EPISODE REVIEW: Macross: “Countdown” (Episode 2) AND Robotech: “Countdown” (Episode 2)

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Our narrator reminds us of what happened in the previous episode, and we jump right back in to the action, with Hikaru in his accidentally borrowed fighter, standing stupidly in the middle of the street in mighty-fighty robot mode. As it happens, he crashed right outside of Minmei’s family restaurant. She and her young cousin - I haven’t been able to make out his name clearly, but I think it’s something like “Yutan” whereas it was “Jason” in the Robotech version of things - run upstairs to her room to get a better look. Hikaru comes out the top of the robot, a bit stunned that it’s no longer a plane, and he and Minmei exchange some shouted dialog about whether he’s hallucinating or not. This plays out much funnier in the Macross version of things.

Meanwhile, the ship sends out some choppers to investigate possible alien landing craft in the water off the island. These are quickly shot down. The Captain orders the ship to lift off using anti-gravity generators. They try, but only get a few hundred feet in the air when the things rip free of the ship and continue on in to space. The ship meanwhile crashes back to the ground, prompting an anemic “I’ll never hear the end of this” line from the skipper in the Robotech version, and a much funnier exchange in the Macross version: Global: “This ship is a piece of shi…”
Misa [Interrupting before he can finish his swear] “Well it is mostly built out of salvaged parts, sir”
Global: “Don’t I know it.”

Hikaru is blocking traffic and tries to walk his robot out of the way, but immediately stumbles and falls in to Minmei’s house. A truck helps him pull himself off the building, but now he falls backwards in to a building across the street.

Roy and the Skull Squadron are heading back to the ship, and he goes to check on Hikaru. Again, this plays out much funnier in the Japanese version of things than in the Robotech iteration:
Roy: “So, Hikaru, how did you like your first time getting shot down?”
Hikaru: “It sucked, obviously.”
Roy explains how to switch the plane to “Gerwalk” mode - sort of halfway between a fighter and a mighty-fighty robot, telling Hikaru it’s easier to handle. Minmei and her family head for the emergency shelters, and Roy leers at her, checking out her legs as she walks away. This scene is missing from Robotech.

The aliens attack again, bombing the city from orbit, and also sending in armored troops in battle pods. Roy and Hikaru end up getting caught in the fight. Meanwhile, at the shelter, Minmei says she’s left something at the house, and needs to go back. She darts away. Roy and Hikaru decided to check on the girl, and manage to rescue her from a battle pod that’s trying to step on her while she’s trying to run back out of the city. Roy tells Hikaru to protect the girl while he leads off the aliens.

Hikaru is still in Gerwalk mode, and grabs Minmei with one of his big robot hands, then flys away. Aliens start shooting at him, so he flies up above the clouds. He takes more fire there, and in one of the most harrowing, beautiful scenes in the entire series, the arm holding Minmei is shot off. She falls to earth, coming free of the now-useless hand while Hikaru chases her in a power dive. He pops the canopy and tries to grab her hand and drag her in to the plane, nearly falling out himself in the process. It’s pretty amazing, and it’s one of the few scenes that I think works better in the Robotech version - the music is better and the way they put an echo and flange on Minmei’s voice as she fall, along with Rick’s frantic instructions to her works out much more excitingly than the relative silence of the Japanese original.

The space ship lifts off using it’s backup rockets, plain old chemical rockets built on earth. This time they actually take flight.

In the back seat of his plane, Minmei is a wreck. Hikaru is distracted talking to her in the rear-view mirror and crashes in to an alien battle pod. Minmei is knocked out, and, overstressed, frightened, and enraged, Hikaru fires his plane’s entire clip in to the thing. An alien gets out of the wreckage and staggers towards Hikaru - he’s a humanoid, fifty feet tall. As he reaches out to attack Hikaru’s plane, Roy shows up and shoots him in the back, killing him. The ship calls Roy for an escort, and he takes off, telling Hikaru to follow him. Hikaru, however, is overloaded and semi-insensate from all he’s been through. He shuts off the radio and curls up in a ball in his pilot’s seat, overwhelmed.

THE END

OBSERVATIONS:

As good as the first episode is, this one was even better, ramping up the action and the stakes. I also like how this entire war is a kind of black comedy of errors: The aliens weren’t even interested in humans, but were looking for something else; a Supervision Army boobytrap caused the fighting. Hikaru is completely untrained and overwhelmed by everything that’s happened to him. The space ship launches, crashes, and launches again. No one on the human side knows quite what they’re doing. The big reveal that the aliens are humans about eight times our size was more clever than you’d think, since our previous shots of them gave us no frame of reference, and we’ll just pretend that pesky old inverse square law doesn’t exist, ok?

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE MACROSS AND ROBOTECH VERSIONS

In Robotech, “The Senator” orders them to launch, and Gloval gives a hem-and-haw speech about how he’s not going to take the ship up with a raw crew of cadets. This makes no sense as they were planning on launching that day anyway. In Macross, Global tells The Senator that the ship isn’t fully supplied. The Senator responds that negotiations will be handled by politicians, you just go out there and fight. Global is less than happy to know his ship is simply a distraction.

Kim - one of the bridge bunnies - has the same name in both versions. Also, Misa is acting more and more like a junior officer, and I’m increasingly certain that Claudia is the executive officer of the ship. She’s the one Global always talks to when he needs information.

Roy is…uhm…more paternal in the Robotech version. His interest in Minmei is only to protect her. His interest in Macross is mostly to bed her. I don’t know what legal age is in Japan, but ew! She’s 16 and he’s gotta’ be like 30 or so.

There’s also a pretty funny bit of dialog when Hikaru rescues Minmei, and she complains about her hair:
“What’s more important? Your hair or your life?”
“My hair of course!”
“I knew it!”

There’s some differences in bridge chatter between them too, but nothing all that substantial.

Of course all the profanity is missing in the American version.

“How many did you shoot down, Roy?”
“Ten.”
“Only ten? You’re slipping.”
“Hey, two years of peace and you get rusty.” It’s seeming more and more like a continuity error to have that big battle in “Zero” set only a year before this series, the very strong implication is that Roy hasn’t seen combat in twice that long.

On the whole, not that many screaming differences between the two versions of this episode this time out, it‘s still fun to compare them, though.

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