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?
StoryOne 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.AnimationRobotech 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.SoundManga 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.CharactersFighter 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.OverallIs 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.
The characters themselves are what really drive the show. Hikaru may be an ace, but deep down inside he’s still a kid that’s growing. He’s also discovering love as he is trying to be a man. Roy, his big brother figure, is well confident in his abilities and never second guesses anything. Hikaru will also develop as a pilot or soldier and he eventually has subordinates assigned to him. Max, one of his men is a very popular character amongst fans all over the world for his gentle personality and nerdy looks but yet death defying piloting skills in the stars. Minmei is slowly embracing her fame as the ship’s idol and is torn apart that it keeps her from spending time with Hikaru who eventually develops a relationship with Misa.Though Gundam was the first to utilize mechs as a military weapon, Macross uses the same concept but with a completely different approach. Rather than just huge robots, transforming fighter jets known as the Valkyries are introduced. In comparison to Gundam, I thought of the story driving the characters, but with Macross, it’s the characters that drive the story. I’m not saying either one is good or bad, but they each successfully approach this in their own respective rights. I’ll use an easy example. There is romance in both series. The romance is the Gundam series’ tends to be very secondary as well as the characters and the action tends to be more primary, while with Macross it’s the opposite. It’s more about the emotional situations and the action comes across as more secondary. I’d like to explain more but it’ll take time. Like I said, I’m not saying either one is good or bad. But I think it’s overall a good thing so it helps the series stay distinct able from each other.The art and animation is pretty cool thanks to the creator Shojo Kawamori. This guy is just the man and a well respectable name in the world of robot anime. I wouldn’t say the animation was years ahead of its time, but it still stood out. The design of the Macross is very deep and complex and captivating. It had a great sense of size and the way they showed camera angles of it made you wonder how big it was and it was amazing that it was supposed to be the size of a city. When it turns into a mech, it looks really menacing and find it really interesting that something that is supposed to house civilians!!!The Valkryie’s are pretty sweet themselves. I already explained that they transform. They can be fighter jets and they can transform into robots for hand to hand combat. Thanks to special customization, they are also used in space. The engineering of the transformation doesn’t look complex and I figure it makes an easy toy to transform. The battles are also pretty intense and fun. In comparison to Gundam where it has lazers and beam saber fights, the fights in Macross are also more “realistic.” The series limits itself to using more reality based weapons such as bullets and missles and out maneuvering your opponent with agility.The bad guys, the Zentradi, have an interesting gimmick to them being giants. They tend to have really menacing and intimidating looks with the leaders having bald heads. Just makes them look like evil nazi guards or something.The characters are good and have distinctiveness to their design. Minmei of course is stuck with the unrealistic purple color hair, but yet she is so cute. Misa has a more mature look to her that reflects on her plain personality. The captain Global looks like an old war house. Ichijo has a wild youth look to him but still has an innocent face. Max doesn’t really look intimidating and he looks nerdy but he can still kick ass and get the girl.So even though it’s an oldie, you still got a goodie.The Japanese version is pretty well casted. It has veteran seiyuu Akira Kamiya playing Roy Fokker. His dark voice gives a mature sounding to it since he is a role model to not only Hikaru, but to his men, but yet still has some lightness to it to reflect his laid back personality. Hikaru’s seiyuu Hase Arihiro, gave a very teenage sound to it and he captivated qualities where he’s trying to grow up and understand the world around him, and yet he has to fight in a war. Sho Hayami who plays Max brings unique traits to the character by being serious and yet having a mellow personality at the same time, while in comparison to his other roles like Burn from Dunbine and Zarbon from DBZ tend to be more serious. Mari Iijima who plays Minmei in both the Japanese and the newer dub is just excellent.This anime helped jump-started her music career as well. She brought a high pitch sound to the voice that not only brings out a teenage girl, but brings a Chinese authenticity to her voice the same way Shampoo’s voice in the Japanese version also had where it was high pitched to indicate some sort of accent. Plus, her singing is just excellent and addicting with such songs like Xiao Bai Lo which was her biggest hit on the show. But outside of Min Mei’s songs which I will also talk about when I get around to reviewing the movie, Do You Remember Love, the opening and ending themes of Macross are excellent pieces of music themselves.Like the opening theme simply also titled Macross is amazing in its own right. The singer sounds pretty old school with the tone of his voice and the opening trumpets sound something you’d hear in a military march and goes with to the aerial imagery when transitioned to all the fighting with faster paced music and singing. And the song Runner has a pretty mellow feel to it. And the background music in general tends to use a lot of trumpets in general and gives a military feel to it overall whenever in the midst of battle.In comparison to Gundam, this anime brings a different kind of twist to the military centered mech genre. Like in Gundam, the series tended to be more about humans fighting each other, while in Macross it is more about aliens but there is more elaboration to that in relation to the origin of the Zentradi which would be a spoiler if I got around to that. The series is more light hearted and more drama based with the love triangles but a different kind of coming of age story in its own right. Not just for Hikaru, but for Minmei as well. The main cast all have their roles in the story and develop in their respective rights. Despite some changes when it became Robotech as an early gateway anime over 20 years ago, Golden Harmony still managed to keep its main themes in faith, but this overall great anime with a wonderful story with interesting art and excellent action with terrific acting and music
As I said in my previous entry, the early 80’s was the time the second generation of anime fans came by and they weren’t that fond of drama and high ideals. I can almost hear them saying: “Hey anime industry! We really like space adventures and huge robots and action and relations between humans and aliens. But can we please have a series without the overblown drama which is pissing us off? And while you’re at it, can you please throw in some singing and pop idols? We like pop idols and pop is very in.”And as if their wishes were heard, Macross came to be…The thing I must begin with is that I and most others of my generation grew up thinking it was an American production named Robotech and that it was three seasons long. Well, no, that was actually a weird mix and blend and mutate thingy Harmony Gold did with three different and completely unrelated anime series. But who cares? Back then Robotech or whatever it was called was the top action/space adventure ever made! I mean, seriously, who can point out another anime with more action and more interesting scenario that was broadcasting on television at that time? Hell, who can point out an anime with A BIGGER FORTRESS? I mean, the damn thing was big enough to fit in a huge city, plus double the space for military equipment and cannons powerful enough to blow alien armadas twice its size. Plus, it could transform into a robot that could ram its fists into enemy ships and fire a million missiles inside it! Plus, it could teleport in seconds to the other side of the solar system and taking along with it a whole island. So as you can tell it wasn’t just a big fortress. It was a COLOSSAL SUPER GODDAMN COOL DIMENSIONAL BLOWS EVERYTHING APART FORTRESS THAT HOLDS A WHOLE FREAKING CITY INSIDE AND CAN STILL TURN TO A MOUNTAIN TALL ROBOOOOT !!! And I loved it.Many people say that it is not the size that matters but the way you use it. You know what I am talking about…Many earlier anime also had big robots and big spaceships but the size there played little to no role in the story. I mean, sure, a huge robot is a lot cooler than a human-sized one and so are the explosions it creates but as far as the plot is involved, it didn’t matter one bit. But in this show, the proportions were really excused to be so… big. So big that even all the classical mecha grouped together look like ants before it. You see, the fortress houses an entire city full of several thousands of refugees, a thing that would be impossible to do without being THIS big. Maybe it would if it was a space armada moving separately from the main robot but under the circumstances the refugees came to be (their whole island teleporting to goddamn Pluto) this was plain impossible.Another thing that excuses it is the size of the enemy armada, which more or less is several tens of thousands of ships, each bigger than a skyscraper, housing hundreds of enemy mecha, each piloted by a 30 meter tall green skinned alien. And unlike most mecha shows, where the aliens have huge armadas yet only attack with one robot at the time (man, for an advanced race they are complete idiots), here they pretty much attack in huge numbers. How could you fend off such an attack with just a big robot? Everything in this show is big; and I don’t mean just the size. The story is again big in scale of the things it involves, the character interaction is big with the things they do, the space in the galaxy all that affect is big. A thing which I finally got to see for the first time in anime is the main ship getting damaged. The need for repeated footage was a lot smaller from here on, thus the animators could freely dent and pierce and blow up lots of parts of the Macross ship/robot, which in the long run was still so big it didn’t matter much.Yet another thing I liked is how the mecha themselves are not indestructible. The Valkyries and the alien jumping pods were mass produced and could be destroyed or damaged easily, thus making the need for survival and maintenance all the more important. They were not like the lead mecha in earlier series which could never be damaged. And the characters were not immortal either; several of them died throughout the course of the story and none in an overblown dramatic / patriotic way, like going kamikaze in order to save the rest. Hell, Earth itself is not indestructible! The alien armada actually manages to destroy most of it and kill most of mankind! All of which did not happen in the first or in the last episodes but MID-WAY! When was that ever shown before? Even some of the aliens themselves eventually seek truce because they find out about common heritage and take up arms against their kind. And even some of the aliens who do get accepted in Earth as renegades later on change their minds and again turn against humanity. THIS IS JUST UNTHINKABLE IN PREVIOUS ANIME!Character interactions are also a very powerful part of the show. I mean aside from the typical cases of friendship and obedience to authority and the struggle for survival (themes quite powerful on their own) we have spicy romantic triangles between military people and pop idols, couples between white and black people (unthinkable and even insulting for some in the west), even couples between humans and aliens. Heck, the power of love, the sight of a kiss, the different way each kind would reproduce and the completely different interaction between the sexes is all a huge part of the core story and the origin of both cultures, creating a setting which is plain incredible to keep looking at. I mean a few years back Space Runaway Ideon did something similar with alien interactions but it was hardly THIS good. Artwork and animation may seem bad today, as you occasionally see jerky animation and cross-eyed characters, while the colouring feels simplistic and with lack of much shading. But again, for its time it was the best thing ever. So do not be too critical of it and in case you want to see how it would look with modern animation there are always the various sequels and prequels. Music is … erm … good I guess. The American intro and BGM simply kicks ass while the Japanese is rather meh… But the ending song is definitely more poetic and nostalgic in its original version. The voice acting is great in both languages, although as far as context goes the American version made them sound a bit more stupid, because the very story was mutated to be simpler and that affected all the rest.The story from what I described above is the best you could find back then in the genre and still is today up to an extend. Everything is plain epic in size, has lots of progress and unexpected developments, the action is good and so are most of the moments the characters are having a normal life in the ship. It does have its share of silliness of course as it is still very hard to accept how a city would be having beauty contests and music festivals when they are hunted by aliens and every day hundreds of them get killed and their houses are constantly demolished. Also, the last third of the show had lots of budget issues and the plot there feels more simplistic and slow, while the ending will feel rushed and possibly bad for some. But in overall it is very good. The Japanese version is of course more mature and in-depth, plus it doesn’t really continue with Robotech Masters and Mospeada as it did in the American version. Both those shows were not as fun anyway. It must be noted that the director of the series is Ishiguro Noboru, who also happens to have directed the older and most amazing space opera of all times, Legend of the Galactic Heroes. He is someone who knows how to deal with complicating and epic storilines. Of course, he also did Tytania but it was a completely meh show and I blame mostly his co-director for making a comedy out of it. The cast is a wonderful blend of various personalities, each one being very distinctive and memorable even after all these years. Hell, there are even fun clubs about them. They too of course feel too naive with what is going on with the grave story and it is questionable if bridge bunnies and pop idols even fit in all that for any other reason than fan service. But hey, the girls at the bridge did all the communication fuss because they couldn’t board a mecha and the pop idol gave courage and morale to the troops. As for the pop idol, her singing blows up entire fleets later on and it is still somewhat excused with the genetic encoding the aliens received from their creators. Again, all that make a lot more sense in the Japanese version, which treats protoculture as a shared lineage and not some super awesome magic power. Damn you American version!Its historical importance is huge since it was the show which hooked thousands of my generation to cartoons and anime, while over at Japan the theatrical release of the Macross movie became as big as a national celebration and is considered today as an all time favourite cult title.Plus, I really liked that show…
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