DAY FOUR: Space Fold

(10) If the first two episodes of ROBOTECH were about a group of people having one hell of a string of bad luck, "Space Fold" is about how one can compound his or her bad luck by some bad decision making. Captain Henry J. Gloval watches as the RDF fleet is ripped to shreds by the Zentraedi -- despite the fact that the SDF-1 is getting away with nary a scratch -- and decides the only way to escape the same fate is to use an untested function of his ship that nobody understands, that really needs to be cleared by headquarters, and to do it as close to a civilian population center as he can.

Meanwhile, Rick Hunter, despite everything his pal Roy Fokker says to him, decides to take Lynn Minmei home -- even though hey, they could still be in space, he opens up that bay door dramatically and feels the wind in his face. Good job, Rick. Take her from the safety of the ship down to the island which, as Roy says, could still be crawling with enemy craft. (As we see later, there are still a few stragglers down there, who get stirred up after the space fold.)

Don't get me wrong, Gloval's a clever guy and he pulls his crew through some seriously tough times by being determined, quick-thinking, and even stubborn. But actions have consequences, and the consequence of this decision is pretty damn obvious -- his ship winds up escaping the enemy, but also winds up just this side of Pluto with an entire island full of civilians trapped in the inky blackness of space, with no hope of help from home. He's just lucky he and his crew are smart and tenacious enough to survive these consequences.

As for Rick, well, he's just an idiot, and everything that happens in the next episode is his own damn fault. Reminds me of when I explained the plot of The New Generation to my friend Anne in high school while standing in the lunch line. As soon as the words "Admiral Rick Hunter" rolled out of my mouth, she looked aghast and started to laugh. Given the first twelve, even eighteen episodes of ROBOTECH, I don't blame her.

(9) The opening minutes of this episode are some of the most poorly drawn in all of ROBOTECH. And it seems even worse coming right off of the first two episodes, which were clearly Studio Nue putting their best foot forward. As I understand it, the sloppy episodes like "Space Fold," "Blind Game," "Paradise Lost," and most frustratingly "Wedding Bells" were all farmed out by MACROSS co-producer Tatsunoko Pro to a Korean studio called Anime Friend, who churned out the work with all good speed but very little care -- as opposed to the series creators at Studio Nue, who had a mecha animator who would grab all his work, take it home, and hold it hostage until it was JUST RIGHT.

This isn't as bad as ROBOTECH gets animation-wise, but it's close. Thankfully it improves as the episode goes on -- things go from "bad" to "passable" pretty much right after Skull One touches down aboard the SDF-1. I'd say what's worse than the animation and art is just the general feeling of sloppiness throughout -- Skull One inexplicably turning into a VF-1A for stretches, firing its GU-11 gun pod after it's dropped it (and appearing with it on its main center hardpoint in lieu of Rick's rescued VF-1D nosecone -- and hey, look,  it's still there in the screen grab above even after Roy has it attached to Skull One's left arm), and then later on when the aircraft carriers appear in space while Breetai's fleet is applying its "restraining force."

(8) As for why Anime Friend was employed as early as the third episode, well, MACROSS was supposed to premiere alongside an anime remake of a classic tokusatsu series called RAINBOWMAN, a more superheroic sort of robot show. Unfortunately, RAINBOWMAN fell behind in production and couldn't hit its premiere date. So instead, broadcaster MBS ordered the first two episodes of MACROSS to air as a one hour special, to fill that half-hour gap. Suddenly, MACROSS was behind schedule one week in -- and remember what I said about Anime Friend being quick about it? Yeah, there we go. I've often wondered what that space fold effect over Macross Island would have looked like if the home team had been able to hunker down and work on "Space Fold."

(7) This less than sterling animation and art quality is all made a lot more tolerable in ROBOTECH by Dan Woren as Roy Fokker. He gets the best bits in this episode, from his matter-of-fact way of letting Lisa know that yeah, Rick probably shouldn't have been ordered up seeing how he's just a civilian, to his appropriation of Rick's description of the SDF-1's erstwhile First Officer, "Give me a bay number, you old sourpuss!" I think I like it even more when Lisa first takes offense and Roy has that comically taken aback look on his face, but Woren sort of sarcastically plays the remark, "Ooh, she's mad!" He's well served by the material, and he makes it shine.

(6) "Nothing's going to happen to anyone as smart as Minmei!" I know, I try to lay off on the Minmei-bashing, but even after over a decade and a half of hearing Minmei's Uncle Max say that line -- a period of which I spent being one of the Minmei-bashers -- I still sort of chuckle at it. Because really, she's not all that smart. The next thirty-three episodes (and, for that matter, long stretches of ROBOTECH II: THE SENTINELS in various media) rather bear that out.

(5) Gloval really, really does a lot of overblown dramatic gesticulating in this episode. Lots of crazy acting with his hands and strange expressions. Hell, he basically screams in Claudia's face, bending over and getting his face in hers, to get her to relay the order for the space fold. Again, I wonder how much of this originated with the series creators at Studio Nue and how much of this was a product of Tatsunoko and Anime Friend. And while Claudia visually seems to take it, Iona Morris adds a nice touch when she turns to her console and goes, "Yes sir, Cap-TAIN," bristling at the order. The rapidly gesturing Claudia who goes on about military regulations seems off, timid, like a joke; the Claudia who resents her captain BLEATING IN HER FACE to get her to relay an order she doesn't agree with seems more of a kind with the character we see throughout the rest of the series.

(4) Impossible at that altitude, no -- and really, Exedore, you're the brains of the operation, you should know better. A really BAD IDEA at that altitude, yes. Absolutely. Although -- perhaps Tirolian Empire vessels are supposed to have a fail-safe that prevents them from executing a fold that close to a planet. It's a thought, and given the limited knowledge the Masters have been feeding their large-scale clone army for generations, it would explain why Exedore would THINK it's impossible.

Hey, it's a thought!

(3) So I'm wondering, where DID the fold system go? As I'm sure you all well know, Brian Daley and James Luceno offered the theory in ROBOTECH #18: THE END OF THE CIRCLE that it was transported across time and space by the cosmically gifted children of the Macross generation to replace the lost fold drives of the SDF-3 and ferry the heroes of the Robotech wars home one last time. This, of course, is completely insane, but it does wrap certain things up with a nice neat bow, tying together beginnings and endings in that way the final ROBOTECH novel does throughout. Rejecting that story, though, leaves the question still up in the air. I suppose it might have been left behind in hyperspace between points A and B, not through some cosmic predestination prank but through just simple misfortune and malfunction just like what happened to the anti-gravity system. I would assume it couldn't have been left behind at the source, falling into the ocean after sending the ship and the island across the solar system. Hey, maybe it's floating around the moon, having transported ITSELF successfully there but ferrying its cargo to the wrong spot.

All doubtful, since I would assume it would still have to be present in order to defold the ship and the other contents of the fold bubble; it would have had to have winked out of existence around the time the fold bubble dissipated, right? Maybe it then disappeared into hyperspace as the fold bubble faded away, fading alongside. Anyone more learned in theoretical physics than I have any ideas?

(2) In the ROBOTECH universe, all the scientists were so busy trying to unravel the secrets of Robotechnology that they never got around to reclassifying Pluto as a dwarf planet.

Speaking of scientists, the all-important Doctor Emil Lang -- at least, so far as the ROBOTECH novels and ROBOTECH II: THE SENTINELS are concerned -- is first mentioned here by Gloval, referred to as merely the Chief Engineer, after he informs the captain of the disappearance of the fold system. Lang first appears two episodes later, in "Transformation," where Greg Snegoff tries to out-silly-accent Greg Finley by one-upping his silly Russian accent with an even sillier German accent.

And speaking of silly accents, there's times throughout this episode where Gloval sounds less Russian and more like Finley is trying out his Sean Connery impression. Which is funny, because five years later Connery would play a Russian ship captain in THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER. And then for years after that Connery would top fans' wish lists for the role of Gloval in a live action ROBOTECH movie.

(And remember, kids, in the original uncut/unedited MACROSS series Gloval is supposed to be Italian.)

(1) I think no matter what that phone call to the bridge was about Gloval was going to take it as a very good excuse to get off that bridge before the girls started to get insufferable with the told-you-sos -- at least, the ones who weren't taking this moment to start bawling in the corner.

"Don't miss 'The Long Wait,' the next thrilling chapter in the saga of ROBOTECH!"

(0) On the subject of slapdash Korean-animated cartoons featuring Veritechs, I know either myself or Darkwater posted this back in the waiting-for-THE-SHADOW-CHRONICLES days, but it's too entertaining to NOT post again. After all, a VF-1J shooting its lasers into a purple gargoyle's groin NEVER gets old!

The shame is that there are moments in "Space Fold" that are much more lazily drawn and animated than this ridiculous knock-off animation. *sigh*

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  • Personally, my favorite anamoly of Robotech/Macross isn't the fold drives though. It's the Anti-Gravity Pods that rip out of the ship and yet, are somehow around when they have to make their escape from Mars Base Sara. I actually made a Robotech RPG Adventure that featured the player's squadron racing to recover the anti-gravity pods while the ship prepares to fold.

    Yeah, free time: too much is had....

    By Blogger Tolarin_Skylar, at 04 July, 2010 18:17  

  • An RPG adventure designed to correct a continuity blunder in the original animation. I don't think things get too much geekier than that. Color me impressed.

    By Blogger Captain JLS, at 05 July, 2010 00:28  

  • I always pictured the fold engines just floating out in the vacuum of space somewhere, and that they just dropped the SDF-1 on their way out...

    By Blogger Fer, at 07 July, 2010 04:01  

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