DAY THIRTY-ONE: Return to Macross #1 - Shadow of Zor (1993)

By Bill Spangler (Writer) & Mujib Rahiman (Artist)

(10) I remember the first time I read this comic book. It was during one of the usual weekend shopping expeditions to Joplin, MO, that my family did; they used to be weekly when I was in grade school, but the frequency of them had dropped to maybe once or twice a month by the time I was in high school. I was often cajoling my folks into swinging us by the Book Barn, a used books/comic books/trading cards/records/toys shop, which is where I got most of my ROBOTECH back issues from the Comico, Eternity, and Academy days; I'm not sure if I'd started the ROBOTECH comic site yet in those days, but at that point I was already building my continuity database for my own obsessive purposes. I sort of remember finding this one in the back issue bin, in one of the long boxes under the table -- the ROBOTECH stuff was never on the table, it was always under, in the more "undesirable" indy/manga/kids' books long boxes. But moreover, I remember reading it over, and over, and over again during the car ride across town to the mall, and then a few more times on the forty-five minute ride home.

I liked it a lot. Still do, in fact.

Part of it is that Bill Spangler is incapable of writing a dull ROBOTECH comic. He makes the caption boxes sing, he's got the character voices down, and his plotting is second to none. Even when he's making me tear my hair out with continuity gaffes, or simply doing a story I find utterly wrongheaded (I'm looking at you, MECHANGEL) there's a sense of dramatic logic behind every move he makes and the end result is always well put together, when his artists aren't letting him down.

In this case, his artist was far from letting him down; to this day I adore Mujib Rahiman's artwork, and it's a shame he didn't stick around through the entirety of issue two -- Tim Eldred took over after a handful of pages, and while I usually enjoy Eldred's work, it was better when he was adding a layer of gritty realism to the Third Robotech War; even when you're throwing them into a tense military action thriller setup, these are still brightly colored, iconic characters and they need an artist who makes them pop. Rahiman does that. I've said before that Breetai and Roy Fokker are two of my absolute favorite Macross Saga characters, and he draws both of those characters to perfection. He's also one of those artists who takes the Japanese style of the original animation -- complete with such anime and manga conventions as super deformed characters and speed lines, the whole nine yards -- and gives his own spin to the art, doesn't let a certain conception of what constitutes anime or manga-style art work straightjacket his art style. The result is something interesting, cool, and unique.

(9) Spangler's big idea behind RETURN TO MACROSS was to split time between Breetai's search for the SDF-1 and Roy Fokker, Gloval, and the rest on Macross Island's adventures dealing with the new wonders of Robotechnology, terrorist threats, politics, and life in Macross City. Unfortunately, the way the original TV series set things up makes this difficult to deal with dramatically. Breetai only really has Exedore to play off of, and those two get along like two peas in a pod. Meanwhile, you've got Roy as a test pilot trying out a classified top secret fighter jet that turns into a robot, but you can't have the robot out and about because, obviously based on the people's reactions in "Countdown," nobody's seen any of the giant robots as of 2009.

The solution? Throw off the straightjacket of continuity and go to town. You know who'd be fun to play off of Breetai? Khyron. That would be a ton of fun. Never mind that the two obviously haven't met before "Bye Bye Mars"; Breetai knows he gets results, but hasn't heard of his reputation for chaos and collateral damage. Veritechs are classified top secret? Whatever. Readers expect to see robots and planes that turn INTO robots, so deploy 'em as necessary. It makes the continuity a mess, and while I'm sure there are ways Spangler could have tiptoed through that minefield, when you're writing a setting based on The Macross Saga, there are certain toys you want to play with, and likewise toys that your readers probably want to see you play with. For a lot of fans, Khyron is a guy they want to see more of, and naturally they want to see Veritechs and Destroids stomping about as well.

(8) The first issue starts with the scene the Comico Graphic Novel opened with and LEGEND OF ZOR ended on, Zor's ill fated final seeding mission. Spangler's take plays a lot more like the version of events Daley & Luceno chronicled in the first novel, GENESIS, and is mostly written from Breetai's perspective, given that he's the character we'll be following in this half of the series month-in and month-out. He loses his eye in far more dramatic fashion here, and Rahiman makes that moment awesome and painful in equal measure.

This take on Breetai has always bugged me, using him as a mere infantryman guarding Zor when the SDF-1 is lost. Again, it's a matter of shrinking the universe, narrowing future story potential and possibilities, making everyone important related -- and also making the quest for the SDF-1 his first command mission, having him lose his eye so soon before that mission, and so on and so forth. It's one thing to say that the events we saw on TV were the most important events in the characters' lives; it's another thing to say that almost nothing happened to them before it. Despite this distaste for the idea, which originated in the novel GENESIS, I believe it is at least well-handled here; Spangler and Rahiman make the material work, even if I think the ideas behind it are utterly wrongheaded.

Rahiman draws Zor in a Bioroid pilot's uniform, like Zor Prime wears, rather than the fancy caped outfit Neil Vokes drew in the Comico Graphic Novel. Come to think of it, I wonder if Vokes designed that outfit or if someone internally at Harmony Gold or Tatsunoko did; it's the same design we saw, more or less consistently, in LEGEND OF ZOR and all of Zor's appearances by the Waltrips' hands in SENTINELS and the WORLDS OF ROBOTECH books -- yes, I'm pondering the look Rahiman DOESN'T give Zor here.

Also, the SDF-1 is drawn identical to its appearance after being rebuilt by mankind, not as the pseudo-Zentraedi ship -- identical to the SDF-3 -- it's depicted as in the Waltrips' LEGEND OF ZOR or the Comico Graphic Novel. Considering that would go hand-in-hand with Zor's uniform design, that's not too shocking, though it really doesn't jibe with Exedore's remark in "Boobytrap" that "it appears to have been completely remodeled."

(7) It's a little weird that Spangler calls the Zentraedi and Invid "ancient" enemies when the Waltrips' comics suggested that as of this encounter the Invid and Zentraedi -- or at least the Invid and THESE Zentraedi -- had never fought before. As I said when I was looking at LEGEND OF ZOR, that was a tidy solution to the problem of the size of the Zentraedi fleet versus the scale of the Invid's forces -- or at least, it would be if the Waltrips hadn't had the Masters realize immediately that their new foes were coming from Optera. But Spangler is working from the Daley & Luceno playbook -- which itself is extrapolated from Macek's playbook -- which posits that the Invid have been a thorn in the Zentraedi's sides for a while. It makes me wonder if Spangler even looked at what his fellow ROBOTECH creators were doing at Eternity, or just assumed that they were hewing to what the novels did, more or less, as he was doing.

On the flip-side of that, watching Breetai and his men go hand-to-hand and toe-to-toe with the Invid Scouts is really cool and awesome-looking. It makes me wish that more of the pre-Macross Saga Zentraedi stories were just Breetai's forces taking on Invid on various worlds rather than the psuedo-STAR TREK alien encounters and Breetai vs. Khyron mind games that Spangler served up for the rest of the original Eternity RETURN TO MACROSS run. (His later WARRIORS miniseries through Academy Comics, with Byron Peneranda, would be more along these lines, albeit with a sort of kaiju/tokusatsu bent.)

(6) After we see the SDF-1 crash, we jump ahead to Roy Fokker's arrival on Macross Island -- not his first arrival there, which was depicted in the Comico Graphic Novel and Daley & Luceno's GENESIS (and was later retconned away in Yune, Faerber, and Vo's FROM THE STARS (2002-2003)), but his arrival five years after the SDF-1's crash, as he joins the Robotech project as a Veritech test pilot.

When he arrives, he's greeted by Captain Gloval, with whom he has some history in this version of events -- prior to the reboot, Gloval had captained the Kenosha, the aircraft carrier Fokker served aboard as a Western Alliance or Internationalist (depending on which source you read) fighter pilot. While the two barely interacted in the TV series, the way those limited interactions played and the way Gloval always leaned on Roy and the Skull Squadron to save the SDF-1 during the more desperate fights in the first half of the Macross Saga always, to me, suggested some kind of history between the two men, though that history could just as easily have been built during the years serving together on Macross Island leading up to the space fortress's launch in 2009.

One of the more interesting contrasts between RETURN TO MACROSS and the more TV-series hewing FROM THE STARS is the level of secrecy surrounding the SDF-1, Macross Island, and the Robotech project at large. When Roy arrives via chartered flight on Macross Island, he's already familiar with the project to some extent; Gloval tells him that there's constant video coverage of the Robotech project, and we are later shown that MBS is already up and running as a cable outlet providing 24/7 TV coverage of what's happening on the island. On the other hand, Yune, Faerber, and Vo's series, written and drawn about ten years later, gives us a Roy Fokker completely unaware that anything's happening on the island -- he's utterly shocked when he sees the island, the ship, and the city around it from his fighter canopy -- a public that's been told that the SDF-1 is a ship derived from the alien artifact's technology and NOT the original ship reconstructed, and a Veritech prototype with tape over the transformation controls so its pilot can't see them, so classified are the fighter's secrets. Within an issue's time RETURN TO MACROSS's Fokker will have the Veritech completely explained to him; two more issues later, he'll be piloting a Battloid to save some people trapped in a burning building, right in view of the general public. So much for "classified top secret," the words Fokker specifically uses to Rick in "Countdown."

(5) One thing I think RETURN TO MACROSS really gets across, despite all the terrorist threats, despite the fact that all our heroes are members of the military, despite misguided folks like the Faithful and outright scummy folks like T.R. Edwards and Anatole Leonard (per Spangler, Daley, and -- most of all -- Luceno) getting in their way -- despite all this, there is a feeling and sense of optimism and wonder that permeates the series. These characters are living in an age of change and opportunity, similar to, say, the dot-com boom of the late 1990s here in the real world; something that makes the world smaller, something that brings people together, and something that everybody wants a piece of. Only in this case there's the additional knowledge that we're not alone in the universe that operates as a rallying point, something that carries with it the feeling that human history has really begun a new chapter, a chapter that really anyone could be a major player in if they're smart, clever, or lucky enough. Fokker says it himself: "The technology inside the Visitor is going to change the entire world! Who wouldn't want to be a part of that?" ("The Visitor" is sort of the "ASS-1" ["Alien Star Ship One"], the thing people called the SDF-1 before it was the SDF-1, of the Daley & Luceno-driven version of the ROBOTECH universe -- albeit not as unintentionally funny as its MACROSS counterpart.)

That feeling of looking forward to a better world and standing on the stage of history continues through the first story arc -- the first four issues -- and resumes when the series becomes a little more freeform and freewheeling, less Zentraedi and Edwards-centric, at Academy Comics.

(4) Conrad Wilbur and the Faithful, a group who believe the SDF-1 was sent from the heavens by God as a test for humanity -- the new forbidden Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil -- are the "bad guy" for the Macross Island side of the first four-issue story arc. Wilbur's wife was killed during the shockwaves that resulted from the arrival of the SDF-1. He came to Macross Island as a doctor, but soon formed the Faithful and began holding his rallies, gathering a larger and larger following as fear and stress began to take their toll on the people working in and around the space fortress. They represent the flip-side of the optimism represented by our heroes. Fear of the future, fear of the unknown -- these are honest feelings. But once you wrap them up in beliefs people have carried with them since birth, beliefs they carry in their hearts, then they become dangerous. And when the ringleader is himself a true believer, well -- then you get the endgame of this arc in issue #4, where he stands with his finger on a trigger that could kill Roy Fokker and destroy the last remaining Veritech Fighter prototype.

I could have sworn that the Faithful were an invention of Daley and/or Luceno, something seeded in GENESIS, but according to my research this evening they're first mentioned in the novels in Luceno's THE ZENTRAEDI REBELLION, which first appeared in bookstores in March 1994. Of course, book publishing being what it is, and that book being the SIZE it is, the idea still could have originated with Luceno -- unless I've forgotten a reference in an earlier Spangler-written ROBOTECH comic. In any case, religion versus science is always an interesting conflict to play with, especially when you've got someone like Gloval assuring Roy (and the reader) that these aren't stupid or evil people -- they're just scared. And when you're scared, you do stupid things, like listen to opportunistic backstabbers like T.R. Edwards ...

(3) During a rally, someone pelts Dr. Wilbur with a big rock that knocks him unconscious and Roy gets the blame. I have to wonder, if we took a look around, would we see T.R. Edwards standing just off-stage with a bag full of rocks?

The big problem I have with the first three four-issue arcs of RETURN TO MACROSS is that they're more like six two-issue arcs. They don't have room for fuller exploration, room to breathe. Worse, while Spangler's usually pretty good with the Zentraedi, unfortunately the Zentraedi material in issues two through twelve is some of the weakest Zentraedi stuff he's ever done -- I think I get where he was going with the final four issues, having Breetai bottled up in Khyron's cyberspace simulation in contrast to Roy being bottled up in the Lemurian submarine courtesy of T.R. Edwards, but the end result is still just the typical and familiar "trapped in a computerized fantasy world" story that just happens to star Breetai and Khyron. In short, I think he wound up constrained by his own format, and when he tossed that yoke aside when the ROBOTECH license moved over to Academy, the book got a lot better.

(2) This is one of Spangler's more interesting conceits -- that the Global Military Police is already a functioning organization. It's one I have no problem with, since it's not like there's anything that outright says otherwise. Okay, the fact that they're stomping about with gas gun-wielding Destroid Defenders is a bit of a stretch, but we do see Destroids used for civil defense in the Reconstruction era, so it's only a short stretch. Yeah, you'd think a Destroid would be terrible for crowd control, given how slow and lumbering they are and how likely it would be that one would accidentally step on the crowd, but I suppose that's what the gas is for, and "off-camera" there's a small team of GMP officers in body armor with fancy nightsticks to work their way through the crowd, right?

Roy's reaction to all this, of course, is frustration with a bit of anger. Like he says, things were supposed to be different here. And as I said above, the whole arc is about that faith and optimism being restored, not only in Fokker, but in Dr. Conrad Wilbur as well. It's easily the best of the three arcs that Eternity published, though I do have a soft spot for the mystery of the "Knight of Knives" killer in the second Macross Island arc, with its clever little red herrings and the mysterious alien figure that escapes from the SDF-1. This, however, is founded on such a strong thematic core, and as a bonus it's got Rahiman on the first issue and about half of the second, and the rest of the four-issue arc is penciled by the ever-reliable Tim "Man, do I love me some VOTOMS" Eldred, whose clean, solid work suffers only by comparison to Rahiman's eye-popping, highly stylized art on the first one-and-a-half issues. (Well, and also by comparison to his own work on INVID WAR, which was brilliantly inked first by Fred Perry, who used some lovely ink washes for shading, and then by Anthony Carpenter, who did some nifty textured hatching effects for shading.)

(1) If I seem like I'm being a little dismissive of the Eternity Comics incarnation of RETURN TO MACROSS, perhaps I am. When I read this first issue, I figured it would just go from here to full on "adventures on Macross Island" stories, and the next several issues I came across were all Academy Comics issues, stuff from the brilliant Spangler/Abbott run and a stint from the final run, where Spangler was alternating with Robert W. Gibson on writing and a very young, raw, just-out-of-high school Dusty Griffin was on art. And guess what? That was all Fokker, Gloval, Claudia, Dr. Lang, and the rest on Macross Island. Also, no sign of T.R. Edwards, who in RETURN TO MACROSS has a terrible Errol Flynn ZORRO mustache. Past this fantastic first issue, I just see those next eleven issues as building blocks towards the thirteen issues that follow that. I freely admit that perception could be the result of a bias caused by the wacky out-of-order way I read the series, but I think it's more likely that the more focused Spangler/Abbott run (and the Robert Gibson/Sean Bishop issues that briefly interrupt it) really is just that much of an improvement over the twelve-issue Eternity Comics run.

NEXT TIME: Well, what else? We're jumping over those eleven building blocks and taking a quick look at RETURN TO MACROSS #13, "High Strangeness," the first issue published by the short-lived Academy Comics, Ltd., and the first issue to feature the fantastic and under-appreciated cartooning of one Wes Abbott. Be forewarned, I will be talking about the start of one of my favorite ROBOTECH comic runs ever, so there may be excessive amounts of hyperbole. Brace yourself.

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DAY THIRTY: Reckless

(10) I've never really thought about it, what exactly does the episode title refer to? Whose behavior here is it saying is reckless? Rick angrily rushes headlong into combat after he spots Minmei and Kyle, but that's not exactly the focus of the episode; the Zentraedi spies' behavior in coming forward, admitting who they are and why they're here, that could be perceived as reckless. Or is this a reference to Lisa's decision to leave the ship and try to talk some sense into her father? Maybe it's all of the above, everyone taking sometimes foolish chances towards their own ends. Oh well, at least it's not as nonsensical as "Battle Cry" and "Battle Hymn." I suppose if they had to replace any other MACROSS episode titles we would have wound up with "Battle Time" and "Battle Front," eh?

(9) The Zentraedi are a genetically-engineered warrior race that has traveled far and wide across the stars destroying planets, ending civilizations, and conquering worlds for their glory and for the empire of the Robotech Masters. So how come we're now seeing so many dumpy, dopey, wishy-washy Zentraedi? The Battlepod pilot Khyron pursues and calls his "little friend" looks like a sad puppy dog. Was the genetic engineer asleep at the wheel when he was sequencing the DNA strands for some of these guys? I suppose it's easier to be sympathetic to a puppy-eyed funny little Zentraedi guy than another tall, masculine, grunting soldier of the sort we saw throughout the "Blind Game" through "The Big Escape" trilogy.

The spies made sure the stakes were clear in the last episode, and Khyron proves them right as, upon hearing that the Battlepod pilots are searching for Minmei solely to meet her in person and hear her sing, he begins to lay waste to them instead of laying further waste to Macross City. He's not the only name character who turns out to be a serious threat to Zentraedi life, though; Rick, searching for Minmei, does an expert job blasting Battlepods apart, in a display as impressive as Max's moves in the previous episode.

(8) Rick, from his Battloid, doesn't have the best view of Minmei and Kyle's kiss; he can't see the shock in her eyes, can't quite notice her trying to get away. He protests that this is worse than the movie, but I wonder, how much has he been in her life as of late? The last time we saw them interact was when he hung up on her in "Bursting Point." They kept missing each other's calls in "A New Dawn," then he made sure that both he and Lisa avoided Minmei and Kyle at that episode's end. His suddenly getting hung up on her as someone to fight for in the last episode didn't make any sense, and at this point his fixation on her seems almost as delusional as Lisa's thing for Kyle.

Speaking of which: "Tell me, has something happened to Kyle?!" And then as Rick signs off, Lisa flips switches and bangs on her monitor screen, demanding Rick tell her about Kyle. This is getting unhealthy.

With Rick turning away, finally beginning to accept how far apart he and Minmei have drifted since his captivity aboard the Zentraedi battlecruiser and her rise to stardom, Minmei finally shoves Kyle away. Kyle's completely clueless; did he think their on-screen romance and increasing closeness since his return had actually blossomed into something it's not? We don't see enough of these two to know how this has developed, just the rumors and the way they've carried themselves in public, which very well could just have been for the promotion of the movie.

"My job now is to defend the SDF-1 and nothing else." So then, was the whole "fighting to protect Minmei" thing from the previous episode just set up so he could make a one-eighty in THIS episode? The thing to always remember about Rick's military career is that he was more or less shoved into it by Roy, who was getting tired of him shuffling his feet with his head down over newly distant Minmei and his wrecked plane, and Minmei, who I guess was trying to find Rick a place to belong aboard-ship that could use his particular skill set. And it was Minmei who made that last little push that got him to enlist. "Fighting for Minmei's sake" seems like a throwback to that, and ultimately discarding that mentality is a sign that he's made one more step towards being an adult.

(7) For the first time in the series, the Minmei doll serves as a symbol of the destruction and havoc the war has wreaked on the culture the Zentraedi deserters have come to enjoy, obsess over, and ultimately adopt as their own.

Exedore reports to Breetai that Khyron has informed him of the desertion in the ranks. He does say something interesting: "This must be the tremendous force the Robotech Masters have been speaking of. Then, the legends must be true." A direct reference to "Transformation," and the first time Exedore has said that it is the Masters who passed this "legend" down to him. Propaganda, as SENTINELS suggests? Or is it a warning that something very much like this actually happened a long, long time ago? I'd say the former, though I'm not sure how much of that is actually logical or just my long-term exposure to and fondness for SENTINELS talking, with its talk of false memories and history crafted by the Masters to keep the Zentraedi in lockstep. Again, I'm stuck on parallels; the Zentraedi themselves are a genetically-engineered construct race, so why wouldn't the lore of their people be a construct itself? The thing is, I'm torn right now between the idea that it's solely about keeping the Zentraedi from fighting back against the Robotech Masters, "Micronians" themselves, and the idea that the Masters know that a free and open society like that of the humans will be a temptation -- a fruit of the Tree of Knowledge situation -- and should be avoided at all costs. My only problem with THAT is that I find it difficult to believe that the Zentraedi, if they do have the long and illustrious military history the narrator insisted they do -- "bred for thousands of generations for the sole purpose of military conquest" -- haven't encountered a race with this kind of culture before. And if they have, and it hasn't resulted in a situation like this, then why now? Is it something about Minmei?

And if it is, well -- good lord, that takes us to the conclusion of THE END OF THE CIRCLE, doesn't it? Look at Dana, a half-Zentraedi, and her reaction to Zor, which the show seems to kind of take as a kind of race-memory thing (mixed up, of course, with the fact that he is an attractive fellow, in a wispy elf boy sort of way). Now look at the Zentraedi here and their reaction to Minmei, who would be ... ohh, man. That makes entirely too much sense. I need to stop this train of thought right now. It's getting scary.

(6) Every time a Zentraedi mentions Protoculture from "First Contact" through now, all the humans in the area are obligated to repeat the word as though they've never heard it before and act terribly confused. Especially Rick, who has to have heard it at least a dozen times since then and still is the first person to go, "Protoculture? Huh?" The weird thing is, while it seems like the scene is going to go in the direction of explaining Protoculture somewhat, it's clearly a case of the scene originally mentioning Protoculture and the ROBOTECH writers working the ROBOTECH definition of the term around it; Rick's remark about, "Well, that's not enough reason," proves to be, more or less, false as the focus of the remainder of the discussion is how, yes, the Zentraedi have come to live among the humans pretty much because it's a happier way of life and Minmei's is here to sing for them every day.

Colonel Maistroff and his fellow ranking officer (played by Michael "Rolf Emerson" McConnohie) basically spend the whole meeting playing the "OMG ALIENS" card. They're acted and scripted as straw men, on par with the assemblage of officers who were present at Rick, Lisa, Ben, and Max's debriefing in "Blue Wind." It would be nice if this was an honest debate, but instead it turns into our reasonable heroes, who worked this all out months ago and are being proven right, against a pair of unreasonable, sinister-looking authority figure xenophobes. Lisa's reaction to the news that the Zentraedi are all but genetically identical to human beings pretty much sums up the way our heroes are handled: "I expected something like this, but to be told I'm right is still unbelievable!" Maistroff and his cohort are right to be suspicious of the Zentraedi: they entered the ship as part of an invasion force that has all but utterly destroyed Macross City. They're unarmed, but the Zentraedi are still wired for combat. Rick and Gloval are both right in saying that if their intentions are true, this could be the first step towards peace that they need -- a need the people of Macross City wouldn't argue with, given what's happened to their city -- but the other possibility, that this is a trap of some sort, is treated as the ravings of a belligerent scratchy-voiced jerk.

(5) Nitpick: Max and Lena claim Kyle was out looking for Minmei, but he was standing in the wings during the whole concert -- and it's Minmei, everyone would know if she was in concert.

(4) If Lisa's fixation on Kyle was supposed to be setting her up to lead her where she's going through the end of this episode, it did a terribly clumsy job of it. The first time Kyle spoke out on TV against the war and the military, she nodded along in lockstep with Claudia that he was just advocating surrender. It was only in the last episode that she started to fixate on him and his message again, with no real trigger to it. The hope for peace that exists now is one that was just dropped in our heroes' laps from the Zentraedi spies arrival. What would Lisa have done with these increasing doubts about the military way if that hadn't happened? Would she have left the military and tried to start something with a man who barely knows she exists? In her conversation with Rick in the Chinese restaurant she makes it abundantly clear that she knows there's nothing there, just a hopeless fascination with the man.

Interesting that she's trying to encourage Rick to go back after Minmei if, as she claimed in "Farewell Big Brother," she's in love with him and he seems to be happy to spend time with her. They're still blind to each other's growing feelings, aren't they, even after they urged one another to stick around in "A New Dawn." It would be cute if it wasn't so irritating.

(3) Sammie takes Lisa's post again until she arrives, hinting at changes to come. She's still freaking out about it, but at least nobody's telling her that every word she's uttering doesn't make a lick of sense.

Rick and Lisa's banter before and after the battle is probably the strongest indicator of how far their relationship has come since "Blitzkrieg" or even "Blind Game." His playful cry of "GO HOME!" to the enemy always makes me smile.

The battle sequence here is interesting because it's a great example of just how uneven this entire episode is. There's some really solid drawing and animation throughout, and then not twenty seconds later you'll see something that would be at home in the first half of "Space Fold," especially some of the weaker Veritech animation. At the same time, there's one sequence of a Veritech taking out a couple of Battlepods with a missile launch where the frames per second hit theatrical animation speeds. That sequence doesn't even look to belong in the series, let alone this episode.

(2) Lisa comes to Gloval with her plan to try and shore up support for his decision to grant the defectors asylum, heading off Maistroff and his supporters by going down to headquarters in Alaska in person. She isn't stupid, though; she realizes she's going to have to have something big to turn her father around. I'm surprised she thinks the genetic similarity of mankind to the Zentraedi is enough to go on; didn't mankind just get through with a period where they were killing one another over whether or not all mankind could live together in peace? Gloval's brief speech to himself and his bridge crew towards the end of "Boobytrap" suggested it had ended with a perfect peace, but I'd think the scars would still be fresh enough that proving that Zentraedi are just people too wouldn't be enough to flat out end the war over.

(1) Rick is finally far enough over Minmei that he's thinking of asking Lisa to dinner tomorrow night, only Lisa is heading back to Earth, perhaps never to return, tomorrow afternoon. If there's one strong through-line to this episode, it's that Rick Hunter's timing sucks.

And I think I've decided what the title refers to: Gloval's decision to grant the Zentraedi asylum. That is easily the most reckless decision of all. At the same time, though, you can't make history without breaking a few eggs. Thankfully for Gloval, those broken eggs ultimately result in a pretty decent omelette, albeit one cooked over the burning wasteland of planet Earth ...

Okay, that metaphor turned out kind of weird. Point is, Gloval's damned lucky it all turns out okay in the end.

"Stay tuned for 'Showdown,' the next chapter in the continuing drama of ROBOTECH!"

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(10) In keeping with my shaky recall of this particular handful of episodes, I always remember "Battle Hymn" being the one where Rick strengthens his resolve by standing next to a terrible poster of Minmei and telling himself he's fighting for her sake, despite having basically concluded that his relationship with Minmei is little more than wishful thinking on his part after seeing her on the silver screen locking lips with her cartoon defeatist, pacifist anti-military cousin. It's why I asked at the end of the last episode whether or not Rick and Lisa's relationship really has made the leap forward it appears to have made; sure, they're starting to look close at the end of "A New Dawn," but there seems to be some backpedaling in "Battle Hymn."

(9) Dolza stands up and takes notice during footage of the devastation caused by the barrier overload back in "Bursting Point" -- but he's already AWARE of the events of "Bursting Point," that's why Azonia's command was supplanted by Breetai's, according to the meeting Dolza had with Breetai back in "Paradise Lost." Then again, perhaps this is the first time he's seen the footage with his own eyes. Seeing is believing, after all, right? The juxtaposition of the footage from "Small White Dragon" and the barrier overload was probably Exedore's idea, since he floated the idea of the two being somehow related while he and Breetai were watching the movie in our last episode.

Dolza SHOULD be standing up and taking notice of the fact that Rico, Konda, and Bron are making a mess of things aboard Breetai's flagship, with that handful of guys they've been showing the singing doll to telling ANOTHER handful of guys about it, and then them telling more, and now it's gotten so big that Grel knows about it and is telling Khyron that everyone's going completely bananas and considering jumping ship to the SDF-1 -- which, Khyron being Khyron, just strengthens his resolve to ultimately destroy the SDF-1.

It turns out that's the direction Dolza's taking as well, because while in the short term Dolza wants Breetai to capture some Micronians again for study, as they do seem to possess the secrets of Protoculture based on his observations, but in the long term the plan is to destroy them all, as prolonged contact with a race that has such knowledge of Protoculture will "have a bad effect upon our soldiers." That bad effect is taking place right under Breetai and Exedore's noses.

How this relates to the ROBOTECH definition of Protoculture, well, let me give it a shot: this is another fail-safe by the Robotech Masters designed to keep the Zentraedi from becoming too autonomous, while at the same time preventing the secrets of Protoculture from falling into anyone's hands but the Masters'.

(8) The Zentraedi rebels, led by Rico, Konda, and Bron, decide they want to have all those nice things they've never had before. With full knowledge that they'll face execution if they're caught, they decide to sneak on-board during the next attack. But first they have to become Micronians. This exchange cracks me up:

Squinty-eyed Zentraedi: "Bron, do you know how to work the conversion machine well enough?"

Bron: "No."

Squinty-eyed Zentraedi: "Maybe I can."

It doesn't look funny when you write it out like that, but it's the extreme close-up we get of the squinty-eyed Zentraedi along with his weird delivery that does it. It's like, "MaybeIcan."

Karita, the blonde Zentraedi above, has this whole worrywart thing going on to the point that if you listen carefully you can almost hear his knees knocking together. Bron even dangles a Minmei poster and the Minmei doll under his nose, but he's too worried about getting caught. Maybe he'll be convinced by the time we get back from the SDF-1.

(7) Oh, here we go! We heard "To Be In Love" earlier via the Minmei doll, and now as Rick starts having his mid-life crisis already -- "What am I doing with my life?" -- it starts playing over the P.A. system and he comes across a badly painted oversaturated poster of the same image the Zentraedi were passing around earlier. He has a flashback to "The Long Wait," and suddenly he's all like, "That's right! Minmei! I'm fighting to protect her! I can't think negative thoughts! I've got to think positively for Minmei!" It's not enough to be fighting to protect the people of Macross City, the girl you think you might REALLY love, and your coworkers aboard the SDF-1? No, it's all about that girl, all about those two weeks almost two years ago. He sees Minmei, he hears "To Be In Love," and he winds up back there again, all the progress lost, circling around back to the starting point. You poor fool.

(6) Meanwhile, Minmei is actually in concert and singing the same song. While the bridge girl trio relaxes and listens to the concert, the song causes Claudia to fall into a flashback to being with Roy. She's carrying loaves of bread; they must be in France. Loaves of bread are usually visual shorthand for France.

And then you've got Lisa thinking about stupid, stupid Kyle and going, "What he says makes more sense every day." No, it doesn't. Sure, unbeknownst to Lisa you've got Zentraedi who are looking to reject their way of life, making peace a possibility, but you're still going to have plenty who, like Khyron, will never reject this way of life. Kyle's vision is of a world without a military, but in a world where there are Zentraedi still ready and eager to fight, there will always be a need for a military. Karl Riber didn't like fighting, but he was a member of the military; he didn't have the same hard-line approach. Her infatuation with Kyle is solely because she sees Karl in him, but would he be spouting the same nonsense garbage? Does she honestly believe that? I get that she's still harboring this bizarre fixation; Kyle's gotten himself mixed up in her feelings for her dead lover. I just don't get Lisa really buying into what he's selling.

(5) Exedore's plan in this episode is brilliant, using the SDF-1's tactics against the ship and its crew. It also plays right into the hands of the defectors, giving them easy access to their goal. Goad them into using a Daedalus attack and, before the Destroids can launch their volley, wipe them out and storm the ship via the Daedalus arm. It's a plan even Khyron can love, since it allows him to wreak mayhem on the ship. It's only right that this one be so brilliant, since it's the last major operation Exedore will set into motion before Breetai's fleet switches sides. The one thing I don't get is that Exedore says they can then capture some Micronians and seize "the Protoculture generator." I suppose he's referring to the Protoculture Factory. This is the first time that somebody besides the narrator has mentioned it, and Exedore doesn't even use the same term. I assume Exedore believes the Micronians know where it is, and the Zentraedi will be able to get them to disclose this information, at gunpoint if necessary.

(4) The animation of the Veritech pilots racing to their fighters is from as far back as "Transformation"; Rick in particular is from "Bursting Point." Lisa tells Rick to be careful, the sole hint of their time together last episode, and Rick dismisses it and thinks of Minmei.


It's interesting that as the battle rages, Kyle tells everyone to stay calm, butts in seats, because the Minmei concert is going to go on. Earlier in the episode he seemed angry and frustrated that all eyes were on Minmei -- "AND THERE'S NOTHING I CAN DO ABOUT IT!" -- while the war raged on. But placed in this context, you have to wonder if the translators mixed up the tone of Kyle's realization, if instead of frustration he realized that if only for a while as they were listening to Minmei's song they were experiencing the peace he sought, that the war wasn't going on. Or maybe Kyle's just a two-faced jerk. I could go either way on that one.

And she goes into "My Time To Be A Star," which is at least appropriate to the moment this time.

(3) The entire Daedalus sequence from "Blitzkrieg" is used as Gloval plays right into Exedore's hands. Only once it breaks through, for some reason a small team of Defenders is deployed and marches into the Zentraedi ship only to be brought down by the Battlepods hiding throughout the section in Breetai's ship the Daedalus stopped at. Where are the Tomahawks and Monsters? If those Destroids had been the ones deployed, the missile and cannon barrage would have surely taken out those Battlepods. Is the SDF-1 just running short of Destroids and pilots? Maybe I was right; maybe they CAN'T get anyone into a Destroid anymore ...

What I can't believe is that the Daedalus was recalled before the ship started to blister and explode. Also, aren't they in radio contact with the Destroids? Shouldn't they have noticed that they'd been destroyed? Maybe that's why they recalled the Daedalus -- only, too late, because now they've got a pod infestation.

Sequences from "Countdown" and "Bye Bye Mars" are reused, changed to nighttime cityscape backgrounds, as the Zentraedi invade Macross City again for the first time.

(2) Rick's Minmei fixation continues as he asks if the concert hall has been hit when Lisa orders him back to the ship. All he can think about is Minmei, while all Lisa can think about is Kyle, his hair wisping in the wind. It's really pathetic. If Claudia knew what was going on here and wasn't busy with her duties, I'm sure she's slap both of them.

SDF-1 control fails to close the entry hatch behind Rick and Max fast enough and let Khyron and another team of Battlepods on-board. Slipshod work, folks!

Minmei's had a wardrobe change amidst the fighting, and as she sings "To Be In Love" again, two Battlepods take notice and I think the intention is that it's the Zentraedi soldiers singing "My Time To Be A Star" badly along with -- well, the wrong song, but it's the thought that counts, isn't it?

I love how, when another Battlepod shoots one of the stagelights down, hitting Kyle in the back of the neck, the two Battlepods that were watching the concert turn and stare down the attackers. Shame it didn't do any permanent damage to Kyle. To try and distract him from the pain, Minmei makes some funny faces, which are in fact kind of funny.

(1) Even in a bad animation episode like this one, Max manages to look really awesome in battle, doing all kinds of leaps and rolls with his Battloid to avoid enemy fire and tear them apart. Rick does the same with Skull One, but it's not nearly as impressive. For one thing, the subpar Korean studio handling this one has a really hard time with the VF-1S head, which doesn't help matters at all. For another, the first thing Rick does when he gets his Battloid in there is try and knock 'em down with his arms and shoulders like he's a football player or something, while Max is all about finesse.

In the end of the episode, Rick runs at the screen and goes, "Minmei!" which, hey, he's been doing that all episode. At the end of the comic adaptation, however, Lisa radios Rick and tells him what happened at the concert hall. He charges ahead, saying, "That does it! I'm going after them! And if those Zentraedi have a god, they'd better hope he'll have mercy on them ..."

"... because I won't!"

I dunno, maybe it's a bit much, but I like it. (The illustration of Skull One by Mike Leeke & Mike Chen that accompanies it is leaps and bounds above any single frame of Skull One in this episode, which also helps.) Early in the next issue of the comic some of the defectors gather around and let out a sigh of relief that they avoided the crazy screaming Battloid. I'm not sure whether they were talking about right around now, or a little bit later, when Rick sees something that's REALLY worth screaming about ...

"Be sure to be with us for 'Reckless,' the next thrilling episode in the epic saga of ROBOTECH!"

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(10) Did I ever own this one on videotape, or did I first watch this during the Toonami run on Cartoon Network? I don't remember. I know I had "Force of Arms" and "Reconstruction Blues," and "Season's Greetings" and "To The Stars." The first twenty episodes I had uncut on five LaserDiscs, but for whatever reason getting those last four LaserDiscs of The Macross Saga -- that never happened. Well, it didn't happen until years later when a completist streak struck me, even after getting all the DVDs, and I snagged all but one off of eBay. They're probably still sitting at my old house back in Kansas, on the shelf next to where the big TV used to sit before someone broke in and stole it (and given the size and weight of the TV we're talking about here, I'm not sure whether to curse them and hope they suffer from lower back pain for the rest of their natural lives or give them mad props for being able to haul that sucker out of there).

My point being, we're entering territory where I'm actually more familiar with the stories from the novelizations and comics than from the TV series itself. Of the remainder of The Macross Saga, I think this might be the episode I've watched the least; it's the premiere of Minmei and Kyle's movie, but most of it is relationship drama with Rick and Lisa while they're boxed in following a full ship transformation.

That title frame reflects another view of Macross City showing it to be a lot bigger and more urban than it usually appears, along the lines of the busy neon city Rico, Konda, and Bron were witness to in "Blue Wind." Remember Rick running through deserted streets in "Sweet Sixteen?" Here we at least see some traffic in the evening hours -- late enough for Minmei's manager to be a little laid back and tipsy. "Celebrating enough for both of us" indeed.

(9) Speaking of people who are tipsy, good lord, catty old Jan Morris is adjusting poorly to Minmei's rising star. Never noticed that line about offering to read her beefy male companion's palm; seems like that's the launching point for the way Daley & Luceno spun her post-Miss Macross contest career as a new age guru for the post-Robotech War generation.

See, this is what I'm talking about when I say I've read the comics and novels much more than I've seen the show; while the guy who answers the phone at the barracks is reading a generic "Maga Zine" (with the front cover on the right), I'm used to the comic adaptation, where he's depicted reading a slightly genericized ZETA GUNDAM manga.

Minmei comes off rather well in the opening of this episode, trying to get Rick a good seat at the movie, dealing with a sloshed Jan Morris, and then realizing that Rick's probably not gonna get her message about the seat: "Oh brother, I hope Rick gets the word. That boy didn't sound too bright. I wonder what kind of people they're taking in the military these days." Between that and her rallying speech to the people of Macross City, in two episodes' time she's a far cry from the ditz she was depicted as in the final moments of "Bursting Point."

(8) Miriya makes her first appearance aboard the ship, completely misinterpreting the round-the-block line for "Small White Dragon" as a gathering to honor the soldier who shot her down. Her ego truly knows no bounds.

Speaking of the title, while "Little White Dragon," the name given for the movie in the novels and then picked up by the comics of the 1980s and 90s, rolls off the tongue better, "Small White Dragon" sounds more like a title you'd see on the video case of a kung-fu flick back in the 80s, don't you think?

You know, the chatty folks in the audience whispering gossip about how close Minmei and Kyle are getting are only fueled by how close the two of them appear as they make their way into the premiere -- and, of course, the kiss in the movie. This is the point in the series where Rick's complaints about Minmei and Kyle getting too close really start to look like a sharp observation on his part. Like I said, Minmei in Kyle's hand in "Phantasm" is looking more and more like a reality every day.

This is the first time I've found one of the singing sequences cringe-worthy, because it's the one where Minmei explicitly says A) it's a new song, and B) it's the theme to the film. And what do they play? "My Time To Be A Star." The song that originally played here in MACROSS, for those of you in the back who haven't watched the original in any of the half-dozen or so ways it's been released outside of Japan, is "Shao Pai Loon," which also plays in an infinite loop in the MACROSS Famicom (NES) game and is the song Minmay is singing when the Zentraedi attack at the beginning of DO YOU REMEMBER LOVE. This, right here, is where the Minmei songs become a joke in ROBOTECH. They're not that great to begin with, and this is where it becomes, "This is my new song!" and it's bloody freakin' "My Time To Be A Star" again.

At this point there are only two complete songs left unheard: "It's You" (the one George Sullivan later covers in "Stardust") and "We Will Win" (which is also covered later in the series, by Yellow Dancer); the song "The Right Move" appears briefly in one of the early Reconstruction era episodes, I think "Reconstruction Blues" itself, but doesn't exist in full; all we hear is all there is. There is also a Minmei version of "The Way To Love," which we hear Lancer cover later on in the series, but it's never used in the TV series; the Minmei version actually can be heard in THE SENTINELS when Jack Baker is at his computer doing testing and his invitation to Rick & Lisa's wedding arrives, way low in the background.

(7) Those Zentraedi look like a bunch of kids sneaking around watching porn in their parents' basement, don't they? The only reason that occurred to me: the sweat. It'd look less weird and shameful and sneaky without the sweat.

The novels stated that Breetai's feed of "Small White Dragon" -- oh right, they'd say "Little White Dragon," wouldn't they? -- is coming from a camera on Miriya's person, like he's watching a first-day pirated shakycam copy off the internet. Today there's a hundred and one ludicrous ways it could be explained away using hacking and digital projection and wifi signals or whatnot. What I do like about the Miriya idea, though, is that it makes her mission on-board seem more like a proper sanctioned spy mission than the ridiculous half-cocked ego-stroking vendetta it really is.

Heh, Breetai gets the full widescreen theatrical experience, but the spies and their friends have to be content with the pan & scan on their little TV screen. The spies get an opportunity to build some whoppers about being close personal friends with Minmei, while Breetai and Exedore assume what they're watching is an old battle record that soldiers are required to watch, like a history class -- until Kyle cracks out the crazy energy-fu, causing Breetai and Exedore to flip out and decide there's no way they can defeat the Micronians if they can fire death rays from their hands.

For the five of you who don't know, by the way, "Small White Dragon" was fleshed out for a backup strip that ran in the otherwise pointless LOVE & WAR mini-series by WildStorm/DC, written by Ken Siu-Chong (Udon's STREET FIGHTER comics) and Tommy Yune and drawn by Jo Chen (Dark Horse Comics' BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER cover artist) where the giant Kyle fells with his chi blast and jump kicks is explicitly made a Zentraedi who crash landed his vessel at the turn of the previous century. Most readers seemed to find it even more pointless then the main story ("Dana's Story: The Director's Cut"), but I found it a neat little diversion; by issue #4, I was flipping to the back first, since I knew all the story I was going to see in the front. LOVE & WAR is being reprinted in trade paperback in December, so if you do see a copy then, I'd at least give it a flip-thru for that. There's some cute bits in it.

(6) It's interesting seeing the reaction the other Zentraedi have to the sight of Minmei and Kyle kissing. Is it diminished by seeing it on a screen rather than in person, or has everything Rico, Konda, and Bron shown them and explained to them opened their minds to the point that their first glimpse of a kiss isn't quite as jarring as it was for the spies, Breetai, and Exedore?

(5) Remember kids: in today's anime world, Rick wouldn't have just tripped and accidentally grabbed Lisa's rear end, he would have tripped and fallen into her grossly oversized breasts. Then she would have slapped him instead of just rolling her eyes and giving him a snide talking to. Scratch that, that's not just today's anime world, that's pretty much any anime of the last ten years ... ugh.

Air raid sirens go off, a full-ship transformation is ordered, Breetai is busy pondering the amazing powers he believes the Micronians possess and NOT ordering an attack on the battle fortress, and when we cut to an exterior shot of the ship it's still in cruiser mode and NOT being attacked by Zentraedi. Rick is as puzzled as I am, and Lisa actually explains this: the transformation is initiated from her post, which is currently being occupied by Sammie. I always wondered how Sammie, the youngest person on the bridge, wound up taking the First Officer's post, but until recently I didn't know in the original MACROSS animation it's Claudia who's the ship's First Officer. That actually makes a lot more sense given this episode, and on top of that it makes Rick and Lisa a clearer mirror of Roy and Claudia. But given how close Gloval and Lisa are, how much trust he places in her, and how strongly the overachiever card is played at various points (like the last time Rick and Lisa were stuck alone together) I can see how ROBOTECH wound up turning things around.

(4) Oh, so THIS is the episode that animation cel of Rick I've had for forever is from. See, I TOLD you I hadn't watched this episode enough. (Not the image above; rather, it's from the sequence where Rick explains why they shouldn't overpraise Max lest he get too cocky, which could get him killed)

Lisa's astonishment at how Rick's sounding like a genuine squadron leader just goes to show how much these characters are ruled by their first impressions. She even likes Rick at this point -- hell, is secretly (to everyone but Claudia) harboring a crush on him -- and she's still surprised by the fact that he's actually growing up.

Rick makes the obvious comparison to the time they were trapped in the enemy ship, and then he narrates through the flashback, describing exactly what we're watching on the screen. Sometimes the airtime-filling dialog and narration are handled in a way that you don't notice it, like Gloval in the previous episode having an internal monologue about the orders given him, and then sometimes it's painfully obtrusive. This would be one of the latter times.

The Protoculture see-saw dips towards the Japanese MACROSS definition when Lisa remarks that one camp of the Zentraedi believe that humanity is "derived from something called Protoculture, which scares them." She mentions this after Rick asks why the enemy just doesn't go ahead and destroy them, which doesn't make any sense for him to ask -- he and Lisa have talked this over before, specifically DURING that time they were caught in the enemy ship, and he heard her thoughts on it during their debriefing once they returned home in "Blue Wind." But then, she does mention to him that he may have heard some of this before.

(3) I may have mentioned this before, but all the crazy contraptions that wander the city streets are one of my favorite parts of the MACROSS world setting. Despite the fact that we've moved on beyond this world technologically, what with our netbooks, cell phones, iPods, and wifi, ROBOTECH's wandering cola machines and photo "booths" that hide in the bushes until they're requested still make this feel like "the future" to me, even if it remains so terribly steeped in the 1980s.

(2) When Rick starts needling Lisa about being interested in the movie only for Kyle, since there's no OTHER reason she'd have been going, she asks him, "Aren't YOU supposed to be in love with Minmei? Well, aren't you?" Which I think is a very funny way to put it; it's almost like she's saying to him, "You're Rick Hunter, by DEFINITION you're supposed to be with Minmei." It seems to hit him like a physical blow, and it also hits him that they both wound up leaving the theater for the same reason.

Lisa actually spells out that to her eyes Kyle looks eerily like Karl Riber which, as I said back during "Battle Cry," I can sort of see in the face. As she tells Rick this, she starts crying and ... is it significant that the only time she said one word to Kyle she tried to offer him a handkerchief and he refused, and now that she's sobbing over him-slash-Karl, Rick offers HER a handkerchief and she accepts? No? It's just me? Okay then. You get to watching something with this level of scrutiny day-in and day-out and you just start seeing patterns everywhere, small and large.

The pattern I think IS significant is that right before the crisis ends and the ship reconfigures to cruiser mode Rick and Lisa get a look in their eyes like they're just about to lean in for a kiss -- not quite as close as Rick and Minmei when THEY were trapped somewhere on-board the SDF-1, but their animosity has pretty much all melted away in the past -- what, maybe an hour, maybe two? It's taken them this long, but they've both realized that there's something there between the two of them, something that makes a lot more sense than fantasies about Kyle and what could have been with Minmei.

It's really odd that for all the talk of a battle outside, you never see any Veritechs or Battlepods -- the few times you see outside the bridge's outside windows they're painted over in blue -- and Breetai spends the entire episode fixated on the movie. Presumably Khyron's attacked again, with his usual rate of success. I'd suggest the whole thing was a training exercise, but I spot-checked the original MACROSS episode and unless that was revealed at the end -- notice Claudia does mention something about such-and-such rate of efficiency or something, which would suggest a training exercise -- it didn't seem to be the case.

(1) Lisa gives Minmei and Kyle the benefit of the doubt about their closeness -- she says it's not unusual for cousins to show affection for each other, they probably grew up together, and so on. Rick's not so sure: "They almost seem TOO close." I think when Rick tells Lisa not to look he's projecting; he probably wishes someone was there to tell HIM not to look. Sure, Lisa has the painful memories of Karl Riber running through her mind when she sees Kyle, but Rick -- well, one mention of Minmei's name from Lisa's lips all but shut him down.

Does the narrator overplay what Rick and Lisa have going on? Rick does make a quip about maybe wanting to buy her dinner later, and they did both play the "oh, I must be going" card before the other said, "Hey, not so fast. They won't miss you for another X minutes." It feels like a significant step forward, but if I remember the next episode right, Rick goes ahead and takes two steps back, doesn't he?

Well, I guess I'll see in a bit here.

"Be with us for 'Battle Hymn," the next thrilling chapter in the saga of ROBOTECH."

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(10) Funny, Milton's PARADISE LOST concerns Satan being cast out of heaven, while the SDF-1 is cast out TO the heavens. At least, I think that's kind of funny. Your milage may vary.

Another episode low on action and heavy on building things up for the episodes ahead, as the Zentraedi undergo a changing of the guard, the spies deliver their report, and the SDF-1 is exiled from Earth. It's also another clunker in the animation and art department. The SDF-1 looks lumpy and misshapen throughout, and the supply boxes that are delivered in preparation for the exile look like, I don't know, giant sugar cubes or something.  The apparition of Ben Dixon that Rick sees about five minutes in is too short and dumpy and, married to the weird audio effect and Richard Epcar's squeaky line delivery, is absolutely terrifying. There's a lot of other abnormalities in the animation which I'll get to later, stuff that brings to mind the remarks of COWBOY BEBOP screenwriter Dai Sato's recent remarks about the problems that plague modern anime that have their roots right here -- yes, he name-checked MACROSS in particular as the beginning of a particular damning production trend. (If you're interested, the article is here.)

(9) The reason Dolza gives for turning command of the mission regarding the SDF-1 back over to Breetai is Azonia's inexperience with the Micronians, especially in the wake of the barrier overload, which to the Zentraedi's eyes looks like a new weapon deployed with obvious disregard for their home planet's surface and populous. He fails to bring up the fact that the last attack was explicitly unauthorized. I assume he doesn't want to admit the error he made in turning command over to Azonia. Breetai agrees to take resume the mission just so long as he gets command of the Imperial-class Fleet -- a million-plus ships, which Breetai is starting to think may not be enough. This is the level of fear and respect he has for his foes.

More worthless narration over dead air as Breetai returns to his ship; Breetai and Exedore actually repeat everything the narrator says moments later.

(8) Just as Captain Gloval's matchbook (usually, though not in this episode) makes cigarette lighter noises, Rick Hunter's computer makes typewriter noises. Then again, that's probably the only typing sound they had in the sound effects library in 1985.

What is this room, anyway? Is this Rick's office? No, that looks like an awkward bunk over his work area; his third second quarters and third living space in about a year and half, more like it.

Today Cam Clarke is using the higher-pitched Max voice, which is weird, because he's talking about how his first command is probably coming up in the wake of his rapid promotions. He sounds like he's, I don't know, fourteen. Which got me thinking about Rick's very quick leaps in rank and status, but given the closed-off nature of the talent pool in the SDF-1 and the rate at which it loses pilots, it's little wonder that young men with the skills Rick and Max possess are rising to leadership positions this quickly. (And along the same lines, given the casualty rates, it's a wonder they can get a person into a Destroid anymore. Seriously. Not that you see any Destroids today, but y'know, it just gives me the thought ...)

(7) "My Time To Be A Star" count: four. Yes, just four. And hey, it's kind of surprising that in a cartoon aired in 1985 -- and originally produced for a Japanese audience in 1982 -- the Zentraedi spies' boom box has a CD player in it. Not only did the MACROSS creators project that the public would take to CDs, but that they'd still be around almost thirty years later -- which turned out to be the case.

(And then we get to SOUTHERN CROSS and they're using LPs again.)

I was going to quibble with the sight of Konda doing repairs to the Battlepod, but I suppose the Zentraedi probably have some minor technical abilities, at least enough to do field repairs on their infantry craft. That level of technical knowledge wouldn't be dangerous, and would make them far more effective in battle. The bigger question is, where did they GET that Battlepod? (Most likely: it's the same one Rick, Lisa, Ben, and Max stole to escape the Zentraedi ship and get back to the SDF-1.) And later in the episode, when it ejects its legs and flies through the sky -- is that a standard function? And if not, how did they get it to do that? THAT level of mechanical ingenuity -- the release mechanism, adding an entirely new propulsion system small enough to fit in as little space as a Battlepod shell provides and strong enough to push the little egg-shaped capsule through the atmosphere -- wouldn't make any sense for a Zentraedi to have, even an intelligence operative like Konda or Rico.

Watching Rico, Konda, and Bron count off the things they're going to miss about human culture is depressing, even knowing that they're A) going to fill that Battlepod with as many knick-knacks as they can, above and beyond what they're going to share with their commanders, and B) going to find a way to sneak BACK on-board in, what, three episodes' time? Singing, dancing, movies, TV, all these things that pass the time and shape our lives beyond work, sleeping, and eating -- and even food, the art of making something that tastes good, or at least tastes like SOMETHING, they're going to miss that as well. I think this is the longest time we've spent with the Zentraedi spies since they first made their way on-board in "Blue Wind," and it's the first time since then that their culture shock has been played for more than laughs. The shock is over, and they've clearly figured out that as Zentraedi they've been cut a raw deal. Right now they're probably thinking they might be able to get over it and get back to their duties. You know how you go on vacation sometimes, and you get back to your daily routine, and that vacation sort of seems like it was all just a dream because it was so different from your day-to-day life? The spies right now must be hoping it's going to be just like that. The problem is that life aboard the SDF-1 is so radically and fundamentally different (and so much more enjoyable), and their time there has been so very long -- three and a half months at least -- that it sticks with them.

(6) The ranking officer who delivers Gloval's orders is drawn as a very long haired man (look, his bust isn't any bigger than the soldiers with the closer-to-military-regulation haircuts accompanying him), but is given a sort of British accented female voice. Those orders end with, "If these orders are not followed to the letter, we may be forced to --" and Gloval stops reading there. Given that the ship is back over the water and everyone on-board is officially dead, I think we can all guess what the rest of that message says. Let me reiterate: all that talk about how the SDF-1 is a symbol for the strength of the United Earth Government that Claudia said in "Bursting Point"? Hogwash. The only people who know it's still out there are the military themselves (and the folks who saw it in attack configuration in "Bursting Point," put two and two together, AND discounted whatever military-fed propaganda was put out soon after), and if push came to shove, the UEG would sink that ship in sixty seconds flat. Mind you, if the Zentraedi couldn't do it, I'm not sure the rest of the military forces under United Earth Defense Command could, but they'd sure as hell try. I was about to say it might be tough getting the crew of the SDF-1 to fight back against their own people, but they'd be fighting to defend the people of Macross City. Theirs would be a righteous cause.

But Gloval really isn't the type; he won't let things come to that. He's a good soldier, he has his orders, and they have to go. He gives Claudia a quick call on the bridge and tells her to order the crew to prepare for an immediate takeoff following his announcement.

Sammie suggests that maybe Lisa should try and contact her father to turn things around; Claudia appears behind her to nip that idea in the bud. Given how high up Admiral Hayes is, he very well could have been the one to pull that trigger. It wouldn't surprise me, though I'd think he'd have tried to get Lisa off the ship beforehand.

(5) Hang on, the sudden gravitational disturbance of all those Zentraedi ships is the signal the spies were waiting for? They were supposed to be returning under Azonia's care, not that of Breetai's newly acquired million-strong fleet. They might have sent a recall signal, but I don't think the gravitational shift would have shown up on a measly Regult's sensors -- again, it's not built for that sort of thing. Maybe the recon variant, but not a standard combat pod. I was going to say the SDF-1 would have noticed first but ... well, yeah, the SDF-1 radar control center DOES notice, right after the commercial break. How could they not? Breetai's bringing all the ships he's been assigned with him in a show of force, and placing them all behind the Earth's moon. That's going to catch any long-range sensors' attention.

Sammie: "Wait, maybe they've come in peace this time."

(The entire rest of the bridge crew, including Gloval, looks at Sammie like she's nuts.)

Sammie: "Right, probably not."

Remember what I just said about headquarters being perfectly okay with destroying the SDF-1 if Gloval doesn't comply with their orders? Well, Gloval pretty much tells the bridge crew that when they inform him that headquarters hasn't made a peep about the Zentraedi fold operation. "We are considered expendable."

(4) You have to love the 21st century. The narrator uses the word "regeneration" for the transformation of the Zentraedi spies back to full size. Exedore says they should be "hearing from the cloning chamber." I go, "You know what? I'm gonna see if that line Lisa said about all the Zentraedi being clones was a translation error, if she actually did say something about cloning and it just got bungled somehow back in '85." And you know what's on Hulu right now? The ADV Films MACROSS dub. And sure enough, in the worse-acted, worse-cast, more wooden ADV Films MACROSS dub, Misa does indeed say the word "clones," but after it's established that she and Hikaru plainly see that the big guy is the same as the little guy, they're the SAME guy, and what appears to be happening is, in fact, a kind of cloning. The translation was probably referring to the small tanks as compared to the big tanks, and when it was turned into something actual English-speaking humans would say that fit into the allotted time the meaning got lost. That seemed to happen in a lot of the scripts around that time; by this point in the series that's less of a problem. The only trouble that seems to occur at this stage of the series is when they try to smooth over bits where nobody's talking with extra narration, like the bit about gravitational forces being a signal for the spies earlier.

Azonia calls Breetai up presumably to offer her report. Yeah, like she would have anything to report besides "Khyron's a dick."

Azonia: "You've assembled quite a fleet to deal with one small Robotech ship, Breetai."

Breetai: (laughs) "You've noticed. That ship has caused quite a bit of trouble. Even you were beaten and humiliated."

The point Breetai and Dolza ignore is that Azonia herself never did anything, with the exception of the time she let the SDF-1 return to Earth by blockading Khyron's ship and the one time she sent Miriya out to try and drag Khyron back kicking and screaming, where Miriya then turned around and ignored orders and Khyron only returned home after setting into motion another attack -- which ended with the suicide ship exploding without causing any significant damage to the SDF-1. Azonia's humiliation wasn't at the SDF-1's hands, it was at Khyron's.

(3) Breetai ponders a refrigerator while Exedore considers a piano.

The Zentraedi spies report to Breetai has more the feel of a school project than a military intelligence report. Each spy even stands when he's speaking, and they take turns every handful of lines. Breetai listens until he can listen no longer; wrapping his brain around human culture proves difficult, though Exedore's interest is piqued enough that he considers taking his own trip, foreshadowing events six episodes hence.

Boy, how can the Zentraedi even taste the candy Rico gives them? How can he even handle it? A piece of steak, a whole turkey, maybe even a can of cola I could see. Candy, though, would be smaller than a pin's head (to scale). But the, the scale is completely off throughout the spies' interaction with their artifacts swiped from the SDF-1. The Minmei doll in particular should be about the size of a Nerds candy, or the snapped-off point of a pencil, in a human hand, but appears to be the size of a human being compared to a Zentraedi (revisit the sight of Lisa in Dolza's grasp in "First Contact") -- hell, it's almost the size of the refrigerator Breetai was examining. Likewise, I'd think they would all need to be listening very, very close to the doll in order to hear it, unless that thing has a tremendous speaker.

Working my way up to this scene this time, I'm actually surprised that the spies don't seem as obsessed with Minmei as they are keen on the culture at large; the Minmei obsession is something that's born aboard-ship, among the Zentraedi soldiers they show all their neat stuff to, because to them that little singing doll in the Chinese dress is the neatest thing of all. Oh, and the song it knows is "To Be In Love," so that brings the count on that song to six.

(2) I don't think the comedy camera directions were entirely appropriate for the buildup to Gloval's big speech to the citizens of Macross City telling them that their government has abandoned them to die in space and will kill them if they don't leave.

I was about to ask what Rick was doing just hanging out in his plane, but I suppose that's what a squadron leader does when all Veritechs are on yellow alert. It still seems a bit odd, since he's the only Veritech pilot you see chilling in his cockpit.

In the short right after we see Gloval over Rick's shoulder a person actually vanishes in mid-sequence. These terrible sub-contracted Korean studios are getting worse.

"I don't understand anything that has to do with politics, I'm just like you, Average Joe Macross Citizen! And I say if they're kicking us out, whatever, we have everything we need right here in Macross City! Let's stand together and be proud citizens of Macross City and the SDF-1!" That's more or less what Minmei's speech, picking up where Gloval left off when he broke down in tears, boils down to. It's impressive, going from the point where Minmei starts to turn the Zentraedi around right into the moment where Minmei truly becomes the SDF-1's beacon of hope. Their military leader, broken by his failure to sway his superiors, gives way to the charismatic young woman who's already captured the city's heart. God, after a speech like that she should've gone into politics; she could very well have taken Mayor Luan's job then and there. Heaven knows the average person loves a politician who claims to know nothing about politics ...

What is with the weird way Minmei walks in place there? ("Well, Jonathan, obviously the animation studio doing this episode sucks, THAT'S why she's walking in place." Alternatively, "Well she's using up the meager bit of the animation budget that was reserved for that woman who just disappeared in mid-shot.") And why in the heck are we going into a performance of "My Time To Be A Star" of all things? It's the fifth time they've used it -- god, I would've thought it'd be more by now -- and it rarely seems to pop up at appropriate times. Then again, "The Man In My Life" and "To Be In Love" are both sappy love songs and are equally inappropriate. But "My Time To Be A Star" is so self-centered. Then again, I guess it is her time to be a star right now. She just saved the morale of the people of Macross City.


I am amused by the fact that Kyle pats Gloval on the back, offers his respect, and then we cut to Rick looking perturbed.

Also, Gloval's still frame appearances in the final montage sequence under the song are absolutely sinister-looking.

(1) If there's one thing that going through the series again has taught me, it's that remembering the plot doesn't necessarily mean remembering what the episode is about. The story beats of this episode are simple. The Zentraedi spies go home, while the Macross City refugees are cast off of their home planet. But the episode is really about the revelation of the effect and influence Minmei has on everyone. Her second-hand pacification of the Zentraedi Imperial-class fleet has begun, as tale of her song spreads from soldier to soldier and ship to ship, while at the episode's end she has just completed her ascent to the role of chief morale booster aboard the SDF-1, a rise that began all the way back in "Transformation" when she pulled the sign for that Chinese restaurant out into the street and reminded the mayor that this was still home -- a fact she just reminded every man, woman, and child aboard the SDF-1. Minmei might drive ROBOTECH viewers nuts, but at this particular moment its her personal charm turning the key of fate in this war towards our heroes' final victory.

But there's still a ways to go before then. First, she's got a movie premiere to attend.

"Don't miss 'A New Dawn,' the next chapter in the amazing story of ROBOTECH!"

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