RETROSPECULATIVE TV: Macross: “Big Escape” (Episode 12) AND Robotech: “The Big Escape” (Episode 12)

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Back in May I did my last review in this series. Why? Because “The Democrats are back in the Whitehouse / So no one’s got no money no more*” and I just frankly couldn’t afford another disk. My new best friend and hero, “Robotech_Macross Guy” promptly informed me that the entire series was available on Hulu. I thanked him profusely, and said I’d get right on reviewing the rest of the series.

Sixteen weeks later I actually finally got started on it. I suck like that.

PLAY BY PLAY

Last time as you may recall ( http://www.republibot.com/content/retrospeculative-tv-macross-”first-contact”-episode-11-and-robotech-”first-contact”-episode-?page=0,0 ) Rick, Lisa, Ben and Max had been captured by the Zentradi, and taken back to their main command, a hollowed-out asteroid several hundred miles across, containing thousands of warships. They were interrogated by the huge aliens, forced to demonstrate kissing - which grossed out the aliens unto the point of sickness - and were then thrown in the brig.

Now, in the brig, Rick hatches a crazy scheme to kiss Lisa, and escape while the guards are wretching. Lisa refuses to be involved in such a crazy scheme, and she’d just as soon kiss a wookie. The closest thing to a wookie on hand is Ben, who eagerly offers to smooch around with her some. There’s an argument, but eventually Lisa agrees to take one for the team.

They kiss as a guard comes in, but the guard isn’t repulsed, he’s just kind of amused: It’s Max! He’s managed to kill a Zentradi, and put the giant alien’s uniform on *OVER* his fighter while it’s in Mighty Fighty Robot mode. Yes, yes, I know that’s just stupid, but this level of over-the-top goofballery is part of what’s so engaging here. He puts them in his pockets, and makes fun of them for making out.

They’re quickly discovered - it *is* a giant robot wearing clothes, after all, and it’s not like the Zentradi are dumb - and while they do get away, they lose the fighter in the process and get separated. Meanwhile the three recon pilots - Rico, Konda, and Bron - have agreed to be spies to infiltrate the SDF-1. Dolza has them sent away to be “Micronized,“ or reduced to human stature. Lisa sees this process happening, and realizes the Zentradi are clones. Lisa and Rick fall through a hole in the floor and land in a massive reservoir of water condensed from the asteroid’s temperature control system, where Lisa saves Rick’s life.

Annoyed with the escape, Dolza removes Bretai from command, and replaces him with Azonia, a chick.

Lisa theorizes that the Zentradi must have re-engineered themselves into giant warriors to win their war against “The Supervision Army,” but in the process they lost most other aspects of their society: They can’t maintain their equipment, they have no culture, no civilians, no art, no music, no sex drive, and the genders are entirely segregated. They are just a military. Lisa realizes that they really aren’t much different from her: her family’s been in the service for more than a century, and in a sense she was bred for war, too.

The two of them chat about their love lives a bit, then decide to try and find a way home. En rout, they meet up with Max and Ben, and make their way to the massive central hanger. They spot a ship that’s clearly getting ready to leave, and sneak aboard. Turns out it’s Azonia’s ship, heading out to deposit the now-miniaturized spies on the SDF-1, so they all end up in our solar system again.

Miria, the super-hot supernaturally good green-haired fighter pilot, fights her way through the front lines and deposits the spies in the human ship, destroying a jillion veritechs in the process. Roy, in command of the defenses, spots her attacking and is stunned by her viciousness.

Rick, Lisa, Ben, and Max steal a Zentradi battle pod, blast a hole in the hull, and escape into space. Once the Zentradi leave, they send out a distress call and are towed back to the SDF-1.

OBSERVATIONS

As always, I’m going with the names of the Robotech version of the characters, rather than the Japanese ones. It’s just easier.

Lisa is yummy. I’m just gonna’ come out and say it. She’s easily got the best butt I’ve ever seen in any ‘80s anime. The animators know this (Well, duh), and continually place her in awkward kneeling positions facing partially away from the camera to showcase it. I heartily approve.

Mirya, the green-haired chick, is also quite yummy generally, but not so much in this episode. New character, animation is still a bit awkward, you know how it goes.

With the introduction of Mirya and Azonia, all of our important Zentradi characters are now on stage: Dolza, Bretai, Exidore, and Khyron, in addition. All of these will play massively important roles in what’s to come, and I really have to applaud Macross for *not* making the enemy out to be monolithic and inscrutable. Different bad guys have different personalities and different thought processes.

The spies have an odd compulsion to find out more about us, and they clearly don’t know why. This is sort of interesting to watch, as they work up their courage to volunteer for the mission, without trying to seem too excited about going.

The whole surmise about The Supervision Army is interesting. I don’t think we ever see those guys in any iteration of Macross, but the war must have been going on for a very, very, very long time if the Zentradi themselves have no memory of ever having been Micronians.

It follows logically that the Supervision Army must have been *another* group of Humanoid giants - “Zentradioid,” perhaps? - since the SDF-1 was clearly built for the Zentradi scale, and may/may not have had giant bodies in it when it crashed. So whomever they are, they’re aliens, but they’re clearly not alien aliens, you know?

Lisa runs like a girl. Granted, she is a girl, but her feminine running style - while fetching - isn’t really logical coming from a career soldier, and it wouldn’t be tolerated in a modern cartoon. We prefer things more badass these days. Also: she cries a lot, and tends to resign herself to death a lot. I’d take this as just being sexist, but the other female characters are pretty tough, and I think the show has made it repeatedly clear that Lisa has a death wish.

Rick has fears (Entirely founded) of Minmei leaving him. Specifically, growing away from him. There’s a nice touch in this one of him dreaming of her walking away from him in the water, and then waking up to find he’s in a big water storage tank.

Lisa’s reflections on her Zentradi-ish life are interesting, and I like how quickly she extrapolated Zentradi history and society, *without* it seeming hokey and forced. She’s really smart, even if she is an emotional basket case. Nice mix. Believable, rarely done. Interesting.

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE MACROSS AND ROBOTECH VERSIONS

All the usual things: Music, narration, some of the dialog, character names, profanity. In general we see once again that the Robotech voice acting is better than in the American dub of Macross. The dialog is frequently somewhat less clunky as well. Why? Well, talent is talent, and there’s no real substitute for that: the Robotech cast are simply better at what they do, but I think some of it has to do with the dub scripts. I presume that the Macross dub is sticking as close as possible to the Japanese original, changing it only when idiom makes a direct translation is impossible or overly obtuse. The Rototech script wasn’t bound by this. They *knew* full well that they’d be diverging from the source material at some points, and as such they took a fairly free hand - no, that’s not right, let’s call it a fairly *loose* hand - in translation. The American dialog isn’t slaved to the Japanese literally, but conceptually, meaning that most scenes in Robotech convey the same emotion and points as in the Japanese original, but they do it in a much more natural, offhand way.

Thus the dialog between Rick and Lisa talking about their love lives plays out more grown up (In a kids show!) in Robotech than it does in Macross (An adult’s show!).

Interestingly, Robotech goes out of its way to preserve a line they liked from the source: In the previous episode, Dolza says “Only in battle is life found,” but that got chopped from the Robotech version for various reasons, so in this episode they re-inserted it, and had Lisa attribute it to something her father used to say.

The Macross characters yell and scream in a very theatrical manner, and way too loud given the situation. They’re more restrained in Robotech.

For once, Robotech is more sexist than Macross: Rick says “Sometimes women just don’t make sense, even if they are officers.” Hikaru, his counterpart says nothing even remotely similar.

Surprisingly, there’s a clear shot of a zentradi getting incinerated in an explosion in both versions, and a big scream in both, lest there be any doubt. Rick rescues Lisa by shooting a guard square in the head, That’s removed from Macross, obviously.

The Zentradi guards yell at the humans in the Zentradi language in Macross, in English in Robotech.

Max tends to narrate what he’s doing in Robotech, not in Macross. (“Oh, good, there’s only one guard, let’s hope this works!” Etc.) Max is considerably less polished in Macross than in Robotech. In the latter he’s kind of unflappable. In the former, he’s clearly just a kid who gets overwhelmed a lot.

In terms of significant differences, we really get only two:

1) Lisa’s rumination about how the Zentradi came to be giants, and the war with the Supervision Army is completely different in Robotech than in Macross. They overlap a bit in concept, but they’re at crossed purposes. In Macross, Lisa’s theories are pretty much logical and straightforward. In Robotech, Lisa’s theories are muddier, don’t mention a war with another power at all, and tend towards a discussion of why the Zentradi even want the SDF-1 in the first place. (This hasn’t been specifically explained in Macross at this point, by the way) Rick surmises that maybe there’s something on the SDF-1 they need, something unique, which turns out to be the case, of course.

This is a little ham-fisted since we find out later that the Zentradi have been fighting the Invid for a jillion years. They could have just substituted the Invid for the Supervision army, and said the SDF-1 was a prototype or something, but they don’t, and in thus not doing they blow a perfect opportunity to tie up a thread that Macross itself drops. I can only conclude that this is because the Robotech writers hadn’t thought that far ahead yet. (Remember, the *ENTIRE* Robotech series - eighty five episodes - were written, and re-dubbed and re-scored in a period of about six weeks)

2) In Macross, when Rick gets back to the ship, there’s an ecstatic sequence of him running excitedly through the ship and New Macross city. It’s actually pretty emotionally important, since it clearly shows that the ship is now Rick’s home, and he accepts it as such. In the Robotech version, it’s simply cut.

WILL CONSERVATIVES LIKE THIS?

An alien race of sexually chaste gun-toting super warriors with no interest in local culture, art, music, or fancy food? What’s there not to like!

I’m kidding. I kid you. I’m a kidder.

But seriously: yeah. There’s really nothing here a Conservative wouldn’t like and it’s a rolicking good story, too, in both versions. If you’re an extreme SoCon, you’re probably going to take issue with the idea of aliens and genetically-engineered hoo-hah, of course, but as for the rest of us: Both these shows are frankly right up our alleys.

*- “One Step Closer (To Being a Hobo)” by Republibot 3.0 and the Republibot 3.0 Orchestra, featuring Republibot 3.0

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