Monday, 21 December 2009

Anime REVIEW: Macross 7

And we’re back again for another Macross review, this time more specifically Macross 7. Macross 7 consists of a 49 episode television series, 1 movie (I say movie, its 40 minute episode that was shown alongside Macross Plus movie version), 3 special OVA encore episodes and a further 4 episode OVA sequel series. So quite a lot to get through, in fact the most for any Macross series to date. But before we look at the quality of Macross 7, perhaps it would be better to shed some light on just what is going on here.

Set in the year 2045, this series follows the Macross 7 colonisation fleet in its quest to find a new home for humanity across the galaxy (for anyone who has seen Macross Frontier, its exactly the same concept, even the ship looks pretty much the same). More specifically it follows the rock band Fire Bomber, consisting of lead singer/guitarist Nekki Basara, keytar player Ray Lovelock, Zentradi drummer Veffidas Feaze and bassist/vocalist Mylene Flare Jenius (daughter of fleet captain Maximilian Jenius and city mayor Miria Fallyna Jenius, both returning characters from The Super Dimension Fortress Macross). The series concerns the fleet’s encounter with the Protodeviln, an evil entity that steals ‘spiritia’ (essentially life essence) from all living creatures and was responsible for the supervision army that the Zentradi were at war with before the Macross timeline began. Basara is a reckless man who often enters military battles in his own custom Valkyrie, choosing to sing to the enemy rather than fight them, much to the annoyance of the military. But it is soon revealed that Basara is being watched by a secret military project inspired by the effectiveness of Lynn Minmay’s singing in the original Zentradi war, and in fact his singing could be the key to defeating the Protodeviln and their leader, Lord Gepelnitch.

That’s the story covered, but in reality what we really have here is by far the worst series in the Macross canon. At least Macross II has some sort of excuse, it wasn’t created by Studio Nue and therefore isn’t considered canonical. Plus it was short. This IS canon, and is far from being short. The main cast of characters is either bland or annoying – Basara is an arrogant prick who thinks everything in life can be solved by singing at it, Mylene is prissy jailbait who acts like the head of the band despite being its newest member (why a 14 year old is in a band with 20/30 year olds is beyond me), Ray is extremely boring despite his “tragic” (read: cliché) background and Veffidas has 2 lines in the whole series (3 if you count the OVAs). The villains aren’t much better, with the spirit of Gepelnitch possessing the most feminine looking male (I wouldn’t have even known it was a male had the fansub not told me) I’ve ever seen and the character talking in ridiculous metaphors throughout. Throw in a stupid recurring character (a girl who is constantly trying to give Basara flowers but never gets the chance – don’t worry, she does eventually) and a group of bland side characters and there’s not really much to look at here. It even has the staple cutesy anime animal pet character in the form of Guvava, who can only be described as Cousin It if it were a mouse.

As usual with Macross, singing plays a pretty big part. Only this time singing is completely centre stage, with Fire Bomber’s songs pretty much being the answer to everything in the entire series. We even get treated to “song energy”, where the power of Fire Bomber’s music is channelled into a sort of laser to battle the enemy. Yes, it’s as cheesy as it sounds. Gone are the memorable pop songs in favour of horrible 80s sounding J-rock which you’ll only be singing along to because the same 3 songs are played several times in every episode, drilling them into your brain. The singing voices are also especially strange, as they often don’t match the normal voice actors because they have a very strange echo effect to them (it’s a bit hard to explain, but you’ll understand if you watch the show). The staple love triangle is there too, only this time its so insignificant that it’s barely noticeable (probably because it gets in the way of the HARDCORE ROCK!)

Episodes are formulaic and uninspiring, basically following the pattern of ‘Pointless plot, enemy shows up, military attempt to beat them to no avail, Basara pops up and drives them away with his singing, pointless plot is resolved’. Even after the creation of Sound Force (the team made up of Fire Bomber used to drive away the advancing Protodeviln) this formula doesn’t change. The final episode is a prime example of style of substance, looking very pretty but having an extremely weak ending which is probably fitting given how weak the series was as a whole.

And the valkyrie designs, my god, the valkyrie designs. Its bad enough that the standard army ones are pretty disappointing (they look nice in jet mode, especially the VF-17 and VF-22, but are ruined in battroid mode by silly looking heads), but the Sound Force ones are ridiculous. Just take a look at them, they look like Power Ranger Zord rejects. I’ve always liked the inhumanoid facial aspect of the valkyrie battroids, so just to give them mouths and proper faces, let alone BREASTS, is the ultimate sin. Mylene’s even has boob speakers. Yes, you read that correctly. What. The. Hell. Basara’s and Mylene’s also have guitar control pads, which probably sounds a lot cooler than it actually is. On the flipside, Battle Macross looks pretty good, except that the head (or the control tower where the head would be) is far too small, making it look like a giant with a small head. The protodeviln true forms also have very disappointing designs, with some of them looking like they belong more in something like Legend of the Overfiend rather than Macross.

The OVA encore episodes (well, 2 of them anyway) aren’t much better either, offering even more filler plot to a series than was already about 25 episodes too long. The sequel OVAs, Macross Dynamite 7, despite having a much better soundtrack (but still not a patch on the other Macross incarnations) manages the monumental task of being worse than its predecessor, as Macross does its best Moby Dick impression and we see Basara leave Macross 7 to travel the galaxy alone with his guitar, arriving on the planet Zola meeting up with a young girl and her father, who is obsessed with catching a white space whale. Meanwhile, Mylene gets drugged and almost raped by a grown woman. Yes, again you read that correctly. The OVA also has no form of resolution whatsoever, so even if you manage to enjoy the series you’re always going to be left wanting more.

But it wouldn’t be fair to not mention the few good things Macross 7 has to offer since I’ve spent so long ranting about its faults. Returning characters Max and Milia are easily the best in the entire series, and it’s great to see Milia’s original Valkyrie from SDF make an appearance midway into the series. I wish the series explored more into why these two characters are separated in the series, given that their rocky relationship is so prominent and that they were without a doubt the strongest couple in the original series. Third returning character Zentradi Exsedol Folmo is also one of the series strengths, despite not actually doing anything until over halfway through the series. Episode 43 is probably the only one of the series I can honestly say I really enjoyed, as it handled the emotional goodbyes as some of the characters left on a potential suicide mission really well. It wasn’t the only good episode of Macross 7 as a whole though, the movie “The Galaxy Is Calling Me!” is also excellent, with Mylene’s sister Emilia making an appearance. In fact, she’s a hell of a lot more likable than her sister and I half wish she’d been the main character of the series. The encore episode “Fleet of the Strongest Women” is probably the best of Macross 7, if only because it plays more on and continues the plot of SDF Macross rather than have anything to do with the horrible Macross 7 plot. Mylene singing “Do You Remember Love?” is also a highlight, which shows that it doesn’t matter who’s singing it, it’s still a cut above any of the horrid J-rock that litters this show.

In conclusion, if Macross Plus was Macross for an older audience, then Macross 7 is Macross for 10 year olds. A few saving graces doesn’t stop if from being not only the worst Macross series (which is especially bad given it’s the longest) I’ve watched (I haven’t seen Zero yet, but I can’t imagine it’s any worse than this), but also one of the worst animes I’m yet to watch. Macross, you could do so much better.


Anonymous said...

Honestly, I love Macross 7. It's one of my favorite animes. But I'll also admit that it's DEFINITELY not for everyone, considering that it strays from the Macross formula while still keeping the main concepts(music, Variable Fighters, and Love Triangles). But, if you don't like it, It's just your opinion as this is mine, and I respect that.

Alex said...

Since posting the review I've certainly decided it fares better with multiple viewings, but I still hold it rather lowly in comparison to the rest of the Macross franchise.

I've started listening to Fire Bomber a lot more too, but the songs that didn't feature so heavily in every episode. Maybe if Planet Dance didn't play 2-3 times per episode I wouldn't have been so critical initially though.

Eitherway, Macross 7 is very different, and its nice to know it has such big fans as yourself! :)

Tennyson Val said...

Macross 7 is easily my favorite anime ever.

But as mentioned, it's easily not for everyone. In fact, enjoying it mostly comes down to expectations. If you start watching it expecting a SDF Macross style show, you'll be sorely disappointed.

I got lucky. I watched it as a 13 year-old; still young enough to seamlessly suspend disbelief and ignore the gaping plot holes.

The formula to enjoying M7 is threefold. 1) Watch it as its own show, apart from any other Macross installments. 2) Suspend disbelief. 3) Love Fire Bomber.

Three is easy as hell for me. They're still my favorite band to date. Maybe it's nostalgia. Maybe it really is good.

If you watch the show for the music, you won't be disappointed.

Alex said...

It's funny, because literally this morning I was talking to a friend about Macross 7 while reading a 15 page discussion thread about whether Basara was a good character or not. What a great time for you to have left a comment :)

With so many shows out there that I want to check out and review I don't often have time to revisit things as much as I'd like, but Macross 7 is at the top of the list of things I do want to try again. I'm fairly sure my opinions of the show itself won't change that much, but I'd like to watch while at least trying to appreciate it as its own show.

Plus my love for Fire Bomber as a band has grown IMMENSELY since I wrote this review. They're probably the Macross musicians I listen to the most now, and that's not just because of their much more extensive back catalogue! My favourite stuff tends to be on later releases like Dynamite Fire!! and Re. Fire!! (sucks that album came so long after the show finished, it has some incredible tracks) but there are plenty of songs in the actual show I like. Totsugeki Love Heart is always a winner.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this awesome review and stopping me from finishing this disgusting show. I was told to give this a try because of the upcoming Macross Delta, but 12 episodes in and I was already sick of Basara, an absolutely unlikable character and the power Ranger style story. I will be sharing this review with as many fellow anime fans as possible, so they don't suffer the trauma of having their precious memories of Macross raped by this abomination.