DAY SEVEN: Blitzkrieg
(10) The opening narration states that it's now been two months since the fold operation. So, six weeks since the last episode. That's a heck of a gap -- the kind of gap that "missing stories" authors spend long hours dreaming about. Except that our main character hasn't even seen his first action yet. Well, Roy will always do in a pinch; everyone likes him, right?
To be honest, such a gap makes a lot of sense so we can move from "Rick makes life-altering decision" to "Rick risks life and limb for the first time" in the course of a week (in the case of the original MACROSS broadcast and ROBOTECH in some markets) or even a day (in the case of the markets that aired ROBOTECH five days a week, as Macek and his employers and cohorts at HG intended).
Also noteworthy, I'm fairly certain this is the first use of the name Robotech Defense Force, by the narrator when he refers to Rick as their newest recruit. Yes, it's unrealistic and just another case of the production team shoehorning the word "Robotech" into the show's lexicon in a fairly hamfisted "subliminal" marketing fashion, but for anyone who spent their teenage years reading and rereading the novels, that kite insignia will ALWAYS represent the "RDF." No matter how much abuse we may get from MACROSS purists.
(9) Oh-ho, girls are so silly! Look, Minmei worries about Rick carrying her bag while she's standing right there but doesn't worry about him appearing to stand by himself in a women's clothing store while she tries on dresses! COMEDY!
It would help, of course, if that clearly insane shop owner wasn't laughing like a hyena in his ear, which I suppose is why he loses control of the bag in the first place, causing everything to spill and making him look extra creepy, scuttling about on the floor in the lingerie section.
In a modern anime series, Rick would have kept on falling all over the place until he fell face-first into Lisa's breasts, which would be much larger and easier to fall into. Then she would have hit him. (I wouldn't have minded someone hitting him anyway, that last time dropping all the contents of Minmei's bag was terribly unconvincing.)
(8) When you see Doctor Lang for two episodes in a row, you might get the impression he's going to become a regular cast member, or at least a recurring character. But no, this episode marks the last time we'll see him 'til SENTINELS.
Also, Protoculture mind-boosts apparently give you the ability to make great theoretical leaps. "Weird sparkly effects, hmm ... I've got it, we'll make a defensive barrier system out of it!" SCIENCE!
(7) "No, we still don't get it."
Is this what Breetai and Exedore have been doing for a month and a half? Playing back a simulation of the SDF-1 transforming? "No, no, play it again, this time from another angle. Hmm, nope, still doesn't make any sense. We'll come back to this tomorrow."
Indeed, the way the show presents the Zentraedi I have to think this isn't their full-time job, hounding the SDF-1. They must be folding off to other galaxies to raze other planets for the Robotech Masters in-between episodes. Bring down an ancient and long-standing civilization, come back, play cat and mouse with that one ship again, lose, then go blow up another planet to make themselves feel better. Otherwise, if you think about it too hard, you start wondering what they're spending all this time doing. What does a typical day in the life of a Zentraedi commander look like? What are Breetai's day-to-day duties that prevent him from relentlessly hounding the SDF-1 and instead basically lets them play free for a few weeks here, a few weeks there? This becomes an especially good question when Breetai states, about three fourths of the way through the episode, that they're pretty much holding back all their forces, and have been all this time.
(6) In a nice touch, when Lisa flashes back to the events of "Space Fold," both the shot of her reaction to being called a "sourpuss" and Roy's laugh are all-new animation, since obviously "Space Fold" just wasn't up to par. Fine for the long shot, but the close-ups? Yeesh.
I'm a little surprised Roy doesn't remember Rick's little verbal sparring match with Lisa. Then again in the next episode Rick obviously can't remember her name, since he wonders if Claudia is, again, that "old sourpuss." These people all have terrible, terrible memories, except when it's convenient for them not to. (You'd THINK it'd be the other way around, but you'd be wrong.)
I'm sure in Lisa's memoirs ("Recollections," one of the many fictional tomes oft referenced in Daley & Luceno's ROBOTECH novels) there are long, long chapters about how much of a putz she thought Rick Hunter was in these days, and all the myriad reasons why she thought this. Heaven knows he gives her plenty of ammo.
On the one hand, this episode marks the first of many times we see the bridge girls during downtime, in a civilian setting; on the other hand, of course it is, this is the first time we've had any time to focus on people who aren't Rick and Minmei in Macross City. Once Rick joins the military, suddenly our other military cast members start to appear as people and not just seasoned professionals doing their duties. It's like through Rick we suddenly get to take a peek behind the curtain, so to speak.
(5) You and I both know that this photo is somewhere among Admiral Rick Hunter's personal effects in his and Lisa's quarters aboard the SDF-3. Hell, it's probably still in the same frame he put it in that very night. And while he probably always tells Lisa it's a memento of his first action, both he and Lisa know it's more than that, and while it still bugs her after all these years, she understands. Some old feelings never completely die. Just look at what she does over the memory of Karl Riber in the next episode.
It's like Minmei just doesn't pay attention, or maybe just twists reality to meet her needs. "The dress we chose together"? Really? When Rick said it looked good on you, did you even see what he was doing? Didn't you notice that he clearly had at least two other things on his mind right then and there? No? Okay. That's fine. Moving on ...
Oh, wait, did Rick catch the implication of what Minmei says there, about her uncle getting mad when she stays out too late "with boys, I mean." The way he goes, "Yeeah," I get the feeling he's trying NOT to think about it too hard; he's got ENOUGH on his mind. But between that and Roy's warning last episode, he's gotta be getting a little insecure in his whatever-this-is with Minmei.
(4) There's a lot of great art and animation in this episode -- I mean, cripes, look back up at Rick and Minmei in front of the fountain, or at any bit of the sequence when the SDF-1 attacks the Zentraedi ship with the Daedalus -- and then there are these guys and jeeps painted completely brown, which appear not too long after they reuse the animation of the VF-1D being equipped with its GU-11 gun pod from the first episode. There are a lot more cel-painted background guys and machinery painted brown to come. Then there's the way the episode ends with still frames and narration for, sure, less than a minute, but it feels much longer. Seems to me like an unfortunate rush job. But I suppose that's the price we pay for some of the really, really nice work throughout, most notably, again, the scenes with Rick and Minmei, which seem to bring out the best in the "good animation" show artists, and the big blow-up set piece at the end, which still impresses.
(3) Rick decides here that the other pilots "flying dangerously" is a perfectly valid excuse for him to do a few ol' air circus loop-de-loops through the ice field, even though he knows that A) they're trying to pull a sneak attack on the enemy, and B) the one person paying closest attention to what he's doing is someone who really doesn't like him, not one bit.
In conclusion, Rick is an idiot.
(2) Captain Zeril is the captain of the ship that's placed at the forefront of the Zentraedi counterattack, and it's obvious from the get-go that he's cannon fodder. He's a generic Zentraedi commander with a Three-Stooges-Moe haircut whose Exedore stand-in is the most unfinished character design in the entire TV series. If the main gun were working this episode, he would have been toast right after his second on-screen appearance. Unfortunately for him, his death will be a lot more interesting. To his credit, though, his Battlepods do take out a heck of a lot of Veritechs, even though his attacks on the battle fortress itself aren't anywhere near as successful as Breetai's effort last episode thanks to the pinpoint barrier system.
Rick's VF-1J is probably actually my favorite Veritech design in the entire show. Simple red & white color scheme, and the 1J has the most interesting head, with that pentagonal mono-eye and oddly shaped faceplate. Don't get me wrong, Skull One is awesome and iconic, but the good ol' leader of the Vermilion Team is my sentimental fave.
The lesson Rick learns this week is that the Zentraedi are just as scared of you as you are of them. He also nearly gets blown up by his own side's flagship. This is not the first time this will happen to him.
Also, as anyone who's read too many DC Comics knows, green and purple are bad guy colors. So of course, what colors do Zentraedi soldiers wear?
(1) Six episodes in and the SDF-1 STILL DOESN'T WORK RIGHT. You can have a pinpoint barrier system or a main gun. One or the other. But you can't have both. It's like a badly wired apartment, "You can use the lamp or the toaster ..." And yet, they continue to survive, and in this case get a clear win. This is why Breetai never quite goes in for the kill, on some level he's clearly enjoying the game too much. He has to be wondering, every time, what kind of a new ingenious ace the humans are going to pull out from up their sleeves. I mean, come on, when he remarks that he's going to have to call for some reinforcements he smiles and laughs. He is having a ball.
The pinpoint barrier system is controlled by three girls who I want to say are the OTHER bridge girls, the ones who come in when Sammie, Vanessa, and Kim are out shopping, or are at the disco, or sleeping. Or maybe my memory is playing tricks on me and I'm thinking of MEGASTORM or something. Give me a break, I've been writing about ROBOTECH stuff on the internet for over a decade now, a lot of it's starting to blur together ... Anyway, the barrier points are controlled with trackballs, which always reminded me of playing CENTIPEDE in the arcade, or that one pool arcade game my parents always liked.
The Destroids, Earth's non-transformable robotic fighting machines, were first seen in the previous episode being carried across town on cranes or trams or something, I forget. The last episode had a Spartan (what the Matchbox toys and the old RPG books called a Gladiator) and Monster (Mac II); this time we get a whole host of Monsters and Tomahawks (Excalibers) staring down Zeril and then blowing him and his ship into tiny little pieces. The Tomahawk has always been my favorite one of those; known in BATTLETECH lingo as the Warhammer, it adorned the front of the box to the second edition of that game, until the mid-1990's litigation caused it to be purged from that universe. It's well-armed, solid and rugged looking, and always came off as ready for anything except a mission that requires hands.
The Daedalus Attack is one of my favorite maneuvers in all of ROBOTECH because it really just treats the humanoid configuration of the SDF-1 like a giant, giant robot. It defeats the enemy by punching it and then blowing it up from the inside. It's the sort of thing I'd assume Kazutaka Miyatake's earlier drafts of the Macross design, when it had a much more obviously humanoid appearance (and a Gundam head), would do every single week. And the most brilliant thing about it is that, the way the story works, this is just a thing that sort of happens. First Gloval decides to have his engineering crews dock the aircraft carriers to the ship. Then they have to undergo the modular transformation to move things around so the main gun works. And finally they wind up with this weird energy barrier effect. Put this all together and, yeah, now the space ship is a big robot winning the day by punching things. It's like it's all built towards this really awesome moment. I love it. I really do.
And as I said a few points ago, the ending after Breetai's remark about reinforcements is all narration, all talking-and-not-showing character development for Rick, basically the same sorts of things I've been writing about for the last two posts, how things just keep on changing. Just when it looks like we've started to settle into a status quo, the next two episodes are going to be adding some new characters and further character development into the mix. HE-MAN AND THE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE this is not ...
"Be sure to watch 'Bye Bye Mars, the next episode of ROBOTECH!"
(0) From the Sega Saturn and PlayStation MACROSS: DO YOU REMEMBER LOVE side-scrolling shooter, the movie version of the SDF-1 unleashes an "ARMD Attack" on a Zentraedi battlecruiser. It's like the Daedalus Attack, only if the ship had docked with the ARMD/Armor space platforms instead of the good ol' mismatched aircraft carriers. The pre-rendered CG here still looks pretty good, if a little bit too shiny.