Thursday 10 December 2009

Anime REVIEW: The Super Dimension Fortress Macross

So like I said I would I've taken the time to go back and revisit the entire Macross chronlogy, and what better place is there to start than the very beginning? Released between 1982 and 1983, The Super Dimension Fortress Macross (or SDF Macross for short) was a 36 episode series that told the story of the mysterious spaceship SDF-1 Macross, which had crash landed on Earth and had been rebuilt by a military organisation known as the U.N. Spacy. On its launching day the ships cannon mysteriously fires, shooting down an advancing alien invasion searching for the space craft, which once belonged to their enemy. A war breaks out and the Macross is forced to launch into space as the military battle these aliens, known as the Zentradi, in giant transforming mechas known as Variable Fighters (or Valkyries). Caught up in this is civilian pilot Hikaru Ichijyo, who later joins the military after recommendation from his "senpai" Roy Focker, and 16 year old Lynn Minmay, a girl with dreams of stardom. Minmay laters goes on to win the first 'Miss Macross' competition, becoming a pop sensation and distancing her from Hikaru, who becomes entagled in a complicated love triangle with Minmay and his superior officer, Misa Hayase. Meanwhile, the military learn that the Zentradi are a race born only for fighting, where males and females are separated and have no concept of culture, and believe the people of Earth to be the Protoculture, the original race of beings from which the Zentradi descended. It is up to the power of Earth's culture and the power of Minmay's songs to bring peace between the Macross and the Zentradi.

The plot of the series itself is wonderful, being the first to connect war and giant mecha with the power of culture, unforgettable songs and a complicated love triangle. After watching this it seems somewhat clear why this has become a staple in future Macross series....if it isn't broken, don't fix it. That isn't to say however that the story is perfect, because it isn't. Some moments seem extremely rushed, such as the first marriage between a human and Zentradi female, which literally takes place in about 5 minutes, while others, such as the epic love triangle between Hikaru, Misa and Minmay are horrifically drawn out. In fact, the plan was for the series to originally be only 27 episodes long, but due to its popularity an extra 9 episodes were created as an epilogue, following the story 1 year after the war between humanity and the Zentradi. In reality these 9 episodes just serve to futher draw out the love triangle even more, as the other events, such as rebelling Zentradi, are sidelined for it. And even then I didn't find the resolution to be particuarly well told.

As you'd expect for a series made over 25 years ago, the art has become particuarly dated and Minmay's concert performances aren't quite as memorable as perhaps Sheryl and Ranka's are in Macross Frontier, but they still have their own unique charm and for someone who enjoys 80s cartoons such as Transformers and to an extent, Voltron this wasn't particuarly a huge deal for me. Watching this series made me realise how many homages there really are in Macross Frontier, and you'd be doing yourself an injustice if you enjoyed Frontier and didn't atleast check this out, because you'd be missing half the fun of Frontier. So in conclusion SDF Macross is in fact very good, but I wouldn't go as far as to say that it was amazing. Its timeless quality merely lies in what came after it, and it probably wouldn't have the regard it has today without it. If you have a great interest in the Macross franchise I'd say its worth looking into, but if you don't feel like sitting through a 36 episode series, please scroll down to the next part of this review....

....where I will be covering the movie version of the series Macross: Do You Remember Love? An alternate retelling of the series' events (particuarly episodes 2 to 27) where things happen slightly differently (an extensive list of these differences can be found on wikipedia). Since this is a movie, the budget was obviously alot higher and it really shows. The whole thing bears new animation and new character designs for the Zentradi and valkyries. In fact, these designs would go on to become canonical for future Macross series. They even went and created a whole new language for the Zentradi (and Meltradi, the female Zentradi who were given a new name for the movie), which reminds me alot of the Klingons from Star Trek. The animation truly is beautiful, for something 25 years old it still rivals today's animation standards and Valkyries' look a hell of alot better than the CGI ones in Frontier, and they were pretty damn impressive. Now I don't want to sound like I'm gushing, but this movie succeeds to right everything that was wrong with the original series, and by doing that doesn't only skyrocket it being AMAZING, but it fact makes it one of the best anime films, perhaps even films in general, that I have ever seen. Within 5 minutes of the movie's opening it was plain for me to see why this is considered the greatest part of Macross and why fans hold it in such high regard. I urge everyone to check this film out, because it really is an epic tale of robots, romance and pop music set in space. The film's title track Ai Oboete Imasuka (Do You Remember Love?) is a fantastic piece of music, and is written into the story very well and makes the final battle (where Minmay performs it to a legion of spaceships and mecha battling in space) even more memorable. A true masterpiece, 5 out of 5 doesn't even sum it up.

And for those who are interested, theres also a short OVA Macross Flash Back 2012, which is mainly made up of clips from both the movie and the series put to some of Minmay's songs, but also includes some new footage of events briefly mentioned but not shown at the end of the series. Not great, but quite interesting to see if you've been following the series as closely as me.

No comments: