DAY FIVE: The Long Wait
(10) Lots of little firsts here. First time an episode begins with dialog as opposed to narration -- Gloval ordering the hyperspace fold jump from yesterday's episode. First time an episode begins without a recap of the SDF-1 crashing into the Earth in the far-flung future year of 1999. And first time we jump into the action before the episode title comes up. Before you see those words, Gloval and the bridge crew have been on phones and comms coordinating relief efforts to rescue the survivors of Macross City -- and hopefully any survivors on-board the aircraft carriers Daedalus and Prometheus.
(9) The more composed, more consistently-drawn Gloval of "The Long Wait" beats himself up over the rash decision made by the more grandiose, sloppily-drawn Gloval of "Space Fold" that has cost so many lives and caused so much destruction. It feels to me very slightly meta, as though when he says, "How could I have been so stupid?" he's really asking, "What the hell was with my characterization yesterday? I was acting like an idiot!"
But enough about him and the crew of the SDF-1. This episode isn't really about them.
(8) I've long been tickled by the fact that this is an episode of a show called ROBOTECH with no robots in it whatsoever. Actually now that I think about it there may be a Robotech Masters episode with no robots in it, but that's beside the point -- more notably, "The Long Wait" isn't about a science fiction military force, or alien invaders, or even the horrors of war. It's about two marooned teenagers fighting to survive and, though heaven knows Minmei will deny it later, falling in love. And most importantly of all, it's our real introduction to Lynn Minmei, a girl who lives with her aunt and uncle above their Chinese restaurant and dreams of becoming an actress, a singer, and ultimately a bride. As you and I well know, she'll accomplish two of these things before her thirty-six episodes are up. That last one, well, um ... yeah, not so much.
(7) The B-story is the rebuilding of Macross City in a hold within the SDF-1, which is really the thing that makes The Macross Saga so special and unique. You have an awesome space battleship hounded by enemy aliens, and deep within you've got a friendly little civilian town with shops and restaurants and people going about their day to day lives, and having their little soap opera ups and downs, and every episode or so our heroes have to get in their magnificent transforming robots and fight the bad guys. When you're a kid, it's like someone took one of your mom's soaps and painted it over with a giant bucket of awesome -- a bucket that contains liberal doses of STAR WARS and TRANSFORMERS. Which, come to think of it, were the two things I was most obsessed with from the ages of two to ten. On top of following my mom's soaps. I suppose that really explains what I've been doing here on yon internet in one spot or another for the last ten-plus years ...
Robotech Masters at least takes place in and around Monument City, so you've at least got the occasional civilian setting, but you don't have the same sort of local color that Macross City has. The 15th Squadron seems to spend most of their time either in the barracks or wandering around Southern Cross command headquarters. They make it out to town every once in a while, but you don't get to know it like you do Macross City. If our Macross Saga heroes aren't in battle or on the bridge, they're at the coffee shop, or they're at the Chinese restaurant -- EVERYONE winds up at the Chinese restaurant at least once or twice, except for Gloval (that we see) -- or they're at the arcade, or they're at the park overlooking the city. Macross City is a place with a lot of character to it, and a lot of characters IN it, most notably funny little Mayor Tommy Luan, who in this episode cheerfully slaps poor, exhausted Rick on the back so hard he passes out. Masters and New Gen aren't shows that really have any recurring characters like that (New Gen pretty much due to its "road trip" format -- they're in a new place every single episode).
(6) We hear Minmei sing for the first time in this episode. It's part of "To Be In Love," which honestly I've always liked, or at least never had a problem with. Shockingly the lip sync isn't half bad. This immediately follows Rick telling Minmei about one of his flying competitions. That scene pretty much sets the stage for the arcs these two will follow from this point all the way through Rick and Minmei's screaming match in the fires of New Macross City in "To The Stars." I keep bringing that episode up, not only because it's the last episode, but because you really can draw a straight line from the conversations Rick and Minmei have in this episode to the situation the two find themselves in right at the end. They lay out their dreams here, Rick always wanting to fly and Minmei wanting to be an entertainer, and the rest of the series gives us the juxtaposition of the two of them realizing their dreams in one way or another, and realizing that the other is becoming immersed in a totally different and altogether alien world, Rick in the military and Minmei in what passes for showbiz in the bottle world of Macross City.
(5) I don't think the reason Minmei seems to trust Rick by default (even after she rightly suspects him of trying to peek on her showering) is necessarily because he just saved her life. I think it's because she just plain trusts people. She's got one of those personalities where pretty much everybody who meets her likes her, so she treats them in kind -- the cheerful, positive, nearly eternal optimist. She's got a smile for every occasion and is full of hope for the future. Just watch her here -- she only finally starts to lose hope right at the end of the episode, when the reality of the situation finally sinks in and starts to encroach on those endless dreams. Once she's rescued though, well, watch her over the course of the next few episodes. She's always asking the question, "How do I make everyone else happy? How can I cheer everyone up?" Even before she becomes Miss Macross, the SDF-1's Head Cheerleader, she seems to consider that her purpose in life.
(4) I'm thinking the reason Rick doesn't despair as much as Minmei, beyond the obvious macho "I'll protect you" riff he's pulling, is because unlike Minmei he's got nothing to go back to. Minmei has her aunt and uncle in Macross City, parents and a cousin back in Yokohama, and like I said, she's Everybody's Friend. Rick has Roy and ... um, err ... yeah. You never hear him talk about anyone back home. He talks about his dad in the first episode, you see flashbacks to him and Roy in the flying circus, but for a main character he's kind of a blank slate in the life department. When the SDF-1 makes it back to Earth, you don't see him thinking about friends back home, or even any home before Macross City. The impression you get is that before he zipped over to Macross to see Roy he was a lone boy and his plane, making money to get by as a sort of, I don't know, air show gypsy.
And then a giant mechanical thing-a-ma-bobber falls on his plane and he's down to LITERALLY nothing.
(3) Instead of robots fighting in this episode we get the incident with the tuna fish in space, which incidentally marks the first of two times in the course of the entire series where Rick is seen to deploy the built-in visor in a Veritech pilot's flight helmet ("Phantasm" doesn't count because it's just reusing the opening sequence animation and it's all just a dream).
I've never really bought how airtight the wrap is around his helmet and face, especially since in one shot we still see his nose poking thru and then a moment later it's covered, but I don't let it get to me; it's still a bizarrely fun sequence, bringing a shot of exciting absurdity into an otherwise kind of dry character drama episode.
The space tuna sequence is kind of like the rest of the episode; it's not the sort of thing you see in other mecha shows. Just as you don't see other robot shows focus most of a single twenty-some-minute episode on the claustrophobic drama of two kids sharing their dreams while trying to escape a deep, dark metal hole in space (with nary a robot to be found), you also don't see them turn a comically large fish into the cornerstone of an episode's sole action sequence.
(2) I would bet you anything that every time Rick looks at Minmei, even years later during the Reconstruction episodes, he still sees her wearing his scarf as a veil, her big watery eyes looking up at him, asking him to kiss her beneath the dim lighting of that hold in the lower decks of the SDF-1. ESPECIALLY during the Reconstruction episodes -- right up until Lisa gives him that teary-eyed salute in "To The Stars," which finally seems to, I don't know, break the spell. (And when you see Rick playing with that VF-X-4 model in "To The Stars" while Minmei whispers sweet words of settling down in his ears, she does seem to have him under some sort of spell.)
(1) But enough of the future, what of the present? Well, the present for Rick is a much bigger world, one that has a place for Minmei, but none for him that he can readily see. Like I said, a thing just fell from the sky and squashed his already beat-up plane, the vessel for his adolescent dreams. The only other part of his world for the last two weeks or so was Minmei, and he pretty much immediately notices that she doesn't need him anymore; she can get back on with her normal life, as normal as it can get given that it's been transplanted into a space battleship of alien origin. His own life up 'til now has been transformed into a pile of junk in an abandoned, cut off storage and cooling area. So once he recovers, question number one on his mind should be: what now?
As we see in the next episode, though, the first question he asks is actually, "Why doesn't Minmei seem to like me anymore?"
"Stay tuned next time for 'Transformation!'"
(0) From the Department of NSFW Videos, the first part of the equivalent sequence from the MACROSS movie DO YOU REMEMBER LOVE starts at about 3:40 below. Numerous things drive me bonkers about DO YOU REMEMBER LOVE, not the least of which is the fact that it needs to crank everything up to extreme levels. Nice that it does this for the animation quality -- and artwise it is a gorgeous film -- but where the TV series has Roy shooting Zentraedi soldiers in the back, the movie has Max blowing their brains out on camera. Where the TV series has Breetai bombarding the island and forcing the ship to fold to escape, the movie has the Zentraedi bombarding the entire planet right off the bat. Where the TV series has Roy dying a quiet death with the woman he loves, the movie has him crushed nearly to death, bleeding from his mouth, and blowing himself up to save the rest of our heroes. And as you can see here, where the TV series pans up Minmei's backside in the shower scene (ROBOTECH taking things one step further by doing a dissolve before the camera even starts moving), the movie does ... well, if you don't think anyone's looking over your shoulder, you can see for yourself.
As I'm sure you all know by now, having our two leads meet as a combat pilot and a singing star from the get-go actually infuriates me because it completely changes the nature of their relationship and makes the end result of the love triangle glaringly obvious: Hikaru can't and shouldn't be with Minmay. She's an idol, a thing up on a pedestal to him, and she sees him only as a means towards self-centered escape from her responsibilities and obligations. Her character arc is already all the way over there in episode 34, "Private Time." She's already Selfish Spoiled Brat Minmay. When they meet in the TV series, they don't know where they're going -- they're just two basically ordinary teenagers, two people who could grow up to be friends, and maybe more. But when Hikaru and Minmay are in that cut-off area of the ship in DYRL, she's just chatting with a member of her adoring public. She's "on." She's playing him. It's an adult talking to a stammering starstruck kid. Yuck.