DAY NINE: Sweet Sixteen
(10) Circling back to yesterday's discussion, Breetai says of the Backstabber within the first two minutes of this episode, "Khyron is a Zentraedi, whether he likes it or not." He is addressing the fact that Khyron keeps on ordering his forces to take potshots at the SDF-1, even though Breetai's orders have been to simply follow the ship and keep it from making any more headway towards Earth. I'm sure it would make Breetai's life much easier if he could just accept that he made a grievous error in ordering up Khyron's division and send him home, but I doubt Khyron would take those orders any better than the ones Breetai has given him. Breetai's remark reinforces what I said yesterday, that Khyron is a rarity in the Zentreadi forces, presumably tolerated because by and large he gets results. Except that where the SDF-1 is involved, NOBODY seems to be getting much in the way of results, which seems to impress Breetai more and more every day. Where Khyron acts like a petulant child when he loses, Breetai seems to grow more and more interested and excited, taking pleasure with each new challenge.
(9) So Rick's just kicking back in his old room above Minmei's aunt and uncle's Chinese restaurant -- either someone at the studio didn't get the memo that Rick's moved or the bed's comfier there, so that's where he relaxes when he's off-duty -- when he's called into a meeting. He figures he's done something wrong, but no, the meeting is a ceremony where he gets himself a shiny medal for saving Lisa at Sara Base last episode. I've always found it funny that Rick's practically a head shorter than the rest of the guys being commended, but I assume that's because the rest of these guys are tall Westerners, and in the original MACROSS animation Rick (or rather, Hikaru) is Japanese.
Then Roy pulls him aside on his way out, tosses him a rank insignia, and tells him he's been promoted and he'll be leading his own team, consisting of ...
(8) ... Max Sterling, who in his first appearance is a sickly pale color to make him look even more hapless behind his big blue glasses, and who assures Rick that he's got nothing in the way of experience and will be needing a lot of help; and Ben Dixon, who has a lot of bravado and bluster and assures Rick that nothing will go wrong while he's around, BWAH HAH HAH. Yes, last episode we got a new villain, and this episode we get two new RDF pilots to tag along behind Rick now that he's proven himself to be a formidable Veritech pilot.
If you're reading this blog, you probably already know how this ends; Max turns out to be the greatest fighter ace of his generation, while Ben turns out to be only marginally better than those guys you see in the brown VF-1As getting blown up every episode. (The fact that his personal color-coded Veritech isn't so dissimilar from theirs says something.) This begs the question, how sick or nervous was Max when he was doing his simulations that he got this idea in his head that he's not very good? (En route to their first action, Rick does tell Max he's looking a little green.) We see him at the arcade a dozen or so episodes from now, he was probably frequenting the place before he signed up, the guy's got some reflexes. Why is he trying to set Rick's expectations so low? Is he just that humble? Or does he just think his simulation time isn't going to count for anything when he gets out there in a real fighter? We saw Rick actually stomping about in a VF-1J during HIS training, have things changed so much in a matter of months? Maybe so; maybe the newest guys are stuck doing it all in simulations because they don't have any Veritechs left to spare for training.
(I'm not even going to bother asking why Ben thinks he's gonna be the man. He's all talk. Not five minutes later he's all, "Yeah, chicks dig me. Check me out." We all know the type.)
(7) I guess Roy turned down his invitation to Minmei's party. Good thing, saved some room for these two new guys that Rick JUST MET. Have I mentioned before that Rick's not very smart? Yes, you're going to a birthday party for the girl you like who, despite everything, still treats you like "just a friend," you STILL don't have a present for her, and you bring along these two guys you don't know AT ALL, including one loudmouth who just told you he fancies himself a babe-magnet. Right. But I suppose Rick's looking to find out exactly what he's going to have to deal with for the foreseeable future, and if it's going to be at Minmei's birthday party, so be it.
I don't think Minmei could have reacted more badly to Ben trying to introduce himself if he'd decided to try and lick her, while Max's politeness and overwhelming humility turn out to be big turn-ons for Minmei. And then, in a bit of voice actor foreshadowing, when Minmei gets all fussy and tells the mayor she doesn't feel like singing and tosses the ball in Rick's court, Max steps in and says he'll give it a shot -- Max, of course, is played by Cam Clarke (Leonardo in the 80's TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES, Liquid Snake in the METAL GEAR SOLID games), who goes on in the New Generation to play the freedom fighter Lancer, who is the singing star of that era (though he doesn't provide the singing voice). Point is, Max is winning brownie points here, and the mayor offers some helpful advice to Rick: watch that guy, he might just inadvertently steal your not-quite-girlfriend here.
(6) This week's enemy plan: pretend to be playing war games so Breetai doesn't suspect you're going to attack the enemy, and then just happen to be putting out strong jamming waves so the enemy can't see you either, and then sneak up behind the enemy ship and, just when you're in range, drop the jamming waves and attack. Ruining Minmei's birthday party is a bonus.
"Hey, Rick, that girl who was all over Max back there, is she, like, your girlfriend or something?"
"Ben, remind me when I find my arm again to punch you in the balls. That's an order."
You know, I kind of wish that Ben's ego didn't get deflated so completely in this episode; I would have kind of liked him to keep up with the catchphrase -- "Nothing can go wrong while I'm around, AHH HA HA HA HA!"
(5) This is the first time -- and the last time, I think -- that the bridge is referred to by its tactical call sign of Gunsight One. Also, Gloval refers to a group of Destroids as "the Gladiator force," which I suppose is how the name wound up attached to the Destroid we now refer to as a Spartan, though that particular Destroid doesn't happen to be in the mix we see -- Monsters, Tomahawks, and Defenders. Claudia then refers to the "second Defender team" being destroyed, which I suppose could easily be mistaken for just, y'know, things defending the ship, but probably actually refers to the Destroids with the twin laser barrel arms.
You know the minute Ben complains about being away from the action that the REAL action is going to come Rick, Ben, and Max's way. You also know the minute he says he's gonna fly rings around the enemy that he's going to need some serious help in three, two, one ...
Max shows off a maneuver that I'm certain I heard right this time as Fokker's Fake, though Daley & Luceno chronicle it in the ROBOTECH novels as Fokker's Feint. A metal band in the mid-90s called Forge actually did a song by the latter title; the only reason I know that is because a Google search with those words brings that up before anything ROBOTECH-related -- though, of course, there's only one reason you'd come up with that particular name for a song, and that would be, um, ROBOTECH. The animation does a pretty good job selling Max's genius skills, though this being a relatively weak animation episode -- not all that badly drawn, just kind of cheap-looking, with lots of flat color and only very rarely any kind of shading, though thankfully they don't skimp on lighting effects on the metal -- the movement is pretty choppy, with some frames being held a bit too long for what we see to be rightly called "animated."
Most people seem to identify Max more with the blue VF-1J he pilots from "Force of Arms" through "To The Stars" than with the white-with-blue-highlights VF-1A he's issued here and flies through "Reckless," presumably because A) that's the one Takatoku in Japan sold a toy of (and consequently every toy manufacturer since, including ROBOTECH's toy licensee for the last ten years, Toynami), and B) the whole Max-and-Miriya matching VF-1Js thing. Thanks to the scarcity of the TV series on video through the 1990s, though, I spent a long time only having The Macross Saga through "Paradise Lost" -- the first twenty episodes, four to a disc on LaserDisc of all things. It's only been in the last few years that anyone's been making figures of the blue and white VF-1A; I bought Yamato's GNU-Dou action figure of it in Battloid mode, the joints of which I've had to coat in thin layers of super glue to stop them flopping around. The tolerances and fit of the parts are so bad that the moment I opened the package it basically fell apart in my hands. And yet, visually it's probably the most faithful-to-the-lineart representation of the VF-1A from the TV series ever, so in the long run I'm pretty happy with it. But those first thirty minutes or so with it were frustrating as hell, especially given what I paid for it ...
(4) Rick winds up locked in battle with Khyron, which in a different, more playing-to-type show would set them up as arch-rivals, especially after they've given each other's mecha matching battle damage, but the two never wind up engaging each other in battle again, though they do wind up on the same battlefield at the same time a few more times, especially during the Reconstruction era. This single clash has led a lot of viewers to assume when Khyron later tells Miriya that there's an enemy ace aboard the SDF-1, he's talking about Rick, not Max, which is a perfectly logical leap to make; Khyron never fights Max, nor does he witness Max's prowess during this battle or any other that takes place before "Farewell Big Brother." Unfortunately for poor Khyron, right as the two combatants prepare to make one more go at each other Breetai takes drastic measures to pull him out in the form of ...
(3) ... the manual override, Deus Ex Machina, whoops-the-show's-running-long, how-can-we-get-out-of-THIS-battle beam! That manual retreat button never gets mentioned or used again. Interesting to think about in the context of ROBOTECH, if that kind of technology is built into all Zentraedi weapon systems, I suppose the Robotech Masters have access to the same devices, only theirs would trump the Zentraedi's own. In Fred Perry's comic book story ROLLING THUNDER, it's suggested that in the Zentraedi genes there's a kind of fail-safe control system built in as well, which can be activated by the Robotech Masters; the renegade Master Khane activates it in Dana Sterling's genes. That was pretty much the ONLY interesting idea to come out of the Antarctic Press era of ROBOTECH comics ... well, that and VERMILION's idea of RDF personnel betraying humanity to the Zentraedi. That was kind of neat.
(2) This starts Rick's string of mishaps when it comes to his VF-1J. Khyron blasts its head and left arm in this one. He has a Zentraedi recon ship blow up around him in the next episode. Then he loses a plane inside Breetai's flagship. His last VF-1J is finally taken out by friendly fire in "Battle Cry," the second non-recap episode after the SDF-1 gets back to Earth. While it does nothing for his ego, given that he comes to think of himself as "the guy who's always getting shot down," it's probably a good thing that the kid who boasted of winning the amateur flying competition eight years in a row is taken down a few notches, especially after getting that shiny medal. It's an important step in growing up, realizing that even if you were the biggest fish in the pond back home, there's always a bigger one somewhere out there. And sometimes that bigger fish is a humble, overly polite young man with long blue hair and big blue glasses.
One of my all-time favorite lines, from Max: "It's possible they might even promote me. Some jump, Corporal to General after one battle," he says with a smile.
(1) COLA MAKES THE GOOD TIMES ROLL, HAVE A PEANUT.
Rick Hunter is the luckiest guy. First Breetai pulls Khyron back, saving him from a duel he might have lost, then his unexpected Titanium Medal saves him from having to buy Minmei a birthday present. And he's totally lucky that she doesn't seem to have any clue what it is, what the words on the box say or mean, or what the words INSIDE the box say or mean. All she cares about is that it's a shiny thing. Oh so very shiny. I'm gonna be straight with you, in this particular instance, the girl comes off as kind of thick. The writing really does her no favors here. Rick then runs away into the night, fearful that any second she might catch a clue and realize what just happened ...
TOMORROW: There are eighty-five episodes of ROBOTECH and three hundred and sixty-five days in a year. So starting this weekend, I'm throwing in some side material to pad things out. First up, we go BEFORE the beginning, all the way back to the scientist that started it all, the Robotech Master Zor. Be here tomorrow for the first issue of Jason & John Waltrip's ROBOTECH GENESIS: THE LEGEND OF ZOR.
(0) This is a slideshow someone posted to YouTube of Yamato's 1/60 (ver. 2) toy of Max's VF-1A, set to the second verse of the Japanese MACROSS opening theme. If I had the money right now to throw around on pricy import toys, this would be somewhere at the top of the list of things I'd want to get. I've wanted a proper toy of this particular mecha since ... ohh, the day I first saw it (that I remember) probably sometime in 1993 or '94. If I had a nice matching set of the Vermilion Team, I'd probably never need to get another Valkyrie toy ever again ...