RETROSPECULATIVE TV: Macross II: "Contact" (Episode 1)

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Once upon a time, there was an anime series called “Macross.” This was pretty much the best thing humans have done since we climbed down out of the trees. Yeah, granted, the last six episodes were kinda’ weak, but the thirty prior to that were varying degrees of amazing. “Macross” was exposed to American audiences in a somewhat adumbrated fashion as the first third of “Robotech” in 1985, but it was still pretty amazing.

How amazing? Imagine a painting so wonderful that it still looks pretty good even if a three year old scribbles all over it, and then pukes malt-o-meal on it. Picture a sculpture that’s so great that it’s still great even if someone covers it over with neon lights and adds fiberglass grilled cheese sandwiches for some reason. Macross is good enough that it survived its Robotechization.

In the thirty years since then it’s spawned two full-length TV series, several miniseries, several straight-to-video episodes, and a couple theatrical movies. Hopefully it’s not done yet. It’s great stuff, and eventually I hope to plow through all of it on Republibot. Thus far, alas, the only thing I’ve managed to do is the “Macross Zero” prequel series ( http://republibot.com/content/tv-review-macross-zero-%E2%80%9C-ocean-win... ) and about a third of the actual original “Macross” itself. Ah well. Someday.

Anyway, eventually they decided to do a “Macross” sequel. This was problematic, as the original creator/producer was basically done with the franchise, and had no intention of coming back to it. The project was given to another studio, who created their own story out of whole cloth with no particular input from the previous series, and using it only in broad strokes for style. It was not amazingly successful, and eventually the original creator decided he wanted to revisit the universe, which he did in his “Macross 7” series. Of course he refused to be tied down by some crap other people had grafted on to his masterpiece, so he simply ignored it. “Macross II” was retroactively removed from continuity, and its official status is that it’s now a ‘Parallel World’ story.

To be honest, though, I don’t see why it should be. Yeah, granted, some of the things it says about earth don’t quite truck with what we hear and see in Macross 7 and Macross Frontier, *but* Macross II is set so far in the future (After both those other series) that the conflict isn’t major. There’s a few physical differences, mostly in the way the capital of the world is depicted, but there’s nothing there that couldn’t be explained away by some radical urban renewal projects. So I count it, even if no one else does, though I admit one has to squint and maybe be a little blind in one eye in order to make it fit.

But, hey, even if it isn’t canon anymore, it still needs to be reviewed, right?

PLAY BY PLAY

It’s 2092, about three generations after the events of the original Macross series. About the years in between, we know little apart from that there are still small groups of renegade Zentradi roaming around, and occasionally they attack earth. They have always been soundly defeated, owing mostly to “The Minmei Defense,” which leaves the UN Spacey (United Nations Space Force) little to do apart from pick ‘em off fish-in-a-barrel style. The last such conflict was ten years before. This was obviously a big news story, but the best reporter, and the one who kind of ended up as the ‘face’ of the conflict (Like, say, Wolf Blitzer did in the first gulf war) was Dennis Lone.

In the years since the war, Dennis has grown soft, and become a drunk. He still has high standards, he still believes in his job, but his job doesn’t really believe in him. There’s no hardboiled stories to cover, instead his network mostly goes after sex scandals and tabloid crap. Also, the military exhibits a large degree of editorial power over stories they consider ‘sensitive.’

Sylvie Gena is a 17-year-old flying ace who’s never seen actual combat, but she’s won every competition there is to win. She’s in Spacey, and has her own squadron, “Fairy Squadron,” consisting entirely of similarly gifted girls. She’s concerned about how soft the military has gotten in the last 80 years, relying entirely on one weapon, and she fears that it’ll eventually lose its effectiveness, or else some enemy will come up with a counter defense rendering it impotent. For absolutely no logical reason I can ascertain, she decides to discuss this with her boss, General Balser, supreme commander of, I dunno, the Spacey or maybe just a fighter wing, or maybe a fleet. Unsure. He’s a bigwig. Anyway, rather than just talking it over in his office, or in a restaurant, or by email, they sneak undercover into a hotel.

As they’re leaving, they’re intercepted by Hibiki Kanzaki, a 17-year-old TV reporter, who exposes their apparent tryst as they’re leaving the hotel. This is on live TV, and gets boffo ratings. Once back at the network, however, he’s forced to write up personal letters of apology to the UN Spacey, and Balser. His boss explains that this Geraldo Rivera stuff is fine for a kid to get his foot in the door (He’s a reporter because he stumbled on some earlier scandal a year or so back and gave it to the network freelance), but he needs to become a more serious journalist, or else he’s headed nowhere. In the process, he meets his hero Dennis Lone, who basically insults him.

Sylvie shows up furious and insists that Hibiki accompany her to Culture Park, so she can scream at him. He does, both because she’s hot, and because he senses a story. “Culture Park” is a huge park in the center of New Macross City (The capital of Earth) which houses the wreckage of the SDF-1 Macross itself, as well as replicas of all of humanity’s major architectural achievements: the pyramids, the coliseum, various castles, sections of the Great Wall of China, and various other things destroyed in the Zentradi Attack World War III in the late 20th century, and the Zentradi war of the early 21st.

While there, the SDF-1’s main canon fires up into space. This hasn’t happened since the last Zentradi attack. Sylvie heads off to the base, and Hibiki runs back to the network. Hibiki is told to pilot Dennis - who’s too drunk to fly - on a civilian fighter (?) to get footage of the battle. He does. Sylvie and Farie Squadron are launched into actual combat. The UN Spacey isn’t taking it terribly serious. 30 or 40 ships, including capital ships, clearly Zentradi. No big deal. The battle ensues, and they broadcast music and project huge holograms of Wendy Ryder, this years dispose-a-ingénue singing sensation. As per usual, the Zentradi are completely incapacitated.

Then something unusual happens: aboard one of the Zentradi ships is an unspeakably hot woman wearing an unspeakably revealing costume that *might* cover her rectum, but no other aspect of her butt beyond that. She’s human-sized with blue green hair and the kind of breasts that could not exist without the support of a technologically advanced starfaring race. Her name is “Ishtar.” She is instructed by another of her race, “Feff” (Who’s a dude, and mercifully covers up more than just his rectum) to sing. Her singing counteracts the Minmei Defense, and the Zentradi quickly recover and whup up all over the UN forces. They do take some damage, though, incapacitating the ship Feff and Ishtar are on. The UN loses its flagship, the Heracles, however. Hibiki freaks out about all this and insists that Dennis stop reporting, since no one wants to see the good guys lose, but Denis gives him a speech about what war really is, and what reporting really is, and the kid relents.

They fly *into* the damaged cruiser that Ishtar is on, and see her inside. Dennis decides to go out and haul her in. He places her in his seat in the fighter, then is killed by random battle stuff, kinda’ pointlessly. Hibiki heads back to earth with a passed out amazingly hot chick wearing a bodystockign and something more revealing than a thong, and he’s seventeen. It’s a good day!

Back on earth, Balser is understandably concerned that the Minmei defense has failed. The Zentradi have pulled back for the moment. Unbeknownst to earth, however, the Zentradi are being controlled by a new alien race, the “Marduk.”

The End.

OBSERVATIONS

Animation is pretty good, arguably better than in Macross. Character design is ok, if a bit too 80s for the 90s. Dubbing is good, but the voice acting is generally mediocre. Sylvie is good, Hibiki is ok, everyone else is pretty poor.

Man, could you *get* more fan service than Ishtar?

All the normal Macross tropes are on deck here: Music, War, and a romantic triangle. Possibly two. We’ve got Sylvie/Hibiki/Ishtar. We’ve also got Sylvie/Hibiki/Nexx. Nexx is another fighter pilot, and he’s introduced as Sylvie’s boyfriend, despite being a major and clearly much older than her. Evidently they have a different age of consent in Japan. Evidently they have very different child labor laws, too, as most of our lead characters are teens.

Though it’s never explained, the Big Gun on the Macross was programmed as a boobytrap to go off whenever a Zentradi ship came by. It appears to go off every time Zentradi ships enter the system because the UN forces don’t know how to shut it off.

On the whole, I liked it, and I’m looking forward to the next episode.

WILL CONSERVATIVES LIKE THIS EPISODE?

Apart from the profanity and the super-hot-only-technically-non-nude chick, yes. The ‘world government’ aspect will likewise offend many social conservatives, but as that’s a basic staple of space SF, we’re all pretty jaded to it, right? So: Sure, why not?

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