Everything Under The Sun... And Then Some!

Monday, September 5, 2011

What Is The Meaning of Culture?

Let me check something here. Okay, so my last Macross review ran up to 6,013 words. Yeah....... not gonna do that again for ANYTHING.

So, I was maxing and relaxing in my new apartment and wanted to watch something with robots and explosions that wasn't Transformers. And since I am now a Macross junkie, I decided to watch the 1992 mini-series (or OVA) Super Dimensional Fortress Macross II: Lovers Again. Unfortunately, after having seen First Macross, Macross Frontier and Do You Remember Love?, I had high expectations, even though I was told this series doesn’t quite measure up. And yes, I was let down a bit.

So, quick plot summary: It’s the year 2092, eighty some odd years after the events of DYRL. The Earth is at peace as the UN Spacy (United Nations Space Navy) has repelled any and all attacks against it using the Minmay Defense. The story focuses on the character of Hibiki Kanzaki a reporter with the SNN agency. He’s presented at first as something of a jerk who only cares about ratings. But when a group of renegade Zentradi aliens attacks, he goes out in his civilian Valkyrie fighter and gets an eye-full of what war really is. After rescuing/capturing what he thinks is a Zentradi princess of some sort. He starts learning that the news needs to be the cold, unvarnished truth. Said Zentradi princess actually turns out to be a member of a new alien race called the Marduk (mar-duke). She is an Emulator for them, a songstress who uses her singing to motivate the Marduk’s Zentradi soldiers to fight (it actually sounds more like Gregorian chanting than anything else). Hibiki shows her Earth’s culture and it inspires her to take the songs of Earth back to her people. On the other hand, you have UN Spacy ace pilot Sylvie Gena who finds out about this and almost has Hibiki arrested. This is where things start to get kind of flat. You can tell right away that they’re setting up one of Macross’ famous love triangles but this one is pretty transparent. Hibiki is Hikaru, Sylvie is Misa Hayase and Ishtar is Minmay. And yes, it resolves in the exact same way too, even though Hibiki spent the majority of this mini-series with Ishtar and he and Sylvie didn’t like each other too much. A note on Sylvie: Macross II is the first series, and so far only, to feature human female pilots in prominent roles (even though Sylvie is revealed to be 1/4 Zentradi). For whatever odd reason, in the other Macross series, female pilots only ever seem to be Zentradi or half-human, half-Zentradi.

Anywho, long story short, the SDF-1 Macross is some legendary ship that’s supposed to bring peace to the galaxy, the Marduk invade Earth and the lazy, overconfident UN Spacy commanders can’t do jack-diddly-squat about it, Hibiki, Ishtar and Sylvie climb onboard the Macross and try to use it against the Marduk flagship, Macross gets blown up, Ishtar sings, peace is restored and for some odd reason Hibiki ends up with Sylvie, as I said. If you think I’m shortening this up, well I am because there’s not a whole lot to talk about here. It’s only six episodes long and that’s part of the problem. It probably should have been more like 12 episodes. Because of this, you don’t really care about any of the characters beyond the lovebirds. Part of this though is because of the way I watched it: on Netflix. You see, Netflix has a problem. They only have the English version, which was made in 1993. And this version… wait for it… SUCKS!!! Ess-you-see-kay-ess SUCKS with three exclamation points!!! Seriously I have heard some bad acting but this takes the taco. You can’t get more flat and unemotional than the dub of Macross II. It was almost physically painful to watch because of this. One example is near the end of the show. Ishtar starts singing in Japanese (which was a good move on U.S. Renditions’ part) but then bursts into the chorus in English! Gah!
It got a bit better in the last two episodes but was still damn awful. So watch it in Japanese with subtitles. Still, there is ONE good line in the whole affair and that is from one of the Marduk characters, Lord Feff (his name beats me, how about Khyron instead?): “No one will know of my failure; that I dared to love above my station.” He’s saying this in relation to Ishtar. Thing is, it would have more impact if you understood more of why Feff is in love with Ishtar, beyond, you know, the fact that she has a penchant for wearing a partly transparent swimsuit-like getup. Like so.
Oh and the bits were they’re talking in Zentran language. Phst, you know there’s a problem with your dialogue when an alien language sounds better than the English!

As for the mecha designs, stuff like the Valkyrie II’s and the Metal Siren looked cool enough and UN Spacy actually had some very nice warship designs including the four-barrel Macross Cannon cruisers. The Marduk powered armors were nicely menacing and there actually some nice battle sequences with plenty of ‘splosions. The good ole SDF-1 flies again and goes out in a blaze of glory a la the Enterprise in Star Trek III. Too bad Shatner wasn’t there to say, “My god Bones… what have I done?”  


Now when Macross II was made back in 1992, it was all Big West’s idea. For those that don’t know, Big West is the Japanese advertising agency that funds almost all the Macross animation studios (Studio Nue). Well, as is the way with these corporate types, they wanted a sequel to the enormously successful SDF Macross and DYRL (1982 and 1984). Macross creator Shoji Kawamori wasn’t interested in sequels at the time so Big West hired someone else and got to work (although character designer Haruhiko Mikimoto did come back to work on Macross II). This is probably why the story is less than stellar and has way too many parallels to the original Macross. But here’s the kicker: When Kawamori brought in Studio Nue to work on 1994’s Macross Plus and Macross 7, they decided that Macross II didn’t fit in with where they wanted the story to go, so they retconned it into an alternate timeline and to this day it is, so far, the only Alternate Universe Macross series.

So what’s the final verdict? Using the MAHQ scale of X stars out of five, I would give it a two. Not horrible (excluding the voice acting) but not as enjoyable as it should have been. I’d watch it for the mecha and ship battles but that’s about it. To quote Chris Guanche from Mecha and Anime HQ: This series could have benefited from a higher episode count and more variation from the original Macross storyline, but at the very least it captures the classic Macross aesthetic that is missing from some of the later productions.

Whew! Only a little over a thousand words! Now on to Macross Plus and, hopefully by the end of the week, the Summer Movie Roundup!

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