THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH – CONCLUSION

Conclusion

THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH – CONCLUSION

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE END.

Okay, not quite.

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

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

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

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

Okay, NOW… THE END.

No, wait…

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

SEE YOU NEXT DECULTURE.

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THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH – 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 – FASTEST LIFTOFF

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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 – A FUTURE CHRONICLE

+ Ep.0

MACROSS – A FUTURE CHRONICLE

STORY DATE: 1999-2045

RELEASE DATE: August 25, 1994

I’ll get to Plus in just a moment, but first, I want to talk about this, since it introduces us to the revamped Macross timeline. It was originally released on the laser disc (and VHS…? I’m not sure…) of Macross Plus Vol. 1, but wasn’t included on any of the western versions.

It’s short – a mere seventeen minutes – and is mostly narrated by the most “movie voice” English-speaking guy they could find. Anyway, it presents the major events of Macross so far and briefly sketches the main characters.

Of top interest for my purposes is the section, “A.D. 2031 – Space War I made into a movie: Do You Remember Love.” Now, this is, I believe, the first mention of this, although it also shows up in the timeline that comes with Macross 7 Trash. The idea, well-known at this point, is that the TV series is canonical, and the movie is ACTUALLY A MOVIE in the Macross universe. Now, there’s a question of whether THEIR Do You Remember Love is the same as OUR Do You Remember Love, and if it’s not, I guess that’s fine. But if it is, the idea doesn’t sit well with me and never has. There’s been a lot of talk of “propaganda films” in order to justify it, but if the TV series is “what happened,” then “the movie-within-the-movie” gets virtually nothing right, from uniforms to Valks to what actually happened. It’s WAY less accurate than even, say, Michael Bay’s “historical” efforts.

Moreover, if has the effect of shunting Do You Remember Love off into some “non-canonical” ghetto, which is a sad fate for a glorious film (in one Facebook Macross group I’m in, someone at one point said tersely, “I saw it. I reject it as non-canon” which, to me, shows that he was going about everything the wrong way).

I much prefer Kawamori’s take that they’re both equally valid, and later series bear that out, but taking plot and visual cues from both the series and the movie. Experience and enjoy both of them, I say, and don’t worry too much about which one “happened.” It’s not that big a deal, honestly.

Oh, and this is also where Macross II gets pushed into the “Parallel Story” box, but I talked about that last time.

THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH 45 – SING ALONG

Ep.6

SUPER DIMENSION FORTRESS MACROSS II – LOVERS AGAIN
EPISODE 6: SING ALONG

ICONIC SCENE: Huh… never seen it do THAT before…

STORY DATE: After the events of Episodes 1 through 5.

RELEASE DATE: November 21, 1992

1. Now THIS episode doesn’t look very good, especially after the previous one. It’s not Star Pro level bad, but it’s notably worse than the previous episodes.

2. Syvlie rescues Hibiki and they go to start the Macross up. I had no idea that it could fly with only two crewmembers on board, but as we’ll see, that’s not the most stunning of surprises it has in store for us.

3. After it lifts off, they prepare to fire the main cannon, and it unfolds in the oddest way, more like the old Takatoku toy than anything we’ve seen previously. I guess it’s not really a problem, but after seeing the original TV series and the movie, I’d like to think we knew what the Macross looks like in virtually every position, and the limits of its capabilities. I guess it could’ve been refitted with new weapons sometime in the last eighty years, but… why? It’s pretty clear it was never meant to go into battle again.

4. It’s a little weird when Hibiki and Sylvie go in for their kiss while Ishtar is spying on them. Plus, Ishtar seems to think they mostly kissed because the “power of the Alus” is love. That makes as much sense as anything I suppose, since there really isn’t any chemistry between Hibiki and Sylvie. I’m pretty sure the bridge crew from the original series didn’t start making out with each other, though…

Oh, and I got confirmation, via someone who worked on the English version of Macross II back in the day, that yes, the Ship of the Alus IS the Macross. As in, the ACTUAL Macross. Make of that what you will…

5. And then the Macross gets destroyed. This seems to bother a number of fans, but I’m okay with it. Overall, this is such a cautious and timid sequel that it seems amazing that they’d go that far. I’m more confused by the fact that the bridge survives, and can fly on its own as some kind of escape ship.

6. Ingues starts annihilating everyone and everything, and Ishtar, standing on the same stage on the bridge that Minmay was on, sings “Mou Ichido – Love You” and that works because of course it does.

7. So yes, Feff switches sides and joins the Unified Forces against Ingues, and it’s all stunningly obvious that we’re watching a retread of Do You Remember Love.

8. After that, it kind of turns into Roman Holiday again, at least in a way, in that Ishtar has to go back with her people, and Hibiki gives her the photos that he took of her. It’s nowhere near as tense and emotional and flat-out brilliant as the end of Roman Holiday, but it’s okay, I guess. Either way, Hibiki’s got Sylvie and Ishtar’s got Feff, so I guess that’s that.

9. Except, this isn’t QUITE the end. In a rather unusual move (for Macross, at least), scriptwriter Sukehiro Tomita ended up writing five Macross II novels. The first two retell the series, and the next three tell a sequel of sorts, as Hibiki and Sylvie investigate a Chinese mafia group called “Black Panda” that is run by a man claiming to be Minmay’s grandson. I haven’t read these yet, but I plan to get around to them.

In the fifth book (published in late ’93), there’s an interesting afterward where Tomita says that the Macross II timeline is more-or-less getting scrapped in favor of Plus and Seven, and asks the readers to support those.

There’s also the US sequel, published by Viz, called “Macross II: The Micron Conspiracy.” I haven’t read that, either.

10. So yeah, an underwhelming finale to an underwhelming series. Again, it’s not bad, just kind of flat and lifeless. For this rewatch, I watched it in Japanese, where the voice cast is pretty good. Watching it in English would probably have given me a somewhat different impression. Maybe next time.

Anyway, as I hinted above, this managed to be the official Macross sequel for about a year and a half, but then was relegated to being an alternate universe sequel (or “parallel story,” as they put it) once Plus and Seven arrived on the scene. I can understand why Kawamori wouldn’t want to have to worry about trying to make sure the shows he was creating in ’94 would line up with this series which he for many years said he had never even seen.

However, an odd thing started happening later… while Macross Chronicle magazine (2008) has it in its own, “parallel story” timeline, the first issue of Macross Ace magazine (2009) places it in the same timeline as everything else. Then, in 2012, many of the thirtieth anniversary events also included it as happening in 2090, thirty-one years after Frontier. When the complete Macross-overview TV series “The Super Dimension Seminar” (frustratingly unavailable on DVD or BD), which was hosted by Sheryl, got to Macross II, Sheryl went “into the future” to discuss it, rather than into another universe. And finally, when we saw Kawamori give a talk at the “Macross the Museum” exhibit in Takarazuka, our friend Howard asked him point-blank about Macross II, and said that since virtually every Macross story (or VERSION of Macross story) was just as “canonical” as anything other one, of course Macross II was included along with everything else.

So there you have it. After being shunted off (and, in Japan at least, mostly forgotten about), it’s now back in the fold, just as much as anything else is. That doesn’t make any more (or less) watchable, though.

THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH 44 – STATION BREAK

Ep.5

SUPER DIMENSION FORTRESS MACROSS II – LOVERS AGAIN
EPISODE 5: STATION BREAK

ICONIC SCENE: The best thing in Macross II, besides long-haired Ishtar.

STORY DATE: Oh, who knows, really?

RELEASE DATE: October 22, 1992

1. This episode was done by Masami Obari himself, which accounts for how different it looks from the other episodes (and also why it’s better).

The characters end up looking somewhat off-model from the classic Mikimoto style of the previous episodes, but that’s apparently how Obari wanted them.

2. So Ingues comes to the Earth sphere. Yawn. “Oh, no! Help! We’re doomed!” Yawn. The Mardook leaders look impressively freaky, though.

3. Hibiki has apparently become a guerilla journalist, interrupting reruns of Thunderbirds to bring us his footage. Even D-Boy from Tekkaman Blade is interested!

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4. The top brass are idiots, which is kind of the idea. But they’re not shrewd idiots, like they were were in SDFM. Those guys had a genuine reason for refusing to allow the Macross back, and for thinking they could defeat the Zentradi with the might of the Grand Cannon alone. These guys are just overmatched and really don’t know what they’re doing.

I do love that everyone has floppy disks, though.

5. And FINALLY, we get the “Macross Cannon.” Four Zentradi battleships attached to something like a Macross body. I understand why they wanted to keep these secret until the end, but honestly, they should’ve brought them out at the beginning. Although it unfortunately doesn’t get to actually DO much before getting destroyed.

(Apparently, the Macross II RPG severely underestimated how massive these things were. And that’s just one of MANY errors the game reportedly contains.)

6. Nexx goes out in the Metal Siren. It still doesn’t impress me. What DOES impress me, though, is the Gigamesh, which seems to be able to rip Valkyries apart without breaking a sweat. It might possibly be the most powerful alien power-armor in all of Macross…?

7. As I said, thanks to Obari, this episode has more tension and excitement than the last four episodes combined. Really. It’s not Itano, but it’ll do in a pinch. It’s kinda too little, too late, since I’ve already lost patience with this series, but if I had gone ahead and watched this episode back in ’93, I might’ve had a better overall impression of the series then.

8. We also see some glimpses of the might of the year 2090 (or 2092)… the destroids, and the Gerwalkroid… Again, though, the designs don’t thrill me. They seem too much like just streamlined and simplified versions of things we’ve already seen.

9. Feff is kind of a badass now. He’s quite willing to kill his own men if they disagree with him. Admittedly, his advisor WAS just about to kill Ishtar…

10. So, yeah, this one’s mostly battle, very little character stuff. As such, it’s good. But, look… I get why someone who watched the first series would start pausing it, trying to go through frame-by-frame, wondering what a lot of these little in-jokes were, and really starting to wonder who made it and why (I mean, that’s what I did, right?). But even in this episode, I can’t imagine anyone here doing the same. Nothing is bad in this series, but nothing is really good, either. It’s all just okay. Kinda bland. But better than Episode 4, that’s for sure.

THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH 43 – MARDOOK DISORDER

Ep.4

SUPER DIMENSION FORTRESS MACROSS II – LOVERS AGAIN
EPISODE 4: MARDOOK DISORDER

ICONIC SCENE: Feff is about to flat-out lie to Ishtar.

STORY DATE: …all the recent timelines place it in 2090…

RELEASE DATE: September 24, 1992

1. For some reason, whenever I get to this episode, I start feeling sleepy. That’s not an exaggeration, it actually happens. Admittedly, this is only the fourth time I’ve watched it, but yeah… always happens. The second time, right after I bought the DVD of “the movie,” I was genuinely having to force myself to stay awake during it. As I write this, it’s about one PM on a Sunday afternoon, and, even armed with my third mug of coffee, my eyelids are getting heavy.

Oh, and about that “movie”… as I think is pretty common knowledge, it isn’t a movie at all. There is no movie version of Macross II. It’s just the six episodes played back to back, with the credits and next episode previews cut. As such, it doesn’t really exist to me.

2. Hibiki’s been captured and is being tortured, although Feff lies to Ishtar and tells her that he was sent back to earth. I gotta wonder why Ishtar believes him… I mean, she knows the Mardook plan to conquer earth, right?

That said, Feff seems to have softened a bit now that Ishtar’s back. Last episode, he said he wanted to eliminate all life on earth ASAP. This time, he has a plan to brainwash Hibiki and send him back as a Mardook spy.

3. Sylvie rescues Hibiki (and I note that as per last episode, her Valk has yellow trim throughout this episode… the “Women’s Valkyrie,” according to Macross Chronicle), and they discover that the Mardook are using mind control on their Zentradi warriors. This SHOULD be a sublimely creepy moment, but it’s more just kind of an “oh, okay” reveal.

4. The language starts getting inconsistent here as well. When Ishtar and Lady Elenshe are talking, they speak in Japanese, even though there’s no reason for them to.

5. Meanwhile, Volf (who I guess is Feff’s superior…?) decides that Ishtar brought good ol’ culture contamination back with her, and wants to destroy the ship before it spreads. Feff starts fighting him. We haven’t really seen any contamination, except for Elenshe trying to convince Ishtar that the humans were lying to her, and to stop focusing on the “love song.” So yeah, Volf’s decision kinda comes out of nowhere.

6. Sylvie mentions her grandmother, who she says was Meltrandi. I’m assuming she means Milia, since her name in katakana is just “Jenius” with the last character removed (“Jiina” “Jiinasu”). Which brings up a point: In an interview in an early issue of Animerica (maybe even the first one…? I don’t remember), there was an interview with Mikimoto where he said that they weren’t allowed to use the original characters and mecha, or something to that effect, and I’ve heard that at least one original Macross character was meant to make a cameo, but that was scrapped. I have no idea about the ins and outs of this, but it does make me wonder if, somehow, they couldn’t use the name “Jenius” in the series. Although they use plenty of terms like “Macross,” “Valkyrie,” and “Minmay,” so I can’t see that it would truly be problem. I don’t know, but I do think that they’re strongly hinting that Sylvie is Milia’s granddaughter.

7. I guess this conversation is also where Hibiki and Sylvie start to fall in love, as Sylvie opens up to Hibiki for the first time, but it really doesn’t come across.

8. Ishtar starts singing (without lyrics, just like Minmay right after Max and Milia’s dogfight in Do You Remember Love) “Now, a Friend,” one of Wendy Ryder’s songs. Okay, NOW it’s clear that contamination is starting. And then we meet the Mardook emperor, Ingues, who decides to destroy them all.

9. Ingues’s ship destroys the ship that Ishtar was on, although she, Feff, Sylvie, and Hibiki escape. Elenshe isn’t so lucky.

10. So yeah, what is it about this episode? Sylvie and Hibiki’s escape should be tense and exciting, as should Feff turning against Volf. Certainly, a lot of it is the direction, which leeches the action scenes of any tension or excitement. It might also be the background designs, which are generally bland and featureless, even on board the Mardook ships, which should seem ominous, but just don’t. In addition, there’s several scenes of Ishtar and Elenshe just standing still (again, in an almost featureless room), just looking at each other, not even speaking. So yes, the episode feels like it was padded out to reach twenty-five-or-so minutes, and the scenes that should have real impact simply don’t. Overall, I think, the worst Macross II episode. But hey… at least I managed to stay awake.

THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH 42 – FESTIVAL

Ep.3

SUPER DIMENSION FORTRESS MACROSS II – LOVERS AGAIN
EPISODE 3: FESTIVAL

ICONIC SCENE: Bridge Triangler (although we don’t know it yet).

STORY DATE: The second soundtrack’s liner notes place it in 2092…

RELEASE DATE: August 21, 1992

1. Okay, let’s step back a bit and talk mecha… Among old-school Macross fans in the west, Kouchi Ohata and Kazumi Fujita’s Valkyries for Macross II seem to be insanely popular, and I can’t quite figure out why. They seem a serious step back from even the VF-4. Back in the early ’90s, when I first looked at the designs, I found them rather dull: only differing from VF-1s cosmetically. Same transformation, just no longer looking like an F-14. Pretty generic. And heck, this was before Plus and Seven were even announced, both of which showed just how different Valkyries could be from the original.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate them or anything, I’m just not sure why fans go so crazy for them.

2. For some reason, this episode is extremely blue. It’s almost like someone put a colored filter over the camera. Apparently, this has been corrected for the blu-ray (isn’t it ironic? Don’cha think?), but I haven’t seen that yet.

3. The TV mentions “NUNS,” for, I guess, “New UN Spacy,” same as Frontier. And there’s the advertisement for the Moon Festival, which seems to have something to do with the idea that fighter pilots are celebrities in this world. That in itself is an interesting idea, but one that never gets developed, really. It’s just something you notice with a bit of surprise, and then just have to accept for the rest of the series.

4. The exterior of the Macross may look a lot different than it did the last time we saw it, but the interior is ALMOST the same, especially when they show Minmay’s stage area from the movie.

5. Look, I’ll be blunt. I’m not even halfway through this series, and IT’S BORING. I’m not sure what the problem is yet. Is it the script? Is it the direction? Either way, there is no “Wow Factor” here. This episode tries, with the Moon Festival, but doesn’t quite pull it off.

6. Oh wait, it’s Wendy Ryder, obviously named after Winona Ryder, who was kind of big at the time. Wendy’s songs are okay. But let’s (again) step back a bit and look at the music. It’s good. I like both soundtracks. But it weirds me out a bit about how both of them sound like Evangelion music. And yes, there’s a good reason for that… Same composer. Of course, Megazone Parts One and Two have the same composer as well, and that music sounds nothing like this.

7. Likewise, I’m weirded out by the idea that the staff decide that since the “Idol Boom” was over, so they wouldn’t have an idol singer main character, but they throw in an idol singer anyway. Sure, she’s not important, but she’s still there… And the Mardook want to capture her.

8. I know the Metal Siren is supposed to be amazing, but it doesn’t thrill me.

9. When people say that that the problem with this show is that the main character isn’t a military pilot, I don’t quite know what they mean. Hibiki flies twice in three episodes. Isn’t that enough?

10. I’m struggling to figure out why this is so uninteresting. The characters lack interest, the fight scenes lack tension… are those the reasons…? I’m not sure. But at this point, all I can say is that I don’t care about Sylvie, Wendy, Hibiki, or Ishtar.