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Super Dimensional Fortress Macross Review

November 11, 2010

story 6/10

Super Dimensional Fortress Macross screenshot

One thing baffles me about Robotech: The Macross Saga. In an earth-shattering break from the norm that took me almost five episodes to recover from, the protagonist Rick Hunter is a sensible, well-adjusted young man. After encountering his love, Lynn Minmei, during a fierce military battle, their initial conversations suggest they actually enjoy each other's company. That's right, they don't shout at each other about their fragile, untold feelings. Let me illustrate further with a paraphrase of a typical Gundam dialogue:

Pilot: Why, oh why, must I fight? War needlessly takes lives and I feel quite befuddled by my role in all of this.

Captain: Kid, it's your only option. In war, it's kill or be killed, win or lose.

Pilot: Well, if I must fight, then I suppose I will... but it sure hurts inside to do it!

Now, in Robotech we get:

Rick: Minmei, I'm going to do it.

Minmei: Huh?

Rick: I'm going to join the defence force. You're right, it's no good my moping around. I'm going to enlist.

Remarkable, isn't it? Gundam likes to depict the sparks of youth getting violently extinguished by the stamping of misfortune's foot; in Robotech, the kids lose their naivety but not their composure. In fact, having indulged in misanthropic Gundam shows for years, Robotech's more level-headed version of the same sort of story works like therapy.

Not least because this show knows how to laugh at itself. Take a scene when, caught in the midst of a horrific battle, Rick tries to enjoy the swimwear segment of the beauty contest in which Minmei is competing. To his undisguised chagrin, battle instructions from headquarters keep unceremoniously interrupting the broadcast on his intercom. At the same time, the enemy Zentraedi race spying on the humans inadvertently misinterpret Minmei's swimwear as a 'uniform' and the contest as some kind of military formation. A potentially seedy and gratuitous scene thus becomes a welcome injection of daft, bubbly comedy to neutralise any threats of pretentiousness.

In more substantial terms, however, Robotech's good-natured facade hides an identity crisis. The show has jets that transform, it has an alien warrior race, it has music, it has a knotty love triangle, and it fails to gel them conclusively, leaving the whole thing feeling rather half baked. Rick, Minmei, and Lisa Hayes' relationship has the strongest emotional impact (which I attribute to the strength of the characterisation rather than the trite romantic developments) but this in itself proves problematic because Robotech never feels as though it should be about romance. Rather, with so much more potential lurking in the sci-fi narrative, I get the impression something introduced as garnish ended up overwhelming the entire dish instead.

Attempts to tack together the seams of these disparate elements thus boil down to a reliance on contrivances. Minmei's singing matters because it captures the Zentraedi hearts; the war hinges upon Zentraedi officers misinterpreting everyday human behaviour; the love triangle gives Rick something to do other than fight aliens; and the jets transform on rare occasions seemingly because designer Shoji Kawamori needs a steady income. The result is a frivolous plot enjoyable enough on its own merits but best viewed through a lens of childhood nostalgia.

animation 4/10

Robotech has been ageing for thirty years, which goes some way to explaining its horrible inconsistencies in design (like the Zentraedi Miriya having full pink lips in one episode and then a colourless line in the next) or the utterly robotic movements. However, Mobile Suit Gundam has also been ageing for a similar number of years; while it grows quainter like antique pottery, Robotech's animation has become clunky like a rusty wheelbarrow that's exhausted its usefulness. Its only blessing is that it still looks distinctive thanks to Mikimoto Haruhiko's adorable character designs and Shoji Kawamori's transforming jets.

sound 6/10

Manga UK's digitally remastered version offers no subtitles, forcing me into the unnatural and sometimes unpleasant situation of watching the US dub. The performances are inconsistent, veering from great (Minmei, Lisa, Rick, Captain Gloval, Claudia) to gruesome (everyone else, but especially the voice actress for Miriya, who I am sure wasn't taking this seriously at all). Key problems include odd lapses in dialogue as voice actors try to match English phrases to foreign lip flaps, resulting in haphazard pacing and a weakened sense of drama.

I also wish the soundtrack had retained the original opening and ending themes as the generic replacement instrumental lacks character.

characters 7/10

Fighter jet pilot Rick Hunter, pop star Lynn Minmei, and military officer Lisa Hayes make an interesting bunch of misfits in love. Primarily, their lack of angst distinguishes them from the hordes of hormonal soap characters usually found in these things - they're straightforward, honest personalities who do not overthink their personal lives into the ground.

Rick is Spiderman to Minmei's Mary-Jane: always saving her but strangely under her thumb or coiled around her little finger depending on the situation. Minmei, a helpless ditz, does adorable things like scratch the paintwork on his expensive fighter jet to mark off the days they're trapped in their mother ship, the SDF1. Early in the show, he asks her what she hopes to be in the future. 'A bride, I guess,' she responds, which invites rolling eyes only because it is so typically her. Do I like her? Sure, Minmei's a sweet young thing. But if the question is whether I will remember her a week from now, the answer is only because of her catchy songs.

On the other hand, Rick and Lisa start their engagement mainly by locking horns, like when Lois Lane met Clark Kent. For an early eighties couple, they surprisingly nail the twenty-first century romance in which the woman happens to be the man's boss and can match his every patronising address with a barked order. I immediately loved Melanie MacQueen's version of Lisa, a soft, sexy performance that carries a perfect discord of personal vulnerability and professional strength.

Each undergoes a life journey more nuanced than the intergalactic war. Minmei copes with the paradoxical loneliness her fame brings, Lisa walks a tightrope between her love for Rick and her love for her career, and Rick grapples with a choice between his instinctive crush on Minmei and his natural friendship with Lisa. Even when my interest in the battles waned, I found myself coming awake during Rick and Minmei's shy, besotted dialogues or Rick and Lisa's slinging match of insults.

overall 6/10

Is an alien invasion really the best context in which to follow the intricacies of a love triangle? I'm unconvinced. Nevertheless, Robotech has a disarming sense of humour and great memorable protagonists that will leave fans of traditional mecha shows in a happy nostalgic haze.

Anime Info

A strange spaceship crashes onto the island of South Ataria, throwing the world into disarray over its fate. Thus begin the Unification Wars, a worldwide war that eventually unites the planet under the governance of the United Nations. Now, a decade later, the reconstruction of the crashed alien craft – dubbed "Macross" – is complete. However, on the day of its christening, the Macross unexpectedly fires and destroys several approaching Zentradi spaceships. The last hope of Earth, the Macross, begins to wage a lonely war; but what hopes can one ship have when facing against an entire alien race?

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About the Author

VivisQueen's avatar

VivisQueen

I'll review anything as long as there are words in the dictionary to describe it. Disagree with me? Want to leave feedback? Please do, but take a look at my personal rating scale first.

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comments

Apollokun avatar Apollokun
Mar 25, 2014

I was going to write a very long, detailed screed, but you're entitled to your own opinion. But I do take serious issue with the fact that you criticize Macross for focusing on love triangles during an alien invasion, while at the same time you seem to be a Gundam fan, and that franchise historically focuses on teenage angst in the midst of a politicized, intergalactic war. Is that an appropriate forum for that sort of thing? If so, why not love triangles during alien warfare? What makes that so egregious? 

But whatever. Just food for thought.

Siddyus avatar Siddyus
Jan 1, 2014

I think it was a good show. I actually prefer this more than Gundam. I just wished it was a bit longer... It had a lot of great potential. 

I do admit it started slow for me... took me 3 days just to watch eps. 1-3 lol. But then it got interesting and I got used to the choppy low quality animation and next thing I knew I was breezing through the entire show. In a subjective perspective, I'd say this show deserves a 4.5/5 rating.

Esper26 avatar Esper26
Mar 24, 2013

Isn’t this review a little harsh for an anime that came out in the 80’s?

Ascrod avatar Ascrod
Nov 3, 2011

"Robotech is a bastradization of three different shows all cut up to make profit and avoid coyright infringment" No, they didn't "cut up" three different shows to "avoid copyright infringement" (how would that even avoid infringment? Do you even understand how copyright works?) Harmony Gold needed more episodes for syndication than any two of the shows (all similar shows from the same studio) would provide, so they licensed all three and altered the names so that they became a single story with each show acting as a subsequent generation of characters. Other than that, the changes to the show(s) in terms of story are rather minor. Please, do a little research before mouthing off.

Sakido avatar Sakido
Sep 4, 2011

BTW there is a huge difference between Robotech and Super Dimensional Fortress Macross and for you to mix up the two shows makes me feel dirty Macross is a singular show that was a bit more mature and had a much better story than Robotech's Macross arch also Robotech is a bastradization of three different shows all cut up to make profit and avoid coyright infringment. Please get your shows right before you write a reveiw otherwise no one will take your reviews seirously  also interchanging the names of the shows and characters I doubt you even watched Macross the main character's name is Hikaru Ichijo not Rick Hunter and the shows are quite different I assure you.

 

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