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  #631  
Old 12-16-2018, 07:59 PM
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  #632  
Old 12-16-2018, 09:16 PM
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For all the legit criticism that can be rightfully be applied to it, there's objectively a particular je ne sais quoi about DYRL. Whether one ends up vibrating on its wavelength is another matter entirely, but it would be disingenuous to say there wasn't a lot poured into it.

Undoubtedly, Big West was surprisingly pleased with the phenomenon SDF became, and the execs were eager to ride that cocaine-fueled rocket as long as it lasted. But on the more immediate level, there's a ton of people for whom Macross was either their first real project - Kawamori, Anno - the first one that got broadly appreciated in its time - Itano, Miyatake - or the one where they just got properly credited for doing a lot of the heavy lifting - Ishiguro. But you get the sense that DYRL is at once a self-assured flex - they know they created something special and transcendent, and were incredibly eager to see if they could blow the tonal roof offit all - and a very earnest opportunity to get a second pass on everything, with a budget that could match their ambitions.

Like, take the VF-1. No one would have batted an eye if Kawamori and Miyatake hadn't touched their model sheets for the movie. But Kawamori took the opportunity to redesign both the VF-1A's head and the hands, to far better effect. And Miyatake's redesign of the cockpit is one of the great unsung inovations in Macross. The throttle -> second joystick flip-up action is literally one of the best conceived of in all of anime, and it essentially turned the VF cockpit from this terrifying, constantly shifting space (which really works for Hikaru's first sortie, TBF), into one in which whatever the hell, say, Max or Isamu get up to makes immediate sense.
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  #633  
Old 12-16-2018, 09:18 PM
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It also completely redoes the Macross's bridge, and the general aesthetic sticks to every Macross-class forwards.
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  #634  
Old 12-16-2018, 11:12 PM
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It also redid the Zentradi pretty heavily! The original Zentradi were basically gigantic barbarians with funky self-healing technology; it was shaped a bit weird and was round and pointy in odd combinations, but it was still recognizably technology. And its self-healing properties mostly exist to justify the aesthetic and explain why they've been able to maintain a million-year galactic war without any real understanding of science or engineering.

DYRL's Zentradi are the start (?) of the cyberpunk sub-theme that runs through the rest of the Macross series (*), an unsettling melding of augmented humanoid and organic machine. Bodolza isn't just a warlord ruling the galaxy from a giant fortress, he is his command ship. DYRL Zentradi are enormous humans, integrate machines into themselves, don still larger robotic suits, and then travel around in semi-living leviathans. It's an intriguing interrogation of the underpinnings of a not-quite-yet-a-franchise about not just humans taking gigantic humanoid form (old hat for mecha), but mundane technology transforming into that humanoid form.

I'm curious, Galadrome, do you intend to detour into Macross II, or go straight on to Plus?

(*) - And the same cyberpunk themes are, oddly, independently introduced into Robotech through the parallel channel of the novelizations.
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  #635  
Old 12-17-2018, 04:43 PM
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I知 watching Macross II! Gonna start today and I知 quite looking forward to it.
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  #636  
Old 12-17-2018, 04:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Galadrome View Post
I知 watching Macross II! Gonna start today and I知 quite looking forward to it.
I cannot wait to hear what you think of it.

The last time I watched Macross II was in the late '90s, in high school. I rented the movie compilation from Blockbuster. I'd gotten the Palladium RPG years before and thought I knew what to expect.

I was not prepared.
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  #637  
Old 12-17-2018, 05:46 PM
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Humanity pursuing the Turtling Strategy vs. going for the Settler Cultural Victory route is one of the better canon schisms in media.

Credit where credit is due, MII has some fun stuff that could have easily passed muster in the Canon timeline. I love the combined Zentradi-Human fleet, the way in which Macross City is built in and around downed Zentradi ships, and the Macross Cannon. It's literally four Nupetiet-Vergnitzs battleships strapped to a transforming chasis. What's not to love?
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  #638  
Old 12-17-2018, 05:56 PM
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It also has some absolutely incredible mechanical designs.
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  #639  
Old 12-17-2018, 06:26 PM
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You know, amazingly given all my Macross fandom, I've still never sat down and watched all of Macross II. I really ought to do that someday. (Though I'm familiar with all the mecha and most of the major characters due to running my Macross tumblr for so many years.)
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  #640  
Old 12-17-2018, 06:39 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Galadrome View Post
I知 watching Macross II! Gonna start today and I知 quite looking forward to it.
I hope you watched the ending to Flashback 2012:


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Originally Posted by Peach View Post
Humanity pursuing the Turtling Strategy vs. going for the Settler Cultural Victory route is one of the better canon schisms in media.
Regular brain: Macross II was an outsourced sequel and isn't canon.

Giant brain: DYRL and Macross II make up a parallel dimension of their own separate from everything else.

Galaxy brain: Macross II is canon, and the Earth becoming isolationist is the result of the NUN fracturing after the Windermere rebellion.

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MII has some fun stuff that could have easily passed muster in the Canon timeline. I love the combined Zentradi-Human fleet, the way in which Macross City is built in and around downed Zentradi ships, and the Macross Cannon. It's literally four Nupetiet-Vergnitzs battleships strapped to a transforming chasis. What's not to love?
Beyond just imagery and tech lining up, it's thematically very much a Macross story as well, in all of the important ways. In fact, it's kinda crazy how all of its ideas eventually get used in later Macross things.

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It also redid the Zentradi pretty heavily! The original Zentradi were basically gigantic barbarians with funky self-healing technology
This isn't right? The Zentradi might lack all the hallmarks of high culture, or ideas about leisure and pleasure. But they're hardly barbarians. They're highly organized and rational people, who record/reference their own history. Also, their tech is resilient, but not self-healing. IIRC it's a major plot point that humans teach the Zentradi how to repair their own ships in the TV show.

Zentradi in DYRL are pretty whack; they've never sat well with me. They're less a headless military organization and more like the Borg.
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  #641  
Old 12-18-2018, 02:50 AM
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Macross II immediately endears me because it stars a young, kinda sleazy journalist trying to get ratings. This is one of my favourite character archetypes, haha, and is the sole reason I sat through all of Yawara! A Fashionable Judo Girl. I did journalism, for a few years and it's a real fun job, with nothing else quite like it (It's also loaded with shit). Only two episodes in, thus far, so I don't have many thoughts. Also sad that the dude named Dennis who drank on the job and had a baller moustache kicked the bucket just like that. Damn, man, I'm sorry .

It's a lot sexier than the first Macross and has shown me lots of BOOBS and GIRLS but it's nothing too egregious. Cool that the ace pilot is a lady. I've been happy with the gradual unfolding of what exactly is goin' on in this place, I am far from having the full context yet. The characters are endearing and fun. AND THOSE FUCKIN' ROBOTS DAMN SON.

Looking forward to the rest.
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  #642  
Old 12-18-2018, 03:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Galadrome View Post
Macross II immediately endears me because it stars a young, kinda sleazy journalist trying to get ratings. This is one of my favourite character archetypes
I also think it just works for Macross. The original Macross makes a big deal out of the power of media/culture. The natural extension of that theme would then to move onto how the press shapes culture/opinion as well, in a world where information warfare is a very literal thing. It's rather unfortunate that later Macross entries only lightly touch upon the subject matter in the form of pointing out that propoganda exists, rather than actually do a meaningful examination of the subject like II does.

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It's a lot sexier than the first Macross and has shown me lots of BOOBS and GIRLS but it's nothing too egregious.
This is part of my "Macross II is a sequel to DYRL" theory, because it follows DYRL much more than the original show on many ideas/themes, including this. Speaking of sexy sex, do you know if you watched the censored version of DYRL or not? Because that's a thing that covers up the nudity bits (most famously, Minmay taking a shower) as well as a lot of the film's gorier parts.

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AND THOSE FUCKIN' ROBOTS DAMN SON.
You haven't commented much on the mechas in the original show or DYRL much previously. How did you feel about a show featuring a bunch of Starscreams?
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  #643  
Old 12-18-2018, 03:21 PM
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I mean, Jetfires, really.
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  #644  
Old 12-18-2018, 03:27 PM
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I believe the technical term is Starscream's Monster.
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  #645  
Old 12-18-2018, 03:51 PM
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I stand corrected, but the sentiment still holds. The Macross/Transformers connection is wild.
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  #646  
Old 12-18-2018, 04:22 PM
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Originally Posted by WisteriaHysteria View Post
This is part of my "Macross II is a sequel to DYRL" theory, because it follows DYRL much more than the original show on many ideas/themes, including this. Speaking of sexy sex, do you know if you watched the censored version of DYRL or not? Because that's a thing that covers up the nudity bits (most famously, Minmay taking a shower) as well as a lot of the film's gorier parts.
I don't think they've ever censored the nudity - certainly the versions I've seen with the gratuitous ultraviolence blurred out still have the shower shots. Which is fine? It's a really fun shot, even if it's fan-servicey, or what not. It feels more like a shampoo commercial that's saying the quiet part loud than anything.

The censorship job in toto is really funny, though, just because there's so many things that you can't blur out. Like they got rid of that one dude getting decapitated during the uplifting song of reconciliation, and the dead soldiers head getting crush-videoed by the Milia's Queadluun-Rau. But the latter shot is still preceded by a bloody bisected Nousjadeul-Ger falling to the ground*. And Max ripping an absolutely terrified Zentran pilot out his battlepod and disinterestedly spraying his cranium against his faceplate is completely untouched.

Hell, the visual fidelity, and internal logic of Zentradi power armor being mostly meat presents all sorts of wild stuff. Like, Roy's big ace scene gets started with a shot of the VF-1S's railgun firing a round. Absolutely brilliant. But then it cuts to a brutal and hyper-detailed shot where you see those rounds impacting a Nousjadeul-Ger, at once graphically eviscerating the pilot, as well as blowing his helmet off, such that there's an agonizing few microseconds where you see the pilot's head as it gets distended by both the force of the round and the sudden decompression before the whole suit immolates*.

*That he manages to squeeze-off one round is a nice touch, though.
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  #647  
Old 12-18-2018, 05:28 PM
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I watched full titty DYRL. The Minmay scene, I agree, was fun and tho fanservicey not really too problematic, imo. All of the montages in DYRL are basically a tutorial on how to do a montage well.

Starscreams/Jetfires were cool. The robots in the first Macross were really nice, honestly. Especially the ground based ones with the cannons that you never saw do anything useful (I really wanted a character piloting one, but alas). I noticed the mecha got noticeably better throughout the show, while still retaining that fun character that kinda reminded me of Galaxy Express 999 (Especially the Zentradi pods).

Aesthetically and plot wise Macross II feels muuuuch closer to DYRL. It's certainly not bad, but I really like the kind of understated humility of the original. But I suppose this is what happens when you Make Money.
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  #648  
Old 12-20-2018, 01:11 AM
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Oh, I forgot to mention.
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Also sad that the dude named Dennis who drank on the job and had a baller moustache kicked the bucket just like that. Damn, man, I'm sorry .
If you haven't noticed yet, senpai must die is a thing you may or may not expect to see often going forward.
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  #649  
Old 12-20-2018, 05:19 PM
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It also has some absolutely incredible mechanical designs.
I think it's fascinating that Macross II is one of the only shows in the series that has "blink-and-you'll miss it" mecha designs*. And, AFAIK, it wasn't there to move plamo like, say, Gundam Unicorn. Like maybe that was intention, but the "guest" designers turned in a ton of excellent work for a 6-episode OVA, at any rate. The only real miss is the Metal Siren (which I'm almost certain is from Koichi "Most Dangerous" Ohata (it's hard to tell) - since it's just too Gundamy**, and fundamentally misses a lot of what makes VF's compelling - even the later ace models. But Fujita's VF-2s, for instance, completely slap (and the Masami Obari animation of it in the opening is deliciously sacriligious; Obari could have undoubtedly handed in superb work for a mainline show, but his open flaunting of one of unspoken rules of Macross - that you never go off-model with mechs - is sublime).


*The only other exceptions is Plus, on account of it being A) a prestige OVA, B) being paired with 7, such that a lot of background models on, say, the New Edwards tarmac ended up being featured in the latter, C) a clearinghouse for a decade of work that Kawamori did for the aborted Advance of Valkyrie (i.e., well, Plus) and what became Escaflowne. There's also a handful of shots from SDF where either Studio Nue, Hideki Anno, or both are doing there thing, like the Orguss Valkyrie, the low-key Arcadia, or the Best-Girl Phalanx from one of the money-shot in "Love Floats by)

**Kawamori already did the definive Gundam Valkyrie with the Stampede. Everything else is vanity.
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  #650  
Old 12-20-2018, 06:44 PM
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It's weird that I float Anno so much in my posts. He did a lot for Macross, but he wasn't exactly a prime-mover in the series, after all.

It's just that a lot his work is instantly recognizable, if you've watched, say, the Daicon III and IV opening animations (or basically any anime with hand-animated planes, ever). Every good shot in SDF comes from Studio Nue, essentially, and from there, it's a question of who did what. The Itano Circus gets a lot of attention - as it should. But a lot of the Destruction and Mecha Porn that intersplices and heightens the series comes from Anno, when you get down to it.

There's also the egnimatic line in Otaku No Video about Anno designing the Elintseeker in DYRL that's beguiled me. He absolutely did, of course - it's just that cyber-attribution for the deep-cut crossover-series apparently isn't at a proper level to recognize it. Like, just looking at the model sheets, Kawamori never draws pilots in his model sheets, nor does he shade with cross-stitching.
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  #651  
Old 12-20-2018, 06:48 PM
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Absolutely the single best shot in SDF Macross - bar none - is Misa disembarking the shuttle in Alaska. The silky smooth total pan around the staircase as she steps out and salutes is basically perfect. It's such an ambitious shot, too - clearly trying to communicate the emotional impact of her leaving the Macross by linking it to the sort of sweeping cinematography usually reserved for climactic confrontations.

I have no idea who animated that, but whoever it was... Dang!
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  #652  
Old 12-30-2018, 12:35 PM
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Slowly catching up on the forums after vacation and I just wanted to thank Peach for all that delicious Valkyrie design trivia up there. I already knew some of it from my years of Macross-curation but not all of it.
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  #653  
Old 01-03-2019, 09:03 PM
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Slowly catching up on the forums after vacation and I just wanted to thank Peach for all that delicious Valkyrie design trivia up there. I already knew some of it from my years of Macross-curation but not all of it.
Aw shucks. I'm still kicking myself about saying "cross-stitching" when I meant "cross-hatching" on account of me usually posting about Macross when I'm a couple drinks into the evening, but here we are.


Also, I'm going to float that Galadrome watch the movie version of Plus when he gets around to it, because it does a lot to soften one of the hardest nominally-sympathetic protagonist buy-ins this side of Wings of Honneamise.

I'm open to disagreement on this point. But I seem to have a notably softer impression of the series than some, and I think that a large part of it comes from my first impression of it leading with the Vanishing-Point-charmed part of Isamu, rather than the hot-dogging asshole part. The two are intimately interconnected, but first impressions matter.
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  #654  
Old 01-04-2019, 12:47 AM
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Not only do I disagree with your assertion Peach, but by my mind what you cite is actually one of the the strengths of the OVAs, not a weakness.

I could write a graduate thesis on all the little yet profound ways the Plus OVAs are superior to the film. I very nearly did, but after an hour plus of typing with little end in sight I scrapped what I was originally going to respond with. And it's all quite pointless when, at the end of the day, both versions are perfectly adequate. What I will recommend to Galadrome is this:

If you enjoy more subtlety in your media, and having to be more of an active participant in order to get inside the head-space of characters to get the most out of a piece of media, pick the OVAs. If you find yourself more frequently impatient with media and appreciate it when your media is more succinct and direct about telling you its themes and what's going on inside character's brains, then choose the film version. I prefer the former, but the latter is no less valid.

The film version of Plus strips a lot of the ambiguity and subtlety (things I highly prize in this series and find quite beautiful) out in its quest to trim the events of the OVAs down into a film while also squeezing in more elaborate fight sequences at the end. The result is taking 160 minutes of OVA compressed into a 120 minute film, where the events of the first three OVAs are squeezed down into the film's first 60 minutes. This leads to a significant increase in telling not showing, as well as impactful scenes being given less room to breath or just being stripped completely out.

If you end up really enjoying Macross, it's worth watching both eventually so you can make the comparison/contrast yourself. And either version you're going to get a really good anime. And while I have very strong feelings about which version is better, I think that ultimately the differences aren't as prominent as I might like to believe as I've found most people tend to attach themselves to the version they watched first - which is usually a sign that the differences aren't that profound. So the choice is up to you but don't fret too much over it.
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  #655  
Old 01-04-2019, 12:18 PM
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New year, new Macross. That is my exceedingly silly lead-in to saying that, hey, I watched Macross Zero for the first time!


Macross has always changed things up between instalments, but Zero is the biggest departure yet. A prequel set during the UN Wars that featured in SDF's backstory (already unusual; the franchise has preferred to barrel forward rather than look back), it's entirely earthbound and human-focused, with technology, culture and conflicts to match. But the biggest departure is tonal; while I wouldn't say Zero is dark and gritty, exactly, it's certainly trying to be more grounded and believable than previous works.


That's probably most obviously apparent in how Zero incorporates aliens. Which is to say, it doesn't; aliens are barely factor in here, and only indirectly. The "Artifact From Outer Space" drives the plot, but only in the way that the human characters search for and relate to it (Mayan Island being, essentially, a cargo cult built around an alien corpse is fascinating). Only in the final episode does AFOS awake and shortly after it disappears, leaving no answers and only more questions. In Zero, aliens are well, alien: unknown and unknowable.

Consider, too, the role of the military. While the franchise has always included the UN forces in the story, it's also held the institution as a bit of a distance: a ragtag group of newbies in SDF, mere test pilots in Plus, or sidelining them in favour of rockstars in 7. Zero, in contrast, fully embraces it: protagonist Shin Kudo is a career pilot, all the non-Mayan characters are military or military-aligned, and battleships and soldiers are omnipresent. The whole thing takes on a decidedly different tone, like it's aiming for military fiction or hard sci-fi.

War is also depicted with a greater intensity, and with a corresponding shift in message. Typically, Macross tends towards a message of "war is dumb because lasting peace can only be achieved through dialogue and understanding", but Zero instead goes for "war is hell and destroys all you hold dear" as illustrated by Mayan Island being horrifically razed (and another character outright saying how war tore her life apart, just in case it still wasn't clear). This, I think, was a huge misfire. Macross' optimism towards human nature and faith in the uniting power of culture is something that really set it apart from its peers; but "war is hell" stories are a dime a dozen, and Zero does not say anything that hasn't been said before.


The music is another big change. It breaks from the popular music the series is known for and opts for something more classical orchestral and operatic. It's an interesting choice, and one that feels contextually appropriate (this is a prequel, so the music should therefore be 'older') even if not literally accurate (pop music definitely existed in 2008). But the show doesn't do much with it. Sara gets a big singing scene at the end of the second episode, and it's great, but the only time in the show that music comes to the forefront. The majority of the music here lingers in the background, stuff that sets the mood and never calls attention to itself. It's all just very undercooked, bland and forgettable; and in a series where the music is one of its main pillars, this is feels like a massive misstep.

(I also think the genre of music is a poor choice. Why opera? Not only is it a tired way to make a show appear weighty and mature, but it doesn't suit the pastoral island setting at all. A more natural choice would be folk/'world'-inspired music, with a particular emphasis on woodwind instruments)


Another one of those pillars, of course, is the romance. Unfortunately, this didn't work for me either. Shin and Sara are likeable enough, but they're pretty lightly sketched and their relationship moreso. They get a few nice moments together (such as Shin discovering her carving love-staves for extra cash, and deciding to join in), but to me their interactions are more defined by mild antagonism as they clash over Mayan Island's traditions including that time she straight up tries to kill him in a rage. So when it comes out that they harbour feelings for each other, it feels very inorganic and that it's only happening because they're the leads and that's how things are supposed to go. Shin has much better chemistry with Mao (though given she's like fourteen I'm glad they didn't go that route).

On the other hand, there's another romance that fares a lot better: Roy and Aries. The two of them dated a few years before the show started before suddenly and unceremoniously breaking it off, and that history informs their present-day interactions: outwardly warm and friendly, but with a certain awkwardness. It comes across as two people who have a complicated mess of feelings for each other, and neither knows how to properly navigate this, so they just ignore it, pretend it never happened and try to play it off as just friends. It's a poor solution, and Aries is the one to broach the subject directly, which leads to them baring their feelings and rekindling that romance. It doesn't last, of course; Ariesis fatally wounded in the final battle, and dies in Roy's arms as he realizes he can't do anything except be there for her. It's the most moving and affecting moment in the series, though it's a shame it had to come at the expense of fridging.


What, then, of the third pillar the jets? To my surprise, this and the rest of the CGI is actually quite good! The texture work is great and goes a long way in selling it; there's a hand-drawn quality to it that keeps the CG visually congruent with the actual drawn elements, to the point that, in many still shots, the CG isn't immediately distinguishable. The models are similarly well-animated, largely avoiding the common pitfalls where CG feels weightless and too slick (though I suppose the nature of jets helps). Most of all, though, the CGI is used smartly, to showcase intense and complex dogfights that simply wouldn't be feasible in traditional methods. All in all, the CG feels purposeful and considered, and not starry-eyed fascination with new tech nor a cost-cutting measure; I wasn't just pleasantly surprised, I was downright impressed.

In fact, the whole show looks good. I generally think of the early 00s as a really ugly period for anime, but Zero doesn't have any of the major problems I associate with the era. Instead, it's well drawn, coloured and animated. And that's without even touching on the backgrounds, which are gorgeously lush and detailed. It's enough to make one (okay, me) half-wonder if this whole project was just Kawamori's way of arranging for a vacation in the South Pacific under the guise of location scouting.

(Also, the show holds up stunningly well in HD very, very crisp. Nigh-unheard of for a show of its vintage. This is a prestige series, alright!)


One last thing I can't let escape mention: The way the UN forces treat the Mayans is extremely colonialist and patronizing, and the show never addresses it. Sure, there's an underlying moral of "we probably should have just left them well enough alone", but that's only a very general message, and one more pointed at the horrors of war than any particular action and the UN has a lot to apologize for. The most egregious encounter is when Aries first lands on the island and sets up a medical tent. To check the islanders' health, she takes blood samples, seemingly without actually disclosing this beforehand which prompts a strong objection from a visibly-distraught Sara, as sharing blood is a local taboo. Yet Aries is undeterred, and opts to bribe the Mayans with 'exotic' beverages (soft drinks), while Shin browbeats them into compliance by barking "what's more important, your laws or your health?". And that's hardly the only instance of such behaviour: after Mao is seriously injured, Aries uses her whom she calls a "sample" as an unwitting test subject for alien blood transfusion. Just because things work out in the end doesn't make this appallingly unethical. I spent a lot of time waiting for condemnation that never came.


Ultimately, I found Zero to be very unsatisfying. There's a lot of potential in its premise, but by the end I was left wondering if the staff were even aware of what they had on their hands. I'll give Kawamori credit for once again trying something new with the series and in a project meant to celebrate the franchise's 20th anniversary, no less but I don't think he stuck the landing. Zero will go down as the first Macross I don't really like.
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Old 01-04-2019, 01:05 PM
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Are the UN Forces really the good guys in Zero though? Granted, it's been a while since I've watched it, but the only truly sympathetic people are the islanders. Roy's all business, and Shin's caught between his loyalty to the UN forces and his growing attachment to the islanders.
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Old 01-04-2019, 02:56 PM
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I enjoyed your write-up and observations, conchobhar! Most of all, I'm glad that you managed to get a hold of Zero in HD, unlike previous entries to the franchise. Had it been produced for TV, I don't doubt it would have been mastered in SD and suffered the same fate as a lot of early 2000s anime (think FMA or Eureka Seven whose Blu-Rays are merely fuzzy upsampled DVDs). But as a prestige OVA series, it likely saw limited theatrical releases of each episode and thus mastered in a higher resolution. (I'm not that surprised however that Zero does a good job with its CGI. If you want to watch Shoji Kawamori & Co's learning curve with CGI, watch Earth Maiden Arjuna.)

I agree with you on a lot of your observations, and chiefly the music. I can't help but imagine what the soundtrack would have been like if Yoko Kanno been allowed to put her stamp on Zero. Actually scratch that, I can imagine. If I ever became a billionare, one of the things I'd do in my retirement is replace the music in Zero with the soundtrack of Arjuna as a fan project. It's a pity something like that couldn't have been arranged, or that she couldn't be booked. But in the period of 2001-2004, Kanno arranged the music for Cowboy Bebop: Knockin' on Heaven's Door, RahXephon, GitS: SAC, and Wolf's Rain. Sooooooooo can't say I'd trade any of those for Zero. I will however postulate, that the de-emphasis of music is tonally appropriate for a prequel. SDF: Macross was humanity's big cultural awakening to the power of music, and it makes a certain amount of sense that for tonal consistency, a prequel wouldn't put as large of an emphasis on making music a living, breathing character.

The three big things I disagree with you on however, are:

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Originally Posted by conchobhar View Post
Another one of those pillars, of course, is the romance. Unfortunately, this didn't work for me either. Shin and Sara are likeable enough, but they're pretty lightly sketched and their relationship moreso.
This is more a difference of opinion than anything, as it worked pretty well for me. Their attraction seemed pretty authentic to my eyes, it spoke true to me and what I personally have seen and experienced of adolescent love. They're both essentially awkward teens who struggle to understand their own feelings and so can't act on them properly or convey them to others in constructive/healthy ways. They're also both very similar, and part of their attraction to one another is just that primal attraction/kinship people feel towards one another when they subconsciously recognize themselves in others. They're both serious and stern people, guarding themselves because of past traumas. But they're both earnest, honest, and empathetic people just trying to do best by what they know. And while both have strong convictions, neither are so close minded as they can't adapt their perspectives or understand others.

A lot of their romance is also the kind you have when people have shared experiences and experience new things together and expand their understandings of things/people. Shin learns about Sara and her world and is immensely attracted by it/her. And conversely, Sara does the same but is limited by her guilt and feelings of loyalty to her culture/customs. Shin & Mao have good "chemistry" in that they get along well. But as a romantic relationship it was pretty clearly a little sister has an unrequited crush on her older brother figure type deal, and it wouldn't have made any sense had Shin reciprocated those feelings. One of Macross's strengths as a franchise is that, across its many iterations, it doesn't subscribe to any one form of love. It acknowledges the wide breath of forms that love can take among different people. And Zero explores more types than most. (You're right on the money with Roy & Aries; though her death I see as less a fridging and more an unfortunate necessity of canon and goes a LONG way to explain why Roy is who he is when we see him in SDF:M. It's also a comeupance, which I'll talk about later.)

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One last thing I can't let escape mention: The way the UN forces treat the Mayans is extremely colonialist and patronizing, and the show never addresses it.
This is something I think there's more than enough textual evidence to refute with. Maybe it's easier to see if you're more familiar with Kawamori's ideas of spirituality, but when he's portraying the blood drawing, or the invasion of modern culture/technology, it's done in ways clearly meant to horrify and stir up negative emotions, and thus is implied disapproval. The low angle zoomed in on Sara's blood being drawn with a look of terror slowly creeping on her face, or the juxtaposition of the stars being blotted out by electric lights are things Kawamori thinks should sufficiently demonstrate to the audience that "modern" culture is invasive and harmful to societies like these fictional Maya. And Zero doesn't merely portray the wrongness of violating their beliefs and culture from a position of empathy, but validates their beliefs as true when the sanctity of blood ends up being the catalyst for the awakening of the birdman and their island being destroyed. And in the end, everyone who was in the wrong on this subject ends up dead.

Through Zero, Kawamori has a fairly complicated (for anime) discussion on the benefits and pitfalls of globalism, rapid technological advancement, respect for the environment, and the role of spirituality in modern times. But it's just played fairly subtly. If you want to get a more direct/blunt treatment of a lot of the same issues, watch (I keep going back to it) Arjuna. Macross Zero is, in a lot of ways, an Arjuna mulligan. Where he tries to launder a lot of the same ideas through Macross to make them more palatable and reach a wider audience. Macross Zero doesn't explicitly condemn colonialism because it assumes you've picked up enough through context that it inherently thinks colonialism is bad. Zero still has cultural issues with regards to fetishizing and othering "primitive" societies, but it has a much more responsible, self-aware, and open discussion about cultural imperialism in a franchise that historically was very irresponsible about those matters.*

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War is also depicted with a greater intensity, and with a corresponding shift in message. Typically, Macross tends towards a message of "war is dumb because lasting peace can only be achieved through dialogue and understanding", but Zero instead goes for "war is hell and destroys all you hold dear" as illustrated by Mayan Island being horrifically razed (and another character outright saying how war tore her life apart, just in case it still wasn't clear). This, I think, was a huge misfire. Macross' optimism towards human nature and faith in the uniting power of culture is something that really set it apart from its peers; but "war is hell" stories are a dime a dozen, and Zero does not say anything that hasn't been said before.
I think this is a misread of Zero here. It does inflect backwards towards a more "war is hell" perspective, but that isn't something that is inherently absent from Macross. SDF:M and DYRL are both heavily invested in portraying the horrors of war. I mean for god's sake, earth gets glassed and our heroes are left with trying to pick up the pieces. Some of the more striking imagery in all of Macross is the glassing of Earth, the broken landscapes post-war, or Misa trying to eat mutilated/mutated fish. And this reflection back to the original's horrors of war is totally in line with the work's tone as a prequel. And indulging in this doesn't detract away from the message of, "war is dumb because lasting peace can only be achieved through dialogue and understanding". In fact, it's heightened by it. You can't say war is dumb without portraying how fruitless and costly it is to begin with. And in the end, the resolution of Zero doesn't come from the end of a gun barrel, but by Shin rejecting his weapons, rejecting violence, and fully embracing love in order to pull Sara out of her trance and to end the rampage of the birdman.

*On a side note, one of the best aspects of Delta as a series, is how it explores the issue of colonialism more directly. Windermere is both the victims of colonialization, and then in retribution inflicts colonialization upon others, justifying it with a defensive reflex. It is a pretty clear critique of Imperial Japan and an idea that was honestly overdue exploring in Macross.
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  #658  
Old 01-05-2019, 12:00 PM
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My response, in turn:

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This is more a difference of opinion than anything, as [Sara and Shin's relationship] worked pretty well for me.
Interesting take. I can't say you've changed my mind, but I do enjoy your interpretation of it, and I'm happy to see that it did work for someone!

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[The show never addressing the colonialist bent] is something I think there's more than enough textual evidence to refute with.
I just don't see it. The UN forces clearly do bad things (as I've outlined above, and as you've elaborated on), but the actors are always framed as well-meaning, just careless: Shin repairs the generator as thanks, Aries is trying to investigate the Protoculture, and the UN Forces do try to protect the island and its people from the Anti-UN Forces (including evacuating them and providing medical care). Granted, maybe that's what it's going for, but a criticism of misplaced paternalism is pretty weak in my mind, and further diluted by the presence of actual, genuine villains the anti-UN Forces who stomp around causing great violence to the Mayans and their island. The contrast between the two armies's behaviours means that, intentionally or not, the UN Forces take on a more positive depiction. To my mind, the UN Forces needed to either be more explicitly awful, or more explicitly called out; or on the other hand, for the anti-UN Forces to be less comically villainous. But as it stands, the show seems mostly in favour of how the UN Forces act.

I can buy that the themes are more muted here because Kawamori had already covered them, in more detail, in another work, but I think that still represents a shortcoming.

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Originally Posted by WisteriaHysteria View Post
I think this is a misread of Zero here. It does inflect backwards towards a more "war is hell" perspective, but that isn't something that is inherently absent from Macross.
I didn't mean to say that the franchise had exclusively gone with a "war is dumb" theme my use of "tends" was meant to give wiggle room, but perhaps I could have been clearer. So, yes, SDF does have ample fodder for "war is hell" (RIP Ontario), but the key element of that show to me is how it gradually builds up to and gives way to "peace can only be achieved through cultural exchange". Likewise, Zero is not without its own promotion of peaceful dialogue, as you say: Shin ultimately saves the day by rejecting violence and embracing love. But to me, Zero leans so hard into "war is hell" from the start that, even with a rousing climax, my takeaway is still "war is hell". Not that it doesn't also try to say that there are better alternatives, but that its primary message is a bit more cynical and bloodier.

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I will however postulate, that the de-emphasis of music is tonally appropriate for a prequel. SDF: Macross was humanity's big cultural awakening to the power of music, and it makes a certain amount of sense that for tonal consistency, a prequel wouldn't put as large of an emphasis on making music a living, breathing character.
Using this as a jumping off point: I notice that the both of us, in explaining and justifying some of Zero's directorial decisions the musical genre, the role of music, the tenor of its anti-war message, etc keep pointing to its status as a prequel. Taken together, I think this is kind of interesting, like Zero isn't (just) concerned with explaining the backstory, but wants to touch on and hint at the themes that will be explored, in greater depth, in later works. It's like a gentle lead-in to the franchise for newcomers, or a kind of retroactive forerunner? I don't know, I'm just spitballing here and getting ahead of myself. But it does seem like a lot of decisions can be attributed to not wanting to take thunder away from SDF and later works I can both respect the commitment to internal tonal consistency, while also thinking that kind of makes for a restrictive way to approach a new entry

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Originally Posted by WisteriaHysteria View Post
*On a side note, one of the best aspects of Delta as a series, is how it explores the issue of colonialism more directly. Windermere is both the victims of colonialization, and then in retribution inflicts colonialization upon others, justifying it with a defensive reflex. It is a pretty clear critique of Imperial Japan and an idea that was honestly overdue exploring in Macross.
This is great to hear. I was cold on Delta when it first aired and dropped it after only a handful of episodes, but I've been fully intending to give it another go. This makes it an easier proposition
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  #659  
Old 01-05-2019, 12:13 PM
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I'm with you, conchobhar, that Zero is a bit of a thematic mess; I think the OAV production schedule probably did not do it a ton in the way of favors.

I do recommend revisiting it after watching (rewatching?) Frontier; in a lot of ways, your description of it as a "retroactive forerunner" is spot-on - it's both trying to insert itself before SDF/7/Plus, and lay groundwork for new millennium Macross productions.
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  #660  
Old 01-05-2019, 05:40 PM
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Interesting take. I can't say you've changed my mind, but I do enjoy your interpretation of it, and I'm happy to see that it did work for someone!
Ye! I'm not out here to change anyone's mind, it's just interesting/fun to learn other people's perspectives and discuss something we all share in common.

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To my mind, the UN Forces needed to either be more explicitly awful, or more explicitly called out; or on the other hand, for the anti-UN Forces to be less comically villainous. But as it stands, the show seems mostly in favour of how the UN Forces act.
I still disagree here. I think moral ambiguity is a large part of Zero and of Macross in general. The Zentradi commit genocide, but they (mostly) aren't evil, they're in large part victims of their circumstance and of the Protoculture that made them that way. You can say the same about Sharon Apple, the Protodevilin, the Vajra, etc.

The UN Forces likewise, aren't evil, but they're often misguided or close minded and commit to hard actions with little concern for their consequences. The same is actually true of the Anti-UN Forces. In the end, Zero sufficiently condemns both sides, but it's a trip of discovery to get there. We're given the UN perspective first, so it seems like they're the "good guys" but as the show unfolds, we discover the problematic nature of who they are and what they're doing. It's a big inflection point in Zero to discover that the UN Forces are actually the belligerents - they're persecuting the anti-UN factions for not assimilating, and they're pursuing the alien tech of the Birdman for its weapons potential in the same ways. (Spoilers for Delta: Later it's discussed in Macross Delta how both sides are being manipulated/used by war profiteers, who supplied both sides with tech to escalate their wars.)

Cultural exchange and interaction is portrayed as both a positive and a negative in Zero, and the differences between depend largely on respect and communication. If the people you interact with don't want you there or don't like what you've brought to them, don't force it upon them or take advantage of them. Cultural exchange should be a two-way thing, and should be carried out with good faith and respect. Bringing vaccines that could save lives? A good thing. Taking advantage of ignorance in order to facilitate weapons research? A bad thing. Zero presents these scenarios and has respect enough for its audience to be able to determine what's right and wrong on their own without forcing its morals upon the viewer with tired exposition. The UN Forces might mean well, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and we see how certain characters/factions end up in hell because they didn't safeguard their morality enough through the course of Zero. The show doesn't need to have a narrator step in and condemn what any one faction is doing, because it trusts you to recognize for yourself that they are in the wrong.

It's also worth noting that you cannot have reconciliation and a long lasting, peaceful conclusion to conflict without recognizing the humanity and goodness in your enemies. That's something Macross has always made it a point to discuss. We can condemn the actions of belligerents, but

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This is great to hear. I was cold on Delta when it first aired and dropped it after only a handful of episodes, but I've been fully intending to give it another go. This makes it an easier proposition
Delta has a whole boatload of issues, but it's worth watching. Just go in with your expectations adjusted down and it'll be ok.
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