Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Macross Plus Review

Macross Plus is the creation of Shoji Kawamori and Shinichiro Watanabe. Both directors have large ties in the Mecha and Sci-fi anime genres, with Kawamori helping create the Macross series and Watanabe, who was just beginning his anime career, who would go on to create Cowboy Bebop. The combination of these two's creative minds helps make Macross Plus stand out as not only a strong part of its own universe, but also in the realm of science fiction anime.

The story of Plus follows Isamu Dyson, an overenthusiastic fighter pilot who is turned test pilot after an incident that costs him his position. He is sent the planet Eden to test the YF-19, an experimental ship in competition with rival plane called the YF-21. The two ships will perform a series of test and whichever comes out on top will be funded to be mass produced for the military. Things heat up when Isamu finds that the pilot of the YF-21 is Guld Goa Bowman, a rival/friend from his past. Also arriving on Eden is another person from Isamu's past, Myung Fang Lone. She is the producer for a digital diva named Sharon Apple who has gained popularity across Earth and Eden alike.

Macross Plus is a very character driven narrative. The plot revolves around the past between Isamu, Guld, and Myung and does a good job of creating a love triangle between the three that doesn't feel forced or unneeded. It is a huge component of the plot as it is revealed that Myung actually provides the element of emotion to Sharon, whose highly experimental programming cannot fully recreate human emotions. Normally Myung is collected enough to direct Sharon, but becomes thrown into disarray over Isamu and Guld. Sharon eventually adapts to Myung's emotional shifts, gaining a human level of consciousness, and hacks her way into a large military base. The plot moves at a satisfying pace, but anyone who enjoys action more than drama might find it lingers to a bit too much between the faster paced moments and the slower, more drawn out, character expositions.

Being plot heavy does not mean that Plus disappoints in the visual department though. Being an original video animation (OVA), Plus had a decent budget to put across its four episodes, and it shows. Fights between the YF-19 and YF-21 are beautifully choreographed. A lot of the shot composition focuses on creating the most dramatic angles for dogfights, and it zooms out a lot to make actions easier to follow. Backgrounds are rendered beautifully, in particular the forests of Eden in the second and third episodes are mesmerizing.

Famous anime, drama, and film composer Yoko Kanno was brought onboard to create the soundtrack for Plus. She does a great job creating a unique blend of pop, rock, and new age. Much of her work for the in series songstress Sharon is very trance inducing. Sharon is a program, and Kanno created a series of songs that reflect her robotic nature, as well as creating a sound so foreign that it feels futuristic. There are two soundtrack collections for Plus as well as a single for Sharon Apple, testifying to the success of Kanno's musical prowess.

The weakest link for Plus is its English voice dub. This is by no means a bad thing considering how well it's other parts work. Bryan Cranston does a great job of characterizing the young and brash Isamu Dyson; likewise, Richard Epcar's portrayal of the collected and calculating Gul Goa Bowman feels spot on. Myung's voice actress, Anne Sherman, is one of the weaker links. She just falls flat in serious moments, and this becomes obvious in the final episode where the story reaches its climax. Overall, the dub accomplishes everything it needs to in bringing across the emotion in the moment regardless of its few outliers. It was a good dub for 1994, and it's definitely enjoyable almost 20 years later.

Macross Plus has aged pretty well. Its visuals still look good today and its unique musical score really help it stand out. The story can feel a bit farfetched at times, but everything is explained within reason. Fans of Mecha anime and fans of drama should definitely look up Plus if they get the chance. Its cast and story really carry the two and half hour experience. And make it all the more entertaining.
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