Newtype Flash Article Encore No. 2: Macross – Remembering The Melodies

(Author’s notes: The following is a reprint of a short article I wrote on Hero TV Forum Version 4’s Original Content Section, under the byline Newtype Flash. I’m posting it here for reference to everyone reading my site. I will be posting all my other OCS articles here on this blog as well in the next few days. Hopefully I can repost all of them on HTVF when the forum returns.)

Newtype Flash
By Ultimate Coordinator

The Macross Saga: Remembering the Melodies

Do you remember when your eyes first appreciated an anime that has flourished and inspired you thru the years? I do.

It was in 1986, when I first really saw an anime I had really gotten hooked to. How can you not appreciate a show that not only had the mecha toys I was playing with then, but also dazzled you with high-flying battle scenes in outer space, with fighter planes transforming into big, bad mecha toting big, bad cannons firing link machine guns at big, bad giant aliens, dancing a zero-gravity ballet while crisscrossing a storm cloud of missiles all gunning for him, and titanic space battleships fighting for the survival of the Human and Zentraedi races, all to the grand music and melodies of a raven-haired teen pop idol with the most powerful singing voice in the universe?

This was anime at its finest. This was anime of the most epic of proportions.

This was Macross.

For me, watching the Macross anime always brings out the kid in me, more than any other anime that I watched – Gundam included. Like many others who have watched the different series this saga has spawned, you can feel your spirits lifted by the masterpiece work of combining hard-charging mecha action, an epic space opera, love themes and love triangles, and inspiring and merry melodies sang by some of the best pop idols and singers of its day.

The story of the Macross saga is that of an epic space opera, so much inspired by George Lucas’ Star Wars. The first and most important series in Macross is Super Dimensional Fortress Macross (Chō Jikū Yōsai Makurosu), first shown on Japanese TV on October 3, 1982, and was created by the legendary Shoji Kawamori (also the creator of The Vision of Escaflowne, Earth Girl Arjuna and Eureka 7. It is the first anime under Big West’s “Super Dimensional” Anime series produced by Studio Nue (the other two are Super Dimensional Cavalry Southern Cross and Super Dimensional Century Orguss).

According to the story’s history, the Earth was engulfed in a Global Civil War in 1999, when an alien spaceship crash-landed on an isolated island in the Pacific Ocean, and eventually scared everyone to unite and embrace world peace. Humankind salvaged and rebuilt the gigantic space fortress, coined the SDF-1 Macross, to be the flagship of its fledging space fleet.

The SDF-1 Macross.

New technologies were discovered inside the ship, including the science to create and power giant mecha. But from deep space, an alien race of giant humanoids called the Zentraedi was looking for the ship, and ten years later in 2009, the giants invaded the Earth during the SDF-1’s launch celebrations, and plunged the Earth into an intergalactic war. The SDF-1 (and in a freak accident, the citizens of South Ataria Island) is transported to the end of our solar system, and began its slow, lonely and dangerous trek home to Earth and its salvation.

At first watch, Macross looks to be a straightforward “I-am-a-mecha-shooter-killing-aliens-show” and may sound boring to a lot of people, but I strongly disagree with that. Macross is a deep story with deeply human emotions and plots – it is a story of family, friendships, survival, hope, music and love, interspersed with the cataclysmic Armageddon of war and death.

So much for the story of Super Dimensional Fortress Macross, but there are so many more things I’ll talk about this excellent anime tale.

Super Dimensional Fortress Macross has three main characters: Hikaru Ichijyo, Misa Hayase and Lynn Minmay.

The lead characters of Super Dimensional Fortress Macross: Hikaru Ichijyo, Misa Hayase and Lynn Minmay.

Hikaru Ichijyo (Rick Hunter in the English Robotech dub) is the main male lead in the story, 16-year old orphan-turned-stunt pilot, who after being invited by his good friend and mentor to the SDF-1 Macross launch celebrations, was pulled into the war with the Zentraedi and forced to become a pilot in the military. Hikaru first rebels at the bleak reality he was facing and avoids joining the military, but his desire to protect the refugees on the SDF-1 Macross leads him to become a Valkyrie Fighter Pilot, and he grows up to be a kind and responsible man and courageous and just warrior.

Misa Hayase (Lisa Hayes in the English Robotech dub) is the 19-year old first officer of the SDF-1 Macross, and she was destined to be much like here stern father, a high-ranking military officer, had not she encountered and came to know people like Hikaru and the SDF-1 crew who changed her life and humanity. She accepts that she can be who she wants to be, and fall in love with the person she never knew she longed for.

And the beautiful Lynn Minmay (Lynn Minmei in the English Robotech dub)is the innocent 15-year old teenager from South Ataria Island, who became a beacon of hope for the people inside the SDF-1 with her songs, while keeping inside those dark desires she wished for herself and for her love. Her songs are the opposite mirror of her soul, as she struggles between her choice of fame and career over the growing and unconditional love offered to her by a certain Valkyrie Fighter Pilot.

The conflicting desires and the personal connections of these three different individuals carry the story of Super Dimensional Fortress Macross to the heights of anime legend. Their love triangle was played as a focal point in the struggles of the SDF-1 against the terrifying strength of the alien invaders, and the discrimination of the rest of the Human race, in its lonely quest as the protector of Earth.

Aside from these main heroes, a plethora of excellent supporting characters populated the anime. From the father-like Bruno Gloval, the commander of the SDF-1 Macross, to Roy Focker, the dashing and womanizing ace commander of the legendary Skull Squadron, to Claudia La Salle and the lollicon Bridge Bunnies, to the stern yet just commander of the Zentraedi forces, Vrlitwhai Kridanik (don’t ask me to pronounce that XD) and his loyal advisor Exedol Folmo, to the civilians living inside Macross City (the city inside the SDF-1 Macross for the refugees of South Ataria Island) and even the grunt soldiers of the Zentraedi – all were giving even the smallest measure of characterization by Kawamori and his crew, making Macross to be one of the best anime in terms of character development ever.

There is a plethora of well-developed characters that populate Macross.

Another integral part of the Macross experience is in its mecha. The main robots used by both the heroes and villains alike are not the Super Robots like Voltes V, but mass-produced, easily damaged real robots that serve as the grunts in the intergalactic war, from the slow-plodding and heavily armed Tomahawks of Earth to the numerous Regult Battlepods of the Zentraedi, and of course the VF-1 Variable Fighter, a transformable mecha that changes from a jet fighter to a bipedal soldier and a hybrid bird-of-prey form, which started the trend of transformable robot toys in Japan two years before the Transformers, another famous line of transforming robot toys, ever came to the markets. The Variable Fighter has become the signature mecha of the Macross saga, and has evolved with the new sequels to Super Dimensional Fortress Macross thru the years.

The evolution of the Variable Fighter thru the years.

Together with its mecha, Super Dimensional Fortress Macross introduced art and animation techniques for action anime still used up to this day, such as coordinated and choreographed movements of the mecha in combat, swarms of dozens of missiles converging on a target in random and dizzying movements, elfin-like character designs and concepts, and panoramic environmental views for their massive spaceships and terrains.

And of course, I cannot talk about Macross without talking about its music, and therefore talk about Lynn Minmay once more. It’s Minmay’s voice, thru her songs, that lifts up the spirits of the beleaguered humans inside the SDF-1 Macross during their darkest times, as she acts out her role as Miss Macross and therefore the ship’s pop idol, hiding her own tears and fears behind the smile that captivated not only the humans, but aliens as well.

Lynn Minmay – live at the Macross Bowl

For the Zentraedi, Lynn Minmay was the personification of culture – a concept as alien to them as they were alien to Earth’s humans. It is thru Minmay’s songs that the Zentraedi learn what culture is, eventually teaching them who they really are, eventually breaking them free from their slavery to war and showing them their true humanity as well. It is thru Minmay’s song, specially Do You Remember Love?, that the galactic war was ended and the survivors accepted each other in peace.

As the decades passed in the Macross universe, the memory of Minmay and her contributions to the galaxy lived on and prospered. She was the inspiration for Myung Fang Lone of Macross Plus and Basara Nekki of Macross 7 to pursue a career as singers in the near Macross future. Thru its many incarnations, Minmay will always be the iconic anime character for the Macross saga.

Lynn Minmay represents the Macross saga more than the mecha would ever would.

Minmay was voiced by Mari Iijima, who in 1982 landed role and, thru her voicing the character and singer her songs, catapulted her to the status as a singing superstar in Japan, coinciding to Minmay’s rise as the very first anime pop idol in history. Songs like Shao Pai Long (Little White Dragon), My Boyfriend Is A Pilot, Sunset Beach and Do You Remember Love? have graced the radio airwaves in the 80s until the 90s, and brought critical international attention to Macross and Iijima, making them legendary names in both households and otaku circles worldwide.

Several well-known singers followed Iijima and notched their place in Macross music history, such as Yoko Kanno (singing voice of Myung Fang Lone in Macross 7), Yoshiki Fukuyuma (Basara Nekki of Macross 7 and a member of JAM Project) and Minmay started the trend of anime characters as pop idols, such as Meer Campbell and Lacus Clyne of the Gundam SEED series. Minmay and Iijima also inspired more singers to cut songs for anime and share their talents as voice actors, such as Maaya Sakamoto (Hitomi Kanzaki of Vision of Escaflowne) and Rie Tanaka (Chi of Chobits, Meer Campbell and Lacus Clyne of Gundam SEED).

Iijima, after fighting a depression over her inability to come to terms of being stereotyped as Lynn Minmay, has come to accept Minmay’s influence in her life, and is enjoying a Grammy-nominated career in the USA, and has happily reprised her role as Lynn Minmay in the new American re-dubbing of Super Dimensional Fortress Macross.

With the success of the original series, numerous sequels to Super Dimensional Fortress Macross were produced. The first was the movie Super Dimensional Fortress Macross: Do You Remember Love?, an 1984 adaptation of the original TV series, and the movie is credited for introducing Macross to the USA. This is also one of the best made – artistically and cinematographically – animated movies I have ever watched, and I strongly recommend that kids today watch it.

Do You Remember Love? is a classic movie adaptation of the original Macross anime.

Following close at the heels of the movie was Super Dimensional Fortress Macross: Flashback 2012, a short series of music videos of Lynn Minmay’s songs and her departure on the SDF-2 Megaroad into the universe and history, released in 1987.

Macross Plus came in next in 1994 – a four part OVA with a movie adaptation, which at the time was the most expensive anime ever made, being one of the first anime to use a combination of cel and CGI animation, and was hailed as a pinnacle of anime production, chronicling another love triangle of simple folks living in Eden, a newly colonized world where Humans and Zentraedi lived in harmony thirty years after the events of Super Dimensional Fortress Macross. Macross Plus was a story of friendship between three people, and forgiveness for the dark secret they suppressed for seven years.

Macross Plus is one of the first anime to use both cel and CGI animation in the production of this anime classic.

Macross 7, a 50-episode series also released in 1994, tells of the story of Basara Nekki, the singer of the rock band Fire Bomber, who sees himself as a reincarnation of Lynn Minmay, as he traveled deep into space with the Macross 7 Colony Fleet, and fights off new alien races with his own brand of music. This anime has spawned several albums and OVAs with great rock music and excellent guitar riffs, as well as the return of some heroes from the orginal Super Dimensional Fortress Macross show in more elderly roles.

Macross Zero, a four-part prequel to Super Dimensional Fortress Macross, was released in 2002 as the 20th Anniversary series for the Macross saga, relates of secret events a few years prior to the launch of the SDF-1 Macross from South Ataria Island, and brings back Roy Focker to the tale as well as several new characters.

And in 2008, the new Macross F (or Macross Frontier) anime, a 50-part series, will continue the Macross saga, as the Macross 11 Fleet travels deeper into space looking for the SDF-2 Megaroad, taking with them tales of love, war and music.

Macross has touched the entire world, not just the otaku scene. It is probably the most famous of all anime, having touched such areas as the United States, Brazil, Argentina and Mexico in the Americas, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and even Russia in Europe, to China, Thailand, Indonesia and even the Philippines here in Asia. It has arguably the most prolific number of websites all over the World Wide Web, and its reference sites are extensive and informative.

The Macross robot toys are a staple of toy collectors all over the world, including myself. A classic Valkyrie toy is an important part of a anime toy collector’s hoard, and is highly prized for its history and quality.

Macross has spawned several adaptations and clones, all drawing inspiration from the original series. In the USA, Harmony Gold has adapted Super Dimensional Fortress Macross as the first part of a alternate universe saga (the other parts being Super Dimensional Cavalry Southern Cross and Genesis Climber Mospaeda, another Macross clone) to form Robotech, a staple of Saturday children’s shows in the late 80s and early 90s (this was before Harmony Gold got into trouble with Big West over copyright issues about Macross).

Harmony Gold also produced the short-lived Robotech Sentinels anime and Robotech novels, as well as the Robotech Shadow Chronicles movie in 2004, to celebrate the United Nations 60th Anniversary.

Macross II: Lovers Again, is another four-part OVA, created by some artists of the original series, but isn’t produced by Studio Nue. Thus Macross II may have a similar storyline (80 years after Super Dimensional Fortress Macross) but considered as not part of the canon Macross universe.

A Macross role playing game was created in the early 90’s and this has flourished into a internet forum role playing community in the thousands for the last ten years of so (I am a proud member of this community). And Macross has directly influenced the otaku community as well – including introducing anime pop idols, as well as giving the term “otaku” (which was a favorite word spoken by one of Macross’ early characters) a respected and accepted reputation.

Macross Frontier is the future of Macross, coming in 2008.

So this is Macross for me – the greatest of all anime I have been privileged to watch and experience in my life. The songs of this anime will live with me, as I dream of the stars, listening to the angelic voice of Lynn Minmay, as the eternal Muse to my anime dreams. And with the arrival of Macross Frontiers, for the saga’s 25th anniversary, I hope to live the dream once more, and hear her songs whisper thru the universe…

Hikaru and Minmay meeting at the Macross City Park.

Author’s Note:
Macross is a trademark and copyright of Big West and Studio Nue.
Robotech is a copyright of Harmony Gold.

5 Responses

  1. Great article. Im from the PI too, and remember this anime fondly. I was wondering–would you happen to know how one can obtain the Philippine version of this show? It was dubbed into English, but with Filipino actors. I remember the opening song clearly, and have been looking forward to re-viewing it. Any leads would be much appreciated!

  2. Your article is very well written and makes the point as eloquently as possible. I too am a huge Macross and Robotech fan, and I also consider Macross to be the Standard by which I measure all other anime. Macross was one of the very first anime I ever saw as a young boy, and even now as I’ve crossed the thirty year mark I still treasure the series as much as I did as a boy. You’ve done a wonderful job describing the series and explaining what makes it so significant. My compliments and well wishes go out to you, and keep up the good work!

  3. Mospaeda isn’t just a “Macross clone”, it is a pretty good real robot show, but why the hell you refered to the bridge bunnies as “lolicon”, they’re too old.

  4. i love macross frotier but it seems it so annoying me at the end of the story alto saotome not confess who his he love most of them is it ranka lee or sheryl.i hopr that someday this macross frontier wil have ah movie a story about rankas love for saotome. i think it is pretty nice if the title id macross frontier the next legendary lynn minmae none other than ranka lee and she sung the soong do you remember love for alto. the sotory goes like thisafter they defeat the valjar ranka and sheryl made a promise each other that rhey do their best to express their felings to alto. who among them win the heart of that guy.backthen ranka give up for alto because gor sheryl sake. before she leave she curt her hair and give it to alto and confess her love but she say goodbye. alto says that she will come back? sahe said yes in a right time and you will see i will bwcome famous singer.but alto realize that the one she love is ranka after she leave. after 7 years ranka come back to her home land macross she is so beutiful with long hair like minmae. and a couple of twist of their love story becuase a new man come to rankas life that adore ker so much she decided to be one of the sms in able to protect the nw legendary lynn minmae.this guy always kiss ranka if alto is in around her and alto get jealous.but in the end rankas love and alto bring back them together again and she at last sing the oboetimasuka(do you remember love.

  5. and hers one more a group of rebels zentradi wants to kidnap ranka because they really dont want ranka to sing they jidnap ranka and then alo save her bur sadly they absuct the 2 of them.

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