Macross 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.
I 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.
The 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.
With 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.
Macross 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.
O.K. story line. You have to forgive it slightly for trying to do too many things. If it was more simple it may have helped the story's execution.
Excellent, obviously expensive. Everything looks so well and the fighting and action sequences all flow exceptionally well. If you like a good looking anime then this is for you.
There is a great musical score throughout. The voices are neither terrible nor amazing. It is quite hard to pay attention to either of these though. At time syou find yourself saying 'look how good it looks' and missing what is actually happening.
Interesting enough, not brilliant. There is notmuch development over the course of the OVA and the romantic storyline doesn't really feel that believable
Excellent OVA, Any Mecha fan will love it. It does nothing new but looks excellent.
In 2016, I chose to start a marathon of every Macross entry and likewise read up on them. Before I started Macross Zero, I already knew it was a prequel to the original 1982 Super Dimension Fortress Macross. Based on the synopsis that I saw, I didn't think much of it since it sounded the least like a Macross entry. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but most of what I recalled at the time was that Zero would involve the protagonist being stranded and several people were gonna get some new and more powerful mechs. I was the furthest thing from excited as my expectations for Macross Zero were that I would be watching something very generic.
I was taking a break from watching Macross 7, when some of my internet antics helped me discover the aesthetics of Zero.
I was mesmerized by the tribal aesthetic so much that I then proceeded to drop everything I was doing. "Forget 7 for the time being, I need to watch this series" was essentially my reaction. The series taking place on an island also appealed to my love for settings on/near water.
So yes, it is about pilot Shin Kudo and him ending up on a remote island. However, it doesn't take long to realize this island knows more about outside culture than it initially seems. And from there we have an incredible and fascinating story about the evolution of humanity.
Macross Zero is mostly a science vs religion story, but it doesn't stop there with the parallels. The series has a message about how everything is connected and supports each other; it stretches far and wide to find as many parallels as it can—either for opposing arguments or to show how alike we all really are.
We see how the civilized humans and the islanders react differently to technology, superstition, war, and the blending of cultures. This is where being a prequel really comes in handy in looking at Macross in a whole new light. What was once the norm is now so unfamiliar that science fiction has essentially turned into fantasy.
It all ties together splendidly with what we understand about Macross as well. For me, Zero was the start of Macross becoming my favorite sci-fi universe. The Protoculture/birdmen, humanity's inclination for war, and music being a power source are very fleshed out here. Up until this point, watching the franchise in release order, I hadn't ever been more engaged by it.
I don't mean to beat on the other Macross entries too much, but the inclusion of idols and rock stars has always been one of those boundaries that ask for a lot of suspension of disbelief from me. Up until Zero, I thought Plus was the only entry where it wasn't goofy. But here, as the music is a slow and enchanting opera, I've never been more enticed by its presence.
I wasn't sure who did the music, so I looked it up and found it to be composed by Kuniaki Haishima—same composer for the legendary anime Monster. While I rarely ever noticed Monster's soundtrack all that much, the soundtrack for Macross Zero has become one of my favorites of all time.
But there's more than just music this entry takes more seriously. This is honestly the most mature I've ever seen Macross be. This is a genuine war series wherein lifestyles and societies are colliding. A lot of the more specific and darker extremes that we can come across in society are only mentioned in passing, but they are acknowledged to exist. This is a series that doesn't ignore what starts wars, creates segregation, and prolongs prejudices.
Honestly, I just put this here because I find the quote funny out of context.
What I was most shocked to see was a display of child nudity for one scene. It wasn't portrayed as anything bad either—wasn't even acknowledged to be honest. It's just one of those moments where you'll have to remind yourself that the tribal culture is much different from our own and it's up to you to not be offended by it.
Moving onto characters, Shin is clearly the one that develops the most out of everybody. He starts as a bit of a loner, is very accustomed to technology, and his initial interactions with the islanders lead to a small side plot related to him fixing a generator for them.
After becoming more open-minded, he learns to respect everyone. Shin comes to understand that we're all people who feel the same emotions no matter our walk of life. His caring for the islanders and even being able to open himself up to others, without needing to change his ideals, is the ultimate point of his character.
The Nome sisters are interesting oppositions to Shin and also to each other. Mao Nome is a fun and gleeful girl who dreams of the city and tries to interact with Shin as much as possible.
Sara Nome on the other hand is very committed to her religion and wary of outsiders. She often expresses how dangerous she believes them to be and that she's upset to see city life steal so many people from the island, but that isn't the entirety of her story.
Mao's my favorite of the two because of how she's not biased to one side. She seeks the convenience and entertainment that comes from technology but still appreciates the island's natural wonders. I think that's best exemplified when she takes her time to show off the island and the sea to Shin in what I find to be an incredible sequence.
No one else is worth noting all that much, but for people who saw the original series, Roy Focker returns as a main character. It's not really an origin story, but we get to see more sides of him on top of the many faces he already had in the original series.
This is my second favorite entry in the entire Macross franchise, but I think it is the best written. It's also incredibly accessible to anyone who hasn't seen any of Macross yet. Not all prequels are this privileged to be one of the best entries in its franchise, have no reliance on previous entries, and spoil nothing of the upcoming chronological entries. Thematically, I love how this series is all about blending—to the point of which its themes and characters even ooze out onto the product itself where it feels the least like Macross ever has despite it hitting all the same notes that every Macross series does. When it all comes together it makes for a story that may only take place on Earth, in comparison to Macross's other space adventures, but the scale is one of the most epic.
As with all projects in the Macross franchise, Macross Zero has virtually nothing to do with the original show and instead works the ground for the Macross Frontier series.
The biggest minus of this installment lies in that it was announced as a 'prequel' to the original Macross, but, as mentioned above, really is a "spiritual" prequel to Frontier. And not uses it's position to expand the events and characters from original show, which you would expect it will. Instead, it tells a pretty generic story, not completely uninteresting to it's credit, but no where near close to the expectations of any Macross fan. Where 'Plus' was able to work as a side-story, still keeping the feel of franchise's universe, Zero can easily just be a whole different project all together. It's short length saves it from being a chore to sit through.
Despite relying heavily on 3D, and not very good 3D at that, Macross Zero looks pretty appealing to the eye. Mostly because of the very rich backgrounds, as it seems on which most of the man power was concentrated. Actual animation, while still decent, is quite disappointing, considering this is an OVA and most of the combat is done by 3D unit. Great score helps to hold graphical dis-balance in place.
Overall, this project is an unnecessary but not entirely unwelcome entry in the franchise.