RETROSPECULATIVE TV: Macross II: “Ishtar” (Episode 2)

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Back on earth following the Zentradi attack, Hibiki stashes the hot fan service girl with his creepy transexual friend “Mash,“ then heads to the network and turns over the footage Dennis shot to his boss. He’s informed that there’s a blackout on coverage of the battle until the UN Spacey makes an official statement. Hibiki rolls with this.

Back at his apartment, the girl awakes wearing skimpy underwear that could in no way have fit under the stuff she was wearing before. Mash evidently dressed her, or undressed her, or undressed then redressed her in the skimpiest stuff he could find, which, presumably he brought along in the first place. It’s all kinds of icky, conceptually. Anyway: she wakes up terrified, and Hibiki thinks she’s a micronized Zentradi, and indeed she speaks the language, not English, or Japanese, or whatever. He gives her a clip-on earring/translator, and that’s no problem anymore. Impossibly Hot Fanservice Girl reveals that her name is “Ishtar.”

UN Spacey (Can I just call it “the UNS” from now on? “Spacey” just sounds stupid) heavily censors the footage of the attack, and pretend it was a major victory. Hibiki is furious. Meanwhile, since the episode is running a bit short, Ishtar runs away and we get some ‘fish out of water’ scenes culminating in her getting over stimulated by the flashy lights and loud crappy music at the mall, then having a flashback. Hibiki finds her, so this comes to nothing.

Mash gives Ishtar a haircut while she explains that she was looking for the “Alus,” a ship that figures in the legends of her people in some nebulous destiny kinda’ way. She thinks it might be the SDF-1, but couldn’t find it despite it being in the center of the largest city in the world and shooting huge bolts of energy into the sky every so often. But, hey, she’s a singer, right? It’s not like they hired her for her brains. Sylvie and one of her friends from Fairy Squadron are spying on Hibiki and Ishtar, trying to…uhm…find something incriminating that…uhm…might ultimately be used to….uhm…Oh, look, they’re doing it simply because the script calls for it. It doesn’t make any sense, it’s just forced so the characters can bump into each other later on.

Anyway, so Hibiki takes Ishtar to the Culture Park, where we get a montage of her experiencing culture, including a scene that is a more-or-less shot-for-shot reproduction of a scene from “Roman Holiday” with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck. Homage! Lord Feff of the aliens orders some Zentradi to attack and recover Ishtar, since he can’t really control the Zentradi without her. They trace her by the bracelet she wears, and of course they cause all kinds of havoc, destroying stuff in the park. Hibiki gets injured, and he and Ishtar bump into Sylvie and her friend. They hide out in a cave, but then Ishtar freaks out and runs out again.

A Zentradi tries to kill her, but then Lord Feff shows up in a giant mighty fighty robot and saves her. As he tries to get her to walk into said mighty fighty robot, she has a change of heart and whips off her bracelet and smashes it on the ground. Before he can really do anything about it, Major Nex shows up and kind of frazzles Feff, so he leaves.

The End.

OBSERVATIONS

Sophomore slump. There’s not as much story here as in the first episode, the animation doesn’t appear quite as good, and the voice acting is worse. Hibiki’s voice is weaker, and Ishtar’s shy little girl voice could quickly become annoying. Really the only one who comes across well here is Susan Byrkett as Sylvie. The worst of the bunch, though, is Nex, who sounds like he’s phoning his line (He’s only got one) in from a different TV show entirely.

The plot doesn’t move forward much, which isn’t that big a deal if this was a full-length series, and we had time to kill with standalones and introspective character pieces, but we’ve only got six episodes here, people! Chop chop! If we don’t’ get this all done in 132 minutes, we never will! Get a move on!

All the mecha in this thing is clearly derived from the original Macross stuff, but it’s not wildly different, nor is it wildly inspired. In the case of the UNS stuff, it makes sense that there’d be progress in nearly a century, but the differences in the Zentradi redesigns really doesn’t make sense. The Zentradi don’t ‘progress,’ and haven’t in hundreds of thousands of years. They’re a static society, they can’t even repair tech they’ve got, they just get a new one.

Even if we put my own presumed homophobia aside, there’s no getting around Mash being creepy. He/she is built like a linebacker and the voice is just all wrong. I presume Hibiki and Mash are just friends, but the significant physical difference in their appearances (He’s a short, unimposing kid, she’s a tall, massive, imposing sexual deviant) is a bit imposing, and the ominous way Mash delivers his/her lines is just a poor directoral choice. For instance, at one point Mash says “you owe me,” and Hibiki says “I wouldn’t want to owe you any more than I already do.” Alas, given the poor acting, it comes across as much darker than it is. It comes across like “I’ll take it out of your ass kid” “Oh, I don’t want to be your sex slave!” or whatever.

Now, let’s be fair here: that’s NOT what the script says, nor what is intended. In fact, they‘re just friends and I think we‘re supposed to believe Mash is a good person. But it comes across as intimidating and dark. Figuring maybe I was just creeped out by the concept, I showed the episode to a friend of mine, and she said “Is Mash a criminal?” (Which I didn’t get from it at all) and “Is Mash trying to force Hibiki to be her sex-slave?” I paraphrase a little, but the point is; the delivery is creepy enough that it’s not JUST me who notices it. The liberal woman from down the street thought it was freaky, too.

WILL CONSERVATIVES LIKE THIS EPISODE?

Probably not. In fact, I think even Politically Conservative Transexuals (If any) would likely dislike it, as it casts them in a creepy light.

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