Macross Zero

OVA (5 eps x 31 min)
2002 - 2004
3.818 out of 5 from 3,114 votes
Rank #1,996

When Lieutenant Shin Kudou of the UN air force is shot down over the Pacific by the Anti-UN Alliance, he awakens on a lush island called Mayan, whose natives live by some very strange rules. Their spiritual leader, Sara, intends to keep their lives separate from the rest of civilization to prevent the rise of the ‘birdman’ who will destroy the world. Unfortunately for the natives of Mayan, both sides of the conflict have taken an interest in their island, and all too soon, the outsiders' interference spells a disaster as terrible as any myth.

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StoryMacross Zero is an undeniably huge undertaking; this clearly has one of the biggest budgets to ever be granted to an OVA. Bandai has fairly deep pockets, but I’m sure even they must have been a little antsy about the huge capital investment involved in such a project. Thus, my primary concern when I started up the first episode was that the OVA, in the interest of "playing it safe," would create a relatively ambitionless plot that strayed little from what other animes from the Macross series have already done. My worries were not completely unfounded, as the anime has many of the trademarks that the franchise is known for. The most noticeable of these trademarks is the ever-prominent dichotomy of pro-war and anti-war sentiment. By this, I mean that like countless other Gundam and Macross animes, the OVA finds itself almost constantly deriding war as a pointless and inhumane endeavor, all the while providing bucket-loads of often superfluous combat sequences that are clearly designed to entertain the audience. As well as this, the show also works a love triangle in, a literary device that has been used in every Macross anime that I have seen. Fortunately, these all-too-familiar similarities are outweighed by an the animes "twist" - namely, tribal lore. The anime’s plot manages to work in a fair bit of this, and, among other things, integrates shamanism, primitive village life, and ancient unwritten mythology into the general plot. The fact that the OVA manages to mix these elements in with science fiction mecha warfare is not only impressive, but extremely beneficial to the overall storyline as well. While a lot of mecha animes these days come across as stale and derivative, Macross Zero’s plot feels fresh and new. The mix of tribalism with modern life works because of the show’s rather clever juxtaposition of the two. There are several times when modern culture noticeably clashes with established village life, and the result is surprisingly satisfactory and thought provoking. The animes personal opinion of this conflict ends up being rather one-sided, but I didn’t find this fact particularly bothersome. Unfortunately, the story is somewhat marred by the final episode. Compared to excellent pacing of the first four episodes, the fifth entry feels decidedly rushed and sloppy. The ending in general is also somewhat of a letdown, with the characters’ final fates coming across as predictable and cliched. As a whole, however, the storyline is a surprisingly original piece that manages to squeeze in the required action scenes without seeming too formulaic.AnimationI can actually remember when the project was started nearly three years ago, and recall being thoroughly awed that the OVA would not come out until I was well into college. The wait was excruciatingly long, and I’m personally amazed that I managed to hold off on seeing any of the episodes until every single one was out. The reason for the incredibly long period of time between episodes becomes apparent, however, when one begins to watch through the first episode. Macross Zero’s CGI work is absolutely amazing, and is definitely the best I’ve seen in any non-Hollywood production. The action scenes in particular are absolutely stunning; fantastic mecha models combine with blisteringly fast animation and ingenious choreography to provide the undeniable high point of the entire anime. Oddly enough, however, the animation’s greatest strength turns out to also be its only detriment. While the CGI is almost always outstanding, there are times when it feels unnecessary and awkward. Probably the worst-looking scene in the entire OVA occurs when one of the characters spills cola on another. The scene would have been relatively easy to animate normally, but for some inexplicable reason, the director decided to animate the actual soda in CGI. The result is jarringly ugly, and is one of several decidedly imperfect scenes. However, for the most part, the CGI is nothing short of stunning, and is probably the number one reason to watch the anime. Besides the fantastic CGI, Macross Zero also sports some of the best backgrounds ever produced for an anime. Of particular note is the lush tropical rainforest environment that many of the scenes take place in, which is often eye candy in and of itself. Character designs manage to be appealing, if not completely original.SoundThe OST is of decidedly high quality, with several excellent songs present throughout the show. The songs, which are very reminiscent of Yoko Kanno’s work in Earth Girl Arjuna, work very well with the OVA’s tribal theme. The highlight of the soundtrack is most likely a song that is sung by one of the main characters midway through the show, and is a wonderfully ethereal piece that seems to have permanently staked out a spot in my playlist. Voice acting on the whole is passable, with no performances that are either noticeably good or bad.CharactersWith the rather dense plot and lengthy action sequences, the anime doesn’t really have time in five episodes to have character development of any substance. As a result, the OVA falls back on age-old archetypes that can be found in countless other anime. The two Mayan sisters both have personalities that can easily be found elsewhere, and the protagonist is even more generic and undeveloped. The show even goes as far as to recycle Roy Focker from the original Macross television series (although, to the show’s credit, he works fairly well in his supporting role). The utter lack of any depth whatsoever in the characters is the most probable culprit for why the aforementioned love triangle falls flat on its face. Without unique and genuine personalities, just about every romance is pretty much doomed, and Macross Zero is no exception.OverallMacross Zero, more than anything else, is a work to be admired for the sheer amount of effort put into it. Over the time that this rather monumental series was put together, a tremendous amount of money and man-hours were no doubt poured into the OVA. As a result, the show feels almost blindingly well polished, and is thoroughly entertaining for just about the entire running time. While the characters and storyline could have probably been a little better, this is nonetheless an impressive work that I’d recommend to anyone who doesn’t absolutely hate the mecha genre.


I've heard some people say when an anime looks this good, does it really matter that the plot is bad? As an answer, I put this to you: rape with a truncheon is still rape with a truncheon even if I use lube. Indeed, the animation makes it go down easier, to put it crudely, but that doesn’t mask the fact it’s a painful process.But then I've never believed good animation was a suitable excuse - there is no reason why something ludicrously spectacular cannot also be meaningful. In that regard, Macross Zero is a glowing example to others. This is single-handedly the most beautiful mecha anime I have seen to date. It is a feast for the optical and aural senses. The scenery presents an emotive dichotomy between the hard, war-driven military world and the soft, glowing, lush island environment that the natives caught in the war inhabit. One moment, Macross Zero delivers scenes of stupendous natural beauty to feed the soul - the next, it's rip-roaring aerial action of gut-wrenching power. All this to a stunning musical score that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. That we get competent storytelling and characterisation added to the mix is icing on the cake, but nonetheless the key feature that distinguishes Macross Zero from the other CGI dross on the market. Indeed, with moments of artistic profundity (watch that scene when the hero and heroine explore the joys of nature in a gorgeous dawn) and a balanced if brief debate about the avaricious force of progress, Macross Zero offers a side-order of substance with its style. A climactic romantic dynamic (say that fast ten times) between the two protagonists at the heart of the plot also ensures emotional engagement with the characters.If this one is still not on your want to watch list, go correct that mistake now.

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