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Oh no, not there! Anywhere but there!

February 1, 2009

“Fire the main cannon!”

Captain Bruno J. Global, Super Dimensional Fortress Macross

“39 episodes of unadulterated 1980 goodness” is probably the best description of Super Dimensional Fortress Macross that I can come up with at the moment. For a show where aliens attack Earth and force humanity’s newest warship, the Macross, off it, along with a large part of the island its moored at, and they end up all the way at Pluto, it’s surprisingly realistic.

The three main characters, Misa, a bridge officer new on the Macross; Minmay, the “girl next door” archtype who later becomes a pop idol; and Hikaru, Mimnay’s friend who joins the hastily-created fighter squadrons of the Macross, have a lot of development within the show. Hikaru has done enough maturing to rival a Gundam series protagonist, and Frontier’s Sheryl sort of resembles Minmay in role, just that Minmay was never in danger of having her mind eaten, for lack of a more elegant description. Macross Frontier was , although having quite a lot of character development, was a bit lacking in the love department. But I guess it doesn’t matter much, since for both shows, everyone got together and worked together in the end.

What’s nice is that Hikaru doesn’t start out lord of the pilot stick, as Misa proudly calls him “Crash King Ichijyo” in the English dub. I mean, not everyone has to be a natural ace to be a protagonist, though I must admit that Alto was much less squeamish about pressing the trigger. Or maybe it’s just the unappetizing looks of the Vajra.Whatever the case though, after watching SDF Macross it seems that Alto’s end-series performance in Frontier gave me the feeling that he’s more for machine than skill, and in the SDF Macross, we actually get to see Hikaru put in significant effort to get better at his job over the course of the series as he files alongside his mentor, then later leads his own squadron.

Minmay started out as a normal girl trying to cope with the fact that her city and home is now in a ship, and upon Hikaru joining the local air defense force, she decides to fight in her own way by becoming an idol singer to lift everyone’s morale. The fame gets to her head, somewhat, but this goes both ways for Hikaru and Minmay, and the drama stacks when they realize it and try to repair their relationship. Misa Hayase spread her development over the series as her job brings her closer to Hikaru and the other pilots’ exploits and losses, and when they both get captured, their defining moment sets off a rocket to their eventual pairing. Worthy of mention is Minmay’s manager and cousin, Kaifun… nope, no hope left for the rat-bastard, he must have been the most annoying character I’ve ever seen on-screen. He did leave an impact on me, though, the stupid little coward. However, since Leon’s acts of fiendishness in Frontier were noticeably more concealed and that his target was Glass-oyaji instead of any major characters, perhaps Kaifun was the one that gave Macross more “oomph” than Frontier…

Then there is the story from the alien viewpoint. This is where Macross made its mark; the aliens, bred for war, have no concept of individuality and culture; they’re not a hivemind, but imagine a society made up of nothing but one type of worker. And when an unfortunate incident brings human culture to the Zentradi… well, it’s really a sight you have to see yourself, especially when that gets weaponized by the humans as a psychological weapon. The show takes it even further by showing what happens after that, and our heroes learn that there isn’t quite anything that works for all time, and enemies will eventually adapt…

In terms of animation, Macross Frontier has SDF Macross completely bowled over in this part, but that’s just par on course. That’s not to say SDF Macross’ animation sucks, it does get quite creative sometimes and then there’re the memorable moments of QUALITY! spread throughout the show. See if you can spot the “Manly Minmay” poster!

For the mechs, Macross has an odd mix, akin to the mobile suit/mobile armor dynamic of the Gundam series. It’s less jarring for the VFs (the main fighter machines) and Destroids (bipedal cannon fodder) though, since time and time again, if there’s a threat that the VFs fail to shoot down most of the time the Destroids put their pride and pilots on the line to stop it. To add to that, it’s really refreshing to see Hikaru butt-slapping a Zentradi with a combat baton the size of a thick tree trunk, and I wouldn’t have minded Alto drop-kicking a Vajra back through a hull breach with a appropriated Destroid, for reference’s sake.

All in all, SDF Macross was a great watch and a necessary one if you intend to go all the way back to the beginning of the Macross series. If you can do that without going all fag-minded and screaming “ZOMF THE ANIMATION ARG ARG ARG ARG”, then this should be at the top of your watch list.

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