On October 3, 1982, the first episode of SDF Macross was broadcast on Japanese TV. Of course, I wouldn’t have known that; I was too young to remember. It’s strange to think though that one of my favourite shows, and one that had such an influence on my fandom, is as old as I am.
I wasn’t sure how to mark the anniversary, but since my previous post was looong I’ll make this a short one. Why is Macross so good, and so important? Much of the historical context is lost on me, but I’ll try anyway.
The mecha designs are badass
I’m not sure whether this was the first use of transforming mecha – I’d love to hear clarification on this from those of you who know about such things – but the idea of jet planes that turn into robots is cool.
The story is character-driven
A work of entertainment that is to stand the test of time shouldn’t just have pretty-shiny mechanical gadgets and epic battles with aliens or what have you; it needs to have an emotional focus. Most of the things I remember about this show are the sentimental, dramatic moments featuring the *people*: they do heroic, cowardly, selfless, selfish, admirable and stupid things. Interestingly, the main cast is comprised of a varied assortment of people, male and female, of various nationalities and ethnic backgrounds. It breaks from the “anime characters all look the same…” and paints a picture of a united humanity.
As an aside: the fandom might not have been as kind to Mari Iijima as it should’ve been over the years, but the years certainly have been kind to her. That lady still sounds and looks great. Just sayin’.
Although the idea of transforming mecha is a clever one on several levels, who threw in the suggestion of “Let’s win an interstellar war with pop music!”? On paper, it sounds silly but in context it works…which brings me to the next peculiarity of Macross:
It’s a war story that’s about peace and harmony
Despite numerous spectacular space battles and attention to detail in terms of military hardware, there’s no denying that Macross is staunchly anti-war, which sounds self-contradictory but makes me think a bit harder about what it’s trying to say. It even used the additional broadcast slots at the end of the originally-planned episode run to depict a post-war world in which the two factions are learning to coexist peacefully; it’s a ruined world, but one that the former combatants are working together to rebuild. Numerous setbacks happen along the way, but including those hiccups makes it all the more hopeful and believable.
Interestingly, the loudest individual pacifist voice in the entire story is that of Kaifun, and that guy’s a dick. Perhaps the underlying message of this aspect of the story is, “make love, not war. And it’s possible to do that without being a self-righteous douchebag.”
It spawned awesome sequels
The Macross franchise is far from consistent in terms of quality, but I can think reasons to recommend each and every one of them (yes, even Macross Zero). If it weren’t for this series, there wouldn’t have been a Macross Plus for instance, which is one of my all-time fave anime titles ever.
I can leave my cynicism at the door
The ‘something for everyone’ approach of including character drama, military tactics, romance, politics, cool tech and all the rest was a wise move but it also means that I have to embrace both the cool things and the concepts that, to me, are, well, a bit hard to believe. Save the Earth with the power of song? Robots that actually work as jet planes?
There’s a lot of suspension of disbelief required, as is turning a blind eye to the moments that scream “SCIENCE DOESN’T WORK THAT WAY!” but quite honestly, I don’t care. I love not caring about that. Every time I sit down to watch this or any of its sequels, prequels and side-stories, I revel in the feeling of not caring about how certain plot points or situations are a little bit silly. As a piece of TV or movie entertainment, it holds a special place in my geeky heart. Happy birthday Macross, and here’s to the next thirty.
The best bits
Where to begin? Max and Milia carrying out the first symbolic human/Zentradi marriage and being the most badass parents ever? Zentradi hearts melting at the sound of Lynn Minmay’s voice? Roy Foker and the Pineapple Salad (IT STILL HURTS. ;_;)? The hilarious reaction of human culture from the point of view of Zentradi spies? The bittersweet, pyrrhic victory over Boddole Zer? So many of them spring to mind. What are yours?