MOVIE REVIEW: “Macross II: The Movie” (1993)

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Despite our rather infrequent coverage of it, Macross really is one of my favorite things in the world. The Big Three franchises for Science Fiction are (In descending order of greatness): Doctor Who, Stargate, and Star Trek. Yeah, I know Trek is more ubiquitous, but it had a long slow fade out, whereas ’Gate just got better and better, and passed Trek in terms of quality somewhere in during SGA. If we eliminate the “Live action” requirement from the big four series, however, then Macross would handily beat Trek for the number three spot. In fact, I’d even put it above my beloved Babylon 5. I don’t expect you to agree with me, it’s just the way my tastes run.

Despite that, however, there are still several substantial bits of the Macross franchise that I haven’t seen for various reasons. Much of it remains unreleased in the US, it can be difficult to find fan subs, you know the drill, and - as is the case with Star Trek: TAS and Stargate: Infinity - there’s some aspects of the franchise that remain rather low-priority. Such is the case here.

The original Macross came out in 1982, and ran 36 episodes, followed by a theatrical movie in 1985. As the ten-year anniversary of the series rolled around, there was increasing interest in doing a sequel miniseries, as was the popular format of the time. The creator of the original series was uninterested in doing a sequel, as was the studio, thus another studio jumped at the chance to pick up the story and rake in the clams (Clams being a valid medium of financial exchange in Japan), though for contractual reasons they weren’t allowed to use any of the characters from the original show. No matter. It’s a big fake universe to play in, right?

Macross II quickly became the most anticipated Anime series in history, and then…

PLAY BY PLAY

It’s 80 years after the events of Macross. Hibiki is a 17-year old trash reporter working for an exploitive news service specializing in celebrity scandals. As the movie begins, he exposes Silvie, a hot (In both senses of the word) 17-year-old fighter pilot, and a general sneaking into a hotel, apparently for a tryst. Meanwhile, somewhere out in space a 17-year-old alien girl (Yeah, I don’t get the obsession with “Seventeen” either, but there it is) walks into a room wearing an elaborate body stocking that could most charitably be described as serving no function whatsoever. She gets into a big machine, and a whole bunch of Zentradi ships appear in our solar system.

Meanwhile, the Military has cracked down on Hibiki’s story, and is demanding a written apology. The Space Force maintains close censorship on the media, which (It’s implied, but never said) is the reason the news tends to focus on celebrity gossip and infotainment. Hibiki and Sylvie get into an argument that *almost* feels like they’re gonna’ start making out, and then the Zentradi attack. Sylvie runs off to join the defense, and Hibiki gets the job of ferrying a drunken old war correspondent around in an unarmed civilian spacecraft so they can get footage of the battle.

For the last 80 years, the UN has relied upon the “Minmei Defense,” wherein they broadcast a singer’s love songs into battle, which causes the Zentradi to have uncomfortable emotional and physical reactions (Understandable if you’ve ever heard the Robotech version of Minmei sing), which makes them easy pickins’ for earth’s defenders. Alas: this time it doesn’t work. While the Space Force wins, it’s only because of far superior numbers. They take a lot of losses. Hibiki and his reporter friend fly *into* one of the Zentradi ships, where they find the might-as-well-be-naked alien chick, and as they’re loading her into their spacecraft, the war correspondent dies.

Hibiki heads back to earth, but decides to keep the girl secret, allegedly to get a scoop later on, but, hey, come on: look at her! Obviously….well, anyway, so he files his report on the battle, but when it airs the next morning it’s been chopped to ribbons and the network is reporting only light losses and an unqualified victory. The girl, named Ishtar, is an “Emulator” for a new alien race, the Marduk. Wheras the Minmei defense incapacitates Zentradi, the Marduk use the same methods in reverse: To control the Zentradi. Ishtar essentially sings them into battle, and this keeps them immune from other songs. This is a pretty clever idea, since Zentradi in the wild have basically suppressed and inactive emotional and sexual urges, so it follows that these could be shepherded for control as well. And it follows that someone would have figured that out.

Ishtar tells of a legend of the Alus, a lost ship and a prophecy that someone will arise to save the Marduk from themselves. She thinks the old SDF-1 Macross might be in some way related to this, so she and Hibiki go to “Culture Park,” a very large area in the city where life-size reproductions of all the world’s major post card monuments are on display: The leaning tower of Pisa, the Coliseum, the Eifel Tower, stuff like that. (It’s never specifically stated that these are reproductions, but remember that nearly every city in the world was destroyed in the initial Zentradi attack 80 years before. Also, when we first see the Coliseum, there’s no caved in part). The SDF-1 is here, too. They go to see it, and (eventually) Ishtar stands at Misa/Lisa’s old station, touches it, and passes out. Yep, the Alus prophecy was talking about earth.

Silvie overhears this, and isn’t at all happy about Hibiki aiding and abetting the enemy, but he argues that she’s just going to be locked up and tested in horrible fashion, and Silvie lets them go. There’s another Zentradi attack in there, too. The Marduk are attempting to recover their Emulator. They fail. It’s basically filler, though they learn she doesn’t want to go back. They let her wear clothes here that cover her butt crack. It’s empowering!

The UN is holding their annual Moon Festival, which is a big celebration of the UN Space Force (“UN Spacey”) and Hibiki and Ishtar go so she can hear ‘the song’ that is spoken of in the legend. Earth’s current Minmei songstress/defender is doing a number there, which is being spied on by the Marduk. They decide she’s a human emulator and they should capture her. At the end of her number, a new fighter is debuted for the gawking crowd, being flown by Sylvie. The songstress gets in, they fly off, and are immediately captured by the Marduk-controlled Zentradi. They escape, but Ishtar is captured in an attack on the base, and Hibiki goes after her. He gets trapped and tortured by the Marduk, but is freed by the increasingly cool Sylvie, and then the two of them go after Ishtar.

Meanwhile, the main Marduk fleet becomes aware of the unwelcome cultural infusion going in in their expeditionary force around earth, so they decide to simply kill all their own, rather than risk it going any further. Sylvie, Hibiki, and Ishtar escape just as the main Marduk fleet appears and blows up all the local Zentradi/Marduk vehicles.

More or less that’s the end.

OBSERVATIONS

Macross II quickly became the most anticipated Anime series in history, and then…

It faded away with nary another mention.

And who can really blame the fans? It’s all sort of ‘meh.’ The Marduk are an interesting new enemy, but they’re mostly offscreen, which keeps us from really getting to know them, and they seem monolithically evil, which is something no other iteration of the franchise has ever done. The idea of using songs to *control* Zentradi is pretty clever, but it’s the *only* clever idea in the movie, and it’s not much used.

There’s an uncomfortable feeling that we’ve seen all this before: The teen singer girl who plays a major part in the war, the plucky teen guy who becomes the focal point of the conflict, the romantic triangle between the guy, the songstress, and the military chick, the hot fighter pilot (In this case, she *is* the military chick), music playing a major part in the story, military refusing to listen, aliens destroying their own to prevent further contamination, huge alien fleet commanded from incomprehensibly huge alien battle station. We’ve toured this town before. It’s disappointing and uninspired.

And apart from Sylvie, none of the characters are particularly likeable. Hibiki is really kind of a jerk, and Ishtar isn’t called upon to do anything more that look hot and/or beatified, occasionally at the same time. Say what you will about Minmei, love her or hate her, she’s an actual character with an actual consistent personality, and an actual developmental arc. Ishtar is hot and vulnerable and that’s pretty much it.

None of the supporting characters make any impression, apart from Hibiki’s friend Mosh, a creepy transexual hairdresser, and obviously that’s a negative impression. Mosh is actually creepy beyond the normal creep-level of a transexual, actually. Something about the way the lines are delivered. I’m not sure if it’s in the writing or the voice acting (Which is, on the whole, barely average in this film).

In fact, all the characters feel rather vague and half-cooked, which is sad as Macross is generally known for its unusually deep and evolving characters. Part of this is that we don’t have 18 hours of screen time to develop them, we’ve only got six; but a lot of it is simply that there’s only three characters who matter, and two of them just aren’t all that interesting.

Worse yet, there’s no resolution to the storyline. This ‘movie’ is actually just the first four episodes of the series chopped down and edited a little bit to fit a feature length run-time. There’s another hour of story out there that, presumably, wraps everything up, but if you don’t know how the story ends already, you ain’t gonna’ know it from this movie. It’s an exercise in frustration.

Quite a bit of fan-service here. Beyond Ishtar’s mostly-notional costume, it mostly takes the form of jostling breasts. Women run, stop running, and, y’know, they keep moving for a moment. Or a ship get shit, and the female crewmembers continue to jostle a bit after the guys have stopped.

At several points the SDF-1 has an “Energy Discharge.” This is never explained, but I think it’s the Macross Cannon going off every time a Zentradi ship enters the solar system, just as it did in the first episode of the original show. As it’s firing straight up, and doesn’t appear to be aimed at anything in particular, people appear to have learned to mostly ignore it.

There are still “Millions” of rogue Zentradi wandering the galaxy, and occasionally they attack earth. The last such attack was ten years prior to the show. On earth the Zentradi appear to have been wholly assimilated into human culture.

There's a scene in the "Culture Part" That is straight out of "Roman Holiday" staring Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn. I mean note for note.

In the original Macross, we’re told the SDF-1 belonged to “The Supervision Army,” and here we’re told it was a Marduk ship. Are the Marduk the supervision army? It’s a retcon obviously, but why not?

Not terribly long after Macross II became the most disappointing highly-anticipated anime ever, the original Studio realized there was still demand for this stuff, and cranked out their own miniseries, “Macross Plus,” in 1994. Later that year, the first full series sequel to Macross came out, “Macross 7,” which I hope to some day review for the site here. Initially Macross II was considered as canon for the Macrossiverse, but, much like the aforementioned “TAS” and “Infinity,” it was quickly relegated to “That didn’t happen” status, mostly because Macross 7 and subsequent series didn’t want to be beholden to plot points in this series/movie.

Personally, I don’t see any reason why it can’t be considered canon, as it doesn’t conflict with other series, apart from the whole “Supervision Army/Marduk” thing. But seeing as the Supervision Army were only mentioned in one episode, then never referred to again, and seeing as the Marduk are clearly “Supervising” the Zentradi, I don’t have a problem with it. Granted, if we take this as the final chronological chapter in the Macross franchise, the whole thing does kinda’ go out with a whimper, but, hey, everything up to this point is good, right?

WILL CONSERVATIVES LIKE THIS?

Nope. Creepy transsexual.

If you'd like to watch the movie, it can be viewed online here:

or
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4KeeCcAzCEA&feature=watch-now-button&wide=1

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