A Grand Unified Macross Theory

That title sounds more grandiose than this post is, but that’s okay. I’d been thinking about where Frontier fits in the whole Totally Arbitrary Macross Continuity which I have expressly made up for the purposes of this post. I actually just tried to explain it in actual spoken words to cuchlann not an hour or so ago, but didn’t actually get anywhere because he started laughing when I said Macross 7 and started laughing even more when I said G Gundam and then there were fisticuffs and I’m actually dead of severe blunt trauma to the head but I hired the crack team of children from the hit PBS series Ghostwriter to use that ball of light thing to write this post and all future posts so you can rest assured that even though I am dead, you aren’t rid of me that easily. And free meal to boot, even though I couldn’t enjoy it because I was dead.


The three Macross TV series made to date (Super Dimsnsional Fortress Macross, Macross 7, and Macross Frontier) all seem to have a similar plot structure and layout–aliens come up and attack things, idols are made and start to sing and singing actually helps the war effort, and then there is resolution. That’s a horribly simplified layout, but that’s essentially it, with the traditional love triangle. The thing is, even though each Macross series is, on an extremely simplified level, the same thing, these three TV series have taken different approaches to the same premise. (I am ignoring Plus and Zero because I haven’t seen them all yet, and also they are OVAs and I don’t know how they’d fit into this continuity, but they probably do) I’ll go through the series one by one (with images!) starting now.

Super Dimensional Fortress Macross

Here is the precise reason everyone loves SDF:

The appeal of SDF, especially to a generation of anime fans who cut their teeth on the Robotech version of the Macross story, is that there’s these planes, see, and they’ve got these three modes–one which is a plane, the Valkyrie, one which is a plane with legs, the Gerwalk, and one which is actually a full-out robot, the Battroid. That’s not to diminish all the other aspects of SDF, which are very strong–no matter how awesome Valkyries are, SDF wouldn’t be enduringly popular without the people who piloted, commanded, or sung in them. But yet, it always seems to me–and I presume to other Macross fans–that part of the reason SDF was so awesome was because there were these crazy dogfights and Itano circuses and the Pin Point Barrier which is the greatest defense system ever, doubly so because it was controlled via trackballs. Especially considering people always seem to dislike a certain part of Macross I found as likable as the Valkyries themselves (planes are pretty cool after all):


More on this later! But now:

Macross 7

Whereas SDF, having been made in the 80s, during a phase of mecha mania follwing the post-cancellation success of Mobile Suit Gundam, put the spotlight on the awesome yet lifeless plane/robot/things, Macross 7 instead places a much greater focus on the aspect of SDF that played a key role in the plot, but only accidentally: music. Tapping the talents of HUMMING BIRD, Yoshiki Fukuyama’s band at the time, to play Fire Bomber,- Kawamori forged from his deranged, insane mind (saying that makes me wonder how much he was involved in the storyline for Bonen no Xamdou, or Xam’d: Lost Memories, or “that show with the X name that I don’t know what’s going on in it–yeah, that one” aside from doing the “mechanical” designs) Macross 7, which, no matter what people will tell you, is a great Macross series. Of course, people don’t like Macross 7 because it almost completely left out the part about SDF that everyone loved (see above) in favor of amazing rock music (FIre Bomber is pretty much the greatest fictional band ever, and I’ve yet to get tired of their songs–even Totsugeki Love Heart and Planet Dance) and, more importantly, shifting the focus away from the military and into “civilian” life, as Basara and Mylene and Ray struggle to get recogized and deal with Basara’s random idiotic attempts to sing at invading aliens

Macross 7 wasn’t about the dogfights, but instead about the power music has over us–made easily quantifiable, of course, by Chiba Song Units–and the power music, or, more specfically, rock and roll, has to affect the course of events. This, of course, leads to an impressively nonsensical plot that would fall apart under even a casual perusal by Imagawa Yazuhiro, but, of course, that’s part of why I like it so much–it was the first Macross series I watched start to finish, and, even though it has some serious issues (the biggest one being that it was at least 10 episodes too long), I can totally get along with anything that’s about how awesome rock ‘n’ roll is and how it can save the universe. And, yes. The whole universe. Try Again must be the most amazing song in history if it has the power to halt universal destruction.

Of course, that leaves us with today’s still-airing Macross installment:

Macross Frontier

If SDF focused on the Valkyries, and 7 focused on the music, then Frontier is taking yet another angle–it’s focusing on the characters. Sure, there’s big flashy showing-off-Satelite’s-CG-skills Valkyrie dogfights, and there’s killer music from not one but two idols, the focus isn’t on the war, the alien menace looming over everyone, or even the songs themselves: it’s how the characters behave, act, and feel. Naturally, if one is vehemently anti-Ranka, a good deal of this element might be lost, but I think that Sheryl’s complexity (so complex that I have literally now idel how to divine her motives at this point, as has been proven time and time again in comments) and Alto’s own character with his own conflcted desires (and the even more ridiculously complex interplay between these three) should more than carry the show, even if you want to punch the screen out every time Ranka bakes Valkyrie cookies in her Valkyrie backpack and takes them to Alto in his Valkyrie. (and if this is the case, there is a special section of Hell reserved for you, and it involves doing just this over and over again for all eternity) It’s all dolled up in the latest advancements in moenetics (prehensile hair! Klan Klan! Sheryl being, well, Sheryl! Alto has a ponytail!), of course, but dolling itself up has always been something Macross has done from the get-go, so I don’t see much inconsistent in that. It’s doing a remarkably good job of dealing with the emotions of the main cast, and it’s been doing so without going overboard in the dolling-up.

The fact that Kawamori doesn’t want to retread the same series over and over again and wants to try something diffeent with every Macross series is something I respect, even if it doesn’t always work for everyone. it’s one thing to stick to the tried-and-true formula set by SDF–it’s entirely another to consistently break the mold you cast yourself. As I said, it doesn’t always work–but, at least for me, it’s worked so far.



13 Responses to “A Grand Unified Macross Theory”

  1. 1 The Animanachronism 2 August 2008 at 10:55 am

    So these series have focused on the three legs of the Macross tripod (transforming mecha, affirming the power of music, a love triangle) in that order? Plausible, though I wouldn’t put it past unrefined viewers such as myself to ignore all the signposts and focus on the explosive action despite the show’s best efforts.

  2. 2 OGT 2 August 2008 at 11:18 am

    That’s the problem–people are upset about the lack of explosive action in Macross series that aren’t SDF–that’s the #1 criticism leveled against Macross 7, for instance. They might have explosive action (and Frontier certainly has quite a bit of this), but that’s more eye candy/fanservice, and not the focus. Watching for the explosive action, however, is perfectly fine, except that then you get upset when there isn’t any. :|

  3. 3 max 3 August 2008 at 12:41 am

    I’m an oldschool macross fan. I love a great epic story. The problem with this new Macross series is that it’s your everyday generic high school anime series that we see coming out of japan nowadays. It has the same archetypes that we know. Super young characters. Super skinny and girly looking main characters. Nerdy little boy who can never get a girl. Big breasted classmates. Follow a bunch of kids everyday around school then have the occasional sortie at the end is getting old. To tell you the truth it’s very throwaway and lacks many classic elements that can place it in the same category as the original macross series, macross plus or even macross 7 for that matter.

    The good point about macross 7 was that it was actually too long. I’m not sure how many episodes macross f is but it feels very rushed and a lot is actually happening that completely skipped. I felt the original macross was a gradual buildup.

  4. 4 OGT 3 August 2008 at 1:51 am

    @max: Well, yes, it is pretty schoolhouse–but it’s also much closer to, say, true tears than it is to Da Capo, which is to say, it’s handling it well and it’s not falling for horrible tropes or artificial sentiments or poor writing. Everyone’s mileage may vary (and from someone adopting an internet persona named after Maximillian Jenius, I don’t think I really blame you for your dislike for Frontier), but I know plenty of people who love SDF Macross and still think Frontier is doing a good job of being Macross (whatever “being Macross” actually means).
    And SDF was made 25 years ago–anime’s changed a lot in direction and focus, and it seems like it’s passed you, and many others, by, somehow.

  5. 5 hannibal 3 August 2008 at 8:32 pm

    I also like Minmei, I always feel sorry for her after watching DYRL.

    Macross is in the end a love triangle story that just happens to be set in a future war vs aliens setting. Even the singing is secondary to the love story… it just happens to be how the good guys win.

    BTW, Plus and Zero pretty much fit in with what you’re saying, with some exceptions.

  6. 6 cuchlann 4 August 2008 at 10:02 pm

    Bwhahaha! Yes, hell will be all the better, because the heat will ensure Sheryl wears her awesome Chocolat Misu outfit every day!

  7. 7 DrGhetto 23 September 2008 at 10:02 pm

    Well done! Excellent! Well said! I don’t agree with a single thing you said, but you said it well, I suppose. No, actually, to be honest, I don’t. :D

    Ha ha.

    Actually, I stopped “digesting” 95 percent of Japanese cartoons specifically because they weren’t giving me the same vibes the original one had during the eighties– at least the ORIGINAL original one. I think it’s very character driven, much more so than most Japanese cartoons. It used to have an intrinsic relationship with the original three main characters UNTIL it started mimicking Gundam and churning out clone-show after clone-show.

    You forgot “Plus,” which I think is more worthy of being included than “Seven.” It’s your call, though. I liked that particular band, too. But I thought the “arranged marriage” of Mylene and Gamlin was kind of ridiculous. That show, for me, has the wreak of scabs– hack writers who come in and fill in for the usual important people. Well, not everyone can be Noboru Ishiguro.

    Scott Frazier incidentally worked for that guy! … that is, before he went crazy and got a sex change. I’ll miss him. Lady “H” has taken its toll.

    And Frontier? I watch it on Veoh. I’d be watching it in my little hovel in Japan, if I didn’t have to bail outta that country just to graduate college. I wish I could be drunk in front of the TV with art student friends and be watching Macross again and drinking chu-hai. It has the wreak of high school drama, and a so-so one at that. I didn’t even feel the faintest heartstring
    being pulled in one of the pivotal dramatic moments. Why? Well, because he’s a clone.

    Maybe I’m just an old fogey. Maybe the kids’ music today ain’t my music. Maybe I’m feeling what music snobs feel when their counter-culture punk bands get knocked over by a tidal wave of pop. I dunno.

    Basically, they’re *Okay.* and that’s better than so-so, and that’s a lot coming from me. But “Okay” is as good as it gets for these shows.

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