Lend your ears to the first fully musical installation of the Macross franchise. Now granted, this isn't so much a criticism of the series on the surface because if you're a veteran Macross viewer, the Macross installments have excellent J-pop songs to sing along to. Even I find myself humming along to some of the tunes from this collective series (most notably "Voices" by Akino Arai from Macross Plus).
Nor is the idea of using music as a weapon if you know some of the backstory of the Macross franchise and why it was such a potent part in collective schematics. Even Gundam Seed/Gundam Seed Destiny had music as an element of illustrating the conflictions and turbulence caused by the conflictive sides within the war. However, Macross 7 takes this to another level quite literally.
If you looked "campy" in the dictionary, this would aptly describe the format of a series about a youth (the rather impulsive Basara) who heads a resident rock band and seeks to use his music as a weapon to cease the fighting among the isolated colony. I believe Macross 7 takes place quite a bit after the original series, so there are some familiar faces that will show up in kind back and forth, but otherwise, unless you love hearing the same songs played brashly in each episode and repetitive battle sequences...it really doesn't have all that much to offer to the table.
It's not so much the songs themselves aren't enjoyable in their own right, it's just there are only so many times you can actually listen to "Planet Dance" and watch where it has no effect on the enemy enough to make you wonder when something will actually happen. In truth, the series actually does get better as it continues forward, and the music is memorable in its sole consideration (provided you like Fire Bomber's style of music), but it's never enough to completely pull the story right out of the mud. By the ending, I felt satiated enough to find closure at the end of the story, but I felt I didn't pull enough from it to really resonate with either the events or the characters themselves.
The animation does show itself as being quite antiquated when juxtaposed to peer sci-fi anime series of current standard. If you're used to the animation style of the classic Macross, then you wouldn't be terribly opposed to this, and for a series created in 1994, you could say it went well with series of its time. Cel production and backdrops also show their age,as the space scenes don't really resonate any sense of realism, and the mecha designs are quite average. Yet, considered this isn't a series meant to take itself too seriously, it's hard to grade down. It almost reminds me of my first impression of G Gundam: an intentional parody in the design of mechas and the mechanics showcased in the series.
There are people who are going to really wonder why I give Macross 7's soundtrack so high (for me 7.5 means pretty solid), but you honestly can't pull yourself away from the music in this series once you get it stuck in your head. I'm not kidding. If "Seventh Moon" is any indication, it's one of the best songs to come out of the soundtrack collection from this series. Catchy, romping guitars and lyrics that you could find yourself easily singing along to even if it doesn't match your tastes. It would be one that'd easily make my favorite anime themes list if offering one for consideration. The only drawback might be that the singer's tonality might not appeal to you and throw this notation completely out of the window, it's quite depending on your own preferences in music. Honestly though, if talking about favorite themes, I couldn't forget the first ending theme "My Friends". I think the female singer's tonality is a lot more enjoyable and quite cute to listen to overall.
"Planet Dance" at first grated on my nerves so much I actually muted the scenes when it played...in every single episode at least once leading up to about episodes 17 or 18, if I recall, and if you're watching in a stretch...it's not all that flattering. However, if you isolate it from the series, it's actually a song that's a lot of fun, in a cheesy 80s rock vibe.
BGM actually isn't bad either in overall collective contexts, some of the vocal performances are songs that have been featured in previous Macross series and are nice tunes on the ears, others are dynamic instrumentals that keep your feet tapping. Then you have power ballads like "16" that, again, if you like Fire Bomber, you'll come out of the series liking it if you haven't been deterred by its repetitiveness during the series.
I'm lukewarm about the characters in Macross 7. Some of them are certainly full of personality, but I don't think there was just one character that connected with me throughout the entire series. Granted, Macross 7 is very much a mecha comedy with some dramatic elements thrown in and a strong soundtrack to boot for its time. In consideration, however, Basara and Mylene might wear on your nerves after a time in the initial part of the series, particularly when the story follows a more episodic format. When you start coming into the core of the conflict in Area 7, then you see their characters mature a little more, and even the hot headed Basara's not that bad compared to other mecha characters, he's just run of the mill when it comes to his "type" of character. I understood the mentality taken with the characters (much like I did in mecha series like G Gundam and perhaps even Gundam X) but they still don't have quite enough to fully bring me into their lives and demeanors as I watch, and I often predict how they react to certain events rather than just allowing the series to open me up to who they are.
Horrible, just horrible.
The biggest questions out of dozen that crosses one's mind is 'what were they thinking?' and 'are you kidding?'
How do you turn a respectable classic series with great story, great writing and great design into tasteless lazy mess for 9 y.o. kids?
Everything is so bad and weak, you're starting to wonder what was the point in going to such lengths as to proclaim Lovers Again a filler, when your 'cannon' is equally terrible if not worse.
It's almost shocking that the story and mecha designs are actually made by Shoji Kawamori himself, considered how weak and stupid they are. Mechanical designs look like they belong to Digimon, character designs look like they were created by 12 y.o. Story and writing is childish, absurd and just plain stupid. I have never made so many facepalms during any screening of anything. And this nightmare is stretched into 50+ episodes, in 4 of which anything actually happens.
Animation is extremely lazy and never comes close to the level reached in Opening sequence.
Soundtrack is nonexistent, and entirely composed from exact 4 horrible songs you must suffer 10 timed through each episode.
This show manages to completely lose whole point of the original Macross's ideas, insult it countless times and then proceed to embarrass itself even further.
I remember when I began to entirely love Macross 7, in spite of, or perhaps because of, its flaws. It was during a concert, when female lead Mylene Jenius was playing guitar, and on two different sides of the stadium were her two potential suitors, bandmate Nekki Basara and military pretty-boy Gamlin Kizaki. While playing, her "song energy" began to emanate from her, going back and forth as a stream between the two men, eventually becoming a giant triangle that spanned the entire concert venue. Analyists were confused as to what this meant, and trying to figure out the significance of this mysterious triangle. Yes, this is a series that visually depicts and explains a love triangle for its audience, just in case we couldn't understand what was going on.
If you couldn't figure it out from that opening paragraph, the second canonical Macross series is incredibly silly and over-the-top, and at times, jaw-droppingly stupid. But while that might be a knock against other series, it actually works in the favor of this one. Instead of making the dull choice of taking everything seriously, and playing its laughable elements with poe-faced humorlessness, the script embraces how downright insane things get and just rolls with it. The closest comparison I could possibly make would be Jojo's Bizarre Adventure, which is completely idiotic while being entirely aware of itself... well, most of the time, anyway.
But what is this beautiful trainwreck of a show even about? The basic plot follows committed pacifist and testosterone-oozing rocker Nekki Basara, who is the frontman of famed rock outfit Fire Bomber. Along with his bandmates Mylene Jenius, Ray Lovelock and Veffidas Feaze, he rocks by day, then flies into intergalactic battlefields by night with nothing but a guitar. Yes, as Basara doesn't believe in fighting, he tries to change the hearts of an encroaching alien menace with his music. This isn't a series in the Gundam vein, either, where the peaceful protagonist has to kill and then feel terrible about it. For 49 episodes, he makes a mockery of the military on every possible occasion, and at the end of the day, doesn't kill a single living creature.
Notice, though, I said "basic plot." That's because nothing about Macross 7 is even remotely consistent, except for perhaps the last few episodes, because the creators obviously couldn't decide what they wanted to make here. A musical? A monster of the week kaiju show? A light horror tale with vampires that literally suck the souls out of their victims? What about a love story? A comedy? A tragedy? "Why not all of it?" asks Macross 7, and proceeds to do all of the above, and much more, throughout the whole show, oftentimes wearing several different hats at once. Surprisingly, it works more often than not, and the end result is a series that barrels ahead at a frantic, lovably dunderheaded pace.
What makes these directorial decisions work here, though? To be sure, a lesser series would fall apart with such wild inconsistency. Personally, I'd chalk it up to a few key elements. Firstly, the characters are some of the most endearing I've encountered in all my years of watching anime, which is not something I say lightly. Basara is cut from the Goku cloth, somehow utilizing the most simplistic logic possible and triumphing against all the odds. His behavior is bizarre and ecclectic, and he's unlike any protagonist I've seen. Also, I have to give props to Mylene, who is easily in my top five female anime characters now. She's hot-headed yet sentimental, and her emotions are often a guiding light as opposed to a hinderance. So while her indecision with men might be annoying to some, I found it to be excusable considering the fact that she's fourteen throughout most of the series, and her love life never really acts as a handicap. And while I focus on Basara and Mylene, let me be clear: I love all of the characters in this show for entirely different reasons, including Flower Girl, who never has a single line yet manages to be a compelling character.
The other key element at play here is the music. Namely, it's all awesome. There's no background music 90% of the time, and what is there is actually just ripped from Macross II and Macross Plus. In lieu of this, viewers are treated the music of several made-up musical acts that exist entirely for the series, some of which still perform concerts today. The biggest, of course, would have to be Fire Bomber, which is what you're going to hear most of the time, especially during battle sequences. These are generally up-tempo rock pieces, with the exception of some of Mylene's solo compositions. But that's not all. Beautiful songs such as "Galaxy" by Alice Holiday, or the chirpy pop of Humming Birds, punctuate the entirety of the series. As a whole, the soundtrack is a grab-bag of several different vocal genres, and for some reason, it manages to impress.
There are only two things working actively against this series, which is a shame, because the rest is top-notch entertainment. The first thing is that the animation gradually sinks into an abyss as the series wears on, eventually turning undefined lines and blotches of color before the admittedly slick-looking finale. And what good animation is left near the end is reused liberally, and while it still manages to look cool, you can only see the same loop so many times before it begins to lose its luster. Still, I'm not an animation snob, and this didn't prevent me enjoying the series.
What did manage to almost undermine my enjoyment was the introduction of one of the most moronic and obnoxious villains I've ever encountered, a weird alien/human/bird/yeti hybrid by the name of Gabil. Always having some laughably moronic remark about "the beauty of destruction," "the beauty of retreat," "the beauty of deception," or "the beauty of [insert verb here]," he's amusing at first. But after a while, his consistent defeat and running begins to grate on the nerves, and by the end of the series, you just want the little punk to die already. Not to mention the fact that his design is just awful. The good news is that the main antagonist, Geppelnitch, is really cool and menacing, and oftentimes so archetypically and inherently evil that you can't help but crack a smile when he begins to talk.
This is a very silly show, to be sure, and you could probably gather that from what I've described thus far. At the same time, though, it's attempting to do some really cool things that I don't feel it gets enough credit for. We see the idea of rock versus pop, one being pure and sung from the heart, the other being manufactured to serve a purpose. We also get to see one of anime's only true pacifists, which is incredibly rare, especially in giant robot pieces. This isn't mentioning the fact that the show is essentially a musical, or that a character who doesn't speak even once manages to turn into a compelling protagonist. Macross 7 does some stuff wrong, sure, but it ultimately succeeds at being original and fun far more than it fails.
If you're looking for an introspective series about giant robots, watch Evangelion or Bokurano or something. Or if you want a more "modern" take on Macross, watch Frontier, which has enough fan service and moeblob for audiences looking for something more... well, typical. But if you want an out-of-left-field, absolutely crazy good time of a show, complete with ridiculous plot devices, loaded to the brim with vibrant and memorable characters, then Macross 7 is the anime you're looking for.
And who knows? If you're anything like me, you might end up believing in Basara's song too.