• Anime Review 28.07.2009

    The earliest anime I can remember watching when I was a child was G-Force: Battle of the Planets.  I found out later in life that it was re-branded and originally called Gatchaman.  It looks pretty dated now, but in the 80’s it looked amazing.  In fact, G-Force was what prompted me to draw, or at least put me on the path of being an artist.  You see, I was taunted by some boys when I tried to draw the Phoenix, which was their main ship.  I was taunted a lot.

    I cried.

    I was seven.

    But when I got home I poured through many, many sheets of paper drawing the Pheonix as best I could.  After a week of closely watching G-Force and drawing the Pheonix from multiple angles… I was now officially an Otaku.  I just didn’t know it yet, mostly because… I was seven.

    So for a few years I was fascinated by G-Force, Galaxy Rangers, Starblazers and a whole slew of “cartoons” until the fateful day I saw something just by chance.  By the way, I could draw the Pheonix really well at this point, and no more ‘poor art skill tauntings’ awaited me.

    I would wake up at 5:30 in the morning to watch Starblazers, then, craw back into bed before the credits stopped rolling because I didn’t care for the Smurfs at 6:00.  But one morning I watched past the credits- can’t remember why.  And at 6:00, instead of seeing blue things prance around my Zenith tv, I saw this scrolling reel set in front of a space background with giant robots and fighter jets on the individual frames.  I didn’t go back to bed.  I was too busy watching Robotech.


    So, I just finished watching Starblazers, and now I get to watch Robotech?  This phenomenon matured into what is now known as an “epic win”.

    I didn’t catch the series from the beginning, but pretty close to it. I caught the show right when they arrive at Pluto.  And when they re-aired the series again from the beginning, I watched it again, from the beginning as many times as they were willing to show me.  And keep this in mind, by about the second or third morning of Robotech, there was no doubt in my mind that a VF-1 Valkyrie would kick the living crap out of any Transformer.  Seriously, no comparison even till this day.  Michael Bay, you made the wrong movie.


    Robotech was really an amalgamation of three separate anime series that Harmony Gold spliced together into a pretty coherent story.  The three pieces were Macross, Southern Cross and Mospeada. For some reason the first arc of the story which was Macross stuck.  The other two arcs never seemed right to me.

    I would draw veritech fighters now.  No more Pheonix, no more Yamato.  It was veritechs blowing up Decepticons because the Autobots just couldn’t get the job done.


    I think Robotech (Macross) had such a lasting impression on me because of the human element.  The mecha were just the icing on the cake, but the story of a love triangle seemed monumentally complex and very mature to a ten year old.

    Alright, if I’m totally honest, the mecha played a huge part.  I think Macross was the birth of mecha that didn’t look stupid.  Look at what we were watching at the time.  Voltron, Gobots, Astroboy?  Stupid.  A vertiech fighter which took it’s ancestry from the Grumman F-14 Tomcat? Kick ass.


    Now, these images you’re seeing are from Macross Frontier, over 25 years later.  There were many a Macross series up to this point, some hit, some misses.  Macross Frontier is a hit.  It’s almost a spiritual rebirth of the original series with deliberate parallels that viewers of Robotech will spot right away.  It also stays true to the main themes that run through Macross.  A love triangle, music used to defeat the enemy, and the venerable veritech fighter, or Valkyrie are all strong themes in Frontier.  Oh, yes… and sacrifice- a pretty strong theme too.


    After 25 years, Shōji Kawamori brings us this latest incarnation which is set in the backdrop of Frontier, the 25th colonization fleet. This series also ends on episode 25 instead of the usual 26 episodes.  And if you add up all the humans in the fleet and divide by all the Zentradi killed, you get 25.

    Now for me, Macross had a lot of “firsts” in it.  It was the first time I heard decent music in a “cartoon”.  It wasn’t the usual cliche backtrack that would play.  This was real music with Lynn Minmay.  This was great music with Sheryl and Ranka.

    The actual score for Frontier is composed by Yoko Kanno of Cowboy Bebop fame, with vocals provided by Maaya Sakamoto, Megumi Nakajima and May’n.  The music alone is worth watching this series.


    Another first for me was just the scores of people buying the farm.  Oh sure, people in Starblazers didn’t always make it, but you had a limited amount of “red shirts” on the Yamato.  The SDF-1 was oozing with people that didn’t make it back.  I have to say, it was a bit jarring.  You get used to watching GI Joe and Cobra fire a billion rounds at each other, only to hit vehicles and trees.  In Robotech, you watch a family enjoying dinner one moment, then get vaporized the next… yeah, a bit jarring.  Macross taught me not to get too attached to anime characters.  They don’t always make it.

    R.I.P. Roy Folker.


    A completely awesome first was the missile swarm.  Seeing dozens upon dozens of missiles being unleashed on a target for the first time was mind blowing.  When Rick Hunter first unloaded every missile from an Armored Veritech, I was in awe.  I didn’t realize the rules of cartoon violence allowed this.  But it did, and it was yet another reason why I believed a standard Veritech could wear Megatrons head like a hat.  Little did I know more was coming.

    I submit to you the ‘Daedalus Attack’.  This significantly upped the mecha wow factor, and can be done by ramming ships together with pinpoint barriers.  I’ll illustrate below with Frontier.


    You’ll want to concentrate your defense energy at one point of your ship to ram through the enemy hull.

    The goal is to punch through into the internal structure of the enemy ship.


    Once you’re in, Destroids will pop out of hatches to spew streams of missiles every which way.

    You’ll then back away as the ship you just punched will now explode, violently.  And that’s the Deadalus Attack, courtesy of Macross.  So all you Battlestar Galactica fans out there, remember the last two episodes where they punch into the Cylon colony to board it? Deadalus Attack.


    Just an asside, Macross Frontier puts it’s own mark on the signature move by having Battle Frontier sucker punch Battle Galaxy in the gut.

    After 25 years Macross still sticks with me, and I bet I’ll be dreaming about Veritechs in an old age home one day.  It’s one of those series that helped mature the entire industry.  It constantly sets a higher bar by which all animators, producers, writers try to aspire to and surpass.  Otaku have benefited from Macross one way or another with or without us knowing it.  It brought us BattleTech, the now defunct FASA.  Macross allowed themes of love to be a viable primary subject of a series.  It pushed mecha design into more realistic mechanics, and focused on pilot machine interfaces.  They created detailed cockpits for mecha, instead of the usual glowing square block that represented the one monitor for a machine.

    Macross has had a lasting impression on me.  After 25 years I remember Robotech well.  I remember it more than anything else in my youth.  Macross gave me an appreciation for anime.  And who knows.  Maybe in another 25 years we’ll see the first production VFX roll off a runway somewhere…  in Japan.

    Untill then, we’ll just have to enjoy Shōji Kawamori’s work.















    So which anime left an impression on you?

    All images used, copyright of their respective owners: Harmony Gold, USA. BANDAI CHANNEL CO., LTD.

    Posted by Otakukon @ 9:42 pm

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