Thursday, December 16, 2010

Macross: Do You Remember How Goofy It Was?

So much has been said, blogged, and produced about the original 80's Super Dimensional Fortress Macross that it's nigh impossible to add anything unique to the dialogue. That's why we're dropping all pretense of having anything relevant to present. Instead, we've chosen to represent our love for the series in the only way we know how--By poking fun at everything that makes it great.

Easter eggs

While the infamous Budwiser missile hidden amongst the Itano Circus in the explosive finale of Do You Remember Love is the first thing that comes to mind when talking about gags planted by the staff the original TV series features a number of overlooked gems. One that flew over the heads of the Robotech generation were the names of the three Zentradi stooges that snuck onto the SDF-1 as spies. While Warera, Loli, and Conda's names appear harmless at first, in Japanese they actually spell out the not-so-subtle message, warere rorikon da: "We are pedophiles." Don't worry guys, we promise not to rat you out to governor Ishihara!

Gross misuse of culture

The Zentradi were slowly sliding towards assured extinction long before they disobeyed the teachings of their ancestors and confronted the Microns. Their conflict-based society knew how to command and pilot their war machines, but lacked the mechanical ability to repair, much less build them. It was only a matter of time before the factory gears went awry and the dreadnoughts stalled into silence.

Good thing the Earthlings brought them the gift of culture! After learning how to fix their broken weapon facilities through the power of pop music, they mastered the mysteries of mutton and cutlery. Like monkeys that turn objects in their environment into simple tools, the Zentradi display a high level of innovation by fashioning forks into makeshift cages. You’d expect more secure means of confinement from a race with planet crushing technology, but to the Zentradi building a better mousetrap means perfecting a black hole generator, so perhaps it worked out in favor of Minmay and her alcoholic cousin.

The army of the future with the organization of yesterday

Macross was an industry forerunner in many ways. It set the gold standard for all proceeding sci-fi anime with its (at the time) unorthodox mixing of high drama, transforming robots, and young idols. Unfortunately, for all the technological wonders promised by the titular dimension-leaping, mighty morphing flying fortress, its vision of future infrastructure was so near-sighted as it to keep it grounded.

Pilots report for duty using payphones and rush to the sortie point in civilian taxis. Officers are summoned over a city-wide loudspeaker system like a child lost in the supermarket. Sure they have arcade games with scaling vector graphics and 3D displays, but lack everyday technology rudimentary by today’s standards. Forget about wireless communication. Or IC chip personnel tracking. Or a reliable way to deploy troops. Earth never stood a fighting chance against the Zentradi until they discovered the Minmay attack, but even abject despair is no excuse for lazy planning.

Innsmouth look

Sailors get scurvy; inhabitants of the SDF-1 get googly eyes. Is it from the constant exposure to fluorescent lights? The stress from living inside a war zone manifested? Mass hysteria? We’ll never know if the cause was lazy animators or purposefully lazy eyes.

Happy cosmic wedding

Max and Milia answer the age-old otaku conundrum: Can love bloom, even on a battlefield? Their courtship stands as a historic first for nerd marriages. Not only was their first face-to-face meeting across the romantic glow of a game monitor, they even sprung to have a giant robot-shaped cake at their wedding. People today are able to exchange their vows in Klingon (or even in Zentradi), free from shame and ridicule, thanks to the precedence set by their brave love.

Space age comfort

Serving as the mechanical brain of the Macross, its command center represents the pinnacle of technology that looms tall against the unknown blackness of space. The future of the human race hangs in the balance of the decisions made here by Captain Global and his crew.

Given the importance of the physical and mental well being of the deck hands, you’d expect the architects to have installed something as sleek and comfortable as a Vernet Panton S-chair, or, in the very least, a battle-ready La-Z-Boy. Instead they get those pads that lock your feet into weight machines at the gym.

Virtual idols

When series director Ishiguro Noburo and character designer Makimoto Haruhiko gave birth to Lynn Minmay, I doubt they had any indication of the damage their daughter would wreck on the psyche of young boys across the country. The teen idol was an accepted proxy girlfriend for the kids too busy cramming for entrance exams to chase skirts, and Miss Macross was the next eventual step down the slippery slope of virtual relationships.

Minmay set a precedence of beautiful girls further and further removed from reality. Her DNA provided the blueprints for anime's first virtual heroine, an amazingly mind bending feat, given that anime is virtual by its very nature. Eve, the computerized idol that served as the benevolent protector of the 1985 OVA Megazone 23, had the same parents as Minmay, Ishiguro and Makimoto. Megazone 23 inherited a number of hand-me-down themes from Macross, including transforming robots, a contemporary Tokyo setting, and pop music to appease the masses. The OVA moved over half a million units, making it the best selling VHS film of the year, anime or otherwise. Paired with the success of its contemporary and similarly bishojo-powered Fantastic Adventure of Yohko Leda, 1985 marked the start of the countdown to extinction for 3D girls.

If Minmay and Eve are sisters, then Macross Plus' Sharon Apple is their younger cousin, and Hatsune Miku their niece. Before you damn the vocaloid, remember that it all began with one girl, whose boyfriend was a pilot.

Proto moe

Speaking of cute girls, Macross pioneered the marketing ploy of featuring an abnormal number of women in its crew. All of the command room members are female—Captain Global could have been the star of the first harem show if the focus wasn’t on the Space War.

Captain Global

Bumbling at best, dangerous to his passengers at worst, Captain Global stumbles through the series, stopping only to bang his head on low hanging archways and be chided by Shammy for forgetting—again—that the deck is non-smoking. His grand character arc of pleading for peace with the UN concludes with him making a halfhearted pass at Misa, one that she gracefully laughs off because a woman her age is legally bound by Japanese law to serve as someone’s surrogate mother, not their stand-in daughter.

Lacking the inner turmoil of Yamato’s Okita and the personal vendetta shouldered by Nadia’s Nemo, Global is not only a boring commander, but a largely inept one whose grand stratagem boils down to soaking up acceptable losses until the SDF-1 lurches close enough to the enemy to unleash robot punch. He may suck at everything, but at least he does it with aplomb. Precariously-placed-over-one-eye hats off to you, Captain.
That's it from these guys. Do you have any Macross trivia or memories to add? Have you ever made pineapple salad for your significant other? Or dressed your dog up like a VF-1 dressed up like a Zentradi soldier to re-enact Rick/Hikaru's daring escape? Or played the Robotech pen and paper RPG? If so, TSB wants to know!


  1. Everybody I know loves Macross:

  2. Global was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. The appeal of this show is how in over their heads humanity is. Macross is an apocalypse story if you really think about it.

    Minmay being the birth of the virtual idols and Max's otaku wet-dream of a courtship are so obvious that I am jealous I never made those connections myself.


  3. The Cagliostro Easter Egg during aforementioned arcade scene is something people can pick out nowadays, but one that you don't hear about TOO often is from the end of the very first episode, where Hikaru transforms the Valkyrie into Battroid mode for the first time. In so doing, he crashes through a series of buildings...and I'm pretty sure each of them is/was a real-life animation studio. At the very least, there was the Studio Nue one; frame-by-frame nerds can see the studio mascot's expression change in the face of its impending destruction.

  4. Anime and Manga from the 80's has a special appeal that can't be remade or reproduced now. The music from regular japanese 80's songs and from the anime shows are very addicting to listen too. Macross was very fun anime to watch. The few things I will like to point out when you see mistakes in the animation. One example is one the three Zentradi stooges wore womens clothes by accident in one of the episodes. Later he wore different clothes then a scene later shows him in the clothes before. Overall great article and I hope you can do a similar one on other ones like Golion, Robot Carnival or any other show/comic that fits the criteria.

  5. -winterkaiju: Glad you liked it!

    -Shaun: Sadly I have not experienced watching Macross with a room full of excitable men, and I feel like I'm missing out.

    -Superdeformed: I was too hard on global. You're right, he made the best of a bad situation. The show's more about the pilots than the commanders anyways.

    All of the otaku culture stuff makes sense in hindsight! The Zentradi were right to be terrified.

    -Daryl Surat: Thank you for clearing this up! I noticed the smiley face billboard turning into a horrified Mr. Bill expression but didn't realize that it was Studio Nue. All of those production houses in the Nerima/Chuo Line are are a stone's throw away, so it's not so much of a stretch to see them all demolished in one go.

    -Anonymous:We will tackle another series in this format once we find one as charmingly flawed as Macross!

  6. Hahah. Good stuff. I remember trying the palladium game in the late 90s due to it being compatible with the TMNT rpg. I re-bought the book a few years ago but it has just been sitting with my old stuff unused.

  7. I haven't seen Macross in a very very long time. Nor have I played Palladium's Macross in almost as long, though I do still have several of their Macross II books.

  8. This was a great read. Thanks!