EPISODE REVIEW: Macross: “Daedalus Attack” (Episode 6) AND Robotech: “Blitzkreig” (Episode 6)

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Sorry for the long delay since the last episode review from these shows, real life got in the way. Jumping back in to the saddle:

PLAY BY PLAY:

Hikaru has carried through on his decision to join the military, and we get a quick montage of him in basic training, and then he’s out on leave going shopping with Minmei. She ducks in to a dress shop while he’s carrying groceries for the restaurant, and she decides to try out a dress. She ducks in to a changing booth, and then we’re treated to some deliberately awkward slapstick where Hikaru keeps dropping thing, bending over to pick ‘em up, and dropping yet more things out of the grocery bag. Meanwhile, in walks Misa and a couple of the bridge bunnies , who are startled by him popping up out of nowhere. Taking him to be a weirdo who hangs out in lingerie shops, they beat a hasty retreat. Minmei comes out of the booth modeling the dress for a mortified Hikaru who pays no attention whatsoever.

Captain Global details his plan to use Saturn’s Rings to launch an ambush on the alien fleet dogging them, hoping to bloody the alien’s noses enough that they’ll keep their distance. Meanwhile, on the alien flagship, the commander and his advisor are reviewing footage of the Macross’ transformation from Space Cruiser mode to Ludicrously Big Mighty Fighty Robot Mode. Neither of them can make any sense out of it, but the advisor is absolute sure that in this configuration the ship’s gravity controls will be reduced to almost nil. The Alien Commander immediately discerns Global’s plan, but decides to allow it to happen anyway, since it might make it easier to capture the Macross intact if they know what they’re doing.

Hikaru and Minmei back to the restaurant, and meet up with Minmei’s family. Before he can eat anything, Roy shows up and tells him he’s been called to active duty and needs to come back to the base now, as there’s something up. Hikaru reluctantly leaves. As they walk-and-talk about mundane soldiery things (“Now that you’ve graduated basic, you can move out of the communal room in to your own private quarters”) they bump in to Misa and the rest of the bunnies, excepting Claudia. An awkwardly funny scene develops where the bunnies quickly recognize Hikaru as “Mister Lingerie,” to his embarrassment, and just as that storm passes, Misa belatedly recognizes him as “That civilian” who called her an “old Lady.” Roy makes no attempt to intervene on Hikaru’s behalf, he thinks it’s all hysterical. Then, when *That* storm has passed, the women move on, Misa comes full circle by adding a cold Parthian shot: “I don’t know what your situation is, but it’s not good for men in uniform to be seen hanging around those kinds of shops” Once again embarrassed, Sammy gets in the last jab, calling him “Pervert” as she walks past. It’s genuinely funny.

In the engineering section, in the big space the Hyperspace Fold engines used to occupy, there’s a vaguely glowing cloud, which the chief engineer points out to Global. “We don’t know what it is, but I think I can use it to form some kind of rudimentary barrier system for the ship.” Global tells the man to have at it.

Back at the base, Hikaru, Roy, and the other pilots are briefed on the mission, somewhat, and then Hikaru meets Minmei in a park after hours. He’s scared and distracted, and she’s flighty as ever. They take a picture together, and she can’t seem to understand why he’s not excited to be going out and getting shot at tomorrow. That night, Hikaru can’t sleep.

The next morning, the Engineer tells Global that the barrier system works, but it won’t protect the entire ship at one time. The best compromise he can come up with is three small mobile shields that can be moved over the hull of the ship with trackballs. “I call it the Pinpoint Barrier,” he says.

“Which is great if we’re getting shot at with pins,” Claudia quips.

The fighters launch, and sail through the rings of Saturn. Impressed by the others showing off, Hikaru decides to hotdog it a little and immediately gets yelled at by Misa. As they pull in to the shadow of the planet itself, Hikaru slows to a crawl to avoid the horrifyingly big hunks of rock he’s flying around, which he can’t see until he’s right on them. Again, he gets yelled at by Misa. The Macross itself pulls in to the shadowed portion of the rings, and turns on its Electronic Countermeasures System, making it virtually undetectable.

The Alien Commander dispatches one of his ships to fly in to the rings and flush out the Miclones. “Yes Sir, Bretai, Sir!” And suddenly, six episodes in, the Commander gets a name. They also finally get a name for the species - “The Zentradi.” The Zentradi ship launches battle pods and the battle begins. Bretai decides the humans must not realize the Zentradi are actually holding back, and orders the dispatched ship to rough them up a little bit. They do, and come in to range of the main gun in the process.

Global orders the Macross to pop out of the rings and blow away the alien ship, which they do, but when they attempt to fire the guns they get a panicked call from the engineer saying the Pinpoint Barrier system is interfering with it somehow and it won’t fire.

I love it when a plan falls apart! In less than a second the humans have gone from fairly clever to massively screwed, and they’re getting pounded by the aliens, taking heavy losses. The Pinpoint Barrier is helping, but can’t keep up with the withering rain of enemy fire. Meanwhile, Hikaru saves Roy by blowing up a battle pod and getting his first kill. No one knows why the Macross hasn’t fired yet, and they’re getting a bit freaked.

Hikaru crashes on the surface of the zentradi ship, and while walking around falls through an airlock. Inside the ship, he comes face to face with one of the giant warriors, but can’t bring himself to shoot.

Misa comes up with a plan, and has them merge the three barriers on the leading edge of the Prometheus, a massive LST forming the right forearm of the Macross. They get close to the enemy ship, and punch it! Literally punch it! There’s some great footage of the Prometheus - with the barrier on its front end - slicing through the Zentradi vessel, then the huge doors on the front open and inside are a million jillion smaller mighty-fighty robots (Actually thirty or so), who all fire their missiles simultaneously. These kill the alien captain, and we get some shots of panicked higgledy piggaldy inside the ship intercut with some lovingly cool shots of massive bulges forming in the hull as the wave of destruction from the rockets moves further and further back. The shockwave hits Hikaru, knocking him back in to the airlock, and killing the alien. Hikaru hightails it out of there just as the ship slowly, impressively explodes.

Back on the Macross, everyone is thrilled and cheering, Hikaru flies back to the ship, and reflects on how he could kill people in flight, but couldn’t do it face-to-face, and Bretai, literally trembling with rage (or is that fear) announces he’s going to call in reinforcements.

THE END

OBSERVATIONS

This is a pretty solid episode all the way through. The “Pilot on his last night” element is well played, and I like that Minmei is trying really hard, but just doesn’t get it. She is, after all, only 15 and a bit flighty. Hikaru is only 17, for that matter. The Misa/Hikaru comedy scenes are genuinely funny, and the boy’s got some great slow-burn comedy skills. The second one is made all the better by Roy’s jackass nature, just fanning the flames, happy to make his Kohai look like an even bigger dope.

Globals’ battle plan - despite being fairly obvious as Bretai points out - is still a pretty good one. The animation is pretty ambitious for a show of this sort, too - particularly the spooky lighting when they’re traveling through the shadowed rings and the shot where the planes jump out of the dark, turning from red tail lights to actual fighters is super-cool. Rick’s fear is rather palpable, and the whole “I can’t do anything right” is played much better than I think an American cartoon would do it. Hikaru’s not a whiner, though he is introspective and fully aware that he’s in over his depth. He’s not a quitter, either, and just because he’s in too deep doesn’t mean he’s going to bail out. I like that about him. Rather, his “Nothing works for me” is played as comedy for everyone else and mere annoyance on his part, in a kind of “Why can’t I stop this from happening?” sense.

Some great face acting on Global in this one - his face goes from confidence, to fear in very short order, and then a weird kind of resignation rather than relief when the danger passes.

Despite being an overly-prim “Old lady” (Actually about 23 or 24), Misa totally saves everyone’s ass in this episode. She’s smart, and quick-witted, and has a very flexible mind. The Daedalus Attack is pretty brilliant, and something no sane person would ever come up with. Our Miss Hayase has a lot of promise, and this is our first glimpse of that.

The Zentradi seem aware that they’ve been half-assing it up until this point, but the final scene makes it very clear that they’re through screwing around. Things will get harder from here on out.

The battle on South Antaria and the jump to Pluto took less than a day. Hikaru and Minmei were lost below decks for 13 days. Episode 5 took up most of day 14. This episode takes place “Two months” after the jump, so it’s 46 days after the previous episode. That’s a loooong time during which nothing of much interest happened. Hikaru mentions that it’s been “Nearly a month” since he last saw Minmei’s family, and he’s been in Basic Training all that time.

The narrator mentions in the coda that “Although Hikaru no longer flinched when he pulled the trigger, he felt something die inside himself every time he did.” Interesting. This is not your standard space shoot-em-up. Shall I count the ways?

1) Our protagonist is neither the best nor the brightest
2) The best pilot is only a secondary character, and a jackass at that.
3) Everything keeps going wrong at the worst possible time
4) The Plucky Young Girl (Misa) saves the day when the grizzled old warhorse (Global) screws up badly

All these, I’m told, are kind of unusual in Japanese cartoons of the period.

They built an actual military base INSIDE the Macross itself, which is, of course, a *moving* space base. What’s more, the interior base is sprawling and huge - big enough that they’re using Valkyries for sentry duty (Which is cool, btw). Once again, the interior space of the ship doesn’t match the exterior. It is really cool looking, though.

The music when they fly through the rings is rather Holsty. It’s not actually Holst, but it’s definitely trying to evoke that feel.

Was Bretai quaking with anger at the end, or fear? Or both?

One element I do like about this show is that while we’re already seeing that Hikaru and Minmei are a disaster waiting to happen, they make it very clear that both of them are good people. They’re not trying to make her out to be a bad person, she’s a good girl, she’s just bad for him.

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE MACROSS AND ROBOTECH VERSIONS:

Very insubstantial, really. The titles are different, the dialog is almost-inconsequentially different. (Sammy calls Rick a “Lecher” in the Macross version, rather than calling Hikaru a “Pervert” in the Japanese version. It’s plenty funny either way, though.

No scenes are missing or trimmed for the Robotech version, which is kind of surprising given how much of the plot revolves around women’s underwear this time out. Roy is a bit less of a wad in Robotech, but not that much less. There’s no profanity in Robotech, of course, and the music is different, but even most of the narration is almost the same. Global calls his attack an “Ambush” in Macross and Gloval calls it a “Blitzkreig” in Robotech, but that’s not much of a difference, really, is it? (Though I’ll be the first to admit that “Blitzkreig” doesn’t even remotely fit Gloval’s plans) The Chief Engineer is given a german accent and a name - Dr. Lang - in Robotech that he lacks in Macross.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the dubbing in the Robotech version is actually a little bit better than the Macross version for the first time. Why? Well, it’s tighter and the Robotech voice cast is simply better and more personable than the Macross American version. They’re mostly delivering the same lines, but they just feel more natural in the mid-1980s than they do now, no matter how much profanity you slather in.

That said, there’s some hokey dialog in the Robotech version - as in the briefing when an officer starts blathering about how they need to put their trust in Rob technology - but then he says “We launch first thing in the morning. If there’s anyone you want to say goodbye to, you’d better do it tonight,” which is NOT in the Japanese version, but provides a very nice segue in to the park scene.

Next episode: we go to Mars!

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