in her role as the priestess of the island, stands for the “old-fashioned” Mayan culture, whereas Mao is all for westernization and modern conveniences (like that new-fangled thing called “electricity”). What’s interesting about it is that it SEEMS like it’s being set up that Sara is “right” and Mao is “wrong,” and if you’re not paying close attention (or if you’re Sara), that’s exactly how it turns out. If you REALLY look at it, though, it’s WAY more complicated than that. I’ll go into it more later, but for now, let me point out that Sara isn’t JUST a priestess, she also has a part-time job making and selling the fish-spear sticks that boys use to make passes at girls (and which are meant to be carved by the boy himself. That’s part of the tradition, and she’s breaking it, in order to get some extra cash).

Mao, for her part, is rather adorable in her childish way (and I get the feeling that she’s JUST discovering boys for the first time as the series starts, and that’s charming in and of itself… seriously, once you’re “above the fray,” so to speak, seeing teenagers falling madly for each other is kinda fun, kinda sad, and will always bring a smile to your face… unless it’s your own daughter, I guess). She’s also animated much more fluidly than any other character in the series. Clearly, a lot of care and work went into getting her movements right, and it shows. She’s dynamic and always interesting to watch.

Oh, and one of the scenes, of Mao’s table, got revised for the blu-ray edition, which came out a few years later (during Frontier’s run), where a pair of earrings that will eventually belong to Sheryl have been added. To me, this makes very little sense (one of the reasons I prefer the DVD version… which is the one I’m watching for this post). Since the earrings are made from Fold Quartz, when exactly were they made? I understand they were passed down to Sheryl, but I always assumed they were (relatively) new… that is, made after humanity and the Vajra made contact (which would still have been when Sheryl was a child). Having them on Mao’s table, though, makes me think that that they (or at least the Fold Quartz crystals they’re made from) are hundreds of thousands of years old. I suppose you can make it work, but it really raises more questions than it answers.

8. But no one cares about all that… Hey, we’ve got Focker again! Interestingly, he’s calling Aries “Sempai” and she will later even call him on his piggishness (quite a change from the smooth ladies’ man we saw in the original Macross. At least, I assume that making out with Claudia in the middle of a restaurant while totally wasted was meant to be “smooth”… I wouldn’t know).

Seriously, getting Akira Kamiya back is a major coup for this project. He’s more of a veteran than Macross is, since he started way back in “Space Battleship Yamato” in 1974, well before he became Roy Focker (or Kenshiro, or Ryo Saeba, or King Arthur…). He’s a god among voice actors.

Anyway, we learn here that while he can charm Claudia, Aries is a tougher nut to crack. I mean, Claudia never shows up, nor is she even mentioned, so Aries is Focker’s love interest here, but it takes a while for things to get moving on that front. I’ve heard the theory floated that this series is meant to happen during the time that Focker disappeared and didn’t communicate with Claudia (as told in Episode 33 of the original series), but the timeline doesn’t match up (they would’ve been reunited for at least six months by the point this series takes place). And, in fact, it doesn’t match up AT ALL with the TV series, thanks to one line from Focker in Episode 1 of the original series: “Another war, huh? It’s been two years…” Considering that this series happens about four months before the Macross launches, that line makes no sense (and it has nothing to do with any cover-up or anything, since he’s murmuring to himself). Little wonder that that line was cut from Mikimoto’s manga, Macross the First. If you view Zero as happening before Do You Remember Love, though, all such dissonances vanish. Except for the fact that he’s two years younger here than he should be (26 here, 28 in the series and movie).

But back to Aries, she talks about the “Protoculture theory,” which is not quite the same as the Protoculture we’ve been talking about for the last few shows. Here, it’s the idea that aliens intervened in human evolution, and I guess it’s just a coincidence that the name for the theory also happens to be the name of the alien race that did so…

9. I think for anyone watching this around the time it came out, there was always going to be one big “make-or-break” moment with the CGI: how the VF-0 looks when it transforms. Definitely, that was the part that I was waiting for, and it seems pretty clear that the animators knew it was a big deal, because they knock that scene out of the park. Seriously, as I said before, I was pretty iffy about CGI Valks when I started watching the episode, but I was sold on them by the end.

Now… it’s not perfect. The lack of “anime magic” means that the VF-0 (and pretty much any Valk from 2002 on) has some slightly odd proportions in battroid mode, most notably skinny little arms, but at least it makes for more accurate (if more fragile) toys (unlike, say, the Bandai versions of the VF-19. The toy makes a great-looking fighter and a much-too-slender battroid, whereas the 1/100 transforming kit looks perfect in battroid, but is much too chunky in fighter mode).

That said, the way the battroid has to catch its gunpod in mid-air seems like the biggest accident-waiting-to-happen since the original VF-1’s leg delivery panels.

But yeah, other than that, nothing but thumbs-up from me for the VF-0. And the eye-movement tracking is pretty awesome, too. I think that the implication is that the VF-1 probably has the same system, we just never saw it. Or maybe the Zero really IS more advanced in some ways (not in its engine, though. It still runs on conventional jet fuel, rather than the nuclear reactor the VF-1 has). Sometimes prototypes have better systems than the production models.

And yes, the VF-0 theme music has a passage shamelessly lifted from the Starship Troopers score. Funny… I thought Yoko Kanno (much as I love her music) was the only Macross composer to plagiarize so nakedly (although she only does it once that I know of in Macross. Most of her, *ahem*, “homages” are in Cowboy Bebop and Ghost in the Shell).

10. So yeah, this episode gets things off to a good start. Animation-wise, it’s the most experimental Macross series ever, really embracing CGI after the brief tests with it in Plus and Seven. And the computer stuff still holds up pretty well, nearly fifteen years later. Mayan Island is an exotic and appealing locale, and the characters are… well, not fun, exactly… but interesting. And it’s always great to get more Roy.

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!