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.