Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Macross, do you remember the love?

As a kid, I was a massive fan of Robotech, the Americanized version of three Japanese animes.I still am a fan of Robotech, if only because meshing three completely different stories into a single, workable version is amazing, no matter what you think of the results.However, while Robotech has failed to ever produce much in the way of sequels (Shadow Chronicles is about it), the first part of the series, Super Dimensional Fortress Macross, has had many follow-ups in Japan, a few of which have been released here in the states.

There's a little bit of weirdness with the original Macross.There's the series, which was extremely popular, and then there's a movie version called Macross: Do You Remember Love, which is essentially a condensed version of the storyline with all original (and insanely good) animation.It was released in a hilariously badly dubbed version as "Clash of the Bionoids" in the states, and eventually in the original Japanese format with subtitles.The funny thing is both the series and the movie are sort of considered cannon by the creator of Macross, Shoji Kawamori, who has said that the series is the story told as a series, the movie is the story told as a movie, and they are both equal.This has an impact on the sequels, as they often mix and match elements of the two origins however works best for them.

The first sequel made to Macross was the aptly named Macross II: Lovers Again.This wasn't produced by Kawamori, and it's "non-canon" to the Macross story line, despite the fact that it's got a pretty decent story and the music is very good.So good, in fact, that they would incorporate the songs into the next Macross sequel.Macross II was released dubbed and subbed in the states, as well as in a movie version, and was decently popular for a while.That is, until Kawamori announced an "official" continuation to the series in the form of an OVA and a new series - Macross Plus and Macross 7.

Macross Plus was amazing.The music was incredible (thank you, Yoko Kanno!), the animation was top notch, and the story was a classic version of the Macross love triangle.It was released dubbed and subbed in the states along with a soundtrack. The story of two test pilots with long standing axes to grind, the woman they both love, the horrible secret between them, and the crazy AI who tries to destroy the world it was just perfect. Based on Macross Plus alone, I was massively awaiting Macross 7 s arrival, because hey, this was awesome stuff.

But Macross 7 didn't come.For some strange reason, no one was importing it to the states.No dubs, no subs.Only an Australian subbed edition was available.Why?It made no sense to me, but while I heard folks who were all atwitter about Macross 7, I could never find any of it to watch myself.

For several years, I forgot about Macross 7, other than the occasional looking at images from the series.I had seen the mecha, which were mostly the same as from Macross Plus.I loved the look of the ships, and while the weird clam-shell city was kinda funky, I liked the idea of it too.I had also gathered a very general summary of the series: the seventh Macross exploratory fleet, led by Maximillian Jenius (Max Sterling for the Robotech fans) encounters a new enemy called the Protodeviln, and only the music of a band called Fire Bomber, which includes the seventh daughter of Max and Miria Jenius (who is mayor of the giant city and has also divorced Max) can stop them.Sounds like a good story!

A month or so ago, I discovered a website with all the episodes available to watch.I immediately began devouring the episodes.And after about three or four it became painfully clear why Macross 7 had never been released in the US.

Simply put, it's terrible.

The main character is not the daughter of Max and Miria, and is instead Nikki Basara, a pacifistic musician who flies into battle, gets in the road, and generally makes a complete ass of himself so he can sing to the bad guys.Not only is the character just in general obnoxious, but he's described as being basically the best singer ever (he's not), the best pilot ever (he isn't), and is generally such a massive Mary Sue for Kawamori that I'm surprised he didn't just name him after himself.Basara is annoying in every way a character can be annoying.He's disrespectful to everyone, he's selfish, self centered, and all around a dick, and yet the story is written to make him vital to the survival of everyone.In more than one instance he puts hundreds of thousands of people at risk so he can sing to the bad guys, a trick that literally takes more than twenty episodes before it finally starts to work, and only then because of special tech.You know what they call doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results?Basara is the king of that.Worse, while Mylene, Max and Miria's daughter, is somewhat interesting, Basara always ends up putting her down or otherwise establishing that he knows better than her.The story between Max and Miria, who broke up after seven kids for some unidentified reason, just doesn't ring true either.There's simply nothing about the story that works.

The animation is also terrible.It's comparable to the original Macross series, I will admit, but considering it was a decade later when combining CG and cell animation was becoming common place and pretty much even crappy anime had good animation, it's very jarring.Worse, Macross Plus had such great animation that this, it's sequel, looks like a complete dog.I can't count the number of times I've seen the same retreat sequence from the bad guys, or the same stage performance from the band.

And let's talk about the music.There are people who really like Fire Bomber, so much so that the fictional band released a number of real albums.Folks, the music is terrible. It's only "good" because they play the songs over and over and they get stuck in your head.That's not good music, that's brainwashing.The music is nothing compared to the music of Macross Plus.It's not even as good as the music from the original.The only good music is the stuff they took from Macross II and Macross Plus, which is usually played in the background.

Just do yourself a favor and pretend Macross 7 never existed.It's just a horrible, horrible series.

So that's it for Macross, right?Nope a few years ago, they brought out a new series.Oh boy, here we go

The new series is called Macross Frontier, and it's a sequel to Macross 7 set several years afterward, following the Macross Frontier fleet as it encounters a mysterious and dangerous new enemy.Sounds like Macross 7 all over, right?

It's not!

Macross Frontier is everything Macross 7 wasn't.The animation is amazingly good, seamlessly merging cel and CG animation to create incredible battle scenes and realistic characters.The story is much, much better, with the main triangle between a young pilot, a young girl trying to become a singer, and a famous singer who is trapped on the fleet after her home fleet is destroyed by the bad guys.The bad guys, by the way, are bad, and are fought and killed, not sung to, and they happen to be big kaiju monsters, which just adds to the fun. The music is also a huge step up, with the two singers matching in synch very well and the songs not nearly as annoying as the self-aggrandizing Fire Bomber crap.In short, it's what a sequel to Macross should have been in the first place!

I haven't finished Macross Frontier, nor have I watched Macross Zero, a prequel series, yet, but I think if you ignore Macross 7, just read a synopsis and leave it at that, you can enjoy all of the other Macross sequels.
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